Sunday, September 20, 2009

Evanston, September 20

The Lake continues to be warm thanks to prevailing easterly winds. But the winds themselves present a problem. I have been monitoring them carefully and had reason to believe that this morning would not be too bad. Joe and Jody agreed to come and I suggested Evanston as Jody, in particular, enjoys that much more. I was also interested in how warm Evanston would be. I meant to check to get an accurate reading of the winds over the Lake before we decided on Evanston vs Ohio street but the wind was completely calm at home that I didn't think this would be necessary.

Parking was a problem due to nearby road construction and while we were looking for a place to park the Lake did not look too fierce. But we did notice in the trees that it was quite windy here in Evanston. The water felt warm, but it was only 66-67 according to my thermometer. The water probably felt warmer because it was about 7 degrees warmer than the air. It was not until we actually got in the water up to our faces that we realized the extent of the wind and the size of the waves at eye level. We decided to try to get to the wall anyway with a reconnoiter midway. A big problem with waves is visibility of nearby objects in the water, eg. each other, is difficult. Thus we were actually about 2/3 of the way to the wall when we all got close enough to communicate. We decided unanimously to turn around. But again we were either bumping into each other or completely unable to locate each other. We had to trust that we would all get back safely. Jody and I, in particular, were comfortable with our own swimming but concerned about the others. Finally near our destination Jody and I found each other, but Joe appeared completely gone. It was not until I got to a shallow sandbar that I could get over the waves enough to see Joe's unique stroke way out in the Lake and seemingly headed way past the beach. But I have become familiar enough with Joe's style to trust that he would turn at the last minute and come home, which he did. So we are all safe to swim another day.

Both Joe and Jody have experience swimming in the San Francisco bay, and I have been in various oceans, but we again agreed that Lake Michigan presents particular difficulties because of the shorter wavelengths and more chop. But, on dry land we agreed that this was more fun than a swim in a pool, or even Ohio Street.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big Shoulders, Ohio Street, September 12

With all the cold water a few weeks ago and the overall cool summer people were apprehensive about the 5K Big Shoulders race at Ohio Street. But when I got up on race morning the bigger problem appeared to be fog. At my house one could barely see 50 feet, which would make navigating extremely difficult. But by the time I arrived at the beach the Ohio Street area was clear and sunny, although fog was clearly visible further up the Lake. Because of fears of cold water they had arranged for a vendor to rent wetsuits at the meet and had a table where one could change to the wetsuit division. The announcer tried to drum up business, but there were few takers. In fact this was clearly the nicest day of the summer on the Lake and one of the nicest Big Shoulders ever, at least weatherwise. The Lake was flat at the start and 69 degrees. As mentioned, the sun was out and the air temperature was already in the low 70s at race time. As the race progressed some wind did come up and it began to get hazy and less comfortable for the audience and more bouncy for the swimmers but it was still very nice. If anything, when I got out I was hot rather than cold. Of our group who swam, Ken, Ellen, Sue, Stuart, Leo and me, only Ellen was a bit cold after the race.

Maybe we'll get a 70 degree water day yet this season!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Evanston 9/9/09

Today was just a quick solo trip to the Lake as a final stretch out before Big Shoulders. The sky was cloudy with a light east wind and air temperatures in the upper 60's. The water remains 66 as there is no warm water available for the east wind to bring in. On the other hand there is no cold water nearby on the surface of the Lake so unless an unforecast westerly flow develops in the next few days we can expect present water temperatures to hold through Big Shoulders this Saturday. Nonetheless, the Lake felt chilly this morning.

There were 2 foot swells coming straight in from the East with light chop on top. But it was not hard swimming out against them. Oddly, they were a little more bothersome coming back with them. I was in the water for about 25 minutes of which about 20 was actually swimming. Given the 4 miles or so I logged in the Lake this weekend that is probably enough.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Evanston, September 7 (Labor Day)

An unscheduled swim. We were promised by Joe that our outdoor pool would be open for one last swim on Labor Day, but Joe, who knew where the Park District brass lived, went biking instead of coming to practice and dragging some suit out of bed to open the pool for us. We waited around for about 40 minutes for someone to show up at the pool. By then Leo had left but Ken and Jody had shown up. So when I suggested that we just go to the Lake they both agreed. So we hopped in my car and drove to Evanston with just our pool gear rather than our Lake gear.

There was a strong northeast wind with low swells and windwaves. But overall it would be hard to argue that the waves were more than a foot or two. The water felt warm to our feet but with the cool damp wind it felt cold overall. Jody had not brought a cap to the Lake and I offered her one of my 3 grubby latex caps in my pool bag and she at first resisted, but on standing on the side of the Lake she reconsidered. I suggested we start out with a straight out 10 minute swim and then reconsider. But Ken and Jody made no move to start swimming so I headed out solo. After the 10 minutes I looked behind and Ken and Jody, who are faster than me, were right behind me. We agreed that conditions weren't so awful so a swim to the wall was agreed upon.

At the wall the water was sheltered by the wall from the wind and was quite calm, just the low swells. I checked my thermometer watch and the water was 65, which has now become the norm for the Lake. We all felt good in spite of the hard swim out against the waves and looked forward to an easy swim back. It wasn't so easy, Ken was watching the time and said we were only a minute faster coming back (20 out, 19 back). But we all felt warm and pumped up with adrenaline. Jody and I agreed that this was far more fun than yesterday's uneventful swim at Ohio Street. If you re-read yesterday's post translate "nice" to "boring".

Unlike our suburb, Evanston had their bathrooms open even when we got there. But instead of lifeguards they had a plain clothes policeman in an unmarked car sitting by the beach entrance. Apparently we were not of interest to him, he was on dog duty. We all craved a cup of coffee so the next stop was Starbucks where, since I was the only one with money, I treated the group to coffee. There were so many people there that there was no convenient parking so I put the car in an alley and left Ken to guard the car while Jody and I got the coffee. Outside Starbucks there was a uniformed cop standing guard. Apparently while we were in the store he walked over and checked out my car, but seeing Ken in the back seat left us alone. Apparently a bunch of middle aged intruders wearing Crocs and little else are no perceived threat to Evanston.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ohio Street, September 6

I have been advertising among my group that the water is getting warmer, so a larger group today, Stuart (new to this blog), Jody, Sue, Joe and I showed up.

It was overcast but with warmer air temperature than recently with no wind. The water was fairly flat, just low swells, and 66. We all swam to the turn and back. The swim was uneventful, which is actually the nicest kind of swim.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Beverly Shores, September 4

Back in the days when I was swimming with Mike we typically took a September outing to the Indiana dunes. We would hike the dunes and then go for a swim from the beach at Beverly Shores. So when Leo suggested we do a swim there I was happy to oblige. Even faithful readers of this blog may not remember Leo since he mostly predated this blog, even in its earliest incantations (1996). But he was one of our original Lake swimmers and instrumental on turning me on to the Lake. Lately Leo has been doing most of his Lake swimming solo, much of it in Beverly Shores where he has family. Locally he has continued to be a regular in our morning pool sessions and has swum just about every Big Shoulders Race. In fact this swim was intended as training for Big Shoulders next week.

We got in the water before 8AM. Our first impression upon tentatively sticking our toes in was that the water was 70, so I used a light cap. But after starting to swim I realized it was cooler, in fact only 65, but with the sun out it felt warmer. There were 1 foot swells, but the swimming was easy, although we noticed a slight current from the east. This long beach without any breakwaters is, of course, subject to currents. But it is quite safe as long as there are no riptides since you can get out anywhere. We estimate we swam 2 miles, but it is harder to judge since there are no fixed markers like in Evanston or Ohio Street.

After Mike and I would swim we would go to Wagner's in Portage for a dinner of ribs. We never could figure out whether the ribs were especially good or it just seemed so after the swim. Today after swimming Leo took me to his favorite spot, Joe's Bar on Route 12 east of Beverly Shores. We had breakfast and it was especially good. So I still don't know if it is Northern Indiana that has good food or whether food just tastes better after swimming in Indiana. In any case it is something to look forward to at least once a year.