Swim Report – October 4, 2014 – Deep Freeze!

Ma Nature threw us a curve ball with a 38F air temperature reading at 6:45am. Fortunately for us, the lake temperature came in at a fiery 61.8F. So getting in the water was easy. Getting out, however, was a painfully cold ordeal!

Ten of us met out at L1 just before sunrise. We waited a bit for the sun to peek out over the cloud bank. But none of us wanted to hang out very long in the frigid air. So we got suited up and hustled into the lake just as the sun was starting to emerge.

The lake was almost completely flat and uniformly warm throughout the swim. The sun came out in full just before we hit Oak Street Beach and accompanied us for part of the way back. However, by the time we returned to L1, we had to contend with a drizzly cloud cover that eradicated any evidence of our short window of sunshine.

As noted above, the real challenge of today’s swim was not the lake, but rather the air temperature upon exiting the water. We had to towel off and don warm layers really quickly in the winter-like air. And this proved to be quite a chore since our hands were painfully numb as soon as we got out of the lake.

Still, we had another amazing swim and got to experience the only sunshine of the day – and it was as spectacular as always!

Calm waters


Warming up in the lake!


Lake Monsters migrating south


The sun finally comes out!


Bright and sunny morning at the beach!


A squadron of geese providing directions back to L1


Beth, Lake Monster 331 and Brit, Lake Monster 332 (congrats!)


Pre-swim video:

Chicago’s Lake Michigan Water Temperatures (2008 – 2014)

Okay, I admit it. I’m somewhat of a data junkie. I guess that’s an unintended consequence of my day job as an intelligence analyst (long story). So bottom line, I’m always looking for patterns and trends in large or small data sets that might provide insights that people can use to better their performance or to “one up” their competitors.

With this in mind, I figured I’d apply this to OWC – with all of you as the beneficiaries of this “lake intelligence.”

Here’s the skinny – I took all of water temperature readings that I, Dave, and others have secured since 2008, and I plotted them out to see if there was anything interesting in the results. To do this, I had to go back through all of the OWC swim reports and Facebook postings – a rather monumental task given that there were a TON of lake temperature postings. But the results are really quite fascinating.

So let’s take a look…

First, here is a scatter plot of the all of the lake temperature readings we took from April 2008 to the present:

[Click on the image to view a larger size file]

OWC graph_1F_small

You can see that the temperature ranges were fairly consistent throughout the year. However, there were some rather surprising outliers in 2009 and 2014 – especially in the months of July, August and September. Also, 2012 had unusually warmer overall water temperatures – which we certainly exploited in attempting to extend our “non-wetsuit” streak that year!

But let’s refine this a bit further. If we were to take the average of the days where we had readings from multiple years, we’d get this:

[Click on the image to view a larger size file]

OWC graph_2F_small

That’s a bit more polished, but we still have those outliers on days where we have no comparable data in the other years. So if we add a moving average trend line to this graph, we get this:

[Click on the image to view a larger size file]

OWC graph_3F_small

While water temperatures can be quite dynamic, I believe this trend line is a pretty good predictor of what you are likely to experience while swimming out at the lake (within a certain range, of course).

And it’s worth noting that these are actual lake temperature readings taken at the swim sites with most of these being recorded in-swim. In other words, these are not offshore buoy readings or temperature forecasts that you get on most of the Lake Michigan news and weather sites!

So there you have it. Now you have some good insights you can use to hopefully better your Chicago Lake Michigan swim experience!


P.S. For those of you who do not use the Fahrenheit temperature scale, I have not forsaken you! Here is that last graph in Centigrade:

[Click on the image to view a larger size file]

OWC graph_4C_small

P.P.S BONUS GRAPH!  Same as the one above, but with shaded areas indicating when the Spring and Fall turnovers take place (time period is the same for both the Fahrenheit and Centigrade graphs):

[Click on the image to view a larger size file]

OWC graph_3F_turnover_small

OWC System – Water Quality Swim Hacks

New FREE content from the OWC System for Mastering Outdoor Swimming!

As much as I enjoy swimming outdoors, I have to admit that it’s not always a pleasant experience. Unlike a swimming pool (well, unlike MOST swimming pools at least), the lake is not a sterile and antiseptic environment.

So at any given time, you might find some or all of these niceties in the water:

– Algae
– Pollen
– Bacteria (especially E. Coli)
– Viruses
– Parasites
– Fungi
– Mold spores
– Sewage effluent
– Heavy metals
– Pesticides
– Runoff from agriculture and urbanization
– Air pollution particulates

These water contaminants – whether naturally occurring or artificially created – unfortunately wreak havoc on our bodies if they’re allowed to remain in our systems for extended periods of time. When left unchecked, they can cause allergies, mild to severe ear infections (i.e. swimmer’s ear), sinus infections, and flu-like illnesses due to water-borne contaminants.

So while many of us do what we can to keep our beaches and swim areas clean and contaminant-free, we have to accept the reality that it’s impossible to completely eliminate these health risks whenever we swim in the lake.

But what we can do is mitigate their impact on our personal health.

Be sure to check out the recent videos I produced on this subject. I’ve placed links to them below. FYI – If you’ve been out to any of our recent meetups and listened to me grumble incessantly about ragweed, you can probably skip the first two!

OWC System for Mastering Outdoor Swimming – Water Quality – Introduction

OWC System for Mastering Outdoor Swimming – Water Quality – Overview

OWC System for Mastering Outdoor Swimming – Water Quality – Swim Hack 1

OWC System for Mastering Outdoor Swimming – Water Quality – Swim Hack 2

Swim Report – September 27, 2014 – Hints of Summer

Nick, Martin, Renee, and I met out at L1 just in time to catch yet another amazing sunrise. We had some slight chops that made this swim a bit more of a workout than we had planned. But the 63.5F lake temp and 60F air temp was about as ideal as you could get.

I hope you got out to the lakefront this morning!

Colors at daybreak







Swim Report – September 22, 2014 – Autumnal Equinox Swim!

Great turnout for the last swim of summer – and first swim of autumn!

Nine of us met out at L1 at around 9:15pm, and – other than an occasional nocturnal biker – we pretty much had the lakefront all to ourselves. The lake was a slightly choppy, but the swimming conditions were otherwise ideal given a surprisingly warm 61F and the breathtaking backdrop of the night skyline.

At 9:28pm, we all started getting into the lake to enjoy the final minute of summer for 2014. As seems to now be the tradition, we did our “New Year’s Eve” countdown to officially ring in autumn.

After that, a couple of the swimmers took off to do a longer swim. However, several of us just played around the immediate area and took in the sights and sounds of the first few moments of the new season.

If you missed out on this one, be sure to be out at L1 next year at 3:21am!

The Equinox crew!


10 seconds to autumn


First swimmers of the new season!


Last look before getting out!


In-swim video of skyline

Swim Report – September 20, 2014 – Last weekend of Summer

In spite of the dire warnings of high winds and waves, seven of us showed up at L1 to take our chances on the lake being somewhat swimmable. As it turned out, it was quite calm with the water temperature coming in at a pleasant 61.8F.

The out-and-back to Oak Street Beach was slightly easier on the return leg due to a northbound wind and current. But there were no real waves or chops to contend with while out in the water.

We didn’t get much of a sunrise since we had a wall of clouds out on the eastern horizon. But the sun finally came out just as we finished up.

Overall, a great swim to round out a great summer!




At the beach




One last look back


Everybody in the pool!

Swim Report – September 14, 2014 – Early October?

After several days of yucky weather and tempestuous lake conditions, we finally got a break this morning!

Five seasoned Lake Monsters met out at L1 at 6:30am just as the sun was starting to emerge to the south of the water crib. And just like last week, the colors were absolutely majestic!

The air temperature came in at a crisp 51F, with most of us L1 sporting the sweaters and hats we had put away around late May (sigh…). But fortunately for us, the lake blessed us with very tolerable 58F water which felt even warmer in the full sunshine of the morning.

After the usual procrastinating and deliberating whether it might just be a better idea to ditch swimming and catch breakfast instead, we all suited up and got in the lake. With the calm and flat water, it was a fairly even out-and-back to Oak Street Beach. There were some mild swells near the shore, but certainly nothing disruptive.

At the end of the swim, we bundled up pretty quickly to help stave off the infamous afterdrop. I had swum with only my jammers and a neoprene cap, so I had about 10 minutes of shivering before I got “over the hump.” But it was well worth it given that we pretty much had the entire lake and lakefront to ourselves.

(FYI, If you can’t make it out to one of our swims this time of year, at least try to make it out for a sunrise or two. The ones in late September and early October have the most spectacular colors, in my opinion.)

Sunrise series




Post swim bliss



Swim Report – September 7, 2014 – Photogenic morning!

We had a great turnout at 6:15am, and those who showed up got to experience one of the best sunrises of the year! The lake came in at a balmy 66F with almost perfectly flat conditions.

I’ll keep this report real brief and just let the images speak for themselves. And yes, you did miss out…

Sunrise shots





Swim start



In swim


At the beach




Maria, Lake Monster 329 (congrats!)


Fred, Lake Monster 330 (congrats!)


Swimmers were here…


Swim Report – August 30, 2014 – Lucky morning!

Due to holiday weekend laziness, I am only just posting this today (Labor Day). I’m going to keep this brief since I’m heading back to the beach soon to get in one last swim of the weekend!

According to the weather forecast, Saturday morning was supposed to be touch and go with a likely chance of either rain or full on thunderstorms. Fortunately for us, we got neither while we were out at the lake. So instead of an L1 disaster, we got a 74.4F lake and relatively flat swimming conditions that made for a pretty easy out and back to Oak Street Beach.

We didn’t really get much of a sunrise during the swim since we had a wall of clouds to the east obscuring everything on the horizon. But the sun did peek out soon after we finished – just in time to enjoy it for a short while before heading out.

Once again, another fantastic morning out at the lake!

Lake Monsters pre-swim


Heading south


A quick pause at Oak Street Beach


Jared, Lake Monster 327 (congrats!)


Peter, Lake Monster 328 (didn’t get your L1 pic – sorry!)


Video of the swim start that you missed out on

Swim Report – August 23, 2014 – Swimmers in the Mist

It’s been a while since we had this much fog at a meetup (June 22 to be specific). But even without the sunshine, the lake was quite comfortable with the nice and toasty 74F water temperature!

Around twelve swimmers made it out for the 6:00am start time – including some new swimmers as well as some Lake Monsters we haven’t seen for a while – and we had fantastic swim conditions. In addition to a very warm lake, we had near flat swimming conditions that allowed for a very quick swim to and from the beach. And despite the limited visibility of the beach and skyline, it was quite easy to follow the wall and stay on course.

After we finished, we socialized a bit more and checked out all the “supergroups” of runners now invading the lakefront path. Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with that level of congestion in the water!

Congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!



Lake Monsters gathering


Swim start


At Oak Street Beach


Hanging out post swim!


Terry, Lake Monster 322


David, Lake Monster 323


Jennifer, Lake Monster 324


Jen and Ken, Lake Monsters 325 and 326


Selfie out by the buoy!


Video at Oak Street Beach