Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
As much as we try not to let it happen, it is inevitable that having this blog has shaped the way we travel.
We need to move through the world a little slower in order to keep up with the workload (but we’re okay with that). We sometimes turn to our Facebook fans to help us decide where to go next (we’re okay with that too, I mean, we acknowledge our complete incompetence at making decisions). And sometimes we drag ourselves out when we’d rather be in bed to discover something new to share with you.
However, if there is ever an activity that we really don’t want to do, we just don’t do it.
That changed when we got to Finland.
We let it happen. We agreed to allow Visit Finland to let their Facebook fans choose one of our activities. We knew that we were going to have to jump in a frozen lake instead of biathlon training (y’all like to see us squirm, we get it), but it never dawned on me until it was time to do it that damn, I didn’t want to.
Even though I obviously looked good in my attire for the occasion (heh), I was wracked with nerves.
I’m the girl who squeals when it’s +30deg C outside and I dip my toes into a pool just a few degrees cooler. How on earth was I going to coax myself from a hot sauna to +3dec C water?
Yet, I knew I had to, I couldn’t live it down on here if I didn’t.
Damn you all.
Up until the time we actually took the plunge, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Reki (our guide), Pete and I sat in the steaming hot sauna on the lake, just a few steps away from the gaping hole in the ice. We had been sitting in there long enough that I could barely stand the heat anymore, my skin was glossy with sweat, but I still couldn’t bear the thought of what would happen as soon as we left the hut.
“Okay, it is time to go now,” Reki insisted.
I balked, “Just a few more minutes,” I said, suggesting an invisible ice-swimming snooze button, knowing that I was only delaying the inevitable. Reki smirked, ignored my plea, and rose to open the door to the chilly outdoors. Cool air rushed into the tiny building, the temperature hovered just around freezing as night began to fall.
We had talked previously with Reki about the benefits of ice swimming. He claimed that regular ice swimming encourages less fatigue, less stress, and makes participants more resilient of such things as the common cold. It is reported that over 100,000 Finns do this at least once a week in winter.
Less stress, you say?
Fine! If they can do it, so can I.
(For the blog!)
But not without Pete going first, of course. My guinea pig for taste-testing food, saving me from scary bugs, and all other undesirable activities was convinced to take the first plunge so that I could gauge his reaction.
He held back on any compulsion to scream, but instead just took forced deep breaths as he dipped down to submerge his shoulders. “Hurry up!” he nearly shouted at me – we had set up the camera to take continuous photos and until I got in, he couldn’t leave (we had to get the shot…for the blog).
I turned to climb down the stairs backwards and was less successful at holding back my screams.
Reki was in the pool before both of us, and when I tried to leave before I had gone all the way in, he wouldn’t let me – and dunked me down to wet my shoulders. Seconds later I was out, and back in the steaming hot sauna, howling about the cold wool socks that clung to me feet and calves (wearing those socks was the worst part of it as they held the cold, but were worn to protect our feet on the ice).
Once the glossy sweat returned to our skin, all was well. And with all the adrenaline and bravado running through my veins, a little cockiness had crept in too.
Reki had informed us that an American couple had done the ice-swimming three times the night before.
Well then. We would have to do it four times.
We will not be outdone!
When I think back on it now, I don’t even remotely think of it as being cold, or curse that I had to it for the blog. I think of the challenge overcome, the comforting reassurance that yes, we are up for just about anything. And while I may have no desire to do this daily like some of the Finns, it was definitely an experience I would repeat.
And not even just for the blog. (So, that’s saying something.)