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It definitely gets easier once you’ve done it before…

January 26, 2013, 10:28 PM

And the 2013 “Keep Winter Cold” polar bear plunge is done!  That was a lot of fun.  And it was also a very different experience from last year.  While the event followed the same format as before, my experience was very different.  Last year was my first time going in, and as a result, I was very nervous and uptight about the whole thing.  This year, I knew what to expect.  No problems.  I was cool as a cucumber.

Driving in was a little bit interesting, though.  It had snowed on Friday, and I took Metro to work that day.  So I hadn’t seen the roads.  I was fairly confident that the roads would be fine, but the parking lot in my apartment complex was still snowy, and I had never driven the Soul on snow before.  Getting out of the lot ended up being fine.  Good.  Then going down, rather than take the Beltway all the way around to get to National Harbor, I took the Beltway to B-W Parkway, which then becomes DC 295 before becoming Interstate 295.  It’s a more direct route than taking the Beltway around, but I couldn’t go this way last year due to an accident that shut down part of DC 295 that I got wind of before I left.  This year, no problems.  This route took me past Minnesota Avenue station and Anacostia station, and also past two separate speed cameras each way.  DC apparently is trying to turn 295 into a toll road via the speed cameras and an unreasonably low speed limit (50 mph?  Seriously?).  It is far too easy to speed on that road, and DC robo-ticket fines are high.  As far as I know, I did not get nailed by a robo-ticket.  And then like I did last year, I listened to the Today’s Special album on the way down.  Not to keep me calm, but just because I wanted to.  And it filled the trip down perfectly.  I started it up when I left the house, and it ran out as I arrived.

I got there insanely early.  I knew this was going to happen.  The folks running the plunge weren’t even entirely set up yet.  But again, no problem.  I was early.  So I ended up checking out The Awakening to pass the time while they got ready to go.  The last time I saw that statue was when I photographed it for a Photography set nearly ten years ago, back in March 2003 when it was still at Hains Point in DC.  It was later bought for the National Harbor development, and was moved there in 2008.  And now, here it is.

The Awakening at National Harbor

The Awakening at National Harbor

The Awakening at National Harbor

My verdict on the move?  I don’t like it.  The original site had the statue in a wide open space.  You approached the statue at its level.  The new location places the statue in a sunken area, lower than the remainder of the site.  Because of this, the statue is “framed” in its new spot, with walls rising up on three sides, and water on the fourth side.  I feel that this takes away from the giant-rising-from-the-earth concept, since he’s kind of in a box like a zoo exhibit.  It takes away from the realism.  Additionally, they didn’t bury the bases of the pieces deeply enough, which makes it harder to imagine that you’re looking at a giant emerging from the ground when you can see the end of the arm that’s supposed to be connected to the rest of the giant.  National Harbor could have done this presentation a lot better if they hadn’t placed the statue in a sunken area.  If the sunken area had been at the same level as the rest of the development, it would have worked better.  Also, the statue would need to have the same surface under it as the surrounding area.  If it was grassy, as in the old location, then fine.  Sand?  Fine.  I would even settle for concrete.  But it needs to be consistent across the area to avoid framing the statue.

Going back over to the plunge event, I registered, and got the t-shirt.  Then I spotted people using ice melt on the area around where people would be going in:

Putting ice melt on the ground

This was understandable – we don’t want people to slip and fall on ice.  However, I think that the effort was likely futile, because I doubt that the product was designed to work with that kind of ice.  Plus it didn’t have much time to work.  Don’t get me wrong – it was well intentioned, but ultimately probably a waste of time.

Katy and Ryan arrived later, and then soon enough it was time to get ready to go in.  I had my Tyr brief on, as promised, and Ryan had his suit on, too.  We were, as he called it, “speedo buddies”.  And here we are:

Ryan and me in our speedos

And yes, it was below freezing outside.  But it’s okay – you have to be a little bit insane to do this kind of thing.

Then here’s the rest of the group:

Ryan, Emily, Katy, and Leslie

Getting ready to go in:

Getting ready to go into the river!

Getting ready to go into the river!

And then we went in.  Since I promised a few folks that I wouldn’t shoot a video this time, I went for still photos this year using Duckie.  Of course, this year I knew what to expect, and wasn’t moaning from the cold.  I was actually having a good time, though the cold was certainly breathtaking.  And here’s the plunge:

The plunge is underway!

The plunge is underway!

Ryan strikes a victory pose
Ryan strikes a victory pose after going under.

Katy, in the process of submerging
Katy, in the process of submerging.

Katy and Ryan emerge from the water
Katy and Ryan emerge from the water.

Before I got out of the water, I handed Duckie to Ryan, and had him get a picture of me striking a victory pose.
Before I got out of the water, I handed Duckie to Ryan, and had him get a picture of me striking a victory pose.

And that was that.  Definitely a better experience than last year.  I didn’t lose my shoe this time, and my feet didn’t go numb.  I was also doing well enough that I could stay in the water long enough to even do a victory pose.  Compare to last year, where I got out of the water as fast as I could because I was just dying in there.  I was having a great time in the water this year.

On the way out to change, we ran into Meagan, who is one of our interns at work, who went with a group from American University.  Here she is, post plunge:

Meagan (at center) with her friends
Meagan (at center) with her friends.

And then it was time to change and head over to McLoone’s Pier House for the afterparty.  But first, more victory poses:

Back in our real clothes, and posing for a photo.
Back in our real clothes again!

Katy and Meagan share a hug before Meagan had to leave to go back to AU.
Katy and Meagan share a hug before Meagan had to leave to go back to AU.

And that was that, more or less.  We went to McLoone’s to have a few of the snacks that they provided, we reviewed the photos on Duckie, and then we all headed out to go back to our respective homes.  Not a bad time!  Looking forward to doing this again next year.

And let’s admit – I don’t look too bad in a speedo.  And I wear this suit at least once a week at the pool.  If you don’t like it, then don’t look.  Besides, Americans are such prudes when it comes to people’s bodies and what some clothes reveal/outline.  And it really doesn’t matter what stuff looks like, because once you go into water that cold, you come out looking like a Ken doll.  I’m actually more concerned about my thighs, which are now a lot more muscular with all of the weight loss and exercise and such, but the skin around my thighs hasn’t caught up to the rest of it all.  Something else to work on, I suppose…

Categories: Events, Friends

  • By the way – according to the USGS, the mean water temperature for the Potomac River on the 26th (unavailable at the time of writing) was 34 degrees.  That’s colder than last year by about two degrees.

  • Here’s a video of the event from the Riverkeeper boat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWj_5MfeKRM