Swim Report – May 21, 2016 – Gettin’ Warmer!

It’s turning out to be a beautiful weekend, so I’m keeping this brief so I can get back outside!

A larger than expected group of swimmers showed up at 5:20am to get in a brisk and choppy Lake Michigan. The official water temperature came in at 54.7F (surface), which was just slightly cooler than the air. We had sparse sunlight thanks to some obstinate clouds out to the east, but the weather was a huge improvement over last week!

We all entered the lake pretty quickly, and the water was fairly clear considering that we had a rather vigorous current from the north. This indicates that the lake has competed its Spring turnover – which means no more sub-50F swim temperatures until Fall!

I went with just my jammers, goggles, and neoprene cap and swam just over 1/2 mile total. My shoulder seemed to be tolerating the exertion much better, so the next meetup will likley feature a beach landing for the author!

All in all, another amazing morning out at L1. And it was really great to see some new faces as well as some veteran Lake Monsters coming back out to L1 now that the weather is better.

Hope to see you all soon!

“Sunrise”

21May2016_2

The 5:20am crew

21May2016_3

In-swim shots

21May2016_1

21May2016_5

21May2016_4

21May2016_6

21May2016_7

Heading back

21May2016_8

John, Lake Monster 401 (congrats!)

21May2016_9

Swim start video

Swim Report – May 14, 2016 – Lake Monster #400!

A 52.6F lake and a blustery 43F air temperature didn’t dissuade us from getting out to L1 for a swim on Saturday morning. In fact, it was much more preferable in the water than it was waiting outside in the wind!

For a short while, it looked like we were going to get some sunshine. But the brisk winds soon brought in a ceiling of slate-gray clouds with no relief in sight looking out to the west. So we geared up in haste and headed out toward the lake.

The water level, as you can see from the pictures, was higher than it has been since I began coming out to L1 over the past 8 years. And when you combined this with the 2 – 4 foot swells, it didn’t give us much of an opportunity to ease into the water. So rather than try to delay the inevitable, we pretty much just climbed down the first rung and plunged in.

Other than a neoprene cap, I went with the standard summer swim gear – jammers and goggles. Like last week, I went a bit past the 1/4 mile point before turning back. I was tempted to go for my first beach landing of the season, but my shoulder didn’t seem to fancy that idea. So I turned around and swam a wide arc back to L1, so about 2/3 mile total.

The afterdrop was quite mild, and it would likely have been less so but for the slicing wind we had to endure both before and after our swim. Still, none of us would have wanted to miss out on yet another Spring adventure!

Grey wall at dawn

14May2016

Spectators

14May2016_1

Getting ready

14May2016_2

14May2016_2b

Swim start!

14May2016_3

14May2016_4

Keeping it in the family!

14May2016_5

Carol, Lake Monster 400 (way to go!)

14May2016_6

Swim Report – April 30, 2016 – Month End Chops

April ended on a rather savage note weather-wise, but we were still able to get in a swim in this morning’s blustery, choppy lake!

Sunrise was officially at 5:47am, so I got to Old Town rather early and managed to secure decent parking. Since I had 20 minutes to spare, I scurried over to The Cool Starbucks and got my lake fuel. I had to hustle back to L1, however, as I could see some magnificent dawn colors out to the east – and I did NOT want to miss out on them!

The pre-dawn colors did not disappoint. However, the actual sunrise was rather anti-climactic with the dull orange orb mostly obscured by the clouds and fizzling out after only about a minute. So on a somewhat muted note, we all geared up and got into the 49F lake.

We had some rather active swells (estimated 2 – 4 feet), but the most vexing part of the swim was the frenetic chops that assaulted us from every direction. All in all, I was only able to get in about 1/4 mile – although it felt like a MUCH longer swim.

Still, we managed to sneak in one final swim for the month of April before the rainstorms moved in!

Orange flood at daybreak

30April2016_4

A rather tepid sunrise

30April2016_3

Choppy swim area

30April2016_2

Fausto, Lake Monster 399 (congrats!)

30April2016_1

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

02April2016_1

02April2016_3c

Crescent moon (with bonus seagulls)

02April2016_2

Sunrise sequence

02April2016_4

02April2016_5

02April2016_6

Clear and sunny out at L1!

02April2016_8

02April2016_9

02April2016_10

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

24Oct2015_2

Swim start!

24Oct2015_3

At the beach

24Oct2015_4

Back at L1

24Oct2015_5

Leland, Lake Monster 397

24Oct2015_6

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

17Oct2015_4

Escaping the cold!

17Oct2015_5

Swim Start

17Oct2015_1

17Oct2015_6

17Oct2015_7

Water level shot

17Oct2015_8

Albert, Lake Monster 393

17Oct2015_9

Hayley, Lake Monster 394

17Oct2015_10

Jeff, Lake Monster 395

17Oct2015_11

Ethan, Lake Monster 396

17Oct2015_2

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!

Daybreak

10Oct2015_1a

10Oct2015_5

10Oct2015_1b

Sunrise!

10Oct2015_1

Swim start

10Oct2015_1c

10Oct2015_6

10Oct2015_2

At the beach

10Oct2015_3

Back at L1

10Oct2015_4

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

10Oct2015_9

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

josh_L1

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

10Oct2015_SERC

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

5Sept2015_18

Sunrise in swim

5Sept2015_1

The view from Oak Street Beach

5Sept2015_3

5Sept2015_4

Back at L1

5Sept2015_8

5Sept2015_11

Post-swim sunrise

5Sept2015_10

Erika, Lake Monster 382 and Joy, Lake Monster 383

5Sept2015_12

Becca, Lake Monster 384

5Sept2015_13

Ashley, Lake Monster 385

5Sept2015_14

Kristan, Lake Monster 386

5Sept2015_15

Himanshu, Lake Monster 387

5Sept2015_16

The storms move in!

5Sept2015_17

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

29Aug2015_6

Dredging ship

29Aug2015_2

Hanging out at beneath the Chess Pavilion

29Aug2015_3

Testing the water

29Aug2015_4

Sudden downpour in-swim!

29Aug2015_1

Bill, Lake Monster 381

29Aug2015_5

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

22Aug2015_10

Swarm of Lake Monsters

22Aug2015_2

Cold plunge

22Aug2015_new1

22Aug2015_new2

Looking back

22Aug2015_11

Sunrise shots in-swim

22Aug2015_4

22Aug2015_1

22Aug2015_new3

The Oak Street Beach crew

22Aug2015_6

22Aug2015_5

Steve, Lake Monster 378

22Aug2015_7

Genevieve, Lake Monster 379

22Aug2015_8

Tim, Lake Monster 380

22Aug2015_9

In the aquarium!

22Aug2015_3

The scene at 6:00am