Swim Report – October 18, 2014 – Storm Surge Edition

I caught up with Nick on the walk out to L1 from Clark Street, and we knew we were in for a very different kind of swim this morning. A strong and steady wind was already hitting us while we were still 1/4 mile from the lakefront – not a good sign! And when we got to L1, it was a ferocious scene.

The aforementioned wind had created some rather massive swells – anywhere from 6 to 8 feet tall – and they had completely saturated the L1 area all the way to the bike path. We thought last week’s swim was bad, but this one was WAY worse.

Despite the raging lake, the cutting wind, and the total absence of sunshine, we had quite a few people show up. Given the circumstances, however, I strongly encouraged everyone to consider opting out if they had even the slightest of reservations about getting in the water. As it was, only a few of us got in, and most of just just swam around the L1 area where we more than got a workout in the chaotic lake.

The lake temperature came in at a surprisingly comfortable 57F. But given the strong, sustained winds and the lack of any sunshine, I opted to don my neoprene top for the first time this year – and I was glad I did! The extra buoyancy made a big difference in the water, and I didn’t lose much heat at all while in swim.

Also, a funny side story to recount – Jason and I swam out to the 1/8 mile mark and met up with Obed who had found a running shoe in the water. I didn’t think anything of it, although it did look passingly familiar. As it turns out, it was MY shoe that had been washed into the lake by a rogue wave about 15 minutes earlier! But for Obed’s vigilance, I would have had to have walked back to my car barefoot!

Kudos to all who came out on such a yucky morning. We definitely got to see Ma Nature in one of her more tempestuous moods!

Angry lakefront


Step into liquid


The view at water level


Lake Monsters in their element



Retrieving my shoe!


Tenuous approach and exit



Looking back


Haiko, Lake Monster 334


Today’s video footage:

Swim Report – October 11, 2014 – Autumn Chops!

Nine of us made it out to L1 just before sunrise. The lake temperature came in at 58F (surface) with a 56.7F reading taken in swim. In a pleasant contrast to last week, we had a rather tolerable 49F air temperature. But the lake itself was a bit of a mess.

We had some heavy chops and 2-4 foot swells to contend with throughout the swim. But even though we had to do a more rigorous workout this morning, it was well worth the effort given yet another spectacular October sunrise.

Congrats to all the Chicago marathoners!

Dawn colors




Waning moon


Taking the plunge


At the beach


Michael, Lake Monster 333 (congrats!)


Sunrise Video

Swim Report – October 4, 2014 – Deep Freeze!

Ma Nature threw us a curve ball with a 38F air temperature reading at 6:45am. Fortunately for us, the lake temperature came in at a fiery 61.8F. So getting in the water was easy. Getting out, however, was a painfully cold ordeal!

Ten of us met out at L1 just before sunrise. We waited a bit for the sun to peek out over the cloud bank. But none of us wanted to hang out very long in the frigid air. So we got suited up and hustled into the lake just as the sun was starting to emerge.

The lake was almost completely flat and uniformly warm throughout the swim. The sun came out in full just before we hit Oak Street Beach and accompanied us for part of the way back. However, by the time we returned to L1, we had to contend with a drizzly cloud cover that eradicated any evidence of our short window of sunshine.

As noted above, the real challenge of today’s swim was not the lake, but rather the air temperature upon exiting the water. We had to towel off and don warm layers really quickly in the winter-like air. And this proved to be quite a chore since our hands were painfully numb as soon as we got out of the lake.

Still, we had another amazing swim and got to experience the only sunshine of the day – and it was as spectacular as always!

Calm waters


Warming up in the lake!


Lake Monsters migrating south


The sun finally comes out!


Bright and sunny morning at the beach!


A squadron of geese providing directions back to L1


Beth, Lake Monster 331 and Brit, Lake Monster 332 (congrats!)


Pre-swim video:

Swim Report – September 7, 2014 – Photogenic morning!

We had a great turnout at 6:15am, and those who showed up got to experience one of the best sunrises of the year! The lake came in at a balmy 66F with almost perfectly flat conditions.

I’ll keep this report real brief and just let the images speak for themselves. And yes, you did miss out…

Sunrise shots





Swim start



In swim


At the beach




Maria, Lake Monster 329 (congrats!)


Fred, Lake Monster 330 (congrats!)


Swimmers were here…


Swim Report – August 30, 2014 – Lucky morning!

Due to holiday weekend laziness, I am only just posting this today (Labor Day). I’m going to keep this brief since I’m heading back to the beach soon to get in one last swim of the weekend!

According to the weather forecast, Saturday morning was supposed to be touch and go with a likely chance of either rain or full on thunderstorms. Fortunately for us, we got neither while we were out at the lake. So instead of an L1 disaster, we got a 74.4F lake and relatively flat swimming conditions that made for a pretty easy out and back to Oak Street Beach.

We didn’t really get much of a sunrise during the swim since we had a wall of clouds to the east obscuring everything on the horizon. But the sun did peek out soon after we finished – just in time to enjoy it for a short while before heading out.

Once again, another fantastic morning out at the lake!

Lake Monsters pre-swim


Heading south


A quick pause at Oak Street Beach


Jared, Lake Monster 327 (congrats!)


Peter, Lake Monster 328 (didn’t get your L1 pic – sorry!)


Video of the swim start that you missed out on

Swim Report – August 23, 2014 – Swimmers in the Mist

It’s been a while since we had this much fog at a meetup (June 22 to be specific). But even without the sunshine, the lake was quite comfortable with the nice and toasty 74F water temperature!

Around twelve swimmers made it out for the 6:00am start time – including some new swimmers as well as some Lake Monsters we haven’t seen for a while – and we had fantastic swim conditions. In addition to a very warm lake, we had near flat swimming conditions that allowed for a very quick swim to and from the beach. And despite the limited visibility of the beach and skyline, it was quite easy to follow the wall and stay on course.

After we finished, we socialized a bit more and checked out all the “supergroups” of runners now invading the lakefront path. Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with that level of congestion in the water!

Congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!



Lake Monsters gathering


Swim start


At Oak Street Beach


Hanging out post swim!


Terry, Lake Monster 322


David, Lake Monster 323


Jennifer, Lake Monster 324


Jen and Ken, Lake Monsters 325 and 326


Selfie out by the buoy!


Video at Oak Street Beach

Swim Report – August 16, 2014 – Air Show Weekend!

Even though sunrise is closer to 6:00am these days, I kept the meetup time at 5:45am so we could avoid the Air Show crowds and chaos. In the past, the city has shut down the L1 swim area for the event, so we wanted to make sure we could get in a swim while it was still allowed!

Twelve of us made it out to L1 for the pre-sunrise swim – including three new Lake Monsters. And we pretty much had ideal swim conditions with the 71.4F lake temp and almost perfectly flat water. So we suited up right away and started our swim to Oak Street Beach.

Given the calm waters (quite a contrast to last week!), it was a fast out-and-back swim – even with the extra time spent socializing at the beach. So when we returned to L1, the lakefront was still fairly empty of the anticipated crowds.

All that changed in a matter of hours, though. But by then we were long gone!

Pre-dawn skyline


Everybody in the lake!




At the beach



Half moon


Swimmers heading north


Home again!




Sara, Lake Monster 319


Jose, Lake Monster 320


Ketty, Lake Monster 321


Today’s video compilation:

Swim Report – August 9, 2014 – Swimming Chaos at L1

My first official swim back at L1 was a real slap in the face – quite literally at times!

With sunrise coming at closer to 6:00am these days, we got to sleep in a bit before hightailing it out to L1. Seven of us made it out, and we were greeted with an angry lake sporting 4-6 foot waves and very vigorous chops. We also had to navigate several large patches of seaweed throughout the swim. Needless to say, this all presented quite a challenge for everyone!

The one saving grace, though, was the lake temperature which came in at a very pleasant 73F. But even that wasn’t enough to keep us in the water for any extended length of time!



Swimmers in an angry lake


“Hell’s Corner”


Seaweed ball at Oak Street Beach


Sam, Lake Monster 318 (congrats!)


Your Swim Reports!

Happy August!  As promised, below are some of your swim reports and war stories from the last couple of weeks.

See you soon!


Mary Ellen (Lake Monster 185)

(Jul 18)
Red and I went for a sunrise swim this morning, 7/18. We waited till the sun was above a low band of clouds and got in around 5:45. There were gentle, low swells and if the temp wasn’t 70 it was darn close. Bonus – the temp was consistent throughout the swim! Didn’t come across a single cold pocket.

Martin (Lake Monster 230)

(Jul 26)
05:35, water ~63-64F at L1, ~65F at OSB (Martin’s thermoreceptor reading), water completely flat, visibility approx 2 m, sunrise visible through clouds, Emily and I swam the normal 1.5 km, OSB time 14:05, on the way back I used a somewhat higher stroke rate, 13:30. There were four swimmers preparing to swim when we arrived to L1, probably triathletes from Ohio S B. Cycled home and went straight back to sleep until 11. 14/60. Eventless swim, I am so sleep deprived after a tough week I was afraid of falling asleep while cycling.

(Jul 24)
Non-swim. 0:30, Skyline Wall, observed the lake for a while then hung on to a ladder in swim attire for five minutes, quite an experience, 8 ft waves with Force 5 wind, it is wetting the 3rd platform, showering me from above, one wave made me lose footing and I was only hanging on with hands. I judged this far too dangerous to swim at night, chance of being smacked against submerged rock or the wall is simply too high. Water temp 17-18°C. With 6 ft swells it was safe to do in April.

(Jul 15)
Midnight, Polar vortex nostalgy. Marton L1 nighttime swim writeup and how-to, publishable version. L1 water temp est. ~17°C, 63F, 2 ft chaotic swells, air temp 17-18°C, 64F. Cloudy with light rain ending shortly before swim. Rode my bicycle to L1 with a bicycle helmet on top of a swimming cap and ear plugs, in shorts on top of compression shorts, used a pair of completely destroyed shoes, no socks, dirty towel around waist, swim goggles in pocket. Hid the entry card for my building in the soil next to a low concrete wall, covered with some leaves as usual, tied my keys around my waist with a sling. Locked the T-shirt, shorts and bicycle to a sign post with a U-lock. You have to cut either the shirt or the U-lock to get the T-shirt. The towel and the shoes are for free, worth about $0 and you still risk a beating if I catch you stealing them.

The water felt like 62-63F, not that bad. I entered slowly, took a few breaststrokes, immersed my head then swam butterfly to L6 in 6:30 min. It felt comfortable, tiring but sustainable. Some more butterfly to about the 400 m point, then I took off the goggles and swam to the white house, 500 m point and turned around. Swam heads-up breaststroke all the way back and finished at L3. This took 24:30 min but felt like an eternity, 0.9 km swim, 14/58. Slightly chilled afterwards, reminded me of early October.

Emily (Lake Monster 291)

(Aug 2)
Great swim today. The water was warm and pretty flat. We determined it was 69.5 by taking a small poll of “what does it feel like?” Very scientific. The sunrise was less than spectacular in itself, but once it came out if proved to be a beautiful day.

Also, my friend Garth joined us and became a new Lake Monster, so I took his official membership photo.

[Photo credits: Emily]





Garth, Lake Monster 317 (congrats!)


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