Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ohio Street, June 18, 2016

No open water swimming for me this off season although I did touch the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Arabian (aka Persian) Gulf. I was these places for non-swimming reasons and the conditions, location or schedule was not conducive for swimming.

Today was a rare June day for Chicago Lake swimming. After several unseasonable 90 degree days we had 3 days of northwest winds bring the warm surface water to Chicago. The air was fairly calm and mostly sunny sky with temperatures going up to the 80's. So Joe, Jody and I had to go to Ohio Street. The water varied from 66 to 67 degrees depending on the spot and there were 1 foot waves and some chop. But almost perfect. Getting in was a bit hard since we were not used to cold water, later in the season there would be no problem. But we swam a mile and by the time we got back to the beach we were very comfortable, Jody and Joe wearing just swimsuits and latex caps. I had a neoprene cap and shorts, the shorts being more for speed so I can keep up with Joe and Jody than for warmth.

Actually Joe had been there a week before with his son. But it was colder, about 60, and he actually rented a wetsuit from a vendor who appears to be setting up shop at the beach for the season. He didn't like it but was glad he had it. He scouted out all the construction going on near the beach and parking options. So it worked well for today. New for this week, Mayor Emanuel has re-installed the lockers at the beach, even more than before. He is planning other changes - he hopes to make this beach a world class triathlon training area. Already more athletes than ever seem to be showing up, not so many at 6:30 AM when we arrived but swimming back from the half mile buoy we had to dodge the traffic. One not so welcome, but perhaps necessary improvement discussed is a lane line the whole length of the official swim area. Not really open water but one-way swimming may save many collisions.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Evanston, Friday, October 2

Since Big Shoulders each weekend has been worse than the last, so we have not gone to the beach. Yesterday Jody went to Evanston to check out reports of big waves. She took the following pictures:

Note that normally this lifeguard chair sits about 15 feet from the water line. Today I intended to swim indoors but my pool, usually a pleasant 77, degrees was 87 so I couldn't swim much. Since I was partway to the lake I decided to go see for myself. I didn't have my camera but Jody's pictures suffice. The East wind was so strong I had to take off my hat, with the air in the lower 50's it was cold. Fortunately I was wearing convertible pants so I took off the legs and went a little way into the surf. I was afraid to lose my watch so we will have to go with my body's estimate, at least 60 but probably not much above that. The sand in and out of the beach area was very windblown. I walked a little way south of the beach on Sheraton Road, at one place the sand from the beach had blown over the sidewalk and made a little dune. At several other locations the spray from the waves came over the sidewalk and onto the road. On the south side of the south wall of our beach the waves reached the top of the wall. Anyway no swimming this weekend, we are probably done for the year.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Big Shoulders 2015

Today was the 25th anniversary of Big Shoulders and the National Championship 5K swim. Or was supposed to be. The weather pattern which ruined the Evanston swim several weeks ago threatened Big Shoulders from the beginning. There have been dire forecasts of large waves, rain, cold air and maybe water, and possibly even water spouts (small tornados on the lake) all week. All the organizers could do, according to them at least, was hope the forecasts were wrong. The water temp may have held out, I didn't get a chance to measure, and it did not seem that the waves inside the enclosed swim area were any worse than some other Big Shoulders. But the rains came in force. Possibly partly due to the much higher lake levels this year, and possibly partly that the NNE wind aimed directly at the beach, the beach was flooded. Their electronics, chips etc, would have been useless. So the swim was cancelled. Although the rest of the Chicago area was bright and sunny, really a very nice fall day, it seemed according to radar, that the lakefront would have rain all day so postponing an hour maybe wouldn't have helped.

I would have been the oldest in my age group and would have been an unlikely National Champ. I'm not sure 5K is my race anymore. So I'm not that disappointed. I did grab a nice towel and shirt, at retail prices almost my cost of the race. Thanks to an unanticipated construction traffic jam on the expressway exit and a malfunctioning gate at Navy pier I ended up not parking there saving $20. A stop at Starbucks for some coffee on the way home so, as they say in Chicago, wait till next year.

Postscript: The official explanation was that the lifeguards bailed. Then, of course, it had to be cancelled. It's ts a Good thing too. Aparently this water spout was spotted, and photographed nearby Ohio St around 10 o'clock when I was still in the water. All of us out there would have shit our pants and that wouldn't be fun to swim through.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Evanston, September 9

Joe, Kevin and I met in Evanston for a last lake tuneup before big shoulders just as dawn was breaking. We could barely distinguish lake from shore. But when we stuck our feet in we knew. Joe and Kevin immediately turned around and headed for a nice warm pool. I stuck around to get a temperature reading. It was 54.6, worse even than two weeks ago. I went home too. Supposedly Ohio St was still 68 today so we will see.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Ohio Street, September 5

Joe, son Kevin and I go to Ohio St for what will probably be our last practice there before Big Shoulders. We are accompanied by one of Kevin's friends, a former swimmer. The water is calm and warm again, about 71. Different weather forecasters differ on whether we will have rain this morning, but seem to agree that it will not be stormy. Even though it is warm I bring my new warm pants to try and keep up with the group. We swim to Oak St beach but as we round the corner it begins to pour. We are in the water so don't get wet, but the drops actually hurt. We think we see some lightning, worse we have possibly heard some thunder meaning the lightning is close. There are a number of characters roaming Oak St with metal detectors prospecting for lost change. We ask one if he had seen lightning and he denied it. We decide that with their metal detector they are better lightning targets than we are so, since it appears to be clearing, we swim back.

With my new pants I do keep up with Joe. But we do not seem to be fast so this swim does not bode well for the race when I will probably be pantless. Stay tuned for the results next week.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Evanston, September 1

A quick trip to the Lake to try out my new warm pants and see how that part of the Lake is doing. I have heard Ohio st has recovered to 67. Not so Evanston, it was still 57.6. Getting in it was very cold on my extremities but my core was comfy with the new pants. After about 15 minutes I felt better. The air was much hotter today and the swim shorter so no recovery problems.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Evanston, Clark St Beach, August 22 "Great Lakes Plunge"

Hypothermia! This past week we had the annual inversion. Over the course of 5 days with a steady strong west wind the Chicago area water temperatures plunged from 73 to 50 degrees. On Friday temperatures moderated slightly, but apparently less at the northern beaches. We were warned that the race might be shortened or cancelled. I had signed up for, and trained for, the 2.4K. When I got to the beach the first thing I did was wade knee deep with my temperature watch on my ankle. I got a reading of 58.6. I decided that this was not sufficient for a 2.4K, but OK for 1.2. As it turned out the race organizers ruled that the only options would be 1 or 2 laps of the tiny course, .6 or 1.2K wet suits required. I chose the 1.2 but regular readers know what I think about wetsuits. I did have my heavier thermal cap and I have been wearing a black triathlon top, mostly for sun protection. I figured this would be sufficient along with my regular swim shorts. None of the officials looked at me closely enough to bump me from the race.

Once I got away from shore it became clear that the shoreline was significantly warmer than further out. In fact it seems that the average temperature of the course was about 56. My head and torso were warm enough but at first my arms and legs were cold. By the end of the first lap they had warmed sufficiently for me to swim the second lap. When I crossed the finish line I felt good enough to bypass the warming station. Perhaps my big mistake was to hang around the finish talking to people and posing for pictures rather than quickly changing to dry clothes. After I had changed, about 15 minutes after leaving the water, I began to shake. My friends were worried and got the paramedics. Maybe because they were kind of bored or perhaps because they didn't want me to drive, they walked me to their ambulance, put a hot pad on the back of my neck, wrapped me in blankets and turned on the heat in the ambulance. After about 20 minutes I had stopped shaking and they let me go. My friends got me some pizza and after another half hour I was normal enough to drive home. With the sun beating on my car by the time I got home I was hot.

I do want to comment on the race in general. The water temp was a dangerous situation and I have no complaints about how today's race was handled. However I am annoyed with earlier changes. If I had known some of the details in advance I probably would not have entered. First the course was to be a rectangle 1.2 miles in perimeter. Instead, and this was before the temperature plunge, the race had been changed to this dinky triangle .6 mi. in perimeter. The 2.4K was to be 4 laps, too much like a pool for me. The other change was to withdraw the race from USMS. The idea was to attract kids but there were none there that I saw.

PostScript: I later talked to Joe, he and Kevin went to Ohio St, on my recommendation, this same morning. It was supposedly warmer there but both Joe and Kevin told me that they have never been so cold. Kevin said he shook for over an hour.