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Both Rob and I had our respective workouts to finish in the morning before heading up to the Polar Bear Plunge. I had an hour run and an hour swim, and he had a 16-18 mile run. So by time we both were ready to go it was basically 1PM…and the snow was coming down hot and heavy. Nonetheless, we filled the backseat of the car with warm cloths, pointed in the direction of Maryland, and said – Onward!
After about two hours of slow going 20-30MPH driving through the winter storm, we finally arrived near Sandy Point State Park on the the Chesapeake Bay, which is just a stones throw away from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Before long, we stumbled into the first wave of police vehicles blocking off the state park.
At this point we realized this event isn’t just a little dip in the water, but a full fledged massive event. This is essentially like a big NFL game, complete with tail-gators, busses, concessions and a gazillion people. Unfortunately, unlike an NFL game (which doesn’t cancel because of a little snow), this event did cancel. Well, at least our 3PM start wave did. We had checked before departing, and it was still a go – so we braved the long drive. The police gave us the bad news upon arriving at the park’s entrance. Nonetheless, they did let us go down and check it out.
So we headed down and parked off in a small lot, and then made our way across the massive bus pickup zones:
From there we went to the registration tent. After all, we were registered and had paid/donated…we wanted our t-shirts! They had no shirts left. 🙁 But they did give us cards to fill out to get our shirts in the mail, so that was fine.
Next we went to check out the ‘Plunge site’ – where previously a bunch of people went into the water.
After checking that out (oh, and they were very serious about nobody else going in anymore), we wandered through the huge expo tent they had.
Even had a giant sand-statue inside:
Finally, post wandering we decided we were done here. But not done in our quest!
No, we had long since decided that hell or high cold water, we were getting in the water somewhere…anywhere. If we got to ‘Plan D’, it would be the sketchy river in front of my place (that feeds into the equally sketchy Potomac River), but we were going for cleaner waters first. After all, we had a plunge t-shirt coming to us in the mail, and we had to get in the water now, otherwise we’d run afoul of all sorts of bad karma.
A quick check of the map shows plenty of quite suitable water all around us:
So, off we went. First we went wandering down some random side streets, but they were all full of houses, with no easy access to the water.
We drove around for about 45 minutes, down lots of side streets – anywhere Mr. Phone seemed to indicate was next to water. Had we mapped it out, it probably would have looked something like this:
Tons of dead ends, private property signs, and everything else in between.
But eventually, on a quiet side road, we found the holy land – a nice small bridge with relatively easy access to the water.
Well, sorta easy anyways:
So we got all changed, managed to lose the car key in the snow (no comment…it took a bit of time to find it), and then armed with swim caps to act the part, we made our way down to the water.
We setup the video camera off to the side, and got it all rolling…hilarity would likely soon ensue.
We then got rid of all the excess layers and prepared to go on in. I should point out at this juncture that unlike the water at the plunge, this water was a bit more solidified. Sorta like a big slushy.
Rob was in quite a bit of a hurry to get in (and likely out of) the water, so he got ready pretty quickly (btw, I’m in Blue cap, Rob’s in Orange cap):
We decided (actually, perhaps I decided without telling him, as Rob was probably quite content simply not going in at all) that up to the neck would do just fine. So I got to work pretty quickly on the task:
The problem we soon found was that the water simply wasn’t that deep. So we had to go out a fair bit to get it to even waist deep. But finally, I found my spot:
Meanwhile, while Rob was apparently happy just icing his legs after this 16-some-odd-mile run. I was on my way outta there:
But, with a yelp (and the realization I was about to leave him behind), he quickly followed suit:
..and then also bailed:
Ahh, all’s over, right?
Umm..no. In fact, up until this now it really wasn’t that bad. Yes the water was cold, but honestly not terrible at all (though the video evidence might disagree).
At this point I’d like to point out the embankment that we had to get up. The ‘course’ (T1 perhaps?) went from the water (you can see our icebreaking below), up the embankment, over the railing, and then up 40 yards or so to the car.
But one thing we didn’t realize until getting out of the water is that your feet become essentially unusable, and thus you can’t get in your shoes. So we were now barefoot, and still had to get up that snow covered embankment, over that railing, and then to the car.
While it took a few tries (for me), Rob somehow managed to get to the car in record time. Though the highlight of the day was likely the moment Rob popped up the side of the bridge with nothing more than a Speedo jammer on and a swim cap, to a car driving by. I meanwhile, was still busy bumbling up (and back down) the ravine:
Why is the camera covered in snow you ask? Well, because both it and me ended up in the snow…a few times. Video was left running, which is hilarious btw, and thankfully one feature of the Canon 7D is its weatherproofing – designed for tough snow conditions. As to why I didn’t clean the snow off the lens, well, my primary objective at this point was the car – not the cinematographic quality of the historical evidence of the event. Here I cam running towards the car.
And finally…the warm car (swimsuit still on folks…):
Of course, by now you’re asking for the actual video, right? Well, without further ado – here ya go (I edited the version published here to be PG, as the original as filmed contained a lot of ‘entertaining’ comments):
After that, and a lot of time spent getting all warm and cozy in the car. Then it was time to head back to Washington DC.
In the end, while we didn’t get to partake in the ‘big dance’, we’re both pretty sure our variant (‘Guerilla Plunge’ as Rob called it) was way more fun. And, in a lot of ways – much more in tune with how millions of people before us have gone and done their own Polar Bear Swim’s.
And lastly – thanks to all who donated, I have no doubt the Maryland Special Olympics team greatly appreciates your generosity! Though, if you want to still donate, you can right here.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Tomorrow…perhaps some snow angels…or not. 🙂
I swim, bike and run. Then, I come here and write about my adventures. It’s as simple as that. Most of the time. If you’re new around these parts, here’s the long version of my story.
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