Patricia Leboeuf hits the water at the Polar Plunge on Jan. 21. She was one of 15 people to take an icy dip to help raise $1,040 for the Petawawa Public Library. (Submitted photo)

Taking a Polar Plunge for the Petawawa Library

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday February 8, 2018

Jumping into frigid waters isn’t my idea of fun, yet I found myself on Sunday morning wearing nothing but leggings and a t-shirt standing at the edge of a freshly cut hole on the icy surface of the Catwalk.

The fact that I even agreed to do the Petawawa Polar Plunge on Jan. 21 is due to one thing only: peer pressure.

Because what can you do when organizers of the event reach out to you and taunt you about your cowardice? You’ve got to prove them wrong. Even if you don’t swim in any season, and you get hypothermia shovelling your driveway.

I mean the fact that I was helping raise $1,040 for the Petawawa Public Library was a bonus and I was thoroughly impressed that 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER) Maintenance raised a quarter of that by themselves.

But I’m not the type of person to do altruistic things and I just wanted the taunting to stop. So that’s how I found myself first in line out of a group of 15, the youngest only eight years old. I was called brave for jumping first, but really I figured out that the longer I stood there, the more likely I was to run away. By being first, I could also maximize my time in the hot tub, a reward for those who had successfully done the dip.

As I stared down into that dark hole, the Fire Department at the ready in case I slipped under the ice shelf, I should have been thinking about a strategy to limit my time in the water, or at least start fantasizing about how lovely that hot tub was going to be. But nope, not me.

So when I jumped, I wasn’t fully prepared for the icy shock of it. Though the temperature of the outside air was hovering at a balmy -4 C, the water felt so much colder against my skin. It felt like a visceral punch to the gut and I came out unable to scream despite every instinct. I froze in place, forgetting myself, forgetting how to move my limbs.

Then my brain kicked in and I knew without a doubt that I had to do everything I could to get out. I scrambled awkwardly to the edge but found myself too weak to pull myself out. Much like a stranded walrus, I flopped on my belly and squirmed to safety. One of the firefighters propped me up and, without looking back, I speed-walked across the slick ice to the promised heat of the hot tub.

I should have at least thanked him for his help, but all I could think about was getting somewhere warm and cursing the Polar Plunge.

But there is some solace in knowing my pain was for a good cause - my friends and family were rightly amused, and since adding it to the lineup of Cabin Fever in 2015, the Polar Plunge has helped raise a lot of money for really good causes in the community. This year’s amount will help expand the non-fiction section at the library.