Swim Report – July 13, 2014 – After the Storms

The forecast was sketchy for Sunday morning given the intermittent thunderstorms. But they had all but passed come 5:30am. Nevertheless, Lake Michigan had a BIG surprise in store for us early morning swimmers!

The walk out to L1 from North Avenue was very pleasant given the balmy but not too humid 75F air temperature. And as I came out of the pedestrian tunnel on the other side of the chess pavilion, I could tell that we were in for quite a spectacular sunrise at the world’s greatest swim site.

While waiting for Mr. Sol to make his appearance, I took the water temperature reading. Much to my astonishment, it came in at 57.8F (surface). I took several additional readings while other people showed up, and the lake still held firm just above 57F.

Bottom line, the strong winds from the previous night’s thunderstorms had mixed up the colder thermocline layer and brought the frigid waters closer to the surface!

After catching Nature’s show, we all got in the frigid lake. Our single saving grace was that the water was perfectly calm which allowed for flat and fast swimming – which was great since none of us wanted to spend any more time in the lake than necessary!

I did the out-and-back to Oak Street Beach sans wetsuit, but I did cheat a bit with a neoprene cap. There was also no stopping at the halfway point as I did not want to lapse into “afterdrop” mode until I was back at L1.

The return leg of the swim was by far the most challenging given that even more colder water was moving in towards the shoreline. In fact, we all found ourselves swimming through intermittent bands of frigid water that were likely 6F – 8F less than the already cold surface temperature – the worst of which was located just off of L1!

In the end, though, we all made it through unscathed. Plus we experienced the added benefit of now being completely wide awake and alert thanks to the cold shock of the lake.

Aren’t you envious that you missed out on all this?

Changing colors






Lake Monsters





Katie, Lake Monster 315


DiDi, Lake Monster 316


Pre-sunrise video

Swim Report – July 5, 2014 – Morning fireworks edition

If you missed out on any of Friday night’s fireworks shows, you had a chance to catch nature’s version early Saturday morning. And it was a much better show, in my opinion!

Around ten of us gathered at L1 shortly before the sun made its grand appearance. However, the pre-dawn skies were already brilliantly lit up in various shades of red. So we knew we were in for quite a display. And Ma Nature, as always, did not disappoint!

At or around 5:21am, a fiery reddish orange orb announced its presence on the eastern horizon and quickly rose to capture everyone’s attention and imagination. We delayed our swim start a bit to take in the show, and we eventually got around to getting in the lake so that we could enjoy the sunrise at water level.

The lake had cooled off a bit from last week, coming in at a near perfect 65F. We had a variable northbound wind creating some chops that were a slight challenge to swim in during the voyage south. But the current assisted swim back to L1 more than made up for it.

I stuck around afterwards and took a leisurely swim out to the buoys to check out the skyline and lakefront path from that perspective. I had my rescue buoy with me, so I could very easily have floated out there for hours – and in fact was quite tempted to do just that! But other plans and commitments put a kibosh on that idea. Perhaps next Saturday?

Daybreak at L1





In-swim shot near Oak Street Beach


Annabel, Lake Monster 314 (congrats!)


The Twins make an appearance


Views from the bouy



Another look

Swim Report – June 28, 0214 – In the chops

The days are starting to get shorter, so I bumped up our swim start time to 5:30am. We had a great turnout at such an early time slot, including several new Lake Monsters!

The lake temp came in at a scalding hot 68.8F, and we had a north wind that created some rather annoying chops. Still, it was a perfect morning to get in the lake, and we managed to finish our swim just as the sun disappeared behind an encroaching cloud bank.

(No big narrative today – time to get outside again and enjoy these longer days of early summer!)

Lake Monsters at daybreak


In-swim shot on the way to the beach


Group shot at the halfway point


Hannah, Lake Monster 311, hailing all the way from California!


Patrick, Lake Monster 312


Chas’ sister, whose name I totally forgot, Lake Monster 313 (<-- please send me the details - sorry about that!!!)


Swim video!

Swim Report – June 21, 2014 – Summer Solstice Edition

About 15 swimmers showed up for our last swim of Spring and first swim of Summer.  And with the official solstice taking place at 5:51am, we were able to combine both into one single workout!

The lake temp came in at a balmy 64F which helped make up for the damp and foggy 58F air temperature and a complete lack of sunshine.  Undeterred by the poor visibility and increasingly choppy water, we all got in the gray-green water.

The fog was very heavy, and the beach only came into view during the last 1/8 mile.  So sighting was pretty much an exercise in futility, and the only real way to gauge one’s progress and whereabouts was to use the east wall as a guide.

Nevertheless, we all braved the cold and spooky lake and started off the summer with plenty of bragging leverage over the countless legions of “fair weather” swimmers (you know who you are)!

P.S. Congrats to all the new Lake Monsters (or should I say “Fog Monsters”?)!

P.P.S.  Yet another great turnout for our second OWC Mindshare clinic!




Swimmers in the mist



Into the drink


Jason at the beach (just at the start of summer!)


Paul, Lake Monster 305


Jeannie, Lake Monster 306


Sarah, Lake Monster 307


Allison, Lake Monster 308


Patti, Lake Monster 309


Chris, Lake Monster 301


First video footage of the Summer!

Swim Report – June 14, 2014 – Late Spring bliss…

After a chaotic week where the air temperatures dipped into the low 50F’s, we lucked on out Saturday morning with a nice, sunny day – and a relatively warm lake.

The official water temperature measured just under 62F at 5:15am, but the lake conditions were about as ideal as you could get.  So after the usual socializing/procrastinating phase, we all slipped into the lake rather quickly.

Given the flat and calm water, the swim south to the beach was quick and efficient.  We had a steady north wind to contend with on the way back which gave us a slight current.  But we still made pretty good time on the return to L1.

What made the morning especially significant, though, was the presence of several new Lake Monsters – including Lake Monster #300!  As a celebration of this milestone, we gave out a new pair of Barracuda Triton goggles.

[NOTE: For those of you interested in ordering Barracuda swim products at a special discount, be sure to check out openwaterchicago.com/deals]

‘Nuff said.  Here are the pics and video:



Pool party at 5:15am



Sunrise at water level


Renee, Lake Monster 299


Geneva, Lake Monster 300 [yay, we hit the 300 mark!]


Amanda, Lake Monster 301


Greg, Lake Monster 302


Tony, Lake Monster 303


An artistic shot of Rick, Lake Monster 304 (Photo: Josh Jones)


Sunrise video!

Swim Report – June 7, 2014 – Dangerously enjoyable

According to the Chicago Tribune, 63F is “dangerously cold” water. However, Lake Monsters seem to thrive in these conditions…

As we edge closer and closer to the summer solstice, the sunrises (and swim times) grow ever earlier. And yet we have been getting more and more people showing up in the wee hours of the morning to partake in our weekly ritual of awesomeness. So much for logic!

We had about 20 swimmers show up at L1 just before 5:15am on Saturday, and they were all treated to a magnificent show once the sun started to blaze above the eastern horizon. As noted above, the lake came in at a surprisingly warm 63F with perfectly flat and clear swimming conditions. So as soon as the sun was fully out in force, we all got in the lake.

In the absence of any chops or currents, the swim to and from Oak Street Beach was an easy glide through the water. As such, I was able to work on my bilateral breathing – something which proved to be indispensable given the blinding glare of the sunrise whenever I took and eastward-facing breath.

A group of us met briefly at Oak Street Beach before heading back to L1. I was a little chilled during the first 10 minutes after getting out of the water. But I didn’t really have a noticable afterdrop this time. So I can accurately say that Summer has finally arrived at L1 (in more ways than one)!

(P.S. – congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!)



Checking out the sunrise


First brave swimmer!


They’re off!


Michele, Lake Monster 294


Steve, Lake Monster 295


Cady, Lake Monster 296


Jim, Lake Monster 297


Luke, Lake Monster 298


Video at the beach!

Swim Report – May 31, 2014 – Last swim of the month!

I arrived at L1 a bit ahead of the 5:15am swim time, and there were already some people (non-swimmers) out at the south wall of North Avenue Beach gathering to watch the sunrise. So I sipped on the marginally palatable coffee I bought at Dunkin Donuts (the only place open at 4:30am) and waited for the other swimmers to arrive…

The lake temperature came in at an amazing 61F with exceptionally clear water and a very slight southbound current. Several new and veteran Lake Monsters converged on the swim site just before sunrise. We sat around and watched the show for a few minutes and eventually all got in the lake.

A phalanx of faster swimmers shot ahead towards the Oak Street Beach while I stayed behind for a bit and took some in-swim shots. I caught up with the group at the shoreline, and I snapped off a few more pics before we all headed back to L1.

It was a bit more of an effort swimming north due to the current, but certainly not an impediment to any level of swimmer. All in all, another perfect morning for a swim and a great way to end the month of May!

Gathering of Lake Monsters


Yet another amazing sunrise


Near perfect conditions at L1!


Group picture at the beach


Back home!


Chris, Lake Monster 290 (hailing all the way from the UK – congrats!)


Emily, Lake Monster 291 (yay!)


JB, Lake Monster 292 (way to go!)


Jay, Lake Monster 293 (woo hoo!)


Today’s video compilation

Swim Report – May 24, 2014 – New Lake Monster sightings!

Yet another picture perfect late Spring morning out at L1.  Where were you?!?

Just a quick report today as I’m getting back outside to enjoy the weekend.  The lake temperature came in at 58F with overabundant sunshine and very high water clarity.  

Thanks to everyone for coming out, and congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!

Moon and Venus




Our world famous swim spot


Heading down to the beach


Jason, Megan, and Chris


Marissa, Lake Monster 286


Adam, Lake Monster 287


Megan, Lake Monster 288


Jackie, Lake Monster 289


Pre-swim video

Swim Report – May 17, 2014 – Mother Nature pushes back

Ma Nature must have decided that we were getting a little too presumptuous over the past few weeks. So she presented us with a 48F lake on Saturday morning just to remind us that she is still in charge! A scolding well taken…

Despite a crisp 50F air temperature at 5:30am, we had a great turnout out at the old swimming spot. Nick, Martin, and Jason were back as well as Obed and two new Lake Monsters, Ashley and Jesse. We didn’t get much of a sunrise due to a wall of clouds on the horizon, but Mr. Sol peeked through an aperture for a few minutes just before we got in the water.

The surface lake temp came in at 51F, which was substantially lower than last week. And as we found out later after getting the readouts from our watch thermometers, the actual water temp was much closer to 48F.

Despite the pushback by Mother nature, we all got in the lake and managed to get in as much swimming as possible while the otherwise near perfect conditions persisted. I completed the out-and-back to the beach. But in hindsight, I would have been a lot more comfortable – and would have avoided a rather nasty afterdrop – were I to have opted for a bit more neoprene.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful morning out at L1, and it was great to see more familiar faces out there as well as some new Lake Monsters!

Brief sunrise


Cold plunge


Jesse, Lake Monster 284 (congrats!)


Ashley, Lake Monster 285 (congrats!)


One last look back


Pre-swim video

Swim Report – May 10, 2014 – Spring Reunion!

I’ll keep this quick since this has been our first really good weekend of the year – and I’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as possible!

Bottom line, another fantastic morning with near perfect swimming conditions. The lake temp came in at just under 55F, but we had clear skies and flat water all the way to the beach and back. So swimming in just a cap and jammers was really pretty easy.

The warmer weather also brought out some returning Lake Monsters, including Kaley, Chris, Brett, and Joel. It was great to see more and more swimmers coming out! The big question is, where were you?

Sunrise shots




Lake Monsters!


At the beach


L1 artistic shot


The scene at 5:30am