Swim Report – June 13, 2021 – Inferno Edition

When we are this close to the Summer solstice with the sun rising at 5:14am, I normally rely on a much more crisp June lake to wake me up after a night of compromised sleep. But also, it was not meant to be yesterday morning!

I got out to L1 just past 5:00am, and the lake was choppy with some smaller but increasing swells. So I wasn’t able to get an initial surface temperature reading. But a quick “hand and foot” test told me that something was drastically different as the water didn’t seem anywhere near as bracing as it was the last week. I figured that this was just the surface – i.e. there would almost certainly be a nice, biting thermocline to contend with once I get in the lake. But given that the lake was very agitated, I doubted that this would be the case. So I threw caution to the wind and went in with just my jammers and goggles (i.e. no cap).

My assumptions were correct – the lake temperature came in at just above 74F all throughout the swim. I even took several dives down to the bottom to check if there were any variances. But the thermometer read 74F at every level!

I ended up doing a 1/2 mile like last week, but this time involved a large loop with a turnaround at the 1/4 mile point. Truth be told, I preferred to just stay in the lake and play around in the big “pool area” between the shoreline and the buoys 1/4 mile out. And even though the swells had picked up, they weren’t really bothersome since the lake was so warm!

So I hope you wall were able to get out on Sunday and sample a very rare event. I can tell you from experience that this is unseasonably high, and the Chicago lakefront is sure to regress to the mean any day now. And to be honest, I’ll be just as happy when it does!

L1 at 5:00am
Sunrise shots!
Adrian, Lake Monster 529 (congrats!)

Swim Report – October 27, 2019 – Out Like a Lion

We had three tranquil weeks out at L1, so we were long overdue for an abrupt change. Fortunately, we only had to contend with a mildly irritated lake versus a full on rage that sometimes happens around the end of October!

After bellyaching for months (years?) about the slippery pavement around L1, I finally decided to take action on Sunday morning. I brought out a hard bristle cleaning broom to scrape away the slick biofilm that has been plaguing us all year. I was hoping for another week with a calm lake so I could clear things up for everyone. Unfortunately, we had 1-2 foot swells that made it very difficult to properly scour the pavement. But I was able to clear some of it away, and I got a pretty good read on the lake temperature through my exposed feet. Bottom line, no searing pain, so the water temperature was likely still in the 50F+ range!

Encouraged by this data point (and by a clear, sunny sky), I opted to go with just my jammers and neoprene cap. I also applied a healthy layer of shea butter which made a world of difference in swim. So after much procrastination, I got in at L2 where the rough pavement allowed for more traction getting into the lake.

I did my usual out and back to the 1/4 mile mark (1/2 mile total) and was quite relieved at how “effortless” the swim was on the way out. Well, it turned out that there was a pretty strong southbound current, so the swim back was a real workout! Nevertheless, I along with three other intrepid Lake Monsters managed to stare down an irritable 53.0 F Lake Michigan and get in a swim on what was otherwise a perfect autumn morning.

A tempestuous lake at dawn
Gearing up!
Lake Monsters at sunrise
Maddy, Lake Monster 527 (congrats!)

Swim Report – October 20, 2019 – Autumn Colors

The lakefront was surprisingly active yesterday morning. While I’m sure the later sunrise time helped bring people out, the real draw was likely the ideal conditions for capturing sunrise shots given that mid to late October mornings offer color, clarity, and contrast unmatched by other months.

Once again, the weather spirits were kind to us giving us a calm, flat lake and no wind to nip at us in the 52F air. The lake came in at a solid 54.5F, and but for a pesky low lying cloud wall to the east, we had bright and clear skies. So while we planned to wait until the sun appeared, we got a bit restless and went in the lake before it made its official entrance.

As with last week, I went in with just my jammers and neoprene cap. But I also slathered on some shea butter on my torso, neck, arms, and legs which really took the edge off of the lake entry and made a huge difference in swim.

I decided to only do 1/4 mile as I had to get back up north for a morning appointment. But I could have easily stayed in the lake much longer as the sun came out in full mod-swim making it quite comfortable the entire time I was in the lake. Fingers crossed that we get these conditions next week!

The lakefront at dawn
The sun finally makes an appearance
The oak trees turning
Yvonne, Lake Monster 526 (congrats!)

Swim Report – September 1, 2019 – More swells!

Lake Michigan was once again rather spirited last Sunday, but a number of us managed to get in a swim on the first day of September. The in-swim temp came in at 64.6F. This was a rather precipitous drop from the previous week and a not so subtle signal from Mother Nature that the temperate days of summer have indeed come to a close. Nevertheless, it was warm enough to take on the swells and chops for the 1/2 mile I was in the water. I’m keeping this brief since it’s already the end of the week. Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!

Daybreak chops
The morning crew
Charlie, Lake Monster 525 (congrats!)

Swim Report – August 25, 2019 – A Swell Time

There were a lot of dry wetsuits a few miles south of L1 last Sunday, but we managed to get in a swim in spite of a rather raucous lake. Of course, a lake temperature of almost 74F really helped us out!

Whenever the sunrise takes place after 6:00am, I always get a bit melancholic since it is an obvious sign from Ma Nature that summer is coming to a close (metaphorically, as we technically have until September 23). And while the later swim start times do allow for more sleep, there is something about a foggy headed 5:30am swim time that provides the joyous certainty that summer is still on the upswing. But alas, such is the cycle of the seasons…

A handful of intrepid Lake Monsters came out to L1 and stared down a peevish Lake Michigan that had just eviscerated the dreams of nearly 9,000 triathletes down at Monroe Harbor. Having dealt with this problem child several times in the past, I immediately checked the lake temperature to see if that would be a complicating factor. As luck would have it, the mercury came in at 73.4F – quite a contrast to the rather brisk 61F (and windy) outside temperature! After monitoring the lake movements and surveying the swim area, we decided to get in at L2 where entry and egress seemed to be easier (or at least less difficult).

Despite the 3-4 foot swells and vigorous chops, being in the lake was very pleasant given the almost bath-like lake temperature. As with prior weeks, I went in with just my tropical print swim trunks and brand new goggles, and I was able to complete the 1/2 mile to Oak Street Beach before walking back. So overall, a successful morning!

The only real complication occurred on my way home in the car. It seems as if ragweed season is starting a bit early this year, and my allergies started to kick in about 45 minutes after being in the water. For those of you who deal with this type of allergy, be aware that ragweed pollen – unlike other pollen – does not sink in water. Instead, it floats on the surface and collects near the shores. So have your neti pot handy at the lake or as soon as you get home!

Lake Monsters at dawn
Time for a swim!

Swim Report – August 11, 2019 – Seaweed Edition

Sunday’s swim was a real winner with the lake temp coming in at an amazing 75.9F. It was somewhat overcast, but the cloud cover was higher up so we had a clear swim area. We also had a great turnout with a number of new faces, so I didn’t get into the lake right away as I was catching up with everyone. But once I decided to get in, it was an easy acclimation given the warmer lake.

I did my usual point-to-point to Oak Street Beach, but it was a bit more than 1/2 mile in total as I did a long arc out from L1 in order to avoid a large seaweed patch. In fact, we all noticed much more seaweed in the lake which is common once the temperature gets as high as it is right now.

The walk back to L1 was pleasant and relaxing in the 70F air, but I noticed that I was starting to get a bit congested. This later turned into intermittent sneezing on the drive home, so I did my post-lake routine in order to flush out all the algae/pollen/particulates that are in the lake this time of year. But that’s a small price to pay for such lovely lake temperatures!

Dawn skyline
Obscured sunrise
Swim start!
Lake Monsters heading south
Jordan, Lake Monster 521 (congrats!)
Peter, Lake Monster 522 (congrats!)
Jeff, Lake Monster 523 (congrats!)
The sun finally peeks through!
Back to my rock star parking spot!

Swim Report – Sunday August 4, 2019 – Summer Minimalism

Our last meetup started out on a fantastic note as I once again secured rock star parking in one of the spaces just on the other side of the pedestrian tunnel. So instead of my usual mad scramble from Clark Street to catch the sunrise, I had the luxury of a leisurely stroll out to our world famous swim spot.

Similar to last week, these later sunrises and warmer lake temperatures brought out some open water veterans we haven’t seen for a while. So it was a pleasant reunion at 5:45am made all the more enjoyable by 75F weather and a 70.2F lake!

Without a doubt, what I like most about this time of year is the inherent minimalism of high summer. So apart from bringing my towel, keys, and camera, all I needed in the lake was my swim trunks and a pair of goggles – quite a contrast to the stuffed duffel bags we bring out to the lake in winter!

The lake had a slight ripple, but it was more than manageable for the 1/2 mile down to Oak Street Beach. I opted to get out of the lake there and walk back, and it was a very peaceful stroll given that there were only a few random runners on the lakefront path.

I stuck around L1 for a short while and chatted with some of the other swimmers. Just as I was getting ready to leave, Diver Dave showed up with two large inner tubes. I was REALLY tempted to stay out there for the rest of the morning, but I had to head back north for the day. Maybe next time!

The coolest swim backdrop on the planet!
Swim start
Aaron and Gisele, Lake Monsters 519 and 520 respectively (congrats!)

Swim Report – July 28, 2019 – Thermidor Edition

Sunday’s mercury topped out at 92F in the afternoon which was hell on earth for me when I was outside trimming trees. But fortunately everything was absolute nirvana out at the lake at 5:40am!

These shorter days and later sunrises drew out more people last weekend – including some new faces as well as some low number Lake Monsters who we haven’t seen in quite some time. So there was much more socializing while the sun rose, and I didn’t get in the lake until just before 6:00am. But the lake conditions were perfect and unchanging, so none of this summer-induced procrastination really mattered.

The official in-swim lake temperature came in at 70.2F, so it was a very comfortable swim to Oak Street Beach. Of course, it also helped that the lake was mirror flat! The only real glitch in the morning was the presence of a colder thermocline layer that lurked below the surface at various points of the swim. In fact, this cold menace seemed to prefer the area around L1, so we had a difference of around 10F in some areas just a few feet below the surface. And you were sure to get an ice cream headache if you dared to swim to the bottom of the lake in these spots!

By the time I finished my leisurely walk back to L1, the air temperature had hit the 75F mark, and I could already feel the sun’s intensity increasing. So I packed up my stuff, said so long to the “sunrise crew”, and started working my way north where the joys of yard work awaited me. But at least I got to experience the best part of the day!

L1 pre-sunrise
The morning crew
Launch point
Paradise at 6:00am
Amy, Lake Monster 517 (congrats!)
Melissa, Lake Monster 518 (congrats!)

Swim Report – July 21, 2019 – Storm Delay

Things weren’t looking too promising at 5:30am on Sunday. But fortunately our patience paid off!

I saw it as a good omen that I was able to secure rock star parking at the end of North Avenue – right near the pedestrian underpass. But I was a bit apprehensive as I could see flashes of lightning as I was pulling into the spot – not a good sign. So I made the quick trajet to L1 the scope out the scene.

Other than the t-storm activity, the lakefront was almost as good as it gets – we only had slight swells, and the lake temperature came in at a cooler but actually more favorable 63.8F. We checked the weather radar, and there was a storm system passing to the north of us with a trailing edge that was impacting us farther south. So we played the waiting game for about an hour until we no longer saw any new flashes.

When we finally started our swim, the swells had picked up a bit making entry a challenge. So we carefully navigated the slick concrete and opted to swim a bit closer to the side wall so we could get out quickly in the event the thunder and lightning reappeared.

Lucky for us, the storm had completely passed L1, so we were able to complete our swim unimpeded. I did 1/2 mile total – an out and back tot he 1/4 mile mark – and the water was quite comfortable even with the overcast skies. So if you decided to sleep in because of the storms, you missed out on a great swim!

L1 and the skyline at 5:30am
Still looking sketchy at 6:00am!
The lightning ceases and fog moves in
Teri, Lake Monster 516 (congrats!)

Swim Report – June 30, 2019 – Summer!

Even with the 5:18am sunrise/swim start time, we had a sizable group show up for our first official OWC meetup of Summer 2019. The lake temp came in at 64.8F – pretty much as good as it gets. Plus we had plenty of sunshine and clear skies which was most certainly NOT the case later on in the day! Overall, another perfect morning out at the lake. I’ll keep this really short and let the photos below speak for themselves!

High water level at L1!
Amazing backdrop for a swim!
Heading towards the beach!
Swim finish!
Travis, Lake Monster 514 (congrats!)
Justin, Lake Monster 515 (congrats!)
Another perfect morning at our world famous swim spot!