Swim Report – April 22, 2017 – Homecoming

The 50F+ lake temp brought out some Lake Monsters that we haven’t seen since the fall. And we all sure had a vigorous swim in the choppy lake!

These earlier mornings can be deceiving. You time it so you can get out to the swim site by sunrise, but you find yourself stepping on the gas as soon as you see the pre-sunrise colors blooming over the eastern horizon. Such was the case on Lake Shore Drive at about 5:45am!

After I parked my car, I grabbed my gear and jogged out to L1 so as not to miss any more of the show. The lakefront was somewhat of a mess with some heavy chops and a sustained 10mph wind from the east. But the lake came in at a fiery 52.7F, so we all geared up and got in right away.

For the first time this year, I went with just my jammers and neoprene cap – no gloves, booties, hood, or dive shirt. It was a bit bracing at first, but I fortunately had a very thick layer of shea butter on that really helped stave off the cold.

I swam out to the 1/4 mile mark and back, but it sure felt more like an entire mile swim given the strong chops. Plus the swells had intensified on the way back making things much more challenging on the swim north!

Still, despite all these trials, it was a great day to be out at the beach!

Sunrise sequence

Swim start

The Spring crew post-swim

Swim Report – April 8, 2017 – Great Awakening

A short swim report as this is our first really awesome weekend and I want to spend as much time outside as possible…

In sum, the lake came in at a rather tepid 43.7F which means we are likely at the early stages of the Spring turnover. Given the lakefront advisories this week due to high waves, we weren’t sure what to expect. But the weather gods smiled on us and gave us near perfect swimming conditions!

Sunrise sequence


At the halfway point

Today’s video compilation

(Real) Swim Report – April 1, 2017 – Happy April!

After a tempestuous beginning, Spring 2017 calmed down a bit on Saturday and finally gave us a great morning!

Although the air was still a tad nippy at 38F, the lake came in at a wondrous 41.9F. Plus we had plenty of very intense sunshine that not only helped stave off the chill during the swim but also greatly diminished the dreaded afterdrop.

As with last week, I went with my truncated gear setup. But this time I was able to get in a full 1/2 mile despite some slight but annoying swells.

Bottom line, whether you swam in the lake or just got out to the lakefront, it was a perfect way to start off a new month!



The April crew


Another one of the mallard

(Non) Swim Report – April 1, 2017 – Danger Zone

A very short swim report as there is not much to tell. Despite the rumors of a nice morning, L1 was an unholy mess. And by unholy, I mean more than just some nasty waves!

Suffice to say, we’re going to have to start changing the way we think about swimming where we do…


An unexpected visitor

Swim Report – March 25, 2017 – Spring Swells

The transition to Spring is never a pretty process. Once the days lengthen beyond 12 hours and the lake temperature shatters the 40F ceiling, newly awakened forces unceremoniously dethrone Old Man Winter. But being the cranky sort, he tends to throw a juvenile tantrum in the week or so following the vernal equinox…

While I was hoping for the 70F air temperature we had on Friday, I readily accepted the 42F weather that Ma Nature gave us on Saturday morning. And imagine my utter glee when the lake temperature came in almost exactly the same at 41.4F!

Because there was a sustained 10mph east wind, intermittent drizzle, and some rather vigorous swells, I went with the short sleeve neoprene top, shorts, gloves, boots, and hood – my pared down winter gear setup. I also had a healthy layer of shea butter underneath these items as well as on the exposed areas of my arms, legs, neck, and face. As such, I was able to tolerate the water conditions very well – not to mention that I had extremely supple skin afterwards…

I got in about 1/3 of a mile overall. I was planning on going a bit further to get in 1/2 mile, but the swells had intensified while I was in the water. And since I was swimming closer to the wall, I did not want to risk getting pushed too close to the side.

After I got out, I quickly changed back into my dry clothes. Even though I had to endure that pesky breeze during this process, it was nowhere near as uncomfortable as it has been during these past few months.

But the best part was that the dreaded afterdrop was greatly diminished – i.e. I wasn’t in a frozen zombie-like trance during the walk from L1 to my car. And that alone tells me that Winter is gone for good!

Foggy skyline

Dreary swim site

At the 1/8 mile “swimmers shrine”

Heading home

Almost there!

In-swim video

Swim Report – March 12, 2017 – March Freeze

The best thing about these late winter swims is when you first notice that the water on your exposed skin is no longer painful – only somewhat uncomfortable. This is a sure sign that Spring is within striking distance…

Two of us met out at L1 at 7:00am where the air temperature was a biting 24F. The L1 area was crisscrossed with fishing lines from some coho salmon fishermen, so we relocated down to L5 where we weren’t in any danger of running into any stray hooks.

The official lake temp came in at 39F – much higher than I was expecting. And since we had lots of sunshine and a relatively calm lake, I decided to go with my thermo rashguard, shorts, and short sleeve top versus a fullsuit.

I stayed close to the wall for the entirety of the swim and did about 1/3 in total. I was quite comfortable in the water, and my hands and feet actually warmed up once no longer subjected to the frigid air temperature.

Post-swim was the usual mad scramble to get out of the wet swim gear and into dry clothes. And because the air temperature was so much colder, I ended up with a much more vigorous afterdrop that started on the way back to my car and only ended when I finally got my omelette at Elly’s.

Hope to see you all out there real soon!

L1 at dawn

Reeling one in!

A frozen L5


Our own private ice skating ribbon

Sunrise video

Swim Report – February 18, 2017 – Early Spring?

I parked by Clark Street and was instantly facing a dilemma. On one hand, I needed my coffee after a restless night of sleep. On the other hand, I could see some amazing pre-sunrise colors already appearing on the eastern horizon.

Coffee won out, so I really had to hustle to get out to L1 to in time for the sunrise!

I knew it was going be a great one as I could see several people out there already with very large and sophisticated cameras. This group has a second sense about predicting the better mornings. Fortunately, I got to the lake front just in time for the grand entrance!

I took several shots before the sun disappeared behind a cloud bank. While it was temporarily obscured, we started getting our gear together to get into the 36.4F lake. We lucked out in that we had a very calm lake with just slight wind gusts. Plus, once the super bright sun reappeared a few minutes later, we had ideal swim conditions.

As far as gear, I went with my gloves, boots, hood, and neoprene shorts, and neoprene short sleeve top. I also added a short sleeve thermo shirt underneath it all so I could swim a bit more comfortably. This turned out to be the perfect set up as I was able to get in a 1/2 mile without any real discomfort.

Post-swim was somewhat of a challenge. While the 54F air temperature and abundant sunshine really took the edge off of the afterdrop, it was still a bit more lengthy than I expected. This was due to me spending so much more time in the water compared with previous weeks.

But, of course, I’m not complaining at all about any of this!

Sunrise sequence

L1 visitors

Plane, moon, skyscraper shot

Pre-swim puppies

The sun reappears!

Lake Monsters in their element

Swim Report – February 4, 2017 – Plate Glass Edition

Mid-winter mornings in Chicago are crisp, cold, and clear, and today was no exception…

The air temperature out at L1 came in at a brisk 18F. The lake reading was 33.4F with perfectly calm conditions. The only glitch was that we had a stubborn and highly mobile ice field congregating around our swim spot. Fortunately, there was enough clear open water by the North Avenue Beach wall.

I went with the fullsuit this time, and that turned out to be a very good idea as I had to do “icebreaker duty” for about 10 meters so we could have a navigable path to the open water. The ice itself was much thicker (and sharper) than it looked from outside the lake, so I took my time clearing a path so as not to slice up my relatively new wetsuit.

Once in the open area, we were able to do laps and get in a decent workout. But the ever shifting ice soon closed in our swim lane, and we decided to call it a day.

Sunrise shots

Water level shots

View from below

Fun in the sun (and ice)!

Swim Report – January 28, 2017 – Back to the Freezer

Fred, Steve, and I all met out at L1 on Saturday morning to see if we could get in one last swim of January. We were fortunate in that the swim area was completely clear and calm. However, we certainly did not have the stellar conditions of last week!

The surface temperature of the lake came in at 35F, which would later be adjusted to an official in-swim reading of 34F. The air temperature, though, came in at a biting 24F with a rather cutting breeze plaguing us while out of the water.

Because I wanted to stay in the water longer this time, I went with a full wetsuit. As such, I was able to do a 1/2 mile quite comfortably with only a minimal afterdrop. Also, I did the old scuba trick of adding hot water (actually hot tea) into my gloves before putting them on, and this made an enormous difference in swim!

Since I haven’t been doing any lengthy swims with the fullsuit, I had forgotten how much it encumbers one’s range of motion in the arms. So after finishing my 1/2 mile, I was quite fatigued in my neck and shoulders.

And you all wonder why I prefer to swim without a wetsuit!

A free and clear swim area!

Prepping for lake entry

Steve and Fred at the swim start

Swim Report – January 21, 2017 – NAB for the Win!

We really lucked out with the air temperature yesterday. It was already 46F at 7:00am, and the walk out to L1 from my parked car felt more like an April morning than a January one. But my hopes were instantly dashed the moment I exited the pedestrian tunnel out by the Chess Pavilion.

L1 was once again a complete bust on Saturday morning. The southeast winds had blown all the ice up from Ohio Street Beach, and there was no swimmable area anywhere around Oak Street Beach. So after some brief discussion, we decided to give North Avenue Beach a shot. And fortunately for us, things were much better at that site!

Because of the breakwater to the south, NAB didn’t get any of the ice floes that were plaguing L1. So we had quite a spacious area of open water to play in – and we took full advantage of it!

I went with a long sleeve neoprene top this time, and it worked out great with the hood, glove, boots, and neoprene shorts. The only quibble I had was that the top rode up a bit on my torso and exposed a small area of my waist to the water during the swim. So my waistline felt like it was being sliced with razor blades for the first several minutes or so.

I managed to get in around 1/3 of a mile. I was quite comfortable with that gear setup, and I probably could have gone farther if I had been in better swim shape. Still, my fingertips were getting somewhat uncomfortable in their gloves by the end of the swim, so I’m glad I didn’t stay in the water any longer.

Almost on cue, the sun broke out over the clouds just as we were stepping out of the water. This made for a very pleasant post swim transition period, and I barely had any afterdrop at all.

Bottom line, while we may get some more colder weather over the next month or so, we’re pretty much “over the hump” now that the days are getting longer!

L1 at Daybreak

North Avenue Beach

Gearing up


An ethereal L1