Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Leisurely Swim

I am crazy. My coworkers are crazy. We are middle school teachers, we are certifiably insane. So insane that we voluntarily jumped in a river today.

That's right. We jumped in the Columbia river by choice, in the middle of February. The water was a balmy 39 degrees. We went for a short swim, then ran to change, and promised we'd do it again next year.

Let's start at the beginning. A couple months ago, I got a note from my coworker asking if I'd join her Polar Plunge team. The thing with Barb is no one can say no to her. She's not intimidating, but she's our work mommy, and we just can't say no. So when she asked, I suddenly forgot how much I hate to be cold, how being wet and cold is about the worst possible thing in my world, and said I'd do it.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. Suddenly I realized the month of the plunge had arrived. Until that point, I'd been blissfully in denial of what I'd committed to. I quickly did my fundraising and thanks to my generous friends and family raised over $250 in donations for Special Olympics Oregon. I got my gear together and made plans with my coworkers. And suddenly, Feb 12 was upon us and there was no turning back.

There was an early registration the evening of Feb 11, but I had an improv night at school so I couldn't go. One of my dear friends and coworkers offered to go to the morning registration with me, even though she had done the early registration and it meant getting up early. What a great friend! So this morning I got up and drove to her house, bearing coffee. We packed all our stuff into her car and took off for Broughton Beach on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Registration started at 8:30 and we got there at 8:45 as we'd been warned of long lines. Apparently we were the only ones concerned about the wait because we walked right up to the registration table. I was signed in and ready to go by 9 am! The plunge didn't start until 11, so we had a couple of hours to kill.

We spent the first half hour playing the Wii game "Rabbids" in the Game Truck. How cool, and what a fun idea! We killed a lot of time and had a blast doing it. About the time we realized there was a line starting to form for entrance to the truck, we got a text from Barb, our fearless leader, saying she and her husband, also a coworker, had arrived. We met them and then made the rounds of food. We had clam chowder provided by Salty's restaurant, macaroni and cheese provided by Noodles and Co., hot chocolate provided by Clear Wireless. There was also ribs from Dave's Famous BBQ and pizza from Papa Murphy's, but we skipped out on those - we were too full from the other stuff! After the food we played rock band, provided by 98.7 KUPL. After one song we realized it was time to line up, so we headed for the plunge.

I don't really know how to describe the plunge. It's terrifying and awesome, amazing and difficult all at once. The anticipation was definitely worse than the plunge itself. I had that "oh crap" feeling in my stomach, the same one I get before big roller coaster rides. When our team name was called, we ran down to the beach, arranged our towels and coats so we could immediately warm ourselves upon getting out of the water, and lined up to plunge.


Suddenly I was in near-freezing water. The next thing I knew, my shoes came off my feet (darn crocs!) but I knew I had to just keep moving forward. I swam out to the divers, and about the time I got to them (the turn around point), I started having trouble breathing. I turned and swam as hard as I could for the shore, knowing that getting out of the water was the only thing that would make my breathing return to normal. On the way back in I managed to snag my shoes. I got out of the water and ran for my towel, wrapping it and my robe around my shoulders. It sounds crazy, but getting that on provided instant relief. We grabbed our things and headed for the changing tents. On our way, one of my coworkers got stopped for an interview by a TV station!

Once we were changed the adrenaline started to wear off and we all headed for home. It was exhausting and incredible, thrilling, bone chilling, and something that I am so proud of. I still can't believe I did it. I hate the cold, I hate being wet and cold even more, and yet I managed it. We're already planning for next year!