Timonene (hello...in Chitonga!:)
I'm rather awe-struck knowing that between last Monday's -42 degree wind chill, and yesterday's summertime high of 43 we had an 85 degree variance. Temperature fluctuations don't get any wider than that!

Combined with a gusty southern breeze, the weekend's run/swim had another variable to contend with; the presence of one Gardner Yost. A fellow friend from Winnetka, UIC masters candidate and rower extraordinaire, Gardner's insatiable appetite for running and invigorating January lake water made for quite the swim. He also runs marathons at a stonking pace, and also ran last Monday, exclaiming the run as 'tremendous'. I hear ya brotha!

Alas, another request prior to this weekend’s run, from one C. Marks...no-no, that's too obvious, Chris M. in elaborating further about the swim... My pleasure dear sir. We miss you here in Chicago!

My run/swim usually starts with a healthy dose of trepidation, and some type of stomach butterfly with sub-zero icicle powers. The most uncomfortable part of this weekly reawakening are the moments prior to getting out the door. 

Hydrated, well fed and ready to go, I prepare by bundling up in the proper attire specific to the day's conditions. Sunday was warm, so an extra layer and neck-gator were left out of the equation. I did manage to divide opinion on bringing two wool socks for afterwards. Minus compression socks after exiting the water? The sum of all fears!

Anyhow, Gardner and I left Oz Park and headed East and then South to the lakefront path. Wind direction plays a crucial role in determining routes each week. Having a tail-wind for 1/2 mile prior to swimming allows for a good sweat build-up, an important component of this endeavor.

Kicking in to high gear for the last 1/2 mile or so, we found a good spot to hop in near the Fullerton beaches. Backs faced to the Southern wind, a calm and collected shimmering lake awaits. Remnants of Monday wind and ice are ever-present, though fortunately most of the ice had been pushed off-shore.

Once down to single layer, there's usually a good 10-15 yards of beach or ice buildup between you, the water, disbelief, rational thought, skepticism and sanctity. Baptism by fire then. 

Forward momentum is highly sought after because once you start stripping down, there's no turning back. If anything, you have wide-eyed bystanders keeping your endeavor honest. High knees make way to a Lake Michigan special, the shallow gradient of West-side beaches. 

Flaps up, toes down. Feet being the first to encounter 32-degree water, the prelude to the ensuing hit of cold turns into a flat out sprint. A last cry for reason "RIPPLE Africa" is exclaimed, a deep breath taken and the plunge had. 

For a split-second you can feel your body temperature going from hot to warm...not cold, though. Despite the temperature change and wind being knocked out of your lungs (a big breath before diving in), the sensation is shocking no less, but still reinforces the fact that because you've built up your core temperature, you can handle this.

It's your face, fingers and those 10 little piglets that remind you, "Hey, this water is freakin' cold". At this point, you're making a B-line to the shore. Though, as mentioned in posts past, there's an ambivalent calm that sets in during this shock therapy. The single most important state-of-mind to grasp in all this is being calm and collected. You've earned it through your sweat. Your reward? First, the chilling, all-body re-awakening. Second, knowing your legs are getting a catalyst’ic blood circulating purge. And third, being out of the water, standing in total comfort. No towel needed, no shivering induced. You wanna feel what a pseudo-70 degree air feels like during a Chicago winter? You just did, through your own accord.

Your initial trepidation, butterflies, exertion and run all culminate in this present-minded instance. The height of present living.

Now, who's coming with me!

*I'll be in Prague and France until the 24th (swim report from EU...)

 January 26th, I'll be back in Lake Michigan.



Jim Voter
01/13/2014 1:29pm

Well written, sir! I hope to be in Chicago for a polar plunge eventually.

01/13/2014 5:18pm

Thanks Jim. As you can imagine, Gardner was quite up for the challenge. Let me know when you're in town

Alex Zalar
01/13/2014 5:04pm

Best post yet

01/13/2014 5:22pm

Thanks Zalar! It's been great fun writing this stuff.

Geoff & Liz Furber
01/15/2014 8:36am

Well done both of you - I think of you every morning when I have a cold shower and know that it is so much colder for you!

01/16/2014 6:52pm

Geoffy old chap! Good to hear from you. I must say, cold showers at Mwaya were chilly, though always refreshing. Let's skype soon. All the best to you and Liz!

Kay Yoder
01/15/2014 3:48pm

I would give anything to see and hear the reactions of bystanders as you take your weekly plunge! Kudos to you, Patrick and Gardner!

01/16/2014 7:06pm

Kay! It's more stares than anything. Haha. Will give you a call soon, once back in USA

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I never imagined myself swimming in the sea of ice. I see it as a very challenging thing more than anything else. I am so happy for you because you enjoy it. At the same time, it is one of your sources of living. Well, if you are under difficult job but you enjoy doing it, you are probably on the right track. Though it can be an obvious risk when it comes to your health, I know you can overcome that!

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