The icy buoy; my friend

I think that I hit a milestone. Today, the buoy didn’t scare me. Today, the buoy gazed softly upon me, with an icy assurance, almost as if to say, “Sure, you’re going to die. But you’re going to die in my cold, loving arms.

I’ve started much too far into my story.

This morning, I drove up to Deer Creek for a 300-yard (or thereabouts) swim. I met Josh Green, Jim and Connie Hubbard up at the boat ramp. After some nervous banter, Josh and I watched as Jim started into the water. It then became imperative that Josh and I follow suit (ha?), because the clock starts when a fellow polar bear swimmer hits the cold water.

When my feet entered, I became very confident. I immediately recognized that Deer Creek was a few degrees warmer than the Utah Lake beatings I’ve been taking (Man, I’ve really got to start writing in more optimistic terms, when talking about polar bear swims.) So I dropped right on it and started to breathe deep and concentrate, as the steam rose off of the water (it was very cold air, but slightly warmer water.)

Josh and Jim started sort of bobbing out into deeper water. I didn’t want to ask how far we were going, because I didn’t want to be the wuss of our threesome. So I quietly kicked and maneuvered myself after them.

And then it hit me. “Hey, it might be warmer water than what I enjoy at Utah Lake, but swimming makes it three times colder!” It’s true. You can sit very still in freezing water and soon a small blanket of warmth (“warmth”) envelopes you. Your skin literally warms the immediate water around you. But as soon as you move your body, it comes into contact with new, freezing water.

All of a sudden, I got really nervous. And what follows is very confusing.

I know that many will blame the cold and pre-hypothermia for what happened next. Josh was clearly making a move for one of the buoys that sat out, 150 yards (ish) from shore. Without knowing whether I could make it, or not, I followed him. Weird, huh? I have a family, a life (we’re not debating this), and quite enjoy my days here upon Earth. But for some reason, I had to go for it. Maybe I didn’t think that there was any risk. But the fact is- I didn’t know.

If things had gone south, as they do in 40 degree water, I doubt that Josh could have saved me. He’s one of the most competent and able swimmers that I am associated with, but he was also dealing with some pretty freaking extreme conditions. It’s a handful to swim, but quite another to swim in 40 degree water (let alone rescue an incompetent and overconfident buddy.)

Joshed reached the buoy before I did, but when I arrived, I noticed that it was completely frosted over (as Josh noted on his blog, also.) And for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid of the buoy. I didn’t care that it was chained to some unknown object at the bottom of the lakebed. I didn’t care that all of his associated <strikethrough>buddys</strikethrough> buoys were my mortal enemies. When I arrived at the buoy, I gently bumped it with my hand, grateful to have something that could support me, if I needed it, 150 yards away from shore.

And then, as soon as I touched it, I turned from it. I didn’t worry that it was going to “get me” (although I contend that if it was this buoy’s will, it could have.) Truly, this was a buoy I could trust. I could sense it.

As I swam, head-up (most people don’t dip their head into the water at this temperature, since you lose approximately 124940304849% of your body’s heat through your head), backstroke, breaststroke, I realized that the trip back was going to be difficult. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. My breathing was labored. My heart was pounding. So I finally caved and decided to sort of let Josh know what condition I was in.

“How’re y-y-y-y-oooou d-d-d-d-d-oin’ J-J-J-J-osh?”, I managed. He replied that he was fine. So the two of us, both liars, continued to plod toward shore. At one point, I figured I had a 78 percent chance of surviving. A minute later, my feet hit the bottom. All three of us, Josh, Jim and myself walked up on the boat ramp so that we could continue to lie about how it had been been a “bit” difficult.

Connie and Jim, both saints, offered me some hot water from a milk-gallon jug. We all poured the water over us to start the recovery process. I noticed that my feet immediately stuck to the alphalt. Apparently, the ground was cold.

I got into my truck and Josh stood there, like a man, outside my truck, still in the cold, and we discussed how things had gone. We both agreed that this swim is better suited for a Swim Safety Device. Things in these conditions (in any open water condition, really) can turn and go wrong, so fast. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Next time, I’ll sport the SSD if we go out into deep water.

On New Year’s Day, there will be a few of us who do the 400 meter swim at the Great Salt Lake. Dang. I’m nervous. I should be. I don’t have nearly as good a relationship with the GSL buoys, as I do the ones in Deer Creek.

What a great swim.

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Nervous, but getting ready to go in, anyway.
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Me, Jim and Josh, acting like this doesn’t bother us one bit. At least one of us disagreed.
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Bobbing for Morons. Fun.
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I told Josh that, these events will either create friendships or mortal enemies for life.
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Our feet were sticking to the ground! The ground, I say! The Hubbards were awesome to give us hot water and apple juice.

Photograph Utah!

One of the nice things about riding public transit, is that you get meet people.  I still contend that this is one of the things that people hate about public transit.  But this morning, I met a fellow by the name of Peter Forton, who is living and working in Utah for a year.

He, like many of my friends, enjoys photographing the awesomeness that is Utah.  He has taken some great pictures, which can be found on his website, www.peterfortonphotography.com.

He joins the ranks of other Utah Photographers that I follow and enjoy:

Bill Church
Brett Colvin
Randal Nielson

Christmas Eve-Morning Polar Bear Plunge in Utah Lake

At 8:20 AM, this morning, Kris Cole and his family met me and my family at the Nelsonshack (the real one).  We then drove down to Utah Lake for the first Christmas Eve Day Oh-Man-Please-Don’t-Let-This-Be-Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Utah Lake.  At about 8:30, Kris and I walked down into the barely-unfrozen water of Utah Lake.

Minute one:  I was shocked.  Kris didn’t just jump out, as I’d expected.  One of the first things your brain does, when you haven’t done this before is order your body out of the water, ASAP.  As soon as we were in the water, I kept telling Kris to to “breathe, breathe, breathe…” and he did.  He actually sat in that 34-ish degree water (coldest I’ve been in) and invited the pain.  It was great.  After about a minute, he called it good and stepped out to dry off and warm off.  Very impressive for a first time winter dip.

4:30 minutes:  Soon, the routine for getting my updates on time was for me to shout up to the van where Wendy was, with one word:  “Time!”  When she called back, “4:30”, I admit it was a bit discouraging.  There was a secret part of me that wanted to see if I could stay in for 15 minutes.

9:30 minutes:  When I got the report that I was 30 seconds from 10 minutes, I really didn’t feel that 15 minutes was going to happen.  I was already chattering and felt colder than I’d expected.  But I stayed in and just hoped that things would settle down, again.

12:00 minutes:  Sure enough, things calmed down and I felt a little bit of warmth come over me.  It actually scared me.  I know that the lake didn’t heat up.  My guess is that the warmth that I felt was false.  It was probably in my mind, so I knew that my time was winding down for how long I’d stay in.

14:00 minutes:  But then I got the report that I’d been in for 14 minutes.  That was a relief.  I knew I could make it to 15.

15:00 minutes:  Wendy let me know that I’d hit 15 minutes, so I went for a little, 10 second swim.  I put my head under and swam that way I normally would during the summer.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too uncomfortable.  One of two things had happened:  1.  I’m getting better at handling cold.  2.  My body was in “shut-down” mode, so it wasn’t too painful.  Either way, my time was up, so I got out.

Those who go with me have no idea how comforting it is to have someone who’s able to rescue me, should something go wrong.  Earlier this week, it was Rob Reimer.  Today it was Kris Coles.  He stood there, wrapped in a blanket (and was probably freezing.)  But he stayed with me to make sure things were ok.  I appreciated it so much.

Why?

I keep getting asked why I do this.  I’ve been working on an answer.  But I’m afraid that there is no satisfactory answer for the question.  Let me do my best, though:

1.  Because I can.  There is something very satisfying, knowing that I’m pushing myself.  Hard.  There really is truth to knowing how alive you are when you become uncomfortable.

2.  Because others suffer much more than I do.  One of the most unbelievable things for me to understand, is how people can survive without the modern comforts of home.  I have heat, food, and shelter.  There are so many who don’t.  When I immerse myself in freezing water, it helps me to appreciate the wonderful things that The Lord has given me.

3.  Health benefits:  There are many studies that show that dipping yourself in cold water helps your body combat disease.  There are also studies that show that it’s bad for you.  So sort of a typical medical study done on something a bit excessive.  I subscribe to the health benefits ticket, because I feel really good when it’s over.  And I feel good all day.

I’ll work harder to articulate these thoughts, but those are some initial feelings on cold water swims.

"The time is 12 O'Clock. It's Christmas!"

When I was a kid, it was common to “Call Time” at P-O-P-8-6-0-0 (most people, apparently, called P-O-P-C-O-R-N, which also worked) to get the exact time, so that you could set your clocks.  Now we just use NTP.  NTP keeps our cell phones synched up, as well as our computers and servers.

It worked like this.  You’d call the number and listen for the lady’s recorded voice to tell you what time it was.  It would sound something like, “The time is eight fifty five…and fifty seconds” <BEEP> “The time is eight fifty six…exactly.”  (and so on.)

But when I was a boy, I had heard a rumor (I think from my friend, Aaron Eller), that if you called “Time” at 11:59 PM on Christmas Eve, and listened for a full minute, eventually, when the time changed to 12:00 AM, you’d hear the lady say “The time is 12 O’Clock.  It’s Christmas!”

For years on end, I’d go to the kitchen or my bedroom and make that call to see if the lady would finally announce Christmas.  She never did.  I even called Time as an adult, just to keep the tradition.  My sister Alana even got in on the act.

One year, I realized that the time had passed for me to call Time to listen to the recordings.  It was already Christmas and I’d lost the chance.  It was a bummer.  But, at the same time, it took a lot of me staying awake and then the slight disappointment when the lady wouldn’t wish me Merry Christmas.

That service doesn’t exist anymore.  Apparently it was discontinued a few years ago to open up more phone #’s.  Times change.

Christmas Eve-Morning Polar Bear Plunge in Utah Lake

At 8:20 AM, this morning, Kris Cole and his family met me and my family at the Nelsonshack (the real one).  We then drove down to Utah Lake for the first Christmas Eve Day Oh-Man-Please-Don’t-Let-This-Be-Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Utah Lake.  At about 8:30, Kris and I walked down into the barely-unfrozen water of Utah Lake.

Minute one:  I was shocked.  Kris didn’t just jump out, as I’d expected.  One of the first things your brain does, when you haven’t done this before is order your body out of the water, ASAP.  As soon as we were in the water, I kept telling Kris to to “breathe, breathe, breathe…” and he did.  He actually sat in that 34-ish degree water (coldest I’ve been in) and invited the pain.  It was great.  After about a minute, he called it good and stepped out to dry off and warm off.  Very impressive for a first time winter dip.

4:30 minutes:  Soon, the routine for getting my updates on time was for me to shout up to the van where Wendy was, with one word:  “Time!”  When she called back, “4:30”, I admit it was a bit discouraging.  There was a secret part of me that wanted to see if I could stay in for 15 minutes.

9:30 minutes:  When I got the report that I was 30 seconds from 10 minutes, I really didn’t feel that 15 minutes was going to happen.  I was already chattering and felt colder than I’d expected.  But I stayed in and just hoped that things would settle down, again.

12:00 minutes:  Sure enough, things calmed down and I felt a little bit of warmth come over me.  It actually scared me.  I know that the lake didn’t heat up.  My guess is that the warmth that I felt was false.  It was probably in my mind, so I knew that my time was winding down for how long I’d stay in.

14:00 minutes:  But then I got the report that I’d been in for 14 minutes.  That was a relief.  I knew I could make it to 15.

15:00 minutes:  Wendy let me know that I’d hit 15 minutes, so I went for a little, 10 second swim.  I put my head under and swam that way I normally would during the summer.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too uncomfortable.  One of two things had happened:  1.  I’m getting better at handling cold.  2.  My body was in “shut-down” mode, so it wasn’t too painful.  Either way, my time was up, so I got out.

Those who go with me have no idea how comforting it is to have someone who’s able to rescue me, should something go wrong.  Earlier this week, it was Rob Reimer.  Today it was Kris Coles.  He stood there, wrapped in a blanket (and was probably freezing.)  But he stayed with me to make sure things were ok.  I appreciated it so much.

Why?

I keep getting asked why I do this.  I’ve been working on an answer.  But I’m afraid that there is no satisfactory answer for the question.  Let me do my best, though:

1.  Because I can.  There is something very satisfying, knowing that I’m pushing myself.  Hard.  There really is truth to knowing how alive you are when you become uncomfortable.

2.  Because others suffer much more than I do.  One of the most unbelievable things for me to understand, is how people can survive without the modern comforts of home.  I have heat, food, and shelter.  There are so many who don’t.  When I immerse myself in freezing water, it helps me to appreciate the wonderful things that The Lord has given me.

3.  Health benefits:  There are many studies that show that dipping yourself in cold water helps your body combat disease.  There are also studies that show that it’s bad for you.  So sort of a typical medical study done on something a bit excessive.  I subscribe to the health benefits ticket, because I feel really good when it’s over.  And I feel good all day.

I’ll work harder to articulate these thoughts, but those are some initial feelings on cold water swims.

The 2012 Nelson Newsletter, Condensed

Well, it’s that time of year, again.  It’s time to write the Nelson Newsletter.  Let’s get started…

My editor has just advised me that my Newsletters are too long, that they are a cumbersome thing and don’t fit well in the fingers.  Some, apparently, finish them with cramped hands, unable to read other, lesser newsletters.  Yet others have complained that forks are difficult to use for the following 24 hours after reading the Nelson Newsletter.  I hear that there is a Nelson Newsletter Diet.  I find that offensive.

Fine.  We’ll do it your way, then, Editor…

As all of you know (this section removed, since all of you already know.  There.  That should save some space.)

In March, of this year, The Editor and I celebrated our tenth anniversary by going to Hawaii.  Hawaii is beautiful.  But Hawaii is especially gorgeous when you take into account that your father-in-law and his wife live in Hawaii, partly for the purpose of putting you up in free hotels while you celebrate the immense success, that is your marriage.  But also partly because their purpose is to be missionaries in Hawaii.  But now they’re in New Zealand.  It’s a long story.  And The Editor isn’t ready for me to get into “New Zealand”, or whether they met the entire cast of The Hobbit, while tracting.  Man, I really wish I could tell you all about that…  1

The Editor’s favorite part of Hawaii:  Finally living her dream of going to Hawaii (but especially Kawaii), with the man of her dreams.  (The Editor has suggested that I’m taking liberties.  I suggest I’m doing the best I can with what I have to work with.)

My favorite part of Hawaii:  Swimming in the ocean and spending time with The Editor, all by ourselves, for once…with her Dad and his lovely wife, Diana.  2

Lucy, in an attempt to accelerate the aging process of her parents (Spoiler Alert:  2 yrs, 234 days worth), smacked her head after falling out of her chair, and bled enough to warrant a trip to the Immediate Care.  She was stitched (stapled) up, but not before pictures could document the truth, which I’ve already shared on my blog and also, which would take up more space than both The Editor or myself would allow.

And before we leave the subject of three year-old Lucy, The Editor and a group of friends have a little co-op group that they run for preschool.  Lucy and her friends get to hang out, discussing politics and current events.  For recess, they engage in badminton.  This preschool is sort of exclusive.  This paragraph may not make the cut.  We’ll see.

Roxie and Reagan, who you may know as “The Bigger One” or “The Smaller One”, are all caught up in school, age and ability-wise, so much so that they are in the top ten percent of their class.  This might be a good time to reiterate that ninety percent of Roxie and Reagan’s class are not even in the stratosphere of the Nelson children.  The Girls, as they are known (for some reason, it is understood that Lucy is not included when The Editor and I talk about The Girls) ride their scooters to school, play with their friends, have started dance lessons, and taken to learning about everything.  They have not yet discovered Google.  Thank Goodness.

The Editor and the girls, plus The Editor’s sister and her girls, took a trip to Oceanside, California, this summer.  They played in San Diego, shopping and eating Mexican food.  They spent a lot of time at the ocean.  Fortunately, they were able to catch some of the olympics.  Soon after, they spent another week in Palm Springs.  It was during this time, that my mundane life in Provo became the envy of everyone in Palm Springs.  Provo was a mild 90, while Palm Springs was a blistering 120.

Buddy the cat and I bonded during this time.  That’s not really important to this paragraph, but it became important, as we took shifts during the night, guarding the house from predator, mouse and human alike.  I’m sorry.  I’ll remove this nonsense before the letter goes out.  <Editor- please see to this.>

For Thanksgiving, we went out to Chico (not Chino- it’s a completely different place, and frankly, we’re tired of explaining this.)  We spent time with the Nelsons and family, and we participated in the Nelson Family Turkey Trot, where I took second place.  It doesn’t matter, really, who came in first, or whether half of the fast runners from our family showed up, or whether everyone tried their best.  What matters, is that we were all together.  And that I came in second in the Nelson Family Turkey Trot.

The Editor, whom I love, has been working her hands to the nubs, running the salon, keeping the kids in functioning order, working in Primary, helping on school field trips for Roxie and Reagan’s class, and, of course, waking up at the crack of dawn to do it all.  It’s not her thing.  She hates mornings.  I cannot overstate this.  There are people who hate mornings, and there is The Editor.  So what I’m trying to say is, she has really stepped up to wake up so early and get the kids off to school.  Hats off!  (But seriously, kids.  Put your hats back on.  It’s time for school.)

My latest isn’t too different from last year.  I still work at OC Tanner, teach a primary class and have started riding the Frontrunner train to work.  That’s right.  I’m off the road, now.  I am done slipping and sliding around on I-15.  It’s awesome and even takes me along the shores of Utah Lake.  Speaking of lakes…

This summer, I accomplished a goal of mine.  I swam 4.5 miles in Deer Creek, in the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim.  It was a big deal for me, because, well, I’m really enjoying long distance open water swimming.

For the winter, I’ve joined a polar bear club, here in Utah.  We eat harp and hooded seals and sort of just hibernate…No.  I’m kidding.  I’m mean there are some humans that I associate with, who encourage each other to get into 40 degree water and to STAY THERE.  On Saturday, a friend keep vigil while I sat for eleven minutes in Utah Lake’s thirty-eight degrees.  I’m not sure where this is all leading to, but it’s newsletter-worthy, because thirty-eight degrees is really cold.  And eleven minutes is really long.

Speaking of risking my life, The Editor is going to kill me if I don’t wrap this up.

Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW)

Triathlete and opening water swim friends: Truly, if you have considered joining a club to help with technique in open water (or water of all kinds), this is your club.

Take the time to check out some of their news and happenings at www.utahopenwater.com, or hit me up, personally.