Jumping into Lake Michigan on Jan. 1. Why not? (I'm the fourth crazy one from the left. Andrew is next to me, in the orange shorts, Joe is in front of us, about to dive under)

I couldn’t have planned a more perfect New Year’s Day if I’d tried. Some days just work out that way, don’t they? The less you organize and agonize and the more you just let things unfold…the more surprisingly great things somehow turn out. Better yet when this all comes together on the first day of a new year.

I like the clean slate that comes with January 1, but I’ve never been one to put too much weight on the start of a new year. It can be too forced, unnatural. Too high-pressure. Why wait until a specific date or time of year to initiate change if really you need and want to just get going on something in your life now? Just get on with it already, I say, whatever time of year it may be. Don’t wait until the ball drops at midnight.

Yet, as I said, there’s that fresh-start feeling that’s inevitable come January, and so it seemed fitting to do something today that I’d never done before: jump into Lake Michigan with a few dozen other crazy souls, including Joe and our 9-year-old, Andrew (Emma, our 11-year-old, and Alex, our 6-year-old, were charged with documenting this nuttiness with video and photos). Did I mention it was windy, snowy and 28 degrees out at the time of our polar plunge? In fact, we did this at noon today, right around the time the season’s first blizzard was beginning to take shape.

A few days ago I’d written an article for a local website about this planned dip in West Grand Traverse Bay — a monthly event actually that has been coined Crazy Times Ten by the group of friends who started it — and I couldn’t shake the thought that I’d like to give it a try myself. I mentioned it to Joe somewhat casually, and he surprised me by saying he’d like to do it, too. Then, while talking about it with Andrew, he said he was game, too, especially if his friend Ethan would do it with him. So there we all were, stripping down to our swim suits, jumping up and down to not completely freeze as we counted down “5…4…3…2…1” and ran out in into the numbing-cold water, dove under and raced back out. It was flipping freezing. I couldn’t wait to get back into our warm car and crank up the heat.

But I loved it. It was, as the organizers I’d interviewed shared, invigorating. Crazy, yes. But it’s true, you feel alive.

Which is what I felt later in the day, during an 8-mile training run on the trails. By this time, the snow was coming down hard, blanketing the roads. I strapped on my YakTrax and headed for the trails, knowing it would likely be the last time I’d be able to run the Vasa for awhile.

The heavy, sideways-falling snow made for perfect running conditions on the trails, particularly because we’ve had such a lack of snow leading up to this blizzard. A just-enough cushion of snow made for slower running on the trails, but it was never too deep or padded that I worried about slipping and falling. All around me were trees dusted with snow and glistening with ice. I passed only two hikers with a dog. When my iPhone decided to stop playing music midway through, I was frustrated for only a moment; why wouldn’t I want to simply listen to the quiet of snow falling and the wind whistling through branches?

Snowy trail run ~ it doesn't get much better

It was one of the most peaceful runs I’ve had, but it also was one that left me thinking, “You’re crazy. You’re running in the woods in the middle of a blizzard.” Just as quickly, though, I thought, Why Not? Why not run in the middle of the woods during a blizzard? Why not jump into the frigid bay to commemorate a new a year, new beginnings?

I’m not going to list out all the things that I hope to accomplish in 2012 — in running and in life — but I have decided that I am going to continue to say, Why Not? Life does move at such a fast pace (I only look at my kids and how quickly they’re growing up to realize this fact), so why not make the most of every last second. I want to savor and laugh and love as much as possible.

Wishing you all a fantastically Why Not? 2012. Here’s to many, many miles of happy, satisfying and adventure-filled running in the year to come!




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