Oh geez. How could I forget that once we got back from our bear watching adventure, we were thrust into our next one just minutes later.
Having returned cold and wet we decided that a visit to the hot tub was definitely in order. Sitting out on the back of the boat with a cold one from Alaskan Brewery was one of our favorite ways to pass our late afternoon downtime while on the boat (Alaskan White or APA for him; IPA or Oatmeal Stout for me). And because we were so cold, we quickly changed into our swim clothes and grabbed the open hot tub. Shortly thereafter we were joined by Lis, a fellow passenger from Lake Tahoe who is moving to Oakland.
And then we heard it. The call for THE POLAR PLUNGE. I can't lie, I almost didn't do it. I made up my mind, only to change it again 15 seconds later, about 25 times. Even as I was in line to jump off the back of the boat, I almost backed out. I mean, it's Alaska. That water is COLD. And we'd been wet and cold just minutes before. And um, now I was all warm and toasty so wouldn't that mean that the water would feel even colder for those of us that had been in the hot tub? I was pretty sure that's EXACTLY what it would mean. It was pretty damn cold standing around on deck waiting to go below deck, and it was warmer outside than it would be in the water, so I knew we were in for a chilling experience.
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So here's how it went down.
I'm probably the biggest chicken you will ever meet so I made Alan go first. He seemed just fine sacrificing himself in the name of my peace of mind so I don't even pretend to feel bad about making him go first. So, he gets back on the boat and tells me it's not bad at all. Then he repeats himself, a few times. At some point, I buy into the story he's telling and I get in the queue for the jump. I might have been hyperventilating at this point I was so scared.
So, it's my turn and I walk to the edge of the fan tail, except the whole time I'm walking the expedition guide is telling me to be careful and to hold onto the rail because it's slippery and I might fall, so not only am I afraid about the extreme cold I'm about to endure, but I'm also convinced that I'm going to fall and crack open my skull, immediately before flopping into the cold Alaskan waters where I'll pass out and sink to the bottom before anyone can save me. So yeah, there was that. Have I mentioned that (1) I have a very overactive imagination and (2) I'm always thinking about the ways I'm going to maim or kill myself through my general klutzery?
I can't remember if I counted or what, but after only a few moments, I was launching myself off the boat and into the water. Splat. Sink. Kick to the top. OH MY GOD IT'S FREEZING! At first, I merely thought it was just merely cold; that is, no colder than maybe jumping into a cold pool on a 100 degree day. And then as I was rising to the top I realized just how cold the water was. It was staggering. It literally takes your breath away. Because of my thyroid condition, I'm used to always being hot. Hotter than everyone else around me. The flip side of this means that when I get cold, I get really cold. So, my head is above water and I think to myself, "oh cool, I only have about twenty strokes before I'm on deck and back into the hot tub." So I start paddling, but it doesn't feel like I'm moving at all. So I start paddling harder and faster, or what I think is harder and faster, but because my limbs are so cold I'm actually not going very fast at all and it seems to take an eternity for me to reach the ladder. At least that's what it feels like. In reality, the time between when I hit the water and was climbing onto the boat was probably less than a minute, and in reality I was never in any danger whatsoever. My mind was just telling me that I was freezing to death. The mind is a funny thing like that. It likes to mess with you when it probably shouldn't be. Stupid mind.
So, after I get out of the water and am back on deck and have been hosed down with regular water that actually feels like warm bath water in comparison to the water I just emerged from, Alan tells me that HE'S GOING TO DO IT AGAIN. At that point I'm convinced the water froze his brain and that the rest of my life may be spent with a mad man. But, he does it again, and he has a blast, and as they say, "it's all good in the hood."
While doing the polar plunge might not seem like a huge deal to some people, the fact that I did it is extremely impressive to me. I cannot stress to you just how much of a chicken I am. I routinely bow out of things because I'm too afraid to do them. So the fact that I went through with it was a pretty huge deal to me and I was actually quite proud of myself for having done it. Jumping into cold water might not seem like a huge victory to some, but for me it was, and for that I'm thankful that I got to have this experience.