Memorial Day 2015

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (May 3, 1915)

Swim Report – May 23, 2015 – Spring Chops

We sure had our work cut out for us this morning out at the old swim site!

I got a real early start and made it out to L1 just before 5:00am. Judging by the crisp colors showing up on the eastern horizon, I could immediately tell that we were in for a spectacular sunrise.

The lake temperature came in at a uniform 55.4F which was just slightly higher than the air temperature. And while we had clear skies and great visibility, we also had a 10mph sustained wind coming from the southeast that gave us some rather vigorous chops.

Four new swimmers as well as several seasoned Lake Monsters showed up just before the sun made its grand appearance at 5:20am. And as you can tell by the photos, it was one for the ages!

I went in with just my jammers and swim cap this time, and I managed to do the full out-and-back mile. The return leg seemed much easier, and I suspect we had been swimming in a slight northbound current on the way to Oak Street Beach.

Despite the heavily agitated lake, visibility was excellent – you could easily make out the ridges in the sand eight feet below the surface. And even with the random chops constantly buffeting us from all sides, it was still one of the best swims we’ve had so far this year!

As I have opined incessantly over the years, if you slept in this morning you really missed out!

The scene at daybreak

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Entering the chops

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Sunrise at water level

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Marton on the way to the beach

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Linda, Lake Monster 347

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Todd, Lake Monster 348

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Jacob, Lake Monster 349

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Jason, Lake Monster 350

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Pre-swim and in-swim video footage!

Swim Report – May 16, 2015 – Fleeting Sunrise

Nine of us met out at L1 just shortly before 5:30am. Despite the weather radar showing bands of storms in the area, L1 managed to escape this fate – at least at that time in the morning!

The lake temperature (surface) came in at 55.4F. However, that proved to be a bit misleading. There was a definite thermocline layer about one meter below the surface that probably dropped the lake temp by about 5F. But all told, the average lake temp whilst in swim averaged out to be 54.8F – warm enough to go sans wetsuit.

Plagued with a head cold and limited sleep, I nevertheless managed to get in 2/3 of a mile before finishing up. I started out at L1 this time and turned around just before the tall white high rise on Lake Shore Drive. Although it was a bit of a shock at first due to the insidious colder thermocline layer, I was quite comfortable after a few minutes. Plus the lake conditions were ideal – clear water and absolutely no waves or chops.

I got back first since I had cut my swim short a bit, and the sun quite surprisingly decided to make an appearance. The sky was pretty solidly overcast, so this was a very welcome diversion. And the extra sun rays really helped stave off the inevitable afterdrop!

All in all, everyone had a great time and finished up well before the rest of the city even woke up.

So enjoy these amazing Spring mornings while you still can because pretty soon the boisterous summer throng will begin to descend upon the lakefront earlier and earlier in the day!

Lake Monster at daybreak

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Marton heading south

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A few shots in swim

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Back at L1

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A much welcome sunrise

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The rest of the crew arrives!

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Daryl, Lake Monster 346

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Video montage

Swim Report – May 2, 2015 – Spring Perfection

I get a lot of flack for scheduling these meetups so godforsakenly early on a Saturday morning. But what people don’t realize is that this is the absolute best time of day to get in the lake – and yesterday was no exception!

A great group of both new and seasoned Lake Monsters met out at L1 just before 5:45am, and at first we weren’t sure we were going to get much of a sunrise. There was a bank of clouds to the east that was obscuring the horizon, and it didn’t look like we would be able to see anything before we started our swim. But a bright orange orb peeked through an aperture in the clouds and gave us quite an amazing send off to our swim!

The official lake temp came in at 50.5F, and the water conditions were calm and flat – a welcome contrast to last week. I once again did the jog to Oak Street Beach with a half-mile swim back, and it was quite comfortable in just my jammers and swim cap.

By the time everyone returned to L1, the sun was out in full force giving us yet another amazing start to our weekend. Wish you all could have been there, too!

Sunrise at 5:45am

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Swim start

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Obed, in-swim

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Marty, Lake Monster 344

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Brendan, Lake Monster 345

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Lake Monsters post-swim

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One last look back!

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Happy May!

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Today’s video compilation:

How to Promote Your Swim/Triathlon Event on the OWC Facebook Page!

Are you an event organizer in charge of promoting a for-profit or charity swim? Or are you a race director for a triathlon looking to tap into Chicago’s multi-sports market? Well you’ve come to the best possible place!

If you don’t have much of a budget, one great way to promote your event is through the OWC Facebook Fan Page.

Here you will get exclusive exposure to a pre-qualified group of over 2,000 open water swimmers who are always highly motivated to sign up for the next big swim event!

So how do you do this? It’s really easy.

Just send me a note with the details of your event along with your contact information. Or call me directly at 312-927-0299 if that’s easier.

I’d be happy to work directly with you to arrange a marketing event or promotion that best fits your needs and your budget.

As a quick background note, I do not allow any type of unsolicited product or event promotion on the OWC Facebook page. I created that policy because I didn’t want the page to get hijacked by spammers – which is exactly what happened when I first started the page. Also, as OWC has grown over the past 7 years, the costs to me in both money and time have grown substantially.

Bottom line, I am actively (and unashamedly) looking for ways to monetize OWC so I can continue to grow the Chicago open water swimming community – and by extension your customer base. So if you decide to support me in my efforts, it will be a win-win for both of us.

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with me ASAP – before one of your competitors does!

Thanks!

Steve

P.S. If you have a bigger budget and want to explore other possible promotional opportunities with OWC, be sure to check out the details at the “Our Market” page!

Swim Report – April 25, 2015 – November Redux

Even though we are almost in May, it sure felt like one of our November mornings!

There’s no other way to call it – L1 was a hot (cold?) mess earlier this morning. The official stats came in at a 49F lake temp, a 45F air temp, 15mph sustained winds, and 4-6 foot swells with heavy chops. Lots ‘o fun!

Marton, Fred, Jason, and I met out by the swim site and sized up the situation. I opted to go with neoprene on my head, hands, and feet to accompany my swim jammers. Although the lake temp was slightly higher than last week (and actually quite tolerable), these lake conditions require much more energy output while in-swim. So I wanted a little more insulation against the elements as you tend to lose a lot of heat when you’re getting buffeted on all sides by unpredictable swells and chops.

As with last week, I jogged down to Oak Street Beach and entered the lake from there. That was arguably the most difficult part of the swim since the waves were crashing quite wickedly at the beach. I made sure not to get in too close to “Hell’s Corner,” but I still took a pounding during those first 100 meters.

The swim back to L1 was a full body workout with absolutely no possibility of maintaining anything resembling a normal swim rhythm. I ran into Marton and Fred mid-swim at the 1/8 mile point, and they turned around and swam back with me. Those two actually got in almost a full mile since they started out their swim at L1. As for me, a half-mile was more than enough!

A chaotic scene at L1

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Ducks in the swells

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The “November” crowd

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Pre-swim video:

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: