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First it was cold, and then it was colder…

January 21, 2012, 7:49 PM

I think that about describes today. Upper forties, my foot. It was bloody cold today. And of course, today would be the day that the Chesapeake Climate Action Network would have its seventh annual “Keep Winter Cold” polar bear plunge, which, you may have heard, more than once, that I signed up to participate in over at National Harbor. I had a lot fun, though I was certainly excited about things.

Going down to the event, I decided to do a Video Journal to talk about it, since I was a little nervous and needed to distract myself:

This is also where you discover that one of the ways that I manage to calm myself down is through the music of Today’s Special. In that first Video Journal, along with whatever discussion I had, I sang “Snap, Clap, and Chuckle” from Storms, but also “Everything Will Be Fine” from Hospitals. This video took me to somewhere along the Beltway.

Continuing on the way to National Harbor, I started another Video Journal around New Carrollton or so. I had to take the Beltway all the way around vs. a more direct route using B-W Parkway, DC 295, and I-295 due to a car fire somewhere along the way (thanks for the warning, Dr. Gridlock!). On the second Video Journal, I help myself calm down with a little Today’s Special:

For some reason, Today’s Special always helps calm me down. It has a certain calming effect on me, since I know most of the songs by heart and can sing right along. And when there are different versions of a song, I become a bit of a purist. I played some songs from the 1985 album, but when I sang them in the camera, I sang them like they were on the television show rather than like in the album. Except maybe the “Fred” song from Records, which I sang as the misheard “Fred” rather than the correct “friends”. Then I also rocked to “When You’re With Me” from Flight and finally to “What Do You Hear With Your Ears” from Ears. Sung them both TV style, complete with “Let’s get a hold of Sam and take him to the ear doctor!” I forgot the lead-in line of, “Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t hear!” though.

I can’t say I wasn’t punctual. I was early. So early, in fact, that I couldn’t register right away, but then did in no time. Eventually, I did more video, but this time with the outward-facing camera on my cell phone, showing the scene and discussing what was going on and such:

And then Katy and her friend Will showed up:

Katy and Will

Soon after that, RaQeeba, another coworker and friend of mine, along with her sister Davette, showed up, and, as planned, I passed the Canon over to them and pulled out Duckie. I would be taking Duckie into the water with me, and RaQeeba and Davette would be photographing us from land.

I also got a chance to meet Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland’s 4th District, who currently represents part of eastern Montgomery County and part of PG County, but who was recently redistricted to represent parts of PG and Anne Arundel counties (Maryland’s new congressional districts based on the 2010 census are really bizarrely shaped). I first spotted her doing an interview with the media:

Donna Edwards is interviewed

I don’t know if this was for NBC’s network news or for WRC, the local NBC affiliate (actually an NBC O&O). When the interview was done, I said hello. Congresswoman Edwards was a delight to spend a few minutes with. This marks the first time I have met a sitting member of Congress. Edwards is not my representative, however. I’m in the 8th District, represented by Chris Van Hollen. Still, that was neat to meet a member of Congress.

Later, a number of people spoke about the importance of climate work, and about how they’ve taken the plunge. Perhaps the one thing that stuck with me was from Congresswoman Edwards, who said that one of the things she did last year (her first plunge) was to introduce herself to the medics. I ended up doing that myself later, since I was admittedly still quite nervous about it all.

After all the speeches, everyone who was going in got ready to go in. But first, RaQeeba and Davette got a photo of me:

All smiles and ready to change

This was taken right after I got my change of clothes and other miscellaneous polar bear plunge supplies out of the back of the car. Duckie is around my neck. And then after going into the changing tent, I came out looking like this:

Ready to go in!

And even though you can’t see it very well from here, I’m wearing the jammer with the yellow stripes. It was very close between the yellow stripes and the red stripes, but the yellow one edged it out by just a little (like three to two). And then this was also when I discovered how cold it really was. Let’s just say there’s a reason that we all wear long sleeves, long pants, coats, and hats during the winter. It was cold.

Right after that photo, I got a photo with Duckie of Congresswoman Edwards:

Donna Edwards is ready to go, too!

I’d say she was ready to go, too!

And then it was time to go in. I turned Duckie to movie mode, and here we go:

I think at first, I was noting the oddness of what I was about to do, and then in doing it, actually reacting to it. It was cold. Very cold. My feet went numb, and I lost a shoe out there after submerging momentarily. Thankfully, Crocs float, and so even though I was unable to hunt for it (too cold – I had to get out like immediately), a woman found it and handed it to me, though I couldn’t get it back on right away because I couldn’t feel my feet well enough to do that. Once I lost the shoe and my feet went numb, though, I was concerned that I would need to get rescued from the water, but thankfully I ended up being able to get out under my own power.

But I made it! I had conquered it. Mind you, I couldn’t feel my feet, but I did it. I went into the Potomac River in January when the water temperature was 36 degrees, and came out under my own power. It’s like the song says: when you’re with me, I’m not afraid of anything, and whatever problem faces us, we’ll conquer it without a fuss.

And then here’s a picture of me going in as seen shoreside:

I go into the water

This picture kind of surprised me. I don’t normally get a good look at my back because obviously my eyes are around front, and I was surprised to see that I had some extra skin back there. Such is what happens when you lose 80+ pounds over the course of about nine months, I suppose. Hopefully the skin will contract or do whatever it’s supposed to do on its own rather than require surgery to fix. But we’ll see, I suppose.

And then after I came out, Davette wrapped my towel around me:

And then after I came out, Davette wrapped my towel around me.

That towel felt SO warm. Based on the facial expression, though, I think it was quite clear that I was amazingly cold. Kind of that still-in-a-daze-about-what-I-just-did expression, similar to this expression from last year at Sandy Point.

Then from there, it was back to the changing tent to change into real clothes. Thus the need for the large bag, as I had an entirely different outfit in there. No more pajama pants for me. This was my real outfit for the day. And here I am after changing:

Wearing real clothes again after the plunge

And then I kind of limped over to the restaurant, after stopping by the car to retrieve some foot warmers and put my socks on. I guess I did well enough, considering that I still couldn’t feel my feet, and my hands were mighty cold, too (but I could feel them).

In the restaurant, I said hello to Congresswoman Edwards again, and mentioned about introducing myself to the medics, and discussed how it went. We also shared a quick hug. That was awesome. It’s too bad that she’s not my representative in Congress, because she really seems like an awesome person, and is willing to help out on green issues.

At the restaurant, I shot another video:

When I did this, my hands were warm again (thank you hot water tap in the men’s room of McLoone’s Pier House), but my feet were still mostly numb. I think I was still riding the buzz from the whole affair when I shot this video. I seem a little bit “off” in this video. But a hot cup of coffee went a long way towards getting me warm again.

And then here are the plungers:

The plungers!

This is Katy, Leslie, and Will. Unfortunately, Ryan, who I mentioned in the third video above, wasn’t able to make it for whatever reason.

And then here are my awesome photographers:

That's Davette on the left, and RaQeeba on the right.

That’s Davette on the left, and RaQeeba on the right. By the end of the day, I think Davette was thinking about going in next year, and then RaQeeba was still very much “no way” on going in next year. We’ll see when it comes time to do the plunge next year, I suppose.

Katy and Will eventually headed back into DC, and Davette, RaQeeba, and I had lunch. This was lunch:

Taco salad!

Taco salad! Not too shabby. Lots of tasty vegetables in there, though I think it could have been a little bit spicier.

By the end of lunch, my feet had warmed up a bit, and I could, you know, walk normally again. So Davette, RaQeeba, and I headed out, narrowly missing being hit by ice falling off of one of the awnings outside the restaurant.

Then going home, I took the Beltway around again. I could have probably gone the B-W Parkway back, but I didn’t know what the status of things was, and I knew the Beltway would be clear. So I did. And I shared some additional thoughts on the way home:

And that was it! See you at Keep Winter Cold next year?

Web site: It's still not too late to donate! Thank you to all of my sponsors, who helped raise $240 for climate work over the past two months.

Song: "When You're With Me" from Today's Special, for sure.

Quote: So I'm once again impressed about all of the things that I can do now. I would never have thought about doing this even a year ago, because I wasn't nearly in as good of shape back then as I am now, that's for sure!