Friday, September 15, 2006

Evanston, September 15

The weather has been wet and the Lake wavy this week, and after last Saturday swimming in waves was not my thing. Today was better and Ken was free for a while so we wandered down to the usual Evanston beach mid morning. It was a bright sunny day with no wind to speak of in the morning, but the air was a bit cool. The water was almost flat, just some ripples and small swells. The water was very cloudy, however and we could not see even two feet down. The temperature was a very reasonable 67 for this time of year. We went to the wall, and then all the way back to the near wall keeping a brisk pace. Ken is younger and somewhat more ambitious than Mike. The bikini clad lady at the end on her cell phone did apparently finish her call and finally go in for the winter since I was here last. After the swim Ken had to go directly to his side job for the day so we brought two cars. I stayed for another hour and enjoyed the nice September day, it would have been more pleasant without the noisy workmen reroofing the bathrooms and vacuuming out the sewers nearby. For much of the hour there was only one woman on the beach reading her paper, besides me, but activity was picking up as I left around noon.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Big Shoulders, September 9

Last Friday (September 1) we couldn't imagine swimming big shoulders in those conditions. Today Ken and I didn't have to imagine, we did it. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, the Lake forecast yesterday evening called for 5.5 foot waves with rain or thunderstorms. The Ohio street area where the race is held is protected, but 5 foot waves outside can still wreck havoc and a storm passing through could be a real mess.

But today was only partly cloudy and the winds were not as strong as expected. Still come race time the lake looked very much like last Friday and it only got worse as the race wore on. One good thing is that the race course is different from the practice course which runs up and down along the west wall, for the race we swim out along the filtration plant, then parallel to the breakwater and back along the wall. We have to do this twice for 5K. The first leg was not bad during the first lap and the long leg along the breakwater was good until near the end where the waves come in. On the homestretch by the wall the waves were bad tossing us around but being following waves they at least gave us a push in the right direction. By the second lap the first leg out was much rougher, going more or less into the wind. The second leg was not bad, wavy but the waves were relatively smooth and the wind was a cross wind. By now the course had cleared out of most swimmers, only some of us slower 5K types were still in the water, but, like a slow spot on a highway, there seemed to be a crowd at the last turn as people struggled to get through the largest waves. Finally the last leg was fast, for me at least, but very very bumpy. I finished feeling like a boxer who just finished a 15 round draw.

Surprisingly, most swimmers finished even though few had experience in this kind of water. I didn't meet anyone who really enjoyed it, though. The water was unofficially 72 degrees, Ken and I were quite comfortable after the race with just T-shirts. Some other swimmers, especially the thinner women, did not share our warmth. This was Ken's first Big Shoulders, in my case I survived my 15th. I was pleased that, given the conditions, my time was comparable to past times.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Leone Beach, September 6

Cheap Shoulders, Heat 2 Mike hopes to establish an annual event the day after labor day, Cheap Shoulders, a swim from Howard Street Beach (Chicago) to Pratt Pier and back. This year I work Tuesdays and he did not want to break the tradition so he apparently did it alone yesterday. He says it was not too wavy, the water was fine, but the air was very cold on exit. He was not interested in repeating today.

Ken and I did our version of the swim today at 7AM. The conditions were awesome. Bright sun, almost flat water, almost clear (the bottom was visible all the way, but just barely), very light wind and 70 degree water. And we were not cold getting out. We modified the swim somewhat, we started at Leone beach, swam south to Pratt Pier, then north to Howard and finished again at Leone. The whole swim took about 68 minutes. There were a number of other swimmers present, they did not appear to be preparing for a meet. At one point Ken was left of me, shortly afterwards I saw someone on my right, my first reaction was that somehow Ken had swum to my other side. But looking more carefully it was a young woman, much better looking than Ken. She was as surprised to see me as I was her, and quickly swam in a different direction. After several weeks of bad weather it was good to be reminded again how pleasurable lake swimming really is.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ohio Street, September 1

The morning pool group, Ken, Joe, Paul and me, decided last week that we would go for a Lake swim. Ken and I are doing Big Shoulders next week, Paul is a veteran, having done it last year, and Joe wanted to come along for the workout. As I have the most Lake experience I was delegated to pick the time and beach. Monday and Wednesday were too rainy/windy for Evanston, which was my preference so I cancelled on both of those. But Ken needed to swim so it was decided that regardless of the weather we would go somewhere. Unfortunately our weather has been held up by the storms coming up the Atlantic coast so we have had this constant north-east wind all week. And today, which I was hoping to be better wasn't, maybe worse. So the trip was to Ohio Street where one can always swim.

So we drove down in two cars, the idea was that Joe would do one lap and leave for work and Ken, Paul and I would do to. We got into the city by 6:30 AM and actually were able to find, at least partly legal, parking places not too far from the Lake. The other guys are Chicago natives and the mindset here it that it is better to get a $50 ticket than pay a $20 parking lot fee, and besides who ever heard of a traffic cop in Chicago working before 8:30 AM? The Lake was almost as rough as I have seen at Ohio St. Some swimmers getting out who had biked down assured us that it was worse up north. They also said it was warm, it didn't feel that way getting in as it was 69, but we worked so hard that we, at least Ken and I, were plently warm by the finish. We lost Joe at the second ladder, we last saw him waving to us from shore to continue without him. We made the outbound with difficulty, I told the guys to round the red bouy at the end, but it wasn't there, either due to wave action or the triatheletes removing it at the end of their season. But the inbound trip was better. We decided not to do the second lap. There were a number of other swimmers present and many of them were doing an out and back to the first boat bouy east of the beach, so we did that, about 200 yards. Paul and I had enough but Ken did one more of these for cooldown. Then coffee at Starbucks and we were on our way home about 8:30 with very little traffic on the outbound Kennedy.