Brace yourselves…

January 29, 2014, 12:22 PM

On the morning of Saturday, January 25, I started the day with this post to Facebook:


See, January 25 was polar bear plunge day, i.e. the day that I would head over to National Harbor and go for a quick swim in the cold Potomac River in support of climate change work with Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  And for those of you who are unfamiliar with my practice on these things, it should be noted that I follow my own advice, which I first gave in 2010, and thus I wear a speedo when I do the plunge (and if you don’t like it, don’t look).

So this year, I went with my friend Tania, who teaches Aqua Zumba at the pool.  This was Tania’s first plunge, and my third.  This was also the coldest weather I’d ever plunged in.  This is what the river looked like on the morning of the plunge:

An icy Potomac River

Yes, that is ice on the surface of the Potomac River.  The darker section in the back of the photo is not yet frozen, but for some distance from the shore, the surface of the river was frozen over.  It was one thing last year when they had to de-ice the shore, but this year, they were shoveling literally shoveling the river:

Shoveling ice off of the surface of the Potomac

Shoveling ice off of the surface of the Potomac

After all, we needed a clear path into the river in order to do this properly.  No walking on ice.  Then they also took the temperature of the water:

Cold day today: 25 degree air temperature, 30 degree water temperature.

Yes, you are reading that correctly.  First, the water was five degrees warmer than the air.  Second, the water was below freezing.  If it tells you anything, this water was only two degrees warmer than the waters that the Titanic sank in back in 1912.

And then came the plunge.  As Tania and I had agreed to photograph each other going in, she went first while I photographed using Duckie:

After that, it was my turn, starting with a pose on the shore:

Yes, I am wearing a red suit this year.

Yes, that is a red Tyr Durafast swim brief right there.  This suit is part of my regular rotation when I go swimming, along with a black one and a blue one.  And then I headed in:

And then Tania went in again:

Then she grabbed her Santa hat, and went in a third time:

So all in all, I believe that everyone had fun.  I only went halfway in this time, as the cold was already starting to take my breath away.  I wasn’t about to chance having any problems and needing to be rescued if I went in any further.  There will be other plunges, after all.  And to be fair, most people did similarly, because it was just that cold on this particular day.

And then afterwards, we headed over to McLoone’s Pier House, where I ran into Katy, a former coworker:

This was Katy’s fourth plunge at National Harbor, and then Dan (at left) was doing his second plunge (you may remember him from 2012).  Leslie, at right, didn’t go in this year.  Still, it was good seeing all of them again.

This year’s event seemed a little bit more subdued than most.  I saw no members of Congress going in with us this time around, and the crowd in general seemed smaller this year.  Maybe it was the extreme cold that did it.  In addition, the larger Maryland event at Sandy Point was supposed to have been held on the same day, but was cancelled due to extreme winds, which caused three-foot waves on the Bay, and also destroyed at least one tent.  A lot of people on social media got this event confused with the larger plunge near Annapolis, and I wonder if the cancellation of the other plunge caused people to not come to this one.  In any case, it seemed like a much smaller and more subdued event than usual.  I also felt like it seemed less organized than usual.  Usually, everyone plunges at once, but due to the smaller space available due to the ice, they initially sent everyone to the tents, then said that only people whose last names were in the first half of the alphabet were going right away, and for the back half of the alphabet to wait fifteen minutes, and then they quickly reversed themselves and said that everyone could go right away.  In addition, they didn’t have enough shirts this year.  Thus I didn’t get this year’s shirt because they ran out of them.

So all in all, I had a good time, and Tania really had a blast as well.  I just hope that CCAN has their ducks in a row a little better next year, and that they schedule their plunge event on a different date than the Sandy Point event.  I excused the same-day date last year because of the presidential inaugural the previous weekend, but this year, there was no excuse for that.

And then afterwards, right before I took Tania home, we got a pic of Tania in her polar bear shirt with the Soul:

Tania and the Soul

Something about posing with a salt-covered car on a cold winter day seemed fitting.

And that was that!  Another plunge is done, and already looking forward to next year’s plunge.  And to answer everyone’s comments, yes, we are crazy, but it’s okay to do something crazy like this from time to time.

Postscript: Meanwhile, the Maryland Plunge at Sandy Point has been rescheduled for March 8. Hopefully I'll get out there for some plunge-related photography (I've done my plunge for this year - no double dipping for me).

Categories: Events, Friends