I somehow awoke in time to make it to the New Year's Day 5k run in
Lincoln Park. They conveniently schedule this race at 11:00
a.m! It was a mite chilly, just above freezing, but with a good
stiff lakefront wind that made it feel twenty-something. The run
went by the zoo at one point, and I looked over to see a camel watching
us run by. Some camels can maintain a speed of 40k an hour -
that's just about a marathon in an hour - so I don't suppose the beast
was very impressed by us.
Then I walked over to North Avenue Beach to do the second part of this
annual event - the noontime Polar Bear Swim. Well, they call it a
swim, but really it's more of a dive or plunge.
A few feet of ice caked the shore, looking a bit like the salt on the
rim of a margarita glass. Mini-chunks of ice bobbed in the dark
green waves. There was a good sized crowd, cameras, a
police wagon, and a lifeguard in a rubber suit.
I decided not to take off my outer clothes until the activity began in
earnest. Then I saw two young men, clad only in trunks, running
boldly into the water. They ran out about thirty feet, stopped,
and promptly turned around without plunging. We all
laughed. Polar chickens!
Then another young man, coming right behind them, ran out and
took a flat dive into the water. We cheered and with that the
full madness began, as people began running out. I stripped off
my clothes, down to some runner's shorts, ran to the lake, worked my
way over the ice, and ran into the water.
The water was a bit crowded, but I found a spot in about two feet of
water and did a flat dive. Yes. It was stunningly
cold. I stood, wiped the water from my eyes, and hightailed it
back to the sand.
The part of my body that really got cold was my feet, since they had been in the water the longest!
When the water is frozen
Who still goes in?
Polar bears greeting 2005
With a dive.
UPDATE Sunday's Tribune has an
an interesting article
on such activities, and the risks thereof. Unfortunately, it's
subscription only - free, actually, but you have to fill out a form.
The author, Julie Deardorff, quotes local cardiologist, Robert Bonow, as saying that people who have
heart problems or high blood pressure problems should avoid this sport. "If you're healthy, [Polar Bear plunges] are probably OK," Bonow said. "Unfortunately a lot of people don't know if they have high blood pressure or heart disease."
Okay, consider yourself warned.
The author says she is building up to doing the plunge next year. She has been informed that you're only in the water for about 30 seconds, so she has decided to alternate hot water and cold water when taking a shower. "So far, I can stand exactly 10 seconds of cold water. I hope to be up to 30 by next January."