I started OWC nine years ago as a very informal get together with just a few other swimmers. But as always in life, One Thing Leads to Another, and we now have over 400 Lake Monsters!
Seven of us made it out to L1 at the ungodly hour of 5:20am. We weren’t expecting much of a sunrise given the heavy storm clouds blotting out the eastern horizon. But sure enough, The Sign of Fire we’re all familiar with made a brief appearance and gave us our sunshine Fixx for the day!
Running a swim group is no easy task when the weather doesn’t cooperate. And the forecast called for possible continuing storms on Saturday morning. But we were Saved by Zero incidence of these tempests – the actual weather completely negating the Opinions of the local meteorologists.
If you have been reading the last several swim reports, you are well aware of – and probably tired of hearing about – the Deeper and Deeper issues I’ve been having with tendinitis in my right shoulder that has been limiting my swim distance. Well, I am happy to report that I finally did Reach the Beach this time around and managed to get in my first full mile swim of 2016!
Changing my swim stroke was pivotal to this accomplishment – as was working on my endurance outside of the lake through run/sprint intervals. Whereas before I slogged through the water like a broken down ocean Liner, this time I was able to power through using more of my core and lower body.
As always, I consider it a Privilege to be able to hold these events Outside at the lakefront. And I’m really enjoying seeing a New Wave of Lake Monsters come out and join us.
It’s turning out to be a beautiful weekend, so I’m keeping this brief so I can get back outside!
A larger than expected group of swimmers showed up at 5:20am to get in a brisk and choppy Lake Michigan. The official water temperature came in at 54.7F (surface), which was just slightly cooler than the air. We had sparse sunlight thanks to some obstinate clouds out to the east, but the weather was a huge improvement over last week!
We all entered the lake pretty quickly, and the water was fairly clear considering that we had a rather vigorous current from the north. This indicates that the lake has competed its Spring turnover – which means no more sub-50F swim temperatures until Fall!
I went with just my jammers, goggles, and neoprene cap and swam just over 1/2 mile total. My shoulder seemed to be tolerating the exertion much better, so the next meetup will likley feature a beach landing for the author!
All in all, another amazing morning out at L1. And it was really great to see some new faces as well as some veteran Lake Monsters coming back out to L1 now that the weather is better.
A 52.6F lake and a blustery 43F air temperature didn’t dissuade us from getting out to L1 for a swim on Saturday morning. In fact, it was much more preferable in the water than it was waiting outside in the wind!
For a short while, it looked like we were going to get some sunshine. But the brisk winds soon brought in a ceiling of slate-gray clouds with no relief in sight looking out to the west. So we geared up in haste and headed out toward the lake.
The water level, as you can see from the pictures, was higher than it has been since I began coming out to L1 over the past 8 years. And when you combined this with the 2 – 4 foot swells, it didn’t give us much of an opportunity to ease into the water. So rather than try to delay the inevitable, we pretty much just climbed down the first rung and plunged in.
Other than a neoprene cap, I went with the standard summer swim gear – jammers and goggles. Like last week, I went a bit past the 1/4 mile point before turning back. I was tempted to go for my first beach landing of the season, but my shoulder didn’t seem to fancy that idea. So I turned around and swam a wide arc back to L1, so about 2/3 mile total.
The afterdrop was quite mild, and it would likely have been less so but for the slicing wind we had to endure both before and after our swim. Still, none of us would have wanted to miss out on yet another Spring adventure!
A small but determined group of us managed to get in a swim during the brief window of time when the water was calm, the sun was out, and the air temperature was downright balmy!
The forecast called for colder air temperatures at 6:00am due to the expected thunderstorms. However, the weatherman was off by a few hours as we had almost flawless swimming conditions out at L1.
The lake temperature (surface) came in at 50.0F on the button, and the air temperature was a scorching 68F. We waited a few minutes for the sun to come out from behind a cloud bank, and then we suited up and got in a quite tame Lake Michigan!
With the exception of my neoprene cap, I went in with my typical summer setup – just swim jammers and goggles. It was a bit bracing for about a minute, but I quickly acclimated given the ample and intense sunshine.
As my right shoulder was still bothering me a bit, I ended up doing only 2/3 of a mile. But the swim itself was a breeze, and the afterdrop was quite mild – a welcome change from recent swims!
April ended on a rather savage note weather-wise, but we were still able to get in a swim in this morning’s blustery, choppy lake!
Sunrise was officially at 5:47am, so I got to Old Town rather early and managed to secure decent parking. Since I had 20 minutes to spare, I scurried over to The Cool Starbucks and got my lake fuel. I had to hustle back to L1, however, as I could see some magnificent dawn colors out to the east – and I did NOT want to miss out on them!
The pre-dawn colors did not disappoint. However, the actual sunrise was rather anti-climactic with the dull orange orb mostly obscured by the clouds and fizzling out after only about a minute. So on a somewhat muted note, we all geared up and got into the 49F lake.
We had some rather active swells (estimated 2 – 4 feet), but the most vexing part of the swim was the frenetic chops that assaulted us from every direction. All in all, I was only able to get in about 1/4 mile – although it felt like a MUCH longer swim.
Still, we managed to sneak in one final swim for the month of April before the rainstorms moved in!
Due to a string of three consecutive 70F+ days, I have not updated the site. So here goes!
The clear skies and 54F air temperature brought lots of early risers out to the lake on Saturday morning. The lakefront path was already crowded with fair weather runners, and the vicinity around L1 was quite popular with several seasonal fishermen. So as not to get an errant hook in our neoprene, we opted to get in the lake at L2.
The lake temperature (surface) came in at just above 47F. However, it seemed to be much colder than that during the swim. The likely reason for this perception was that many of us were going with less neoprene this time around. I chose to ditch the gloves, booties, and hood altogether, choosing a neoprene cap in lieu of the latter.
I only got in 1/2 mile as the tendinitis in my right shoulder was still annoying me a bit. But my swim endurance was pretty good, and I hope to be able to do the whole out-and-back to Oak Street Beach this weekend!
The month of April had a rather ferocious start, essentially plummeting us back into winter for a couple of days. The air temperature was a very brisk 33F at 6:30am, and the cloud cover was more reminiscent of early March. So I wasn’t expecting to see much improvement in the lake.
To my surprise, the water temperature reading came in at 46.8F – a significant jump from last week. So given this positive turn of events, I once again ditched the fullsuit in favor of just shorts, boots, gloves, and my hood.
Since I wanted to get a point-to-point 1/2 mile in this setup, I opted for a “dash and splash” – i.e. a 1/2 mile jog to Oak Street Beach followed by a 1/2 mile swim north.
When I reached the beach and began to wade out into the lake, I noticed immediately that the water was WAY more comfortable than the air. And my hands and feet actually warmed up soon after I started swimming. So while I don’t think that the lake has turned over yet, I suspect it’s going to do so pretty soon.
The lake was very calm – almost flat – so the swim north was quite easy. Plus I was able to get in some bilateral breathing practice since I wasn’t having to contend with waves or chops. In short, it was just like swimming in a pool – except that it was almost 40F colder than most pools!
Overall it took almost 20 minutes to get back to L1, and I passed Tim and Fred along the way (they did the whole out and back mile). Once I got out, I changed into my dry clothes right away, packed up my stuff, and briskly walked back to my car.
It was about 10 minutes before I warmed up enough to be able to drive adequately (it’s normally not a good idea to drive while shivering uncontrollably). But even with this minor discomfort, we were still able to once again beat the storm and get in a swim while the good weather held out!
The L1 open water site is about to get swim lockers – and a whole lot more!
One of the lesser known projects of Mayor Emanuel’s lakefront trail redevelopment plan involves a complete overhaul and redesign of the Chess Pavilion. Originally built in 1957, the iconic limestone pavilion has been a popular summer gathering place for generations of masters and novices alike. But over fifty years of water’s-edge exposure to winter conditions has taken a substantial toll on the beloved lakefront landmark.
In mid-2015, the Chicago Park District commissioned a civil engineering firm to conduct a failure analysis on the Chess Pavilion. The results unfortunately uncovered serious structural damage to the Chess Pavilion – so much so that the Park District will be officially condemning the structure later this month while preparing the site for demolition.
Chess Pavilion (current structure to be demolished)
While this is certainly a heartbreaking development to all of us who have become very fond of the Chess Pavilion over the years, there is a silver lining to this misfortune. Namely, the Park District is going to replace it with a public use facility designed primarily for Chicago’s large and growing outdoor swimming community.
In May 2016, the City of Chicago will break ground on the former site of the Chess Pavilion for a brand new facility – the Weissmuller Pavilion.
Weissmuller Pavilion (exterior design)
Named after Johnny Weissmuller, Chicago’s most famous competitive swimmer, the Weissmuller Pavilion will be specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of swimmers and beach goers at both North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach.
The Weissmuller Pavilion will still retain the open air community feel of the Chess Pavilion, and the Park District will preserve the embedded chessboards on the concrete embankments for those who still wish to get in a match out at the lakefront.
But the new facility will have a much heavier focus on swimming, and it will include unique features such as swim changing rooms, lockers, and hot showers – all within a short walk from the L1 swim site!
Weissmuller Pavilion (locker room layout)
While the completion timetable for the Weissmuller Pavilion is still being finalized, I have received word from the Park District that it should be in place and fully operational by mid to late August of 2016.
And it is my understanding that Mayor Emanuel – who is an active swimmer himself – has taken a personal interest in expediting the completion of the Weissmuller Pavilion.
Perhaps he will be equally as proactive in coming out to L1 to get his Lake Monster number?
My alarm didn’t ring this morning, so I had to hustle out to L1 whilst still in a sleepy haze. Luckily, I made it just in time for the sunrise!
Mary Ellen and Louise were already out at the swim site, and Walter and Fred arrived a few minutes later. The lake was very choppy, so I had to take several thermometer readings to get an accurate temperature. The final verdict – a blazing 43.3F!
Since we had a clear morning with lots of sunshine, I went with just my shorts, boots, gloves, and hood. It was a bit bracing the first minute or so, but I acclimated fairly quickly. The chaotic chops made swimming a frustrating challenge, so I only got in 1/4 mile before calling it quits.
Nevertheless, it was still a fantastic morning out at the lake. Spring tends to bring out more people who we haven’t seen for a while, and our meetups are always mini-homecoming celebrations this time of year.
Before we know it, we’ll have the whole summer gang back out at L1 again!