That year, 2012, was rough in a lot of ways. As you may have gathered from my six-month sabbatical.
But when we were able to set aside the pain-in-the-ass stuff, 2012 was also a lot of fun — shows, football, family … and more friends than I could begin to count.
I’ve done some ridiculously detailed end-of-the-year posts in the past, and I’m not going to do that here. But I will say this: You guys continue to make me happy I chose to get involved with all of this social media stuff years ago.
I have professional reasons for being pleased about my online dabblings — I’m having a blast writing the column, and one day I might even make consistently decent videos — but the personal stuff is almost always a bigger payoff. In the past, I have rarely been disappointed when I’ve met an online friend in real life, and that continued in 2012.
I will start 2013 as I have the last four years — by meeting a bunch of people at the Mon Wharf and jumping in the freezing-cold river. I know everyone who’s committed to showing up in the morning, but, as always, the fun thing will be to see who else shows up. I’ve noticed a few people lurking on my links to the Plunge posts, and I hope we’ll see a new face or two in the morning.
Because outside of my wife and my family, you guys are the ones who make my life what it is. I am grateful to you for the past year, and I’m looking forward to more fun, starting here in just a few hours.
Happy new year, yinz guys. Hope I see you again soon.
After a little begging and pleading, I am pleased to say that enough of you have volunteered to come out to the Mon Wharf on Tuesday morning that I’ll safely be able to plunge for the fifth straight year without worrying about breaking Mrs. Crappy’s Have Enough People To Haul Uncle Crappy’s Carcass Out Of The River Rule.
This speaks well of your generosity and sense of adventure. If not for your intelligence.
(Note: As previously stated, this will be my fifth consecutive year swimming on New Year’s Day. Which probably makes me even dumber than you.)
A fair amount of you have done this before, so this post will serve as a refresher. But if you haven’t experienced the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, here’s where to go, what to bring and what to expect:
WHERE: The Mon Parking Wharf, a dingy lot right on the river, sort of underneath the Parkway East. You enter the lot at Wood Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard (See the yellow sign in the pic above? That’s where you’re going.), loop around and find a place to set up. If you’re swimming with us, HEAD TOWARDS THE POINT once you’re off the ramp; it’s a little less crazy at that end. Find me and my red Honda Element, and you’ll know you’re in the right place.
WHEN: This is the tricky part. The swimming doesn’t start until 9:15 or 9:30, but you should plan on being there by 8:30. I have friends who have missed the whole thing because they got stuck in the traffic that arrives late. I’ll have a Thermos of coffee — and, uh, some other stuff — to help keep us warm until it’s showtime.
WHAT TO BRING: Plenty of warm stuff for before and after. Towels. I recommend jumping in wearing shoes of some kind — water shoes, old Chucks, Tevas, etc. Don’t wear the shoes you just got for Christmas; it’s muddy down there and we might get a little snow on Monday night. And while this is a point of personal preference for me, it’s worth mentioning — the less you wear into the water, the less icy cold stuff you have to get out of when you’re in a hurry — and you will be in a hurry — to get warm.
WHAT TO EXPECT: You think you’ve been cold before? Sorry — not even close. The air temp won’t be too terrible — it’ll be somewhere near 30 when we swim — but the water temp has been around 37 each and every year I’ve done this, and that, boys and girls, is colder than anything you’ve ever felt. The shock when you hit the water is hard to describe; for me, my mind goes blank, with one exception: “GOTTA GET OUT OF THE WATER.” We’ll set up in an area where it’s easy to do that, but take a second and help everyone else out of the water as well. And once you’re out and dry(ish) and warm(ish)? Congratulations. You’re a Polar Bear, and you have those bragging rights for the rest of your lives, even if you choose to never do it again.
AND THEN: We go eat.
If you have questions, ask. Watch Twitter on Tuesday morning, and I’ll let everyone know when I’m there. See you New Year’s morning, boys and girls.
Until a few days ago, I was a bit ambivalent about the annual Jumping In The Mon On New Year’s Day ritual, but as the day approaches, I’m swinging back towards really wanting to carry on the tradition.
And so I need your help.
Mrs. Crappy has to work on New Year’s Day, and won’t be able to join me on the Mon Wharf. And she made a rule, probably a reasonable one for my 46-year-0ld self: I’m no allowed to jump in the river unless there are enough friends around to pull me out.
I posted a kind of tentative thing on Facebook a couple of days, and got no commitments from any of our past Yinz Team swimmers. I did get a yes from a colleague, but she had had a couple beers at that point and it’s possible she may reconsider.
So my question is this: Who’s in? I want to go again, for several reasons, but I can’t put it any better than Sorg did a year or two ago: Once you do this, the rest of the year is easy.
We all know the Yinzteam Polar Bear Plunge is tomorrow morning. For those of you who are joining us — swimming or support — here are the details:
* The Crappys — including my parents — will in the Mon Wharf lot by 8:30. As we’ve done the past two years, we’re going to park on the side closer to the Point, so head down that way when you arrive and look for the red Element.
* Haven’t been to the Wharf before? Best way is to approach from Wood Street at Fort Pitt Boulevard and look for the yellow sign, as seen in the pic below:
* Make an effort to get there early. We lost some swimmers last year when they got stuck in traffic.
* Swimming usually starts after 9. We’ll go around 9:15 or something.
* The weather’s going to suck. Expect rain and temps around 40 when it’s time to swim.
* Bring: Towels, warm clothes, cameras, shoes you can wear in the water and others to change into after.
* Tip: It might sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it’s easier to make the plunge in just a bathing suit. You’ll have much less cold, wet clothing to remove once you get out — and trust me, you’ll be in a hurry to get the wet, cold stuff off.
* When we’re done? We’re heading to Piper’s Pub, 1828 E. Carson St., for beer and Irish boxty (or maybe that’s just me).
* Watch Twitter tomorrow morning for any updates. I’ll use the #yinzteamplunge hashtag for easy searching.
A few minutes after 10 a.m. Saturday, I crossed the mat on North Shore Drive, set to run for 3.1 miles.
Thirty-six minutes and fifty-two seconds later, I was done. Tired. And awfully happy.
I was really concerned about my pace at first — I was pretty keyed up and didn’t want to start too fast and run myself out before I finished. But Kelly and Pam kept me at a reasonable pace, and after almost a mile I felt pretty good. By the time we got to the halfway point, I was feeling great, and it apparently showed — Kelly said we were running just over a 10-minute pace, which is ridculously fast for me. That was a little hard to maintain as we ran back towards the stadiums on the trail because of the crowd.
And it got harder when we turned up towards the finish line. The course was almost dead flat, with two exceptions: a little downhill slope after we veered onto River Avenue and back at the science center, where I completely forgot that we’d have to head up a short, steep hill to get back to North Shore Drive. Ouch. It wasn’t much of a hill, but it was a killer at that point. I give Kelly all the credit in the world for letting me know how much was left and gently nudging me to keep up a decent pace.
Seeing the finish line was a relief. Seeing Sara, who walked over from her apartment to watch, was a boost.
And crossing the line with Kelly and Pam? Awesome.
We grabbed some drinks and I headed back to the finish, where I found Emily just in time for the two of us to watch Mrs. Crappy, who ran more of the 5K than she walked, cross the finish line.
I did it. And I’m ready to do it again.
I didn’t do this by myself, though. As I’ve said before, the thing that kept me from quitting this time was asking for help from my friends. You guys did that, on Twitter, on Daily Mile and whenever we saw each other in the last two months. That’s the one thing that made all the difference this time around.
I have to thank the people who came out — or tried to — on Saturday. The morning was kind of a mess, and there were a few people I didn’t even see before, during or after the race — but I really appreciate the fact that you were there.
Pam and Kristen — our neighbor who until just a few weeks ago knew me only from reading this blog — get special thanks for running with me the whole way. Kristen — and Roxy, the honey-brown dog I met on California Avenue a while back — came out to run with a bunch of people she had never met; Pam has been one of my biggest Daily Mile supporters, and having her there meant a lot.
You may have heard me mention my coaching staff occasionally in the last couple months. Kelly and Emily are two-thirds of that staff, and they have been amazing. Both have patiently answered an unending stream of stupid questions; both cheered for me nearly every time I finished a C25K workout. And they were both there on Saturday — Kelly ran with me every step, and Em was cheering at the finish. It it not an exaggeration to say I could not have done this without these two, and I am so grateful for both of them.
And I am most proud of the third member of my coaching staff. Mrs. Crappy has had the never-ending #deathcold in the weeks leading up to Saturday; that meant she really got to run only twice in the two months leading up to the race, and despite that, she ran more than half of the course. If you know her as I do, that’s not a surprise. You know she’s stubborn as hell; you also know she’s really good at this. When she was running years ago, I was always impressed with her steady pace that she could keep up for miles and miles. She also used to pester me about running; because I am nearly as stubborn as she is, I never listened — until now.