Other than the colder than expected air temperature, this morning’s L1 adventure was pretty much a carbon copy of last Saturday.
Four of us made it out to the lakefront and were greeted by sunny and calm conditions. The forecast called for 15mph wind gusts, but they were fortunately nowhere to be found. So we waited for the sun to reappear above a stubborn line of clouds and got geared up for our entry into the lake.
As with last week, I went with the short sleeve top along with neoprene shorts, boots, hood, and gloves. Plus I had a secret weapon with me that turned out to be a game changer.
A recurring issue has been cold water circulation in our gloves during the swim. This time I added some neoprene cross training wrist bands over the edge of the gloves and tightened the seal using the attached velcro straps. As it turned out, I had very little cold water circulation and was able to swim the entire 1/2 mile quite comfortably!
The real challenge was definitely the afterdrop. Because of the chillier air temperature, it came on much stronger and stuck around much longer than last week. So I ended up doing several sets of wind sprints to help expedite its passage.
Yet even with all these challenges, it was still a fantastic morning. And the swim – as always – was as amazing as ever.
I almost wish we could have a late Spring this year!
I’ll keep this brief since it’s so nice outside right now, and I don’t want to spend any more time inside if I can help it!
Mary Ellen, Tim, and Danny showed up at L1 at 6:30am – just in time for another magnificent sunrise. I came out a bit earlier so I could get my now routine pre-swim coffee at the cool Old Town Starbucks on Clark Street (versus its more pretentious cousin a few blocks away). And as luck would have it, I managed to snare rock star parking on Astor Street!
The swim area around L1 was flawless. Friday’s strong west winds had blown all the ice out from the shore, so we had a clear space to indulge in our winter outdoor aquatics. Plus we had a completely cloudless sky which made a HUGE difference while out in the lake.
The surface temperature reading of the lake came in at 35.4F. However, the final in-swim thermometer reading came in slightly under at 34.8F. Nevertheless, this crisper lake temperature was more than tempered by a 46F air temperature.
Given these conditions, I went with the hood, boots, shorts, and gloves along with a 3mm short sleeve neoprene top. It was slightly uncomfortable on the exposed parts of my arms and legs for about a minute, but that soon subsided once I got moving.
In contrast with our previous swims this winter, I didn’t have any discomfort in my fingertips while in the lake. This was due to the higher air temperatures which kept my fingers from reaching the freezing point. So absent this barrier, I was able to do a 1/2 mile swim in total without having to make a premature exit due to glove failure!
In sum, another lovely day out at the lakefront. And if you didn’t get in a swim, I hope you at least got up early to enjoy the morning!
Steady eastern winds almost kiboshed our early morning swim outing on Saturday. Fortunately for us, we had a reserve swim spot!
L1 was as picturesque as ever at sunrise – but entirely unswimmable. While the swim area was relatively ice free, the shore and ladders were all completely encased in ice thanks to constant 4 foot swells. And while these would have been swimmable (and quite fun) during the summer, they were too perilous to try navigate given the extreme cold. So after taking a few shots of the photogenic horizon, the Ice Monster caravan headed north to Montrose!
We were preparing for the south wall to be a total bust as well, but our spirits lifted once we rounded the curve by the harbor mouth. The lake seemed fairly ice free in this area, and it was mostly protected from the swells – all good signs!
After parking our cars, we went out to the south wall to scope out the scene. As luck would have it, the swim area was calm and clear, and the ladders were mostly ice-free! So we returned to the sanctuary of our heated vehicles and suited up for the swim.
As bizarre as this sounds, it was actually quite a joy to get into the 32F water. That was because the 6F air temperature was really quite uncomfortable. So once we were able to clear most of the ice off of the ladder, we wasted very little time starting our swim.
I swam due west towards the harbor mouth and made it about 100 feet before running into an impassible area of slightly submerged ice. So I decided to do long laps between there and the swim exit ladder.
As typical this time of year, we had ice crystals form on our hood, gloves, and boots during the swim. This added an element of mirth to the activity, but it also hastened the brutal chill onto my fingertips. So even with the new 7mm gloves, I could only stay in the water for about 10 to 12 minutes before it became too unbearable on my hands. Apart from that, I was quite cozy in the rest of my winter gear.
So if any of you glove manufacturers can come up with a product that can keep our fingers warm for longer than 15 minutes, please let us know!
This time of year is typically a “break through” point for us. Since we’ve been coming out to the lake fairly consistently, we’ve finally managed to acclimate to the point where the whole winter swimming thing is now quite tolerable – or at least it’s not the shocking ordeal that it was in late December or early January!
Bottom line, we are officially “over the hump” and now easily coasting towards Springtime – which is a wonderful feeling!
Mary Ellen, Tim, and Fred all met up with me out at L1 where we had practically ideal swimming conditions. But for a slight ripple, the lake was perfectly calm, and the cloudless sky allowed for plenty of life-enhancing sunshine during our journey out into the open water.
Because of these more favorable circumstances, I chose to go with just a neoprene short sleeve top and shorts along with my hood, gloves, and boots. The 34.2F water was at first a bit painful on the exposed parts of my arms and legs, but I fully acclimated by the time I hit the 1/8 mile point. My hands, however, were frozen clubs the entire time I was in the lake.
I was wearing new 7mm slip on scuba gloves that, for the most part, worked great. But since I had no sleeves to tuck them into, I had a constant stream of cold water circulating through my fingers. So while these gloves will be ideal for use with my wetsuit, I am still seeking the “holy grail” of winter swim gloves!
Nevertheless, even with this equipment glitch it was still an amazing morning out at the old swim site. And now that the days are getting longer and Spring is just a few short weeks away (so sayeth the groundhog), I suspect that we will soon be waxing nostalgic about our winter adventures while overheating in a 60F lake!
Three of us met out at L1 earlier this morning just in time for yet another magnificent sunrise. And even better, the ice floes that had been at the shore had now moved out about 100 feet, forming a thin breakwater sheltering a perfectly calm swim area. So we suited up as soon as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and got into the lake.
My three-year-old wetsuit had started to show some wear over the last couple of months, so I decided to try out a brand new one that I had in reserve. And what a difference that made!
Other than the cold water on the exposed parts of my face, I was completely comfortable during the swim. And even the initial cold shock on my face wore off after a couple of minutes. Of course, having abundant sunshine and perfectly calm water helped out a lot…
I made it out to the 1/8 mile point until I ran into an impassable mass of ice floes. So I started back and decided to navigate outside of the ice flow breakwater into the clear areas of the lake. I swam there for most of the way back to before “punching through” to the inside area of open water.
We finished up our swim and had just changed back into our civilian garb when the sun disappeared again behind some clouds that came in from the west. Lucky for us, we got to take advantage of all of the day’s sunshine!
L1 at daybreak
Navigating the shore hazards
Swim start with Fred and new Ice Monster Mary Ellen (congrats!)
While L1 is still the finest swim spot on the planet, it’s always a treat to see “how the other half swims” during the winter months…
I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to return to Kauai earlier this month, and I wasted no time getting back into the water. The ocean temperature at Shipwreck Beach was a uniform 79.1F, and the buoyancy factor of the salt water made swimming a breeze compared to Lake Michigan.
There were some funky swells near the shore, but things were quite calm about 150 feet out. So after getting out there, it was a fairly textbook out-and-back mile swimming parallel to the shore. Plus I was able to scope out the area underneath the cliff for reasons which are quite obvious in the video.
The air temperature was a fiery 31F this morning out at the lake, but an east wind had forced all of the ice onto the shoreline. So despite checking out multiple sites on the lakefront, we could not find one single patch of swimmable water.
Nevertheless, it was a very photogenic morning. So all was not lost!
Three of us met out at L1 during a veritable heat wave. The 27F air temperature was downright balmy compared to the single digit temps a few days earlier, and the skies were completely clear outside of a peevish cloud wall on the eastern horizon.
The water conditions, though, were a bit of a challenge…
The official lake temp came in at 34.0F (1.1C). While that was itself rather daunting, we also had to contend with fairly vigorous 2 to 4 foot swells that intensified in the middle of our swim.
Nevertheless, I managed to do an out and back 1/4 mile in the icy chops before my numb fingertips commanded me to get out of the lake!
A couple of very dedicated photographers
An icy lakefront
Swim finish at L1 (with bonus airplane and Danny shots!)
In stark contrast to last week’s meetup, yesterday’s swim was more akin to something we’d normally experience in mid to late January…
I arrived a bit early and decided to park in the NAB lot since the air temp was a biting 18F (-7.7C). I joined the rest of the late Autumn crew already alighting around L1, and I quickly placed the thermometer in the lake, trying to expose my hands as little as possible to the icy air.
We were expecting the mercury to be below 40F (4.4C), but much to our astonishment, it came in at a rather scorching 42.4F (5.7C)! We waiting until well after the sunrise before we started to suit up since it was as astonishing as ever, as you can see below.
I went with the same setup as last week – neoprene gloves, booties, shorts, and hood – and was actually quite comfortable once I got into the lake. In fact, my hands, which had become painfully numb after being exposed to the nippy air, actually warmed up whilst in swim!
Given my limited accoutrements, I only did 1/4 a mile this time. And when I exited the lake back into the frigid air, I grabbed all my stuff and made a mad dash to the mercifully close parking lot where I threw all my stuff into the back seat of my car and blasted the heat in anticipation of the inevitable afterdrop.
It took about 10 minutes before the shivering ceased, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the ones I’ve experienced in the past. I think the quick transition from the swim to the warm car really made a difference.
So the $15 spent in the NAB lot turned out to be an excellent investment!
Tim, Fred, and I met out at L1 on a morning that looked nothing like mid-December. With the dense fog, 50F air temperature, and 44.2F lake reading, Saturday morning was more akin to early Spring than late Autumn. But we certainly weren’t complaining!
Because of the unseasonably warm conditions, I decided to channel Marton and Nick and forego the wetsuit for this swim. I still wore my neoprene gloves, boots, shorts, and hood. But my chest, arms, and legs were at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Fortunately, it wasn’t as extreme as I was expecting!
I stepped down the ladder to let the water over lap my legs, and it wasn’t as shocking as the previous week. So I waded out into the open water, go acclimated pretty quickly, and started heading south.
I swam down to the 1/4 mile mark where Fred and Tim were waiting. I am a much slower swimmer than they are, so they had quickly overtaken and passed me early on. We chatted very briefly, and I turned around to head back while I was still in “aerobic mode.”
The return part of the swim seemed to take a bit longer as there was a slight southbound current we had to swim through in order to get back to L1. So the last 100 meters seemed to take an agonizingly long time in the frigid lake!
We didn’t waste any time once we got out of the water. I doffed my neoprene, got into some warm layers, and started pounding down hot cups of coffee from my thermos – just in time for the arrival of the good ole’ afterdrop!
We got a surprise visit from Danny whom we haven’t seen out at the lakefront for quite some time. We also saw some of the other summer “regulars” out on the bike path.
Again, if I hadn’t checked my calendar, I could have sworn it was early Spring!