Swim Report – April 2, 2016 – In Like a Lion

The month of April had a rather ferocious start, essentially plummeting us back into winter for a couple of days. The air temperature was a very brisk 33F at 6:30am, and the cloud cover was more reminiscent of early March. So I wasn’t expecting to see much improvement in the lake.

To my surprise, the water temperature reading came in at 46.8F – a significant jump from last week. So given this positive turn of events, I once again ditched the fullsuit in favor of just shorts, boots, gloves, and my hood.

Since I wanted to get a point-to-point 1/2 mile in this setup, I opted for a “dash and splash” – i.e. a 1/2 mile jog to Oak Street Beach followed by a 1/2 mile swim north.

When I reached the beach and began to wade out into the lake, I noticed immediately that the water was WAY more comfortable than the air. And my hands and feet actually warmed up soon after I started swimming. So while I don’t think that the lake has turned over yet, I suspect it’s going to do so pretty soon.

The lake was very calm – almost flat – so the swim north was quite easy. Plus I was able to get in some bilateral breathing practice since I wasn’t having to contend with waves or chops. In short, it was just like swimming in a pool – except that it was almost 40F colder than most pools!

Overall it took almost 20 minutes to get back to L1, and I passed Tim and Fred along the way (they did the whole out and back mile). Once I got out, I changed into my dry clothes right away, packed up my stuff, and briskly walked back to my car.

It was about 10 minutes before I warmed up enough to be able to drive adequately (it’s normally not a good idea to drive while shivering uncontrollably). But even with this minor discomfort, we were still able to once again beat the storm and get in a swim while the good weather held out!

L1 at daybreak



Crescent moon (with bonus seagulls)


Sunrise sequence




Clear and sunny out at L1!




Swim Report – October 24, 2015 – June Redux?

After the winterlike weather out at L1 last week, Ma Nature decided to swing the pendulum the other way for us on Saturday morning. The air temperature came in at a blazing 68F with the lake coming in at a balmy 57.7F – conditions more akin to late June versus late October!

Sunrise officially came at 7:13am, but the overcast skies didn’t really allow for much of a show. So we suited up amid stray piles of fallen leaves and gingerly entered the lake.

The swim down to Oak Street Beach was much easier due to a wind from the north pushing us south. But the return trip wasn’t really that difficult, either. The only real complicating factor was that the outer surface of our goggles would fog up occasionally in the warmer, moist air.

Post-swim was much more tolerable since the 68F air temperature really helped take the edge off of the afterdrop. So what would normally be a vigorous shivering session turned out to be quite calm – and I’m perfectly okay with that!

Lake Monsters at dawn


Swim start!


At the beach


Back at L1


Leland, Lake Monster 397


Immersion shock

Swim Report – October 17, 2015 – October Swells!

Saturday morning greeted us with a 39F air temperature coupled with a sustained 10 mph wind from the east. The lake itself was rather restless with 3 to 4 foot swells, but the water temperature came in at a mercifully temperate 56.2F. So given these conditions, the swim was a go!

We waited a bit longer for the sun to show up due to a stubborn cloud bank on the eastern horizon. But once it peeked out over the rim, we had ample sunshine for the entire swim. And it sure helped!

I swam in my usual gear – swim jammers and cap – but I did add a thermo cap on for extra warmth which really made a difference. All in all, though, I was quite comfortable the entire time in the lake.

As expected, the real challenge was getting re-acclimated to the conditions outside of the lake. I didn’t dawdle much for the first 10 minutes because the afterdrop came on quicker than in previous weeks thanks to a very cutting wind. But I had several layers of clothing on as well as a full thermos of coffee to help mitigate its effects.

Overall, we had a great turnout even with the unseasonably cold weather conditions. Even so we are fast approaching the “swim cliff” where we are not likely to see too many people out at the lake until next Spring. But that’s their loss, not ours!

Dawn Skyline


Escaping the cold!


Swim Start




Water level shot


Albert, Lake Monster 393


Hayley, Lake Monster 394


Jeff, Lake Monster 395


Ethan, Lake Monster 396


Today’s video compilation!

Swim Report – October 10, 2015 – Autumn Perfection

It was a brisk 47F outside when I stepped out into the darkness and started up my car on Saturday morning. But I could see a clear crescent moon in the eastern skies – which meant that the sunrise was going to be nothing short of spectacular.

The drive down to the swim site was agonizingly long. Even though there was almost no traffic, I confess to feeling more than a little restless while watching the pre-dawn colors come out over the lake. However, I was fortunate enough to find a free spot in front of the Latin School right away.

I made a quick stop into Starbucks to get a small coffee, and I almost popped a cork after the guy in front of me ordered some time-consuming, labor intensive specialty drink. Fortunately, one of the other morning baristas came out of the back at the tail end of his order and filled mine right away.

The 1/3 mile from Clark Street to L1 seemed to take an eternity, but I finally got to our coveted swim spot with more than enough time to spare for the sunrise.

I was quite stunned at the turnout. We had several new swimmers show up – all from out of town – along with a very large gathering of seasoned Lake Monsters. Plus we also had The Twins show up over at L2. So we all had a chance to chat for a while and suit up before the sun made its grand appearance.

And grand it was! Longtime readers of this blog will already know that I have a special affinity for October sunrises. In fact, I consider them to be the most beautiful ones of the year. I think it has to do with the special combination of the colors, contrast, and clarity that we only get this time of year. But whatever the reasons, it sure made us delay our swim start for quite some time!

When we finally got in the lake, we were pleasantly surprised at the rather balmy 59F water temperature. We had some 1-3 foot swells to make things interesting, but they were were barely noticeable throughout the swim.

We did, though, have a bit of drama during the swim. One of the CPD cruisers drove by and checked us out while we were 3/4 the way to Oak Street Beach. One of the high rise residents must have alerted them of someone being in the lake. But since we were not in any obvious distress, the patrol car decided to move on to other more important matters (whew!).

Even in the sub-60F lake, I managed to do the out-and-back mile to Oak Street Beach fairly easily. I wore just my jammers and swim cap with a neoprene thermo cap over the top and was just fine the entire time. The lack any wind coupled with the abundant sunshine really made a difference during the swim.

Being a slower swimmer, I got back when most people were already out of the water. Several of us stayed around for a bit and socialized some more while warming up. I completely lost track of time and suddenly realized it was 8:30am – well past the meter enforcement start! So I hustled back to Clark Street and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw an empty windshield.

I took that as a sign that I shouldn’t stick around for strike three. So I got in the car and headed north, cranking up the heat on my still numb feet.

Happy Autumn 2015!







Swim start




At the beach


Back at L1


Caroline, Lake Monster 388, hailing all the way from the UK!


Josh, Lake Monster 389, choosing Lake Michigan over sunny Orlando!


The fabulous South End Rowing Club contingency: Fran, Cathy, and Matt – Lake Monsters 390, 391, and 392 respectively


Sunrise video clips!

Swim Report – September 5, 2015 – Pre-Storm Swim

We gambled and won this morning. The forecast called for a 40% chance of thunderstorms, and we managed to finish up our swim right before they moved in! But our streak of luck really started the moment we arrived at L1.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as lake temperature given that it had still been stubbornly clinging to 55F up in Evanston. However, Dave had been out at L1 the day before, and he was getting consistent readings in the 67F – 68F range.

And sure enough, I came up with a 71F reading!

Other than a slight chop in the water, the swimming conditions were ideal. The only wildcard factor was something that didn’t rear its ugly head until much later – namely the lake allergens.

Even before I got to L1, I had been fighting off what I thought was a late summer cold. But the symptoms were eerily familiar to the ragweed allergies that had plagued me last year at this time. And given that they actually intensified a few hours after I had gotten out of the water, I strongly suspect that ragweed season is now in full bloom (literally).

Nonetheless, it’s a very small price to pay for the opportunity to swim in Lake Michigan this time of year. The conditions are perfect, and the views are amazing as always.

So where were you?

L1 at 6:00am


Sunrise in swim


The view from Oak Street Beach



Back at L1



Post-swim sunrise


Erika, Lake Monster 382 and Joy, Lake Monster 383


Becca, Lake Monster 384


Ashley, Lake Monster 385


Kristan, Lake Monster 386


Himanshu, Lake Monster 387


The storms move in!


Video compilation

Swim Report – August 22, 2015 – Deluge

The forecast called for heavy rain – but not thunderstorms – during the early morning hours of today. So absent any lightning, the swim was still a go as of last night. Fortunately for us, the weatherman was actually spot on this time!

It took a bit longer to get down to L1 given the inclement weather, but luckily there were plenty of open parking spots on Clark Street. I trudged through the downpour on my way to the swim site and was pretty much soaked through by the time I got there. I should have read the label more closely when I bought my rain slicker – “water resistant” just isn’t the same as “water proof!”

Not surprisingly, there were very few people out at the lakefront given the rather dismal weather conditions. But despite the rain, the lake looked fairly calm, and there was no sign of any thunderstorm activity. So given that I was already soaking wet, not swimming was simply not an option!

Much to my delight, I didn’t have to swim by myself. Phil arrived along with new Lake Monster Bill, hailing all the way from the Bay Area. We hung out underneath the Chess Pavilion and got all of our gear on before heading out to L1.

I had measured the surface temperature shortly beforehand, and it came in at 62.2F. When I got in the lake, I was very pleased to see that it had indeed warmed up from last week. There were no heart-stopping thermoclines lurking below the surface, so it looks like we are back on track to more “normal” lake temperatures!

I did the out-and-back to Oak Street Beach where they were setting up for the AVP volleyball tournament. We got some curious stares from the workers who were setting up the facilities. The event managers had fenced off the entire area from outsiders – but they weren’t expecting any pedestrians to arrive via the beach!

The swim back to L1 was a tad bit more difficult as the lake became choppier the last 1/4 mile. But just like last week, the water was amazingly clear and quite a joy to swim in!

The swim site at 6:00am


Dredging ship


Hanging out at beneath the Chess Pavilion


Testing the water


Sudden downpour in-swim!


Bill, Lake Monster 381


This morning’s video compilation (taken from my brand new camera!)

Swim Report – August 22, 2015 – Cold Plunge

I got out to L1 a bit early on Saturday morning as I was very eager to find out what the water temperature was at our swim site. It had been stubbornly hovering in the 54F – 55F range up in Evanston, but I still held out hope that perhaps L1 might have escaped the drastic temperature inversion.

Fat chance, as it turned out!

The first reading (surface) came in at 56.4F. However, by the time I completed the swim, I got an average reading of 55.5F. Bottom line, this was going to be a cold weekend for lake swimming…

Despite my post on Thursday alerting everyone about the sudden temperature drop, we still had an incredible turnout at 5:45am. Granted, not everyone got in the water – which I completely understand. But it was very gratifying to me that people were still willing to come out to L1 given the remote chance that the lake had warmed up since Thursday!

After a bit of hesitation, a number of intrepid swimmers suited up and began to enter the lake.

As expected, the initial immersion was quite bracing. I opted to go with just my jammers, swim cap, and neoprene cap this time, and I had taken a cold shower about an hour earlier that helped take the edge off of the cold water. But Lake Michigan still had a pretty sharp bite!

Fortunately, the lake was almost perfectly flat, and it was a clear day with no wind. So when the sun finally peeked out on the eastern horizon, the intense sunshine was a welcome neutralizer to the cold lake.

Because the lake was so calm at that time of the morning, it was a very easy swim to the beach and back once you got over the initial cold shock. Plus, the scenery – both above and below the surface of the water – was simply amazing.

Given the clear skies, we expected a memorable sunrise – and we sure got one! But the real show was the clarity of the lake. The inversion from earlier in the week brought in the cleanest, clearest water I have seen all year. So once you got over the initial discomfort and got into a steady swim rhythm, you got to experience a stunning aquamarine landscape that was like being in the middle of a dream. Truly fantastic stuff!

When I finally got back to L1, the sun was out in force, and this really helped lessen my afterdrop. I was still shivering a bit when it was time to start the swim clinic, but I wouldn’t have traded this morning’s experience for the world.

Pre-dawn colors


Swarm of Lake Monsters


Cold plunge



Looking back


Sunrise shots in-swim




The Oak Street Beach crew



Steve, Lake Monster 378


Genevieve, Lake Monster 379


Tim, Lake Monster 380


In the aquarium!


The scene at 6:00am

Swim Report – August 8, 2015 – High Summer

An intrepid group of around ten swimmers showed up at L1 and got in a swim in the 72.1F lake. I was a bit concerned what Ma Nature would present to us given the gusty wind and choppy lake conditions of the night before.

But Lake Michigan was calm and clear at 5:30am!

We didn’t get much of a sunrise until the tail end of the swim due to a stubborn cloud bank on the eastern horizon. But enough of it peeked through at Oak Street Beach to give us a nice backdrop for the return leg. So our swim back to L1 was quite pleasant – even with a rather chilly thermocline lurking 2-3 feet below the surface.

L1 at 5:30am



Water level view going south



At Oak Street Beach




In-swim skyline shot


David, Lake Monster 375


Jim, Lake Monster 376


Emily, Lake Monster 377


The Twins are back!


Swim Report – August 1, 2015 – Dragonfly Edition

Our first swim of August 2015 was unquestionably one of the best ones we’ve had all year. And if you slept in this morning, you sure missed out!

To begin with, the conditions out at L1 were ideal at 5:30am. The 72F lake was calm and clear with eastern horizon already giving us some brilliant pre-sunrise colors. And as more swimmers showed up at our coveted swim spot, the view to the east became even more dazzling.

As we waited for the sun to make its appearance, we were entertained by swarms of dragonflies that hovered over our heads and darted among us doing their best to decimate the lakefront gnat population. Despite this lively show, we soon lost interest in the dragonflies once the sun peeked out above the water line.

I won’t go into detail about how magnificent it was – I’ll just instead defer to the pictures below which you can see for yourself. Suffice to say that it was quite an amazing experience – particularly at water level while in swim.

Given the calm lake conditions, I was able to complete the out and back to Oak Street Beach quite quickly and easily. And when I returned to L1, I had the honor of ushering in several new Lake Monsters.

Congrats to everyone who came out today!

Lake Monsters gathering




Another perfect sunrise



The view in swim


Heading back


Home again!


Molly, Lake Monster 369


John, Lake Monster 370


Maria, Lake Monster 371


Tom, Lake Monster 372


Lisa, Lake Monster 373


Erik, Lake Monster 374


More dragonflies



Sunrise video

Swim Report – July 18, 2015 – Ahead of the Storms

We had some pretty chaotic thunderstorms move into the region yesterday afternoon. But once again, we lucked out at 5:30am!

The air temperature was already a sultry 78F when I arrived at L1. I promptly took a measurement of the lake temperature, and this came in a just under 70F (surface). Given that the sun had yet to even make its appearance, it was obviously going to be a scorcher out at the old swim site!

As the clocked ticked closer to 5:30am, several open water pilgrims began to stream in to L1 – including a number of brand new Lake Monsters. And they couldn’t have picked a more ideal morning!

Just like last week, we had to postpone our swim start for several minutes to enjoy the spectacular sunrise. I made sure to snap as many shots as possible – some of which are featured below. But these can in no way provide you all with the same experience that we had seeing it live.

The swim to and from Oak Street Beach was a waking dream in the calm 68.8F lake (official temp). I got back just as most of the swimmers were finishing up, so I had an opportunity to chat some more with the others and officially recognize all the new Lake Monsters.

After the others left, I stayed out at L1 to conduct my swim clinic. By the time that ended at 9:00am, a gray wall of clouds had already started to move in from the west.

So it looks like we got to experience the best part of the day!









Swim start



At the beach




Back at L1!


Phillip, Lake Monster 360


Emile, Lake Monster 361


Left to right, Seth, Jerrilynn, and Lisa, Lake Monsters 362, 363, and 364


Bill, Lake Monster 365


Paul, Lake Monster 366


Left to right, Donna and Jeff, Lake Monsters 367 and 368