Taking the Plunge…

So, I’m a Polar Bear now.

And by that, I mean I’ve now officially taken the leap (literally) and done the infamous Polar Bear Plunge. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the tradition, it’s a nationwide fundraising effort by the Special Olympics where people (or “Polar Bears”, for those who have completed the plunge before) raise money for the cause by collecting pledges and leaping into icy cold lakes in the middle of winter…all while stripping down to their skivvies. (Or at least an elaborate costume).

The St. Olaf team - Tess, Megan, Jon, David and me - post-plunge. The showercaps were theoretically supposed to keep our hair from freezing...they didn't work. (Photo courtesy of the Northfield Patch, photographer Clare Kennedy)

Two weeks ago, lured in by the promise of free Caribou Coffee, I promised the boyfriend that I’d join his team for the event. But, as I stood on the teetering dock overlooking the icy cold Crystal Lake in nearby Burnsville, I could actually feel my heart trying to escape out of my throat. Despite being born in Alaska, I’m the type of person that wears a sweatshirt on 80 degree days, the girl that practically gets a brain freeze from a sip of ice water and the first person to break out the heavy duty Northface during Minnesota falls. There was no way that plunging into -30 degree water during February in Minnesota was how I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoon. The emcee announced our team name (the very clever “St. Olaf Team”…), and began to countdown to our jump. Before I could turn around and run, I was being pulled into the lake by my fellow Oles.

The feeling was indescribable. Right away, I felt like a superhero as the adrenaline surged through me – I didn’t even feel cold. But then, the bone-chilling temperature actually hit me, and I resorted to a sort of half-doggy-paddle, half-running man motion to get out as quickly as possible. Once we were out, we were ushered into a tiny hot tub to quickly warm up, then pushed back out into the cold and encouraged to “go plunge again!”

All in all, it was a fantastic experience – I got to impress my (much warmer, and probably much wiser) friends, saw some great costumed plungers and was a part of a great day that raised over $200,000 at our one location alone. That being said, I think I’m still trying to warm up.

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