There were kayakers in the water to help anyone who was too cold to get back to the side. While we waited, one of the icicles plunged into the water. (Photo: Staff)

The moment I saw the look on my friend’s face after he got out of Lookout Mountain’s Lula Lake on New Year’s Day, I thought for the first time that maybe I was about to do something crazy.

We were taking part in Monday’s second annual Lula Lake Polar Plunge.

Willingly, dozens of people jumped into the lake, which had a temperature of about 37 degrees. Outside, it was even colder, with temperatures in the low 20s.


The question many people had was, “Why? Why would you do something so crazy?”

Personally, I’ve been working to be my best self, to truly experience life and push myself out of my comfort zone to be the person I feel like I am deep down inside.

That takes action, and it requires the ability to forgo fear and ego.

My meditation/mindfulness practices have been leading me toward these efforts. As I’ve learned to put less focus on fleeting feelings, thoughts and desires, I’ve let go of some bad habits and found pieces of myself that had been buried in mental noise.

One part of myself I’ve neglected of late is the Chloé who loves an adrenaline rush.

Unofficially, I started to nurture that element of myself in September, when I went hang gliding for my 34th birthday. (That wondrous experience reinforced the idea that I should nourish my desire to go a bit extreme sometimes.)

So when the polar plunge popped up in my Facebook feed, I followed my gut and immediately paid $50—which supported the Lula Lake Land Trust.

Mandy and I stopped for a selfie on the walk to the lake. (Photo: Staff)

My best friend, Mandy, came with me to document the experience and provide emotional support.

The walk from the parking lot to the lake was a little less than a mile, and although cold, the weather was lovely—brisk and clear.

I didn’t let myself think too far in advance. My goal was to stay in each moment.

Even when I saw icicles, I remained unfazed.

When one of the organizers told us that our bodies would be shocked by the cold, I thought back to times I’d swam in glacial lakes while traveling in New Zealand after college. The memories are only fond, so I continued to focus on the positive aspects of what I was doing.

It would be symbolically cleansing and a way to build mental and physical resilience.

It’d help me keep pushing myself in the hopes that temporary discomforts would lead to something good.

But, after seeing the reaction of my friend who jumped before me, nerves set in for the first time.

I was still fully clothed and I had to break the seal. I had to strip down, pushing all self-conscious thoughts away, and head down to the rock from which I’d jump.

I plunged with who appeared to be a father and son.

“I’m scared,” I mumbled.

“Don’t be scared,” he said in a way that was legitimately comforting.

I took a minute to remind myself that you have to be scared to be brave and waited for the countdown.

Some participants used a rope swing or zip line to get into the lake. I figured a simple jump was my best bet. (Photo: Staff)

The next thing I remember is being underwater and telling myself to really feel the experience.

For a split-second, still underwater, I thought, “This isn’t so bad,” and I enjoyed a moment of peace below the surface.

When I came up, I was stunned into silence. My only thought was, “Swim and get out of this water.”

It felt as if I went into survival mode.

Had I not started to swim, I’m confident my limbs would have soon stopped working correctly.

I clamored up the side of the rocky hill back to my clothes, and the next few minutes are a blur.

The bodily sensation was overwhelming and thrilling in its discomfort. It’s like nerves you didn’t even know you had are exploding.

The fact that the air temperature was colder than the water provided no relief, so when I got back to my clothes, my mind and body felt disoriented.

I’m not sure what I would have done without Mandy, who took the lead in getting me warm. She put towels and blankets around me and warm socks and shoes on my feet.

Even while feeling frozen, I immediately started to think about doing it next year. I knew I could be better prepared now that I know what to expect.

There were changing tents available, but they felt far away. In my stupor, I just changed where I was, hoping the towel Mandy was holding around me provided enough cover.

With dry clothes on, the baseline for what felt warm was different.

I’d gotten what I wanted from the experience. How often in life do you get to feel a totally new sensation?

I hope I never think about cold the same way. I hope I remember what it can feel like.

I hope to hold on to the thrill I felt and let it motivate me to be brave and maybe a little crazy.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.