“Jumping into the water is something you don’t want to think about,” said Bill Wenmark, founder of ALARC Fitness and Friends.
He was talking about the ice dive into Lake Minnetonka on . If you think too much about plunging into the 32-foot long trench cut into the ice, Wenmark continued, you might just psych yourself out. Once you dive, go all the way under water. Wenmark, and the crowd, will make sure of it or send you back through the line.
It’s worth it, though, according to Wenmark.
“You jump in there and everything that happened in 2011 is erased off the hard drive,” he said. “Now you’re so excited. Your whole year of 2012 is ahead of you.”
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the ALARC sponsored Ice Dive at the in Excelsior on Jan. 1. Sunday will mark the 22nd year of the event that has grown to include people from all over the world including, according to Wenmark, Jamaica.
“Excelsior is the ice capital of the world,” he declared.
With the promise of warm temperatures, at least for winter in Minnesota, Wenmark said that a record-breaking 1,000 people may register. There’s no need to worry about the ice either.
“This year the ice is so beautiful and clear and crystal,” Wenmark said. “It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of ice that we have had, and it’s growing every day.”
The ice dive tradition originally began with a running group of eight men, Wenmark among them, who adopted a friend’s California New Year’s tradition for Minnesota. Rather than the Pacific Ocean, Wenmark suggested Lake Minnetonka.
After a five mile run, the friends took a dive and then ran five miles more.
Last year was the first year that Wenmark dived alone as the last of the original eight still diving. This year his partner will be Burt Carlson, an 86-year-old WWII veteran from Mound, who has finished 317 marathons. Never has anyone older than 80 years old done the dive.
“I made a new rule that if you’re over 80 years old, you can wear a wet suit,” Wenmark remarked.
Firefighters stay nearby to make sure everyone gets out of the water safely and to help pull people out once they have fully completed the dive.
Even if you decide not to dive, Wenmark described the event as “one of the most entertaining, belly gut laughing events to watch unfold.”
Some people wear costumes, others have special yells they call out, while still others attend without ever having gone to bed. It’s a hoot, Wenmark said.
The large following has allowed ALARC to donate to the Excelsior Volunteer Fire Squad, the South Lake Minnetonka Police Reserves. With so many returning veterans, ALARC has chosen the Semper Fi Fund as its major charity. The Semper Fi Fund provides financial support to injured and critically ill service members of the armed forces.
“They are living with what they gave to us,” Wenmark said. “They gave the ultimate. It’s important not to forget it. We want to help them have a life.”
Registration is open until midnight of Dec. 31. The ice dive begins at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 1, at Bayview Event Center. Wenmark counseled first-time divers to arrive at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. because they will dive last.