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Polar Energy

Winter warriors pump up adrenaline for icy dip in the lake.

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As participants wait to take the plunge at today's Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump, many of them keep telling themselves that they're not crazy. That bit of self-assurance may even soften the jolt when they land in the freezing water. "Once you get in, you get that oh-shit! factor. And you immediately think you have to get out of there," says Kelly Pariso, who inaugurated the annual leap five years ago. "But in general, I'd say a cold shower is actually worse than jumping in the water."Easy for him to say. Pariso had been taking dips in ice-cold lakes long before he, his wife, and some neighbors organized the 2003 dip for 72 goose-bumped jumpers. Last year, the number swelled to 127 brave souls, ages 8 to 65, whose entry fees helped raise $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. "We have quite a few people from all over the country show up," says Pariso. "The big difference is that in a typical polar-bear jump, about 1,000 people all run into a lake at the same time. Here, we do it one person at a time, so each person has their own piece of glory." Dive in at 2 this afternoon at Portage Lakes State Park, 5031 Manchester Road in Akron. Fee is $25. Call 330-645-0589 or visit www.portagelakespolarbearclub.com.
Sat., Feb. 16, 2 p.m., 2008

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