Swim Report – August 22, 2015 – Cold Plunge

I got out to L1 a bit early on Saturday morning as I was very eager to find out what the water temperature was at our swim site. It had been stubbornly hovering in the 54F – 55F range up in Evanston, but I still held out hope that perhaps L1 might have escaped the drastic temperature inversion.

Fat chance, as it turned out!

The first reading (surface) came in at 56.4F. However, by the time I completed the swim, I got an average reading of 55.5F. Bottom line, this was going to be a cold weekend for lake swimming…

Despite my post on Thursday alerting everyone about the sudden temperature drop, we still had an incredible turnout at 5:45am. Granted, not everyone got in the water – which I completely understand. But it was very gratifying to me that people were still willing to come out to L1 given the remote chance that the lake had warmed up since Thursday!

After a bit of hesitation, a number of intrepid swimmers suited up and began to enter the lake.

As expected, the initial immersion was quite bracing. I opted to go with just my jammers, swim cap, and neoprene cap this time, and I had taken a cold shower about an hour earlier that helped take the edge off of the cold water. But Lake Michigan still had a pretty sharp bite!

Fortunately, the lake was almost perfectly flat, and it was a clear day with no wind. So when the sun finally peeked out on the eastern horizon, the intense sunshine was a welcome neutralizer to the cold lake.

Because the lake was so calm at that time of the morning, it was a very easy swim to the beach and back once you got over the initial cold shock. Plus, the scenery – both above and below the surface of the water – was simply amazing.

Given the clear skies, we expected a memorable sunrise – and we sure got one! But the real show was the clarity of the lake. The inversion from earlier in the week brought in the cleanest, clearest water I have seen all year. So once you got over the initial discomfort and got into a steady swim rhythm, you got to experience a stunning aquamarine landscape that was like being in the middle of a dream. Truly fantastic stuff!

When I finally got back to L1, the sun was out in force, and this really helped lessen my afterdrop. I was still shivering a bit when it was time to start the swim clinic, but I wouldn’t have traded this morning’s experience for the world.

Pre-dawn colors


Swarm of Lake Monsters


Cold plunge



Looking back


Sunrise shots in-swim




The Oak Street Beach crew



Steve, Lake Monster 378


Genevieve, Lake Monster 379


Tim, Lake Monster 380


In the aquarium!


The scene at 6:00am

Swim Report – August 8, 2015 – High Summer

An intrepid group of around ten swimmers showed up at L1 and got in a swim in the 72.1F lake. I was a bit concerned what Ma Nature would present to us given the gusty wind and choppy lake conditions of the night before.

But Lake Michigan was calm and clear at 5:30am!

We didn’t get much of a sunrise until the tail end of the swim due to a stubborn cloud bank on the eastern horizon. But enough of it peeked through at Oak Street Beach to give us a nice backdrop for the return leg. So our swim back to L1 was quite pleasant – even with a rather chilly thermocline lurking 2-3 feet below the surface.

L1 at 5:30am



Water level view going south



At Oak Street Beach




In-swim skyline shot


David, Lake Monster 375


Jim, Lake Monster 376


Emily, Lake Monster 377


The Twins are back!


(Bonus) Swim Report – July 27, 2015 – Marton’s Send-off

As most of you know, I was out of town the weekend of the 25th. So I missed out on the informal gathering out at L1 where Marton had his last swim (for a while at least) with a bunch of other Lake Monsters. However, Marton and I had previously discussed getting together up here in Evanston for a send-off swim before he headed back across the pond.

Needless to say, neither of us needed any convincing to get back in the lake again!

We got up super early that day, and I met Marton out by the Central Street El station. He was biking it, so he followed me a mile east out to Lighthouse Beach. We stashed all our stuff in my car save for the essentials (goggles, swim cap, camera, etc.), and we headed out to the shore.

It was already 78F at 5:00am, and the first hits of daybreak were forming out on the eastern horizon. Since we were planning on doing a long, leisurely swim, we got in the lake right away and started swimming due east – straight out into the lake.

The lake temperature – which couldn’t have been any more perfect – came in at a refreshing 71.6F. And the lake was as clear as I have seen it since we had the spring turnover in late April.

Marton swam breast stroke the entire time, and I did mostly free stroke with some occasional stretches of breast stroke. This gave us plenty of opportunities to chat while we were in the water waiting for the sunrise. We estimate that we were roughly 1/2 mile out in the lake when the sun finally crested over the water.

Words cannot describe the sensation of being out in the lake at the dawn of a new summer day. The lighting and colors of daybreak were nothing short of breathtaking.

We stayed out there for quite some time, chatting some more and taking lots of photos, before we reluctantly decided to head back. As with the swim out, we took our sweet time getting back, finally landing ashore at Lighthouse Beach – just in time to interrupt a beachfront yoga session!

As with all these swim reports, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

And as for Marton, we will miss you my friend! Chicago winters will not be the same without you in the lake!

Lighthouse Beach at 5:00am


At the 1/2 mile mark


Dawn of a perfect morning



Marton beneath the surface



Final shots before heading back



Exploring a lone boulder on the lake bottom


Back at Lighthouse Beach!


Swim Report – August 1, 2015 – Dragonfly Edition

Our first swim of August 2015 was unquestionably one of the best ones we’ve had all year. And if you slept in this morning, you sure missed out!

To begin with, the conditions out at L1 were ideal at 5:30am. The 72F lake was calm and clear with eastern horizon already giving us some brilliant pre-sunrise colors. And as more swimmers showed up at our coveted swim spot, the view to the east became even more dazzling.

As we waited for the sun to make its appearance, we were entertained by swarms of dragonflies that hovered over our heads and darted among us doing their best to decimate the lakefront gnat population. Despite this lively show, we soon lost interest in the dragonflies once the sun peeked out above the water line.

I won’t go into detail about how magnificent it was – I’ll just instead defer to the pictures below which you can see for yourself. Suffice to say that it was quite an amazing experience – particularly at water level while in swim.

Given the calm lake conditions, I was able to complete the out and back to Oak Street Beach quite quickly and easily. And when I returned to L1, I had the honor of ushering in several new Lake Monsters.

Congrats to everyone who came out today!

Lake Monsters gathering




Another perfect sunrise



The view in swim


Heading back


Home again!


Molly, Lake Monster 369


John, Lake Monster 370


Maria, Lake Monster 371


Tom, Lake Monster 372


Lisa, Lake Monster 373


Erik, Lake Monster 374


More dragonflies



Sunrise video

Swim Report – July 18, 2015 – Ahead of the Storms

We had some pretty chaotic thunderstorms move into the region yesterday afternoon. But once again, we lucked out at 5:30am!

The air temperature was already a sultry 78F when I arrived at L1. I promptly took a measurement of the lake temperature, and this came in a just under 70F (surface). Given that the sun had yet to even make its appearance, it was obviously going to be a scorcher out at the old swim site!

As the clocked ticked closer to 5:30am, several open water pilgrims began to stream in to L1 – including a number of brand new Lake Monsters. And they couldn’t have picked a more ideal morning!

Just like last week, we had to postpone our swim start for several minutes to enjoy the spectacular sunrise. I made sure to snap as many shots as possible – some of which are featured below. But these can in no way provide you all with the same experience that we had seeing it live.

The swim to and from Oak Street Beach was a waking dream in the calm 68.8F lake (official temp). I got back just as most of the swimmers were finishing up, so I had an opportunity to chat some more with the others and officially recognize all the new Lake Monsters.

After the others left, I stayed out at L1 to conduct my swim clinic. By the time that ended at 9:00am, a gray wall of clouds had already started to move in from the west.

So it looks like we got to experience the best part of the day!









Swim start



At the beach




Back at L1!


Phillip, Lake Monster 360


Emile, Lake Monster 361


Left to right, Seth, Jerrilynn, and Lisa, Lake Monsters 362, 363, and 364


Bill, Lake Monster 365


Paul, Lake Monster 366


Left to right, Donna and Jeff, Lake Monsters 367 and 368


Swim Report – July 11, 2015 – Hello Summer!

After a much extended Spring, we finally got our first Summer swim out at L1. And it was magnificent!

Mother Nature did not disappoint us this morning. In stark contrast to the last several weeks, this time we had clear skies and a calm lake along with a water temp reading that came in at a balmy 66F. All combined, it was nothing short of perfect swim conditions.

A lively group of swimmers showed up at 5:25am – including some veteran Lake Monsters that we haven’t seen since last year. So we had a mini reunion out by L1 that was only interrupted by the big bright red sunrise that just demanded our attention!

Given the ideal lake conditions, it was both an easy and pleasant out-and-back swim to Oak Street Beach. As typical, a group of us congregated there and socialized for a while before heading back. But there wasn’t this urgent need to get swimming again to stave off the cold.

By the time I got back to L1, the sun had long since shed its scarlet hue and was out in full force – pretty much guaranteeing that there would be no afterdrop this time. And that was a very welcome change!

Welcome to Summer 2015!

L1 at Daybreak







In swim shots




At the beach


Jim, Lake Monster 359


One last look back


This morning’s video compilation

Swim Report – June 27, 2015 – Summer Swells

I was a bit concerned about what the lake would present to us at 5:15am since the forecast called for 20mph+ winds – typically a precursor of very high waves. Fortunately, the lake was nowhere near as bad as it could have been!

Our first official meetup of summer sure didn’t feel like it. The air temperature was a brisk 59F when we arrived at L1, and we had a steady wind from the north that was making it seem more like an early spring morning. Nevertheless, the lake rallied in our favor and provided us with a magnificent 63.1F reading.

The swim was a bit of a challenge given rather heavy chops and 2-3 foot swells. Plus, the winds picked up mid-swim and intensified the swells even more. Still, for as agitated as it was, the lake was perfectly clear and you could easily see 8 feet to the bottom.

Great stuff overall!

Gearing up


Scoping out the swim scene


In the drink


Lake Monster action shots




Ron, Lake Monster 356


Sarah, Lake Monster 357


Laura, Lake Monster 358


Swim start video

Swim Report – June 20, 2015 – Last Spring meetup

A quick swim report since we finally got a sunny day, and I’m not going to stay inside and squander the first official day of Summer!

We had yet another fantastic turnout for our last official Spring meetup, including several Lake Monsters who we haven’t seen since last October. The lake temp came in at a crisp 60.6F – almost the same as the air temp. And while we didn’t get a full sunrise due to the overcast skies, the sun did peek out very briefly and gave us a nice sendoff to our swim.

I got in an out-and-back mile, which was a bit more challenging on the way back due to a slight southbound current. But everyone had a blast on the second longest day of the year!

Lake Monsters gathering




Class picture at the beach!


Lake Monster action shot


Chris, Lake Monster 355


Swim Report – June 13, 2015 – Morning Fog Edition

Quite a crowd of swimmers showed up at L1 just before 5:15am. And for those that were training for an upcoming Alcatraz swim, it was the ideal setting!

The angry yellow and red bands of thunderstorms that showed up on the weather radar were fortunately passing to the south of us when we arrived at the swim site. But we still had to contend with some of the peripheral effects of the inclement weather – namely a heavy fog layer that all but obliterated the skyline. However, we got a surprising bonus from Mother Nature that greatly enhanced our swim experience.

For this first time since last October, the meetup lake temperature came in at above 60F. I say meetup temperature as I have heard rumors that it flared past that coveted mark earlier in the week. But since we only care about the conditions that are there when we’re on site, this was a welcome first for the year!

After the typical socializing/procrastinating, we all got in the murky lake and started the journey south to Oak Street Beach. Visibility was good in-swim, but it was impossible to sight off of the skyline. That really wasn’t much of an issue since the swells were minor (less than two feet) and you could clearly see the side wall the entire time.

I finally caught up with some of the others at the beach. I snapped a few shots, and we all turned around and headed back. By the time we arrived back at L1, the air temperature had risen a bit from the rather chilly 56F that greeted us at sunrise. This, coupled with the 60.4F lake temp, was probably why I had no afterdrop at all despite swimming sans wetsuit.

Hope to see more of you out there soon!

L1 at 5:15am



A surprisingly large crowd on a chilly, foggy morning!


Lake Monsters in their element



Beach shots




Erick, Lake Monster 354


The sun finally peeks through the shroud


Today’s video!

Swim Report – June 6, 2015 – Spring Chill

There really is no way to spin it – 5:15am is dreadfully early in the morning. Plus, the absolute last thing you want to do at that early hour on a Saturday is to jump into a cold, wavy lake. But we Lake Monsters are a hardy lot!

Ma Nature gave us a smackdown this morning with overcast skies, 53.8F water temperatures, and 2-4 foot swells that walloped us the entire time in the lake. Nevertheless, an intrepid crew of ten Lake Monsters tempted fate and got in a swim just after a very fleeting but resplendent sunrise.

The half mile to Oak Street Beach was actually fairly straightforward since we were swimming with the current. The way back to L1, though, was quite an ordeal. Being a slower swimmer, I was one of the last out of the water. So I got the benefit of all that extra time in the frigid lake (lucky me!).

A few of us stuck around for a while after the swim and socialized. By then the sun had started to come out more. Plus we had plenty of time (it was still only 6:30am, after all). But I was still in the throes of a persistent afterdrop, so I hightailed it back to my car to ratchet up the heat.

Yet another fun adventure out at the lake!

L1 at 5:15am


A brief sunrise



The skyline in-swim


At Oak Street Beach



Jim, Lake Monster 351


Tom, Lake Monster 352


Getting sunnier!


OWC’s avian fan club


Today’s video clips