It was like someone repeatedly stabbed my feet with knives.
Earlier this month I participated in Rochester’s annual Polar Plunge. I was covering it for work, and figured I might as well take a dip in the icy, 34-degree waters of Lake Ontario. Thousands take part in the event, which raises funds for Special Olympics programs in the Rochester area.
Yes, those are snow ice banks. And that’s ice floating in the water.
After working for a few hours (interviewing organizers and other plungers) I strapped a go pro camera to my head and headed toward the gathering spot. Led by several Special Olympics athletes, masses of people dressed in costumes and bathing suits all headed toward the water.
We’re about to go for a swim Pic by Hank Kula
I shivered in a bathing suit as I walked arm in arm with my friend Hannah. Neither of us had plunged before and were a little nervous. But we shuffled forward and in we went. As you can see- there’s a camera on my head. To see footage of my plunge – check out my article and D&C video here.
I shed my jacket and dumped my towel, wearing only sneakers and a bathing suit into the water. I hesitated at the edge before running in. A slew of students ran past me and dove into the frigid water.
It was cold. Damn cold. But I dropped to my knees and dipped myself amid the ice chunks. Yes, ice chunks. I wanted to dunk my head, but didn’t. (Still kicking myself there). I wanted to shoot more footage, but my body was screaming at me to head for shore — and most importantly — WARMTH.
Out I went, cutting my legs on ice chunks – not that I felt it or anything. I ran up the shore – wincing each step in my now soaked sneakers.
Shivering and smiling post-plunge. Pic by Hank Kula
Once back in the tent – I couldn’t get out of my wet clothes fast enough. I couldn’t feel my feet as I changed into fresh socks. I chucked my iced-over sneakers and icicle socks into the garbage and layered up. Friends Gary and Charlotte came to watch me plunge and ensure I wasn’t frozen. THANK YOU! I may not have made it so easily to my car if not for them!
In all, I raised $400 for Special Olympics programs and more than $300,000 was raised through the entire event. Amazing! Thank you to everyone who supported my crazy efforts and donated. You all made a difference on a young athlete’s life!
It took more than an hour for my feet to stop hurting and much of the day to really thaw out. (And then I bundled back up and went curling that night)
I’ve been asked several times if I would plunge again. Surprisingly, yes. It’s insane. It’s freezing. I might get sick.
But I need to dunk my head and really jump headfirst into Lake Ontario. Who wants to join me?
Have you ever gone for a wintry swim? How cold was it? Would you do it again?