I jumped in and thought how ironic it would be to die this way. I’d been a competitive swimmer my whole life, but the water was so cold, I couldn’t move. If my sister hadn’t pulled me up and flipped me on my back, I would’ve stayed down there with the fishes.
So not the best day at the beach for me, but I wasn’t there for casual fun. My sister and I loved to compete in triathlons long before they became a thing and this one included a swim in Lake Michigan along the Milwaukee shoreline.
It’s kind of our shining gem and if you’re a swimmer, it’s the place to be from June thru September.
If you’re in Chicago, nothing beats swimming along the shore in the shadows of the Drake Hotel and the swanky apartments of Lake Shore Drive.
My sister and I had been swimming in Lake Michigan most of our adult lives so when I jumped into the lake that morning to start my race, I was just as surprised as she was when I sank. My body froze and I’m pretty sure my heart did too but when the water temp tops out at 58 degrees, it can happen to the best of us.
Here’s a little fun fact to drop at your next cocktail party… even Michael Phelps could drown when the water temperature dips below 60 degrees (F). Cold water causes something called Cold Shock. It makes breathing difficult if not impossible and can raise blood pressure and heart rates killing people within a minute.
So, yeah, I’m grateful I didn’t die. On the flip side, when water is too warm, it’s tough for a swimmer to perform at their best so most competitive pools hosting events like the Olympics keep the water at 77 degrees (F)… Good to know for that next round of trivia…
After my sister flipped me over and told me to breathe, the race horn blew, and we were off. I forced myself to calm down so I could control my breathing and willed my arms to move. I had to swim just under a mile, something I could do within 21 or so minutes back then, but I couldn’t feel my toes and wondered if my fingers were still attached. I assumed my frozen body wouldn’t cooperate, but once I got moving I started to warm up and became intent on doing my best. It took two days for my toes to feel fully defrosted but I finished 3rd in my age group; a true test of will and determination.
This summer I’m looking back and comparing the world I knew to the one I live in now.
I’ll never forget jumping into that cold water on that hot June day. It was the closest I got to a near death experience and even though it barely lasted a second it will stick with me forever.
It didn’t keep me from swimming in Lake Michigan and it’s made me wonder how all the creatures in Lake Michigan are dealing with the latest temperature fluctuations.
All that water along with debris and even some sewage run off into our beautiful lake affecting the quality of our drinking water and closing the beaches.
Warmer temperatures bring warmer water increasing the bacteria floating in the lake, making swimming completely off limits.
My near-death experience is proof that changes in the water temperature really affect us… so yeah, it has to be harming the fish.
According to an intense blog by Kelly Reardon about our Great Lakes…
Warmer water kills off fish that need colder water to live. It creates algae blooms depleting the oxygen in these fresh water lakes and literally chokes the species that have lived there forever.
A change in our climate affects all the Great Lakes and it isn’t just the fish that suffer. Rising lake temperatures affect shipping, tourism, and any kind of recreation we take for granted.
We’re talking about our “biggest fresh-water resources here that are home to over 150 native fish species and plants that are found nowhere else in the world”. I think it’s up to us to protect them. (Learn more here.)
Lake Michigan still drops below 60 degrees in the early summer but its steady warming is a stark reminder of what’s happening to our planet. Not to always bring ya down, but a recent UN Report has warned us that the window is closing.
But we don’t have to let our fresh lakes morph into the shallow marshes described in the post-apocalyptic book and movie Divergent.
We can gather our forces to make big changes and I for one am not going quietly… surprising… I know…
Against all odds, I was committed to finishing that race and I wasn’t alone. My sister who seemed to easily tolerate the temperature and all my fellow competitors soldiered on. No one could tell us we couldn’t swim that day.
I look at the fight against Climate Change the same way. We can’t give up and I know we can fix this. We must keep doing the little things that add up to help our planet. You know what I’m talking about… picking up that trash you pass on the sidewalk, recycling your clean recyclable containers to cut back on pollution and heck, even cutting back on buying anything in plastic. It may seem hard at first. I know every time I’m washing out a container, it can feel a little trivial but I believe every little action makes a big difference.
Just like my swim that day, we can do this and finish strong. Stick to making smart choices when you shop. Use your conscious and force yourself to buy the eco-friendly options instead of always going for the cheapest deal. Those “cheap” goods cost our planet more than we realize.
I’m on a mission and hope you’ll join MAJAMAS EARTH in pulling our planet out of the mess we’ve put it in. When you look at it, the other option just isn’t one. Join ME to keep all our waters clean ‘cause if we don’t, we’ll all be sinking.
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
TO HEAR FROM YOU
What do you do to protect our water sources?
Please share your own thoughts with ME – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below! Your comment may even win you a free MAJAMAS® EARTH garment this week!