Swim Report – February 28, 2015 – Ice Capade Edition

Dave scouted out the lakefront yesterday, and the only area with open water was the Montrose south wall. But even with that potential, there was still a 15+ foot ice shelf along the shore that would require some heavy duty labor to gain access to the swimmable lake.

Fortunately for us, we had our trusty pickaxe…

I met up with Mike and Marton this morning out at the south wall, and the air temp was all of 7F. Luckily for us, there was no wind, and the sun was out in force. So after scoping out various potential entry points, we settled on our regular ladder and started to clear the swim area.

We managed to clear the ladder and create a hole just off the wall. But the remaining shelf was too thick to break through. So we attached a safety line to the ladder and tossed it out to the open area before suiting up and getting in.

We climbed out onto the shelf and crawled about 10 about feet out before the ice became thin enough to break through. From that point, it was an easy chore clearing the thinner ice layers in order to get access to the open water.

I hung out near the edge of the ice shelf and snapped some shots of Mike and Marton as they navigated the obstacle course. I caught up with them about 1/4 west where the lake had completely frozen over. After a bit of effort, we climbed on top of this much more extensive ice shelf and did some exploring.

After our fingers started to get really cold in the frigid air, we jumped back in the lake to “warm up” in the 32.5F water. And believe it or not, you could actually feel the temperature increase once we got back in the water!

We made it back to our entry point and used the safety line to facilitate getting back onto the ice shelf. All in all, another really amazing adventure out at the lakefront!

Last sunrise of February

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Clearing the lake access point

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At the halfway point

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Mike navigating the ice shelf

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A unique vantage point of the city

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Mike and Marton at the swim finish

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Video at the halfway point

Swim Report – February 14, 2015 – Big Chill on Valentine’s Day

Given the frigid 17F air temperature, we decided to head out to the Montrose south wall in lieu of L1. And as it turned out, that was the best thing we could have done!

I met up with Mike and Marton out at MSW just before sunrise (7:00am). We scoped out the swim area, and there was a sheet of ice extending from the wall out about 6 feet. However, there was an enticing a patch of open water just beyond.

As we deliberated how we were going to punch through the ice, a northeast wind miraculously arrived and started to blow it all south. Talk about great timing!

We suited up as quickly as possible and climbed down into the lake. We swam east, slightly into the wind, and made it about 1/5 mile before heading back. The return half of the swim was a bit more challenging due to all the ice forming on our gloves, booties, and hoods.

But that’s what happens when you swim in a 32F lake that is literally in the process of freezing!

The most brutal part of the swim was actually getting out of the water. By the time we exited, we had snow added into the 20mph sustained wind – all of which created a veritable blizzard in the parking lot. In fact, the below-zero wind chill froze all the water on our neoprene making it next to impossible to get our gloves off.

I furtively clawed at my right glove for about five minutes before I was finally able to free my right hand. It was only then that I could get my keys out of my jacket and get access to my car. I didn’t even bother trying to get out of my frozen wetsuit – I just got in, slammed the door shut, and cranked up the heat!

With a little logistical difficulty, I changed out of my frozen neoprene in the front seat and got into some dry clothes while the car warmed up. I didn’t have much of an afterdrop this time (thank goodness), so it was a pretty uneventful ride home.

Once again, we beat the storm!

Clear swim lane at MSW

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Marton prepping for a swim

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Mike and Marton

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Encased in ice!

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At the halfway point

(Belated) Swim Report – January 31, 2015 – Calm before the storm

We lucked out again last Saturday with the weather and lake conditions. There were some slight swells at North Avenue Beach, but L1 was completely calm. Once we cleared off L1, we were able to get in a swim up to the 1/8 mile mark until we ran into some ice sheets.

Another perfect morning for a swim – and we got in the lake before the huge blizzard moved into town!

Sunrise at North Avenue Beach

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Last sunrise of January

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Swim Report – January 24, 2015 – Return to L1!

As I sit here on Sunday morning looking out at the wet snow and biting wind, it’s quite apparent that we sure lucked out again on Saturday!

When I arrived at L1, Marton was already out there chipping away at the ice-encased ladder. But for that obstacle, the entire swim area was about as good as it gets – flat, clear, calm, and sunny. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring out my pickaxe, so we were able to clear off the ladder fairly quickly.

By the time we actually got in the lake, the sun had emerged from behind the cloud bank. So we had a fantastic accompaniment to our swim the entire time we were in the water.

I swam pretty close to the wall and made it out to the 1/4 mile point before turning back. The first couple of minutes were a bit of a challenge thanks to the low level “ice cream headache” I had to endure with my face in the water. But after that, I was quite comfortable throughout the swim.

I made it back to L1 just as Fred and Marton were finishing up changing out of their gear. Again, having the sunshine out (along with very little wind) really made a difference once we got out of the 34F water.

Overall, it was an ideal morning out at the lakefront. And if you didn’t get in a swim, I sure hope you at least got outside!

L1 iced over

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[photo credit: Marton]

Clearing the way!

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[photo credit: Marton]

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Sunrise!

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At the halfway point

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One last look back

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Sunrise Video

Swim Report – January 17, 2015 – Early Spring at North Avenue Beach

I parked temporarily in the bus drop off lane at NAB since I didn’t want to enter the lot and get stuck with a $10 tab in the event the swim was a bust (yes, I am notoriously frugal). Fortunately, while L1 was an inaccessible nightmare, we lucked out big time at NAB…

I arrived at L1 about 15 minutes early, and our preferred swim spot was still largely iced over. The south/southwest wind was beginning to clear things up a bit, but the swim area itself was still choked with closely packed ice floes. And even if the area was clear, all the ladders were so iced over that access was darn near impossible.

In other words, even if you did manage to get in (or fall in) the lake by L1, you weren’t getting out unless you swam all the way to Oak Street Beach!

Disappointed but not deterred, I went over to NAB and climbed out past the “ice dunes” to scope out the lakefront there. Much to my delight, the area was free and clear – and even sheltered from the wind! By that time, Marton and Fred had arrived, and we found a decent lake access point at the south end of the beach.

I suited up and tested out the ice layer leading out to the open water. Luckily, it was quite thick and easily supported my weight (we had a safety rope handy just in case I “punched through”). When I eased into the water, it was waist deep – so perfect entry conditions.

The sun was already out in force when we got in the lake, and that made everything much easier. All in all, we did about 1/4 mile distance. However, this was occasionally interrupted up by some spontaneous exploration of some of the larger ice floes.

The great thing about mid-January is that the days are getting noticeably longer and the skies are not as overcast as they are in December and November. Also, despite the colder air and water temperatures, you’re more acclimated to the outside climate – so it’s actually much easier to swim this time of year.

So while Spring doesn’t officially arrive for two more months, we’re already “over the hump” with regards to lake acclimation. Because of this phenomenon, we consider mid to late January to be “Lake Monster Spring.”

The pool is open – get on out to the beach!

L1 swim area still iced over

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NAB area free and clear!

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Suiting up

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Water level shots

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Fred on ice

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Today’s video compilation

Swim Report – January 3, 2015 – North Avenue Beach!

The great thing about freezing rain is that it is 32F – the exact same temperature as the lake this time of year. This means we don’t have issues with our goggles fogging up during the swim!

Marton and I met out at L1 at 7:30am earlier today, and L1 was a completely iced over – well past where the buoys normally are during the warmer months. We deliberated going up to Montrose Beach, but we instead decided to check out North Avenue Beach. And lucky for us, NAB was clear!

We were already suited up (I was, at least, since Marton went sans wetsuit), so we quickly got in the lake and waded out to where the depth was chest-level. A slight but sustained wind from the south/southeast gave us a bit of a challenge on the return leg of the swim. However, I was surprised at how comfortable I was in the colder water as compared with some of our swims in December.

It looks as if I am finally acclimating to Old Man Winter!

Ladder 1 iced in

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But NAB free and clear!

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Pre-swim video clips

New Ice Monster!

Dave took his sister, Anne, out to our Montrose swim site yesterday were she officially earned her much coveted Ice Monster designation. Way to keep it in the family, Dave!

In-swim selfie

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Anne, Ice Monster 16 (congrats!)

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Swim Report – December 28, 2014 – Miami Beach Edition

A belated report since I just got back to Chicago yesterday afternoon, so I’ll make this quick!

I had a chance to meet up with the Nadadores swim group last Sunday while down in South Florida, and boy was it ever an adventure! The water temperature came in at an amazing 76F, and the weather was – of course – as good as it gets. But the idyllic azure Atlantic ocean had some hidden surprises for us…

Before the swim, Diego scouted out the area between the beach and the buoy. While there were some scattered jellyfish farther out, it all looked pretty feasible at first. So we waded out past the breaking waves and started to swim south parallel to the shore.

We were about 10 minutes into the swim when we started to run into denser and denser clusters of jellyfish. I was able to dodge them all thanks to the added buoyancy of the salt water. But we soon arrived at a veritable jellyfish wall that was completely impassible.

We turned around and headed back the same route. However, more and more jellyfish had floated in with the surf and now greeted us in our previously clear swim route. Once again, I managed to contort myself around them and avoid any tentacles, but I didn’t want to press my luck any further.

So in the end, even though it was a short swim, it certainly made up for it in intensity!

A big shout out to Diego and the other Nadadores. I hope to see all of you again soon!

Swim start

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Moon jellyfish (sorry for the bad shot – I was moving away pretty quickly when I took it!)

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Pre-swim (pre-jellyfish) video

Swim Report – December 20, 2014 – Nick’s Sendoff

Five intrepid swimmers turned out to get in one last swim before the end of autumn. And lucky for us, Ma Nature gave us great conditions!

The lake came in at a crisp 34F – almost the same as the air temperature. And just like last week it was perfectly calm. So it was relatively easy to manage in full neoprene (after the initial shock of the cold water surging into our wetsuits, that is).

We all swam out about 50 meters past the orange post (around the 1/4 mile mark), so we got in a good 1/2 mile in the calm but bracing lake. As usual, the only real areas of discomfort were our fingertips. My Dry Five gloves worked okay during the swim, but I’m starting to think that I may need to get a new pair come January (OWC donation hint).

There were two significant milestones this morning. First, Nick is moving north to Milwaukee and will not be a regular at L1 for a while. Quite a bummer, as we will surely miss him!

Second, by getting in a 1/2 mile swim in sub-35F water, Fred secured a much-coveted Ice Monster number. So he is now #15 in that elite group!

So as you can see, despite all the challenges that come with being on the verge of the Winter solstice, you still have no excuse for not coming out!

Ice Monsters gearing up

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Nick’s final L1 descent (for a while at least!)

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Heading south!

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Post-swim champagne

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A surprise visit from Eddie

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So long, Nick!

Swim Report – December 13, 2014 – A Brief Reprieve (and Experiment!)

The winter power trio (Marton, Fred, and yours truly) met out at L1 at 7:30am to get in a swim while the weather held out. Unlike last week, we had quiet and calm conditions – both inside and outside of the lake.

The air temperature was the real star this morning coming in at a fiery 42F. The lake, quite surprisingly, measured almost 37F – a slight uptick from last week. But best of all, we had no wind and a perfectly flat lake!

Given this fortuitous set of weather conditions, I opted to forego the full suit in favor of just my hood, gloves, booties, jammers, and short sleeve thermo rash guard. I also wore a pair of neoprene shorts – having learned a valuable lesson last year that one must adequately insulate all extremities (you figure it out…).

I won’t mince words. The first two minutes in this set up were pure torture on my uncovered arms and legs. And while the thermo shirt did offer significant protection, it was by no means as insulating to my core as neoprene!

Nevertheless, I pounded through the pain and eventually reached an equilibrium point where the frigid lake no longer bothered me. I went out to the orange post, which is almost exactly 1000 feet from L1 per Google Earth, before heading back. So in total, I got in just under 40% of a mile in these ideal swim conditions.

As usual this time of year, we didn’t dither around after getting out of the water. I changed into my winter clothes as quickly as possible and trotted back to my car to crank up the heat. Fortunately, I was able to find a spot on the first street west of L1 – so I managed to save $10 as well!

Morning skyline

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December beach party!

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Pre-swim video