Swim Report – November 12, 2017 – Autumn Ice

Nicole, Tim, and I met out at L1 at 6:30am yesterday. On the plus side, the overnight rain had stopped, giving us a small aperture of time to get in a swim in a very calm lake. However, we still had to contend with a very cold lake!

The surface temperature came in at a crisp 44.4F, likely due to the 39F air temperature. But that didn’t make much of a difference as the official in swim temperature came out to 45.2F – so clearly the lake has turned!

As my winter gear is still in storage in my garage, I had to go with only my neoprene cap and shorts (i.e. no gloves or booties). But I piled on the shea butter on all exposed areas of skin, and that seemed to make a difference in swim.

The initial immersion was its usual shock, but surprisingly not as bad as I expected. I still had the low level ice cream headache for about a minute or so, but even that had gotten better from last week.

Given the placid conditions, I kept a pretty vigorous swim pace and stayed fairly close to the wall. I turned around at the 1/4 mile point and headed back right away as I was starting to really feel the cold in my hands.

I criss crossed a bit on the return let, but made it back to L1 much faster than ususal – likley motivated by the desire to get back into my warm clothes!

I dried off and got into my civilian clothes as quickly as possible and made a quick exit to the warmth of my car – which fortunately was parked only a few blocks away!

November skyline

An icy L1

Gearing up

Swim Report – November 5, 2017 – November Nose Dive

Five intrepid Lake Monsters met out at L1 to get in a swim. Fortunately for us, the wind gods decided to sleep in, giving us a completely calm and flat lake. But the Autumn spirits never give anything up for free as we found out once we got in the lake!

The surface temperature came in at a crisp 51.1F, but the official in-swim temperature was 50.4F – not yet cracking the floor, but pretty darn close! We didn’t really have any sunshine with all the foggy conditions, but we were fortunate enough to have a 57F air temperature. So things could have been much worse!

I didn’t don a wetsuit, but I did layer a neoprene cap over my swim cap to help keep my head insulated. I also decided to experiment with a new pair of 3mm neoprene shorts, which turned out to be an absolute godsend. But the real key was the copious layer of shea butter I smeared all over my exposed arms, legs, neck and torso. That really took the edge off of a nippy lake!

The first two minutes were a bit of a pain – literally – as I had to endure a low level ice cream headache. But once that subsided, I was able to get a pretty decent swim rhythm in the completely flat lake.

As it has been two weeks since my last swim, I wasn’t planning on doing a longer workout. But the calm conditions made it pretty easy to get in a 1/2 mile, and I was actually quite comfortable for most of the time in the water.

Post-swim was its usually frenetic ritual of drying off and switching into dry clothes before the afterdrop reared its ugly head. But it turned out not to be as intense as I was expecting.

Hopefully this means that I’m acclimating quicker these days!

Morning fog

November Lake Monsters

Into the mist

At the halfway point

L1 post-swim

Swim Report – October 22, 2017 – Evading Old Man Autumn

Autumn closed its dark gray grip over Indian Summer on Sunday – but not before we got in a swim in all the sunshine!

Four of us met out at L1 just before 7:00am. The lake temp came in at 62.0F (official in-swim reading), and the air temp was a tolerable 60F. But we had a sustained and rather cutting wind from the southeast that made things seem very brisk out at the ole’ swim site. Plus, to keep things lively, Lake Michigan gave us some vigorous chops just to let us know who was boss!

I went with just my swim cap and jammers, and the initial immersion was a bit of a jolt. I tried to assuage this by taking a cold shower about one hour earlier, but my ability to properly thermoregulate has been somewhat compromised by the nightly squalls of Hurricane Joseph. Nevertheless, the chill wore off after about a minute, and I started my swim south.

I did 1/2 mile total in the surprisingly clear lake, and I was even able to find a rhythm in the heavy chops. Overall, it was quite an enjoyable experience with the glorious October sun streaming in from the east.

But the best part was that the clouds didn’t move in until just after we had gotten out of the water. So we were able to escape the clutches of Old Man Autumn one more time (probably our last)!

Dawn colors


Into the chops!

Views from water level

The geese have discovered our swim spot

Swim Report – October 15, 2017 – Deluge

Three of us met out at L1 yesterday morning at the tail end of this weekend’s inundation. Despite the gusty wind conditions outside, the lake was as calm as could be. Plus the official water temperature came in at a balmy 63.4F – not bad at all!

I swam to the 1/4 mile point before turning back, so about 1/2 mile total. Post-swim was a bit nippy as the air temperature was only 61F and we didn’t get much of anything in terms of sunshine. But the skies were starting to clear up a bit at that point, so we definitely timed everything right!

Drizzly morning

Other L1 swimmers

In-swim shots

Swim finish!

Swim Report – October 8, 2017 – Marathon Morning!

Daryl, I, and a flock of geese met out at L1 early Sunday morning. Given the marathon mess taking place to the west, I came in from north Lake Shore Drive and avoided LaSalle Street altogether. I wasn’t expecting to have a civil swim site waiting for me, so imagine my delight when I exited the pedestrian tunnel to face near perfect conditions!

Longtime readers of this blog know that I strongly contend that October sunrises are the best ones of the year. That’s because you have the perfect combination of color, contrast, and clarity – and the show starts way before the actual sunrise with all the haunting colors of daybreak. So for all of you pearl clutchers who gasped in horror at the idea of coming out to swim on marathon morning, you sure made a bad decision!

While the sunrise was nothing short of astonishing, the lake conditions were absolutely flawless. The in-swim lake temp came in at 64.6F, and we had perfectly calm swimming conditions with clear, blue water that was an absolute joy to swim in.

As before, I swam to Oak Street Beach and walked back – but not before hanging out for several minutes taking more shots of a perfect Lake Michigan.

Truly one for the ages – but where were you?!?

Autumn sky at dawn

L1 Geese


B-roll filming by Channel 2 News

Our own (free) private swimming pool

Swim finish at Oak Street Beach

More geese

Marathon runners!

Today’s video:

Swim Report – September 23, 2017 – Autumn Scorcher

Summer went out with a bang this year and decided to spill over into Autumn this weekend. Not that any of us minded, however…

The air temperature read 80F when I stepped outside yesterday morning, and it continued its upward climb throughout the day. I had snuck out to the lake on Friday morning, so I wasn’t too surprised by the lake temperature. Still, after weeks of it rather obstinately entrenched in the 65F range, it was awfully nice to see it back at 72.5F!

We had a record crowd out at the world’s best swim site – at least 25 swimmers from what I can recall. The heat wave coupled with the later meetup time seemed to have sparked much more interest in coming out to the lakefront. Plus the rumor that we were going to have perfect swimming conditions turned out to be true (again, not that any of us minded.)

We all got a bit of a late start as we were very distracted by the absolutely stunning sunrise. But once we got in the lake, it was business as usual making our way to the beach.

Because the lake conditions were perfectly calm, I was able to get a decent swim rhythm right away. So by the time I hit Oak Street Beach I was hardly winded at all! Nevertheless, I still decided to walk back as I ended up spending a lot of time at the beach taking more shots of all the swimmers.

By the time I got back to L1, things had really started to heat up and the lakefront was getting exceptionally busy – particularly on the multi-use path. So I figured that this would be a good time to make a quick exit before the weekend mob arrived.

Happy Autumn 2017!

First dawn of Autumn

Swarm of Lake Monsters!

Another photogenic morning

The in-swim view to the east

Beach landing!

Andrew, Lake Monster 476 (congrats!)

Simon, Lake Monster 477 (congrats!)

Becca, Lake Monster 478 (congrats!)

Erin, Lake Monster 479 (congrats!)

Marc, Lake Monster 480 (congrats!)

Nicole, Lake Monster 481 (congrats!)

Carlo, Lake Monster 482 (congrats!)

And lastly, Eric, Lake Monster 483 (congrats!)

Joey, Lake Monster 475

Swim Report – September 16, 2017 – Late Summer Perfection

There’s nothing like a perfect swim morning to make up for a very rough evening…

Hurricane Joseph became a Category 5 storm at 2:00am last night. So given that I was completely spent by the time it came to leave for the swim, imagine my joy when the lake turned out to be completely civil this time around!

Summer surged back this week and warmed up the lake to an idyllic in-swim temperature of 69.6F. The air was already 72F (and climbing), and the water conditions were about as good as it gets. We had several new faces out this morning as well as some Lake Monsters we haven’t seen at L1 for a while. This made for a very social morning while extending our usual pre-swim procrastination that much longer!

I had planned to swim to the beach and walk back, but I got a bit of a late start taking Lake Monster photos of everyone. Plus I had to get back home real quick to take care of some Eastern yellow jackets that had decided to build a colony in my brickwork. So instead, I went out to the 1/8 mile mark and did a loop out to the buoys and back – about 1/2 mile total.

I finished up ahead of the others who did the entire out and back and took off just as they were making their final approach to L1. By then the sun was out in full force and the lakefront was starting to really come alive.

I wish I could have stayed out there all day!

Crescent moon at daybreak


Lots of pics at our photogenic swim site!

In swim shots

The author sporting a super cool South End Rowing Club swim cap (Thanks Fran!)

Eric, Lake Monster 468 (congrats!)

Linda, Lake Monster 469 (congrats!)

Left to right – Hannah, Lake Monster 470; Sarah, Lake Monster 471, and Kate, Lake Monster 472 (congrats!)

Pat, Lake Monster 473 (congrats!)

Khoga, Lake Monster 474 (congrats!)

Evicting the yellow jackets

My household at 2:00am

Swim Report – September 9, 2017 – Big Rollers

Ma Nature doesn’t cut us any slack once August ends. While the lake temp is still quite balmy at 65.6F, it’s not the 70F+ we were enjoying just a few short weeks ago. So for better or worse (mostly better!), the lake has started its downward slope for the year…

Four intrepid Lake Monsters met out at the greatest swim spot on the planet yesterday morning, and we certainly faced some challenging conditions. While we had a great lake temp, we also had a 10mph sustained breeze from the southeast that was making the 62F air temp seem much cooler. Plus, we had some pretty fierce swells that were also generating some rather pesky chops near the shoreline. But apart from our normal pre-swim procrastination, we wasted little time getting in the water once we got suited up.

The route south was a bit punishing as the lake kept pushing me towards the side wall where all the messy chops were. So I expended a lot of energy just getting back out to a more predictable swim area. Fortunately, I managed to figure out the wave pattern halfway into the swim. And since it was fairly consistent, I was able to burst and hold in between the swells and let the waves carry me forward from there.

Once I got close to the beach, I made a sharp turn west so I landed further away from good ole’ Hell’s Corner – the infamous area where the wall meets the beach and where you get nasty pyramidal waves that come at you from all sides. As luck would have it, the waves weren’t as strong as I had expected, so the beach landing was fairly uneventful.

As with prior weeks, I called it a morning and walked back. The steady breeze made things a bit nippy for part of the way, but the clear skies and full on sunshine helped stave off the afterdrop. Nevertheless, I sure was glad to get back to L1 and into some dry clothes!

Dawn colors

An angry lake

Sunrise by the water crib

Lake Monsters pre-swim (with the Moon photobombing us from above!)

Man versus Nature

The view at water level

The author in the swells

In-swim video

Swim Report – September 2, 2017 – Catchin’ Waves

With the lakefront swim advisory lasting almost all of last week, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get in a swim on Saturday morning. Fortunately, the lake had calmed down a bit overnight. But not by much I can assure you!

The surface temp at L1 read 69.1F at 6:15am. But it was hard to get a steady reading as the lake kept casting out my thermometer. That’s because the swells were large enough that they were cresting about halfway up the ladder whenever they hit the side wall. However, there was a least a rhythm to this mess – unlike the chops from last week. So for better or worse, the swim was a go!

I hung around L1 taking some shots before heading south behind a phalanx of Wheaton College swimmers (who soon left me in the dust). I had just gotten into a decent swim pattern when I hit a nasty seaweed patch that had some deflated party balloons thrown in just for fun. I zigzagged around it but never really escaped all of nature’s finest throughout the swim. In fact, there were very few swimmers who managed to make it to the beach without a souvenir seaweed necklace!

As with last week, I chose to walk back versus swim back. I probably could have done the whole mile if the lake were calmer, but I didn’t want to spend the entire holiday weekend recovering in my backyard hammock – although that’s sounding mighty inviting as I write this!

Again, even though it was an intense physical challenge, it was one of our better swims this summer. The water temp was perfect, sunrise was magnificent, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Too bad you all missed out!

Skyline at daybreak


Another sun shot in swim

The setup for the AVP volleyball tournament at Oak Street Beach

Claire, Lake Monster 465 (congrats!)

Jennifer, Lake Monster 466 (congrats!)

Bethany, Lake Monster 467 (congrats!)