Swim Report – April 18, 2015 – Spring Turnover Edition

Despite a forecast calling for high winds, the swim site was perfectly calm at 6:00am. Marton, Mary Ellen, Jared, and Fred were there along with new Lake Monsters Mikala, Danae, and Louise.

The sunrise, as always, was magnificent, and the lake temperature (surface) came in at an amazing 51F. After gearing up (and procrastinating a bit), we all made our way into the lake.

The in-swim lake temperature came in at a constant 48.8F. But the real treat was the color and clarity of the water. Lake Michigan is in the midst of the Spring turnover right now, so we have all the fresher and cleaner water coming up from the depths to mix with the surface water. All in all, it makes for a very pleasant swim!

I ended up doing the half-mile point to point from Oak Street Beach to L1 again, and I was completely comfortable in just a swimsuit and neoprene cap. The key factor, as always, was the ample sunshine that really helped stave off the cold and chase away the afterdrop.

As I have said time and time again, if you slept in this morning you really missed out!

City at dawn

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Lake Monsters gathering

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Sunrise!

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At the beach

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Mikala, Lake Monster 341 (congrats!)

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Danae, Lake Monster 342 (congrats!)

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Louise, Lake Monster 343 (hailing all the way from Australia!)

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L1 from a different perspective

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Today’s video compilation (sorry about the blurry parts)

Swim Report – April 11, 2015 – Getting Warmer!

I met up at L1 with Marton, Fred, and Jason at 6:15am – just in time for yet another brilliant sunrise. The air temperature was a bit crisp at 41F, but the lack of wind and abundant sunshine helped ameliorate the chill. The lake, however, came in at a blazing 45F!

I again chose to do a quick jog to Oak Street Beach and swim back. I still wore my neoprene hood and gloves, but I was quite comfortable without a wetsuit during the entire swim. Because there are more people out on the lakefront path this time of year, we had to field questions from various incredulous spectators.

Truth be told, we really like to see their reaction when we tell them that we’ve been coming out to the lake all winter!

Sunrise

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Half Moon

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One last look back!

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OWC Swim Waiver – Why You Need to Sign This Now

There’s a brand new feature on the OWC website. If you look at the bottom right side, there’s a bright green tab that says “OWC Swim Waiver.” Be sure to click on that and fill it out – and that includes all you Lake Monsters who have already swum with us in the past!

Otherwise you simply cannot swim with us at any of our upcoming meetups.

Allow me to explain why…

When we started out this whole OWC experiment seven years ago, there were just a handful of people who would come out to swim at L1, and most of our meetups were informal events or spontaneous “see you some time tomorrow” arrangements. But as we’ve grown as a group – and as overall interest in open water swimming has accelerated – we have a much different scenario these days.

It is now quite common to have 15+ people show up at a meetup, and many of these swimmers are new to the group and new to open water swimming altogether. And while this is an exciting and welcome trend, it also presents a challenge for OWC – and for me specifically – when it comes to ensuring that everyone has a safe and positive experience.

As a quick illustration, here are some actual situations I have had to personally manage and deal over the past seven years while out at L1 during a meetup:

– Distressed swimmers (4 rescues to date!)
– Large groups of pool swimmers with no open water experience showing up on days with dangerous lake conditions
– People seeking a “polar bear plunge” experience without any prior cold water training, gear, or preparation
– Other situations that, while not dangerous, may have given someone a negative experience with open water swimming

From a risk management perspective, this is no longer something that I can allow without some sort of formal acknowledgement and agreement on your part that 1) you recognize that there are indeed risks to participating in this type of activity, and 2) you accept complete responsibility for them.

So please complete the OWC swim waiver now so I don’t have to tell you on site that you can’t swim with the group (and by extension, that you can’t get your super-awesome, world famous Lake Monster Number)!

And one final note – I am still in the trial period with Smart Waiver for the remainder of April. That means that all of you can complete your waiver now (one time only) and not have to wait weeks or months at some point in the future.

Translation – when I have to officially sign up for a monthly waiver plan, I will only be able to accept so many waivers per month. Once that quota is reached, you will have to wait until the next month to come out to one of our meetups.

So just click on the link, complete the form, and know that you’ll be able to come out and swim with us whenever you want to going forward.

Thanks!

Steve

Swim Report – April 4, 2015 – Holy Saturday

Mike, Marton, Jason and I met out at L1 at 6:30am – just in time for a spectacular sunrise. The air temperature was a bit crisp at 35F, but the lake came in at 44.4F. We also had some medium size swells, but nothing too bothersome.

Given the abundant sunshine and calm winds, I decided to do a half mile in just the hood, gloves, foot covers, and neoprene shorts. I jogged down to Oak Street Beach first where I had to navigate some surprisingly vigorous surf. But once I got past that, it was a very smooth swim back to L1.

The lake, while still a bit chilly, didn’t have that painful bite to it that was present the last couple of weeks. So it looks like the Spring Turnover is finally arriving!

L1 at daybreak

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Sunrise!

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Marton’s capture

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At the beach

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Video montage:

New 2015 Chicago Swim Event – The 1st Annual OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl!

Chicago area open water swimmers will have one more Lake Michigan swim option this year thanks to a recently inked partnership between OWC and San Francisco-based Sugob Events!

Dubbed the “OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl,” this will be a 2.72 mile point-to-point swim event from the Harrison-Dever water crib to Oak Street Beach. The unique feature of this event will be a ferry boat swim start – similar to the Alcatraz swims conducted in San Francisco Bay.

Swimmers will board the ferry at Navy Pier which will take them out to a launch area just outside of the landmark water crib. Sugob, one of the preeminent organizers of swims in the Bay Area, will provide timing chips for the swimmers which will activate once they exit the boat. From that point, both Sugob and OWC will provide kayak support for all swimmers while they make their way to the swim landing site just south of L1.

Here is the tentative swim route (pending approval by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District):

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This event is currently scheduled for Saturday July 11, 2015 – so be sure to mark your calendars!

Also, because of the unique challenges inherent with this specific swim route, we are limiting this event to the first 100 qualified swimmers.

In order to be eligible to participate in the OWC/Sugob Crib Crawl, you must be an experienced open water swimmer and you must have a Lake Monster Number – no exceptions.

I will provide you all with more details as we get closer to the event. But for now, please mark the date and be sure to let all your friends know about this inaugural open water swim event – right in our very own back yard!

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UPDATE – April 2, 2015

1) Please note the original date of this post
2) Please also note the semantics of “Sugob” when the lettering is reversed
3) Gotcha!

Swim Report – March 21, 2015 – Happy Spring!

I snagged a parking spot over by the Latin School and started working my way out to L1 when I suddenly realized that the sun was rising much earlier than I had expected. So I broke into a trot and got out to the lakefront just in time to snap a few shots while it was just cresting the horizon.

And boy was it ever magnificent!

The lake itself was flawless – mirror flat with a nice turquoise color – and the surface temperature came in at an astonishing 42F. And while we were the first people out there for a swim, we once again got trumped by waterfowl.

I’d written in the past about the L1 cormorant, but this visitor was quite different. For one thing, this bird had a white neck and some rather unique markings. While I wasn’t able to get a picture, I’m fairly certain that it was a Western Grebe. And while these birds are not usually found this far east, they have been seen up at Montrose Beach in the past.

Getting back to the swim, Marton and I surveyed the scene and opted to go once again without our wetsuits. I still wore my thermo rash guard – and I was damn glad that I did – but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much less cold the water seemed compacted with last week.

I did an out-and-back to the 1/4 mile point while Marton stayed in a bit longer. The air temperature was a crisp 40F which nipped at our fingers as we changed out of our wet clothes. But with almost no wind and plenty of sunshine, we were able to have a relatively quick recovery with only a minor afterdrop. Which, to me, is the real sign of Spring’s arrival!

Sunrise

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Skyline

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Scenes at the halfway point

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Swim Report – March 14, 2015 – Pi Day Plunge

Just a quick report since the weather is gorgeous outside, and I do not want to spend too much time indoors!

Marton and I met out at L1 just before sunrise (7:15am), and the lakefront was quite different from last week! The swim area was completely ice free, and all the ladders were fully accessible thanks to the warm spell we’ve had all this week.

I decided to get an official lake temperature reading, and it came in at a fiery 39F! So given this – along with a 48F air temperature – I decided to forego the wetsuit and go in with my thermo rash guard and neoprene jammers.

The first few minutes, while challenging, were not as uncomfortable as I was expecting. My legs hurt a bit initially since they were not used to being fully exposed to these temperatures. But this soon passed, and Marton and I were able to get in a 1/2 mile swim in the wonderfully clear, blue lake.

Post swim was a bit of a challenge as well since I had a rather lengthy afterdrop. But I think it’s safe to say that we’ve definitely turned the corner on the winter!

Last Saturday sunrise of the winter

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Almost completely ice free

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Clear swimming conditions

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Another swimmer beat us to the lake!

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Swim Report – March 7, 2015 – Hints of Spring

Nick made a surprise appearance at L1 and accompanied Marton, Fred, and I out for what turned out to be yet another amazing winter swim…

Ma Nature was very generous and gave us a 38F air temperature along with a mirror flat lake. But she insisted we earn our keep with the ladder, which was completely encased in ice. So we donned our safety glasses, grabbed the pickaxe, and got to work!

Once we had a clear entry/exit point, we suited up and got in the lake. I was only able to make it to the 1/4 mile mark before running into an impenetrable sheet of ice. But by then my fingertips were reminding me of the need for warmth. So I snapped a few shots while in the drink and headed back.

We had our own little private “cabana” area right by the ladder thanks to a large ice wall that had formed on the concrete. But with no wind whatsoever and plenty of sunshine, we really didn’t need any other protection from the cold!

All in all, another fantastic experience out at the lake that just underscored to all of us that Spring is just around the corner!

Iced over L1

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Are we swimming or ice climbing?

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Clearing the ladder

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Success!

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Our swim lane

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Ice Monsters in action

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At the halfway point

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In-swim video

Pre-swim video

Swim Report – February 28, 2015 – Ice Capades Edition

Dave scouted out the lakefront yesterday, and the only area with open water was the Montrose south wall. But even with that potential, there was still a 15+ foot ice shelf along the shore that would require some heavy duty labor to gain access to the swimmable lake.

Fortunately for us, we had our trusty pickaxe…

I met up with Mike and Marton this morning out at the south wall, and the air temp was all of 7F. Luckily for us, there was no wind, and the sun was out in force. So after scoping out various potential entry points, we settled on our regular ladder and started to clear the swim area.

We managed to clear the ladder and create a hole just off the wall. But the remaining shelf was too thick to break through. So we attached a safety line to the ladder and tossed it out to the open area before suiting up and getting in.

We climbed out onto the shelf and crawled about 10 about feet out before the ice became thin enough to break through. From that point, it was an easy chore clearing the thinner ice layers in order to get access to the open water.

I hung out near the edge of the ice shelf and snapped some shots of Mike and Marton as they navigated the obstacle course. I caught up with them about 1/4 west where the lake had completely frozen over. After a bit of effort, we climbed on top of this much more extensive ice shelf and did some exploring.

After our fingers started to get really cold in the frigid air, we jumped back in the lake to “warm up” in the 32.5F water. And believe it or not, you could actually feel the temperature increase once we got back in the water!

We made it back to our entry point and used the safety line to facilitate getting back onto the ice shelf. All in all, another really amazing adventure out at the lakefront!

Last sunrise of February

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Clearing the lake access point

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At the halfway point

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Mike navigating the ice shelf

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A unique vantage point of the city

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Mike and Marton at the swim finish

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Video at the halfway point

Swim Report – February 14, 2015 – Big Chill on Valentine’s Day

Given the frigid 17F air temperature, we decided to head out to the Montrose south wall in lieu of L1. And as it turned out, that was the best thing we could have done!

I met up with Mike and Marton out at MSW just before sunrise (7:00am). We scoped out the swim area, and there was a sheet of ice extending from the wall out about 6 feet. However, there was an enticing a patch of open water just beyond.

As we deliberated how we were going to punch through the ice, a northeast wind miraculously arrived and started to blow it all south. Talk about great timing!

We suited up as quickly as possible and climbed down into the lake. We swam east, slightly into the wind, and made it about 1/5 mile before heading back. The return half of the swim was a bit more challenging due to all the ice forming on our gloves, booties, and hoods.

But that’s what happens when you swim in a 32F lake that is literally in the process of freezing!

The most brutal part of the swim was actually getting out of the water. By the time we exited, we had snow added into the 20mph sustained wind – all of which created a veritable blizzard in the parking lot. In fact, the below-zero wind chill froze all the water on our neoprene making it next to impossible to get our gloves off.

I furtively clawed at my right glove for about five minutes before I was finally able to free my right hand. It was only then that I could get my keys out of my jacket and get access to my car. I didn’t even bother trying to get out of my frozen wetsuit – I just got in, slammed the door shut, and cranked up the heat!

With a little logistical difficulty, I changed out of my frozen neoprene in the front seat and got into some dry clothes while the car warmed up. I didn’t have much of an afterdrop this time (thank goodness), so it was a pretty uneventful ride home.

Once again, we beat the storm!

Clear swim lane at MSW

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Marton prepping for a swim

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Mike and Marton

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Encased in ice!

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At the halfway point