Swim Report – December 20, 2014 – Nick’s Sendoff

Five intrepid swimmers turned out to get in one last swim before the end of autumn. And lucky for us, Ma Nature gave us great conditions!

The lake came in at a crisp 34F – almost the same as the air temperature. And just like last week it was perfectly calm. So it was relatively easy to manage in full neoprene (after the initial shock of the cold water surging into our wetsuits, that is).

We all swam out about 50 meters past the orange post (around the 1/4 mile mark), so we got in a good 1/2 mile in the calm but bracing lake. As usual, the only real areas of discomfort were our fingertips. My Dry Five gloves worked okay during the swim, but I’m starting to think that I may need to get a new pair come January (OWC donation hint).

There were two significant milestones this morning. First, Nick is moving north to Milwaukee and will not be a regular at L1 for a while. Quite a bummer, as we will surely miss him!

Second, by getting in a 1/2 mile swim in sub-35F water, Fred secured a much-coveted Ice Monster number. So he is now #15 in that elite group!

So as you can see, despite all the challenges that come with being on the verge of the Winter solstice, you still have no excuse for not coming out!

Ice Monsters gearing up

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Nick’s final L1 descent (for a while at least!)

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Heading south!

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Post-swim champagne

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A surprise visit from Eddie

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So long, Nick!

Swim Report – December 13, 2014 – A Brief Reprieve (and Experiment!)

The winter power trio (Marton, Fred, and yours truly) met out at L1 at 7:30am to get in a swim while the weather held out. Unlike last week, we had quiet and calm conditions – both inside and outside of the lake.

The air temperature was the real star this morning coming in at a fiery 42F. The lake, quite surprisingly, measured almost 37F – a slight uptick from last week. But best of all, we had no wind and a perfectly flat lake!

Given this fortuitous set of weather conditions, I opted to forego the full suit in favor of just my hood, gloves, booties, jammers, and short sleeve thermo rash guard. I also wore a pair of neoprene shorts – having learned a valuable lesson last year that one must adequately insulate all extremities (you figure it out…).

I won’t mince words. The first two minutes in this set up were pure torture on my uncovered arms and legs. And while the thermo shirt did offer significant protection, it was by no means as insulating to my core as neoprene!

Nevertheless, I pounded through the pain and eventually reached an equilibrium point where the frigid lake no longer bothered me. I went out to the orange post, which is almost exactly 1000 feet from L1 per Google Earth, before heading back. So in total, I got in just under 40% of a mile in these ideal swim conditions.

As usual this time of year, we didn’t dither around after getting out of the water. I changed into my winter clothes as quickly as possible and trotted back to my car to crank up the heat. Fortunately, I was able to find a spot on the first street west of L1 – so I managed to save $10 as well!

Morning skyline

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December beach party!

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Pre-swim video

Swim Report – December 7, 2014 – Late Autumn Chops!

Fred, Marton, and I met out at L1 and got in some lake time on this blustery December morning. The air temp was a crisp 37F with a constant east wind that nipped at our fingers whenever we took off our gloves. Given the roiling lake conditions, I wasn’t able to get a thermometer reading by the ladder. But I’m estimating it was around 35F.

We suited up right away and got in the lake as quickly as possible. It was really hard to get into any kind of swim rhythm since we had both strong waves and “washing machine” chops that were ricocheting off of the side wall. But we did manage to get in a little over 1/4 mile – although certainly not in any straight line!

All in all, another great day at the beach!

Sunrise

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December skyline

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A belligerent lake

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Pre-swim video

Swim Report – November 22, 2014 – Welcome to the Sub-40F Zone!

A hardcore crew of seven swimmers met out at L1 for our first unofficial winter swim this morning. I say unofficial because winter technically doesn’t begin for another 29 days. But if you were out there today, you would have had a hard time convincing anyone it was anywhere near autumn!

After a ridiculously frigid week, Ma Nature gave us a break today with a balmy 35F air temperature. However, this did very little to assuage the impact of the bone chilling 37F lake.

We all got in the water as quickly and efficiency as possible, but it was still a real shock right from the start. I had on my full winter gear this time, and I managed to get in a half mile before my fingers started to get numb. Not a big deal – more annoying than anything.

The only real glitch, though, was a leak in the right lens of my goggle which ensured that one eye was always soaking in ice water – not fun at all. But I figured out that the edge of my the lens was overlapping my swim cap. After several tries, I finally fixed it and could go back to enjoying the swim.

Thanks to all the extra layers of neoprene, I didn’t really have an afterdrop to contend with once I got out of the water. So as much as I try to be stubborn and go sans wetsuit for as long as possible, I have to confess a renewed appreciation for being able to swim in calm and comfort!

As always, it was another amazing morning out at L1. Good luck to Emily and Andy as they relocate to Denver – and hopefully start another OWC (Open Water Colorado)!

Foggy morning

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Cold start

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Water-level shots

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Post-swim recovery

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Today’s video!

Swim Report – November 15, 2014 – Happily Ever Afterdrop

The hourly forecast for today showed clear and sunny skies from 7:00am to 9:00am – and for once the meteorologists were spot on!

Five of us gathered out at L1 at 7:30am. The sun had risen 30 minutes prior, but I wanted to make sure it was in full blaze once we entered the water given the outside weather conditions.

Despite the abundant sunshine, we had to contend with a 21F air temperature and a lake that read 42.7F. The latter was the surface temp – I’m estimating that the in-swim water was around 40F tops!

I went with almost full body neoprene – a wetsuit top along with gloves, cap, and foot covers – with only my lower legs and neck exposed. It was a bit of a painful first five minutes, but I was able to acclimate by that point thanks to the perfectly calm water and absence of any wind.

Since I felt like I was “cheating” with all that neoprene, I decided to swim the full out-and-back mile this time. While it was certainly doable, I was completely spent by the time I returned to L1. I haven’t been swimming that distance regularly – so I was a bit out of shape! Plus, even with the extra layers, the cold really sank into one’s bones.

Post-swim was a real challenge. Since I was moving really slowly, I opted to keep on my wetsuit top and jammers and just put on layer after layer in an effort to stave off the inevitable afterdrop. And that turned out to be the best idea since it hit me with full force once I got back to my car!

Once I started the engine, I cranked the heat to full blast and rode out the worst part of the shivering. All in all, it was a good half hour until I “broke through” to the calm at the end of the storm (ugh).

But even with this temporary discomfort, it was well worth getting out to the beach on one of our very rare sunny mornings this time of year!

Long shadows

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Crazy sunshine

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Our own private skating rink!

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Pre-swim scene

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This morning’s video

Swim Report – November 8, 2014 – Fall Turnover Edition

Six of us met out at L1 just after 7:00am, and what a difference a week makes! Unlike the chaos of last week, we had a mirror flat lake with a very slight wind that really didn’t impact the water conditions at all.

The lake temp came in at 48F (surface) which was just slightly warmer than the 43F air temperature. However, Nick pointed out another key change from last week – namely, that the water now had a murkiness that we typically only see during the winter months. So for better or worse, it looks like the Fall turnover has finally arrived!

Given the colder lake temperature, many of us opted for full or partial neoprene. Since I only did 1/2 mile this time, I took a chance with just my jammers and a dual silicone/neoprene cap. And while the first two minutes were predictably terrifying, it actually became quite pleasant once I had fully acclimated.

As soon as we all got back and exited the water, we wasted little time getting into dry clothes in a valiant but futile effort to stave off the inevitable afterdrop. But even with numb hands and chattering teeth, none of us would have traded this morning for a boring ole’ pool swim!

Lake Monsters pre swim!

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Swim Report – November 1, 2014 – All Saints’ Day Swim

The saints sure were with us in the lake this morning!

Five of us met out at L1 at 7:30am and looked out at very dire swimming conditions. The waves and chops had subsided very little from the night before, and they were cresting at around 12-14 feet. In addition, we had 15mph sustained winds along with a 40F air temperature. After much deliberation, we decided to do a limited swim in the area just around L1 – and even that proved to be a massive challenge!

Because of these unprecedented conditions, I went with a full wetsuit to preserve heat and maintain buoyancy. And with the official water temperature coming in at 49.2F, that proved to be the wise thing to do!

Getting in by L1 was tricky since you had to time the swells or otherwise risk getting slammed back. But the real challenge, however, was exiting the lake.

Even with just swimming around the L1 area, we were forced to get out at L3 several times due to the high volume waves pushing us south and not allowing us to get close enough to L1 or L2 to make an effective exit. Given all this chaos, I got out of the lake and retrieved my rescue buoy before getting back in. This was a welcome addition back out in the lake, and it helped us conserve our energy and better time our exits.

We all managed to get out intact – although a bit cold and battered. And we received a well-deserved chastisement from some highly respectable CPD officers who were very concerned about our well being given the fact that the conditions were so bad that even the police boats could not navigate the lake.

So the next time we get these conditions, we will definitely not be “giving it a shot.”

Daybreak

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Pre-swim

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In the drink

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Left to right – Marton and new Lake Monsters Andrew (339) and John (340)

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Swim Report – October 25, 2014 – As good as it gets!

As I have repeatedly opined in the past, the October sunrises – and accompanying swims – are often some of the best of the year…

A quite sizable crew of intrepid swimmers met up at L1 at 7:00am. Fortunately, the lakefront was nothing like last week! Conversely, we had mirror flat water, 62F air temperature, super clear skies, and no wind at all – about as good as it gets.

The initial lake temperature reading came in at 56.2F (surface). However, the in swim reading was a bit more crisp at 55.4F. Still, with the overabundance of sunshine and calm lake conditions, it was a pretty easy out-and-back to the beach.

Since it’s a perfect day outside, I’m keeping this report short so I can enjoy it. And if you’re thinking about possibly getting in one last swim of the year, I would definitely check out the lakefront today!

First shot of the morning crew

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Daybreak

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Late October sunrise

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Swim start!

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Post-swim sunshine

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Autumn leaves

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New Lake Monsters [left to right] – Tracy (335), Margaret (336), Judit (337), Ali (338) – congrats!

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Pre-swim selfie!

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Sunrise video

Swim Report – October 18, 2014 – Storm Surge Edition

I caught up with Nick on the walk out to L1 from Clark Street, and we knew we were in for a very different kind of swim this morning. A strong and steady wind was already hitting us while we were still 1/4 mile from the lakefront – not a good sign! And when we got to L1, it was a ferocious scene.

The aforementioned wind had created some rather massive swells – anywhere from 6 to 8 feet tall – and they had completely saturated the L1 area all the way to the bike path. We thought last week’s swim was bad, but this one was WAY worse.

Despite the raging lake, the cutting wind, and the total absence of sunshine, we had quite a few people show up. Given the circumstances, however, I strongly encouraged everyone to consider opting out if they had even the slightest of reservations about getting in the water. As it was, only a few of us got in, and most of just just swam around the L1 area where we more than got a workout in the chaotic lake.

The lake temperature came in at a surprisingly comfortable 57F. But given the strong, sustained winds and the lack of any sunshine, I opted to don my neoprene top for the first time this year – and I was glad I did! The extra buoyancy made a big difference in the water, and I didn’t lose much heat at all while in swim.

Also, a funny side story to recount – Jason and I swam out to the 1/8 mile mark and met up with Obed who had found a running shoe in the water. I didn’t think anything of it, although it did look passingly familiar. As it turns out, it was MY shoe that had been washed into the lake by a rogue wave about 15 minutes earlier! But for Obed’s vigilance, I would have had to have walked back to my car barefoot!

Kudos to all who came out on such a yucky morning. We definitely got to see Ma Nature in one of her more tempestuous moods!

Angry lakefront

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Step into liquid

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The view at water level

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Lake Monsters in their element

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Retrieving my shoe!

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Tenuous approach and exit

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Looking back

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Haiko, Lake Monster 334

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Today’s video footage:

Swim Report – October 11, 2014 – Autumn Chops!

Nine of us made it out to L1 just before sunrise. The lake temperature came in at 58F (surface) with a 56.7F reading taken in swim. In a pleasant contrast to last week, we had a rather tolerable 49F air temperature. But the lake itself was a bit of a mess.

We had some heavy chops and 2-4 foot swells to contend with throughout the swim. But even though we had to do a more rigorous workout this morning, it was well worth the effort given yet another spectacular October sunrise.

Congrats to all the Chicago marathoners!

Dawn colors

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Sunrise

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Waning moon

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Taking the plunge

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At the beach

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Michael, Lake Monster 333 (congrats!)

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Sunrise Video