Swim Report – December 3, 2016 – Late Autumn Turnover

We were getting a bit spoiled in November with the unseasonably warmer lake temperatures. But Ma Nature sure let us know who was boss this morning!

Six of us met out at a chilly but calm lakefront at 7:00am. I tossed in my thermometer to get the surface temperature, and the mercury came in at a brisk 45F. So we’ve definitely (and finally) hit the fall turnover!

I was wavering as to what level of “swim armor” I should wear. I’ve had a two-week hiatus from the lake, and I’m just at the tail end of a really nasty cold. But I decided to chance it and went in with just my jammers, neoprene cap, and a healthy layer of petroleum jelly.

Thanks to a perfectly calm lake and zero wind, the immersion was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. The only issue I had was with my hands. Since I usually wear gloves in these temperatures, they were a bit painful throughout the swim. But apart from that, I was able to do a 1/2 mile without any difficulties.

The post-swim recovery was brutal. I hastened out of my wet swimwear and into dry layers as soon as humanly possible. But this was substantially compromised by my cold hands and tortoise-like reaction times.

After completing my change of clothes and gathering all my gear, I made a hasty goodbye to the others and indicated that I needed to retreat to the sanctuary of my heated car. So accompanied by new Lake Monster Cedric, I walked the seemingly endless 1/4 mile back to my Mazda in a total fugue state and managed to start my car just as the afterdrop kicked in (ugh!).

We spent the next 10 – 15 minutes shivering off the effects of the 43.4F lake (<-- yes, it was much colder in swim) before finally joining Steve at Elly's for breakfast. And let me tell you something - their hot coffee never tasted as good as it did this morning!

December lakefront



The late autumn crew


Cedric, Lake Monster 435


The “cold warriors” at Elly’s


Swim Report – October 22, 2016 – Bright and Brisk

Since we haven’t yet turned our clocks back, sunrise is around 7:05am these days. This later swim time gives us a bit more sleep which we definitely need to help fortify us from the cooler fall weather.

Fortunately, we got lucky this morning and managed to avoid the overcast skies that appear this time of year. So despite it being a crisp 40F outside, we had lots of sunshine that really helped take the edge off of the 57.0F lake.

Nine of us met out at L1 just before sunrise, and it sure was a spectacular one! We snapped several shots of nature’s show and then suited up in the nippy weather before going out to the lake to warm up.

I was able to do a full mile this time, although the swells were deceptively stronger than last week – particularly on the way back to L1. But the lake definitely hasn’t turned over yet. So we may still have a few weeks left of lake temps above the 50F level.

One can only hope!

Autumn skyline


The 7:00am crew



Sunrise sequence




Peter and Jeff at the beach


Steve, Lake Monster 433


Caitlin, Lake Monster 434


Swim Report – October 15, 2016 – Sub 60F zone

We managed to punch through the 60F ceiling at our last meetup, and I was hoping to get something similar this Saturday. And while the surface temp reading came in at a promising 61F, the in-swim mercury read a solid 59F. So fat chance on reversing this trend anytime soon!

We didn’t have the benefit of a calm and sunny morning this time. But that still did not deter the ten hearty Lake Monsters who showed up at the super late hour of 7:00am to get in an autumn swim. The air temp was around 53F at the lakefront, and it came across a bit nippier thanks to a sustained 5 – 10 mph wind from the southwest. So we wasted little time in preparation and quickly got in the water where it was mercifully warmer!

I was fighting off the beginnings of a head cold, so I only managed to get in just over 1/2 mile this time. But it was still a fantastic swim as the water was quite clear with only a slight swell to contend with.

Because I wasn’t in the water as long as the last few swims, I didn’t have as much of an afterdrop once I got out. Also, I remembered to bring a thermos of hot tea this time – a very wise decision which I shall be repeating from this point forward!

The Autumn crew


Lake Monster action shots!



John, Lake Monster 431, hailing all the way from the UK!


Amber, Lake Monster 432 (congrats!)


Swim Report – October 8, 2016 – Autumn Chill

I arrived at L1 a bit early as I made good time on the drive south from Evanston. The air was a crisp 46F, but we didn’t have the gusty winds and overcast skies of the last two weeks. So I was very pleased when the lake temp reading came in at 60.2F – a slight surge from the previous week but quite welcome!

I spent a few moments briefing some of the new swimmers, but I had to stop occasionally to check out the magnificent show. As I have written many times in the past, the sunrises in October are arguably the finest of the year, and we sure got a great one Saturday morning!

Just like last week, I did the out-and-back to the beach. But this time I had a curious cormorant accompanying me for part of the way south. Being the quicker and more agile swimmer, he soon lost interest in my slower paced efforts and darted off to more exciting ventures.

By the time I returned to L1, the iridescent October sun was out in full force. So I stayed around and chatted with some of the other swimmers while the bright sunshine helped stave off the afterdrop.

Yet another majestic fall morning that you all missed out on (again)!

Pre-dawn colors


Sunrise sequence




Lake Monsters in their element




The L1 cormorant


Joseph, Lake Monster 429 (congrats!)


Frank, Lake Monster 430 (congrats!)


Swim Report – October 1, 2016 – Cracking the Floor

October sure came in like a hellion with overcast skies, three foot swells, and a 59.9F lake. So much for Indian Summer!

An intrepid group of swimmers met out at L1 on Saturday to usher in the new month. Despite the later sunrise and swim start time, it took a while to shake off the sluggishness that accompanies a cooler autumn morning. But we managed to limit our procrastination enough to get in the lake before 7:00am!

The high winds from earlier in the week had churned up the lake to the point that water visibility was near zero. However, we didn’t have any sneaky thermoclines to contend with – just a uniformly cold Lake Michigan. So once we got in, we acclimated pretty quickly.

The swim south to the beach was deceptively easy because the winds from the north had created a current that pushed everyone along. This became quite apparent on the way back as we found ourselves swimming directly into the wave crests. So we had to put in a bit more effort to make it back to L1!

Overall, though, this was a milestone swim in that we finally “cracked the floor” – i.e. broke through the 60F mark. And the way Lake Michigan works, we probably won’t see that again until some time next May!

Skyline at dawn


The morning crew



Oak Street Beach


Peter, Lake Monster 428 (congrats!)


Swim Report – September 24, 2016 – Turbulence

It was a rather raucous morning out at the lakefront on Saturday as Ma Nature gave us some 3 – 4 foot swells and heavy chops. But the 66.5F lake temp made it quite palatable – even while dodging the seaweed obstacle course!

Eleven of us met out at L1 just after 6:30am. As with last week, the overcast skies didn’t give us much of a sunrise to enjoy. However, the lake temperature came in much higher than we expected, and this helped temper the steady wind from the east.

I decided to swim out a bit further from the edge so as to avoid the back and forth “washing machine” churn that you get from the waves ricocheting off of the side wall. But the continual swells kept veering me back, so I had to constantly readjust my swim path. About 100 feet from Oak Street Beach, I did a hard left so I could avoid “Hell’s Corner” and land at the middle of the beach.

Given the more vigorous swim conditions, I decided to do only 1/2 mile and walk back to L1. But I did get back in the lake up there and had a lot of fun playing around in the chops!

Morning chops


Autumn swimmers


Puppy fix for the day


Swim start


Race to the beach!


Shore waves



Courtney, Lake Monster 426 (Congrats!)


Anthony, Lake Monster 427 (Congrats!)


Video in the chops

Swim Report – September 17, 2016 – Last (Official) Meetup of Summer!

Our last meetup of summer 2016 turned out to be one of our best swims thanks to near perfect conditions out at L1!

While it was still a bit overcast at 6:30am, the lake was perfectly flat with aquarium clear conditions – so much so that you could see the ripples in the sand two meters below the surface. We typically don’t get this level of clarity in September, but we had an insidious thermocline moving in to the shoreline. So in exchange for near perfect visibility underwater, we had to put up with a slight chill at various points during the swim.

The surface temperature came in at 66.7F, but the final in-swim reading was 65.0F. There were some pockets of warmth on the way south to Oak Street Beach, but you could really sense the cooler water moving in on the way back!

Unlike prior outings over the last few months, I was actually able to do the entire out-and-back mile this time without any shoulder issues. So a big shout out to Simone and crew over at Athletico for putting up with all my bad jokes for the last 8 weeks!

And as always, if you slept in on Saturday morning, you sure missed out (again!)

Lake Monsters at the swim start


Welcome back Kim!


Hanging out at Oak Street Beach


Shameless selfie


Bettina, Lake Monster 423


Paul, Lake Monster 424


Brock, Lake Monster 425


In-swim video

Swim Report – August 27, 2016 – Late Summer Chops

Five of us met out at L1 on Saturday morning at the tail end of a thunderstorm. There was some lightning on the eastern horizon, so we had to wait a half hour before getting into the water. But we were pleasantly surprised when we did!

The official temperature came at a uniform 66.5F – a significant improvement over earlier in the week. This warmer water made the swells and chops much more tolerable!

I got in just over a 1/4 mile swim before bailing out to walk back. I couldn’t get any sort of rhythm in the chops, and they kept randomly torquing my right arm around – not the best thing for my still ailing shoulder. But given the tumultuous swim conditions, I still got in more than enough of a workout!

A rainy and choppy swim site


Dominic, Lake Monster 421, in town all the way from Australia!


Jenny, Lake Monster 422


Living Colour at the Skokie Backlot Bash later that night (not related to swimming, but you still should have been there anyway!)


Swim Report – August 6, 2016 – Summer Reunion

The dog days of summer always seem to bring out larger crowds – including Lake Monsters who we haven’t seen in a while. And this was most certainly the case on Saturday!

The heat wave from earlier in the week brought the lake temperature up to 74.5F. While this was quite comfortable to swim in, it also came with a trade off – namely higher algae levels. In fact, I am sure that this is what has been causing my post-swim congestion symptoms over the past month or so. Personally, I’d rather have colder water and no allergens – so give me a 55F lake any time over what we get this time of year!

For this swim, I decided to do a 1/2 mile breaststroke to the beach in order to spare my shoulder the stress of an overhead freestyle stroke. This seemed to work out very well, although I was surprised at how much more I used my legs with this stroke (something they reminded me of several hours later)!

We had some 1-3 foot swells that seemed to intensify closer to the beach – especially at “Hell’s Corner.” So the lake was a bit more of a challenge than the mirror flat conditions we had mid-week. But we sure had a great morning out at the old swim site!



Lake Monster gathering




Heading south


At the beach!


Pat, Lake Monster 420 (with returning veteran Heidi, LM 201)


Swim Report – July 30, 2016 – Early Morning Fury

Twas a rough one out at L1 on Saturday morning!

A steady wind from the northeast gave us 3 – 5 foot swells and rather spirited chops, making the swim quite a test to both new and seasoned swimmers. However, the lake came in at a fiery 72F, so the only real challenge was navigating the “washing machine.”

In total, I managed to eek out about 1/4 mile in the chaotic lake. But the balmy water temperatures made it a very pleasant swim nonetheless!

Swim start


Water level shots



Back home!


Clint, Lake Monster 415


Siobhan, Lake Monster 416


Alannah, Lake Monster 417


Joel, Lake Monster 418


Rick, Lake Monster 419