Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ohio Street, July 27

Today may be the coldest July 27 in Chicago history, supported by a strong west wind and overcast skies. We decide on Ohio Street but Will has told me 7:30 and Nickki 6:00. I'm just getting up at 6 when Will calls from the beach. I throw on my suit and hop in the car and am on the beach at 6:45 splitting the difference. Will and Nickki are waiting for me, but have not been in the water. I have brought both a regular latex cap and a thermal one, and decide on the latex one. A good choice, even though the air is 63 the water is 70 and I am quite toasty, once we get going. It is quite wavy at both ends of the course but the middle is fine. Will is much happier here as he can stand most of the way. I only brought dark goggles and with the lighting it was almost impossible to see the distance marking buoys. But really, quite a nice mile swim.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Promontory Point, July 20

Will and I are on our own today. Storms expected overnight so will has suggested Ohio Street. I'm not completely happy because the beach report had 77 degrees for the water there yesterday. In the middle of the night I wake up wondering if this isn't the day for Swim Across America? So I go check and it is, so Ohio St is out. I am somehow able to connect with him early and the weather is now beautiful so we go to Promontory point. We have had hot weather all week and with the Ohio St. report I don't bring my thermal cap. But Promontory point turns out to be 66. This is a bit cold for Will but towards the destination wall we encounter 1.5 foot waves. Will is a slightly stronger swimmer than me but I forget that this does not necessarily imply better open water skills. Will is uncomfortable so when we get to the wall instead of heading straight back we swim near 57th street beach and back up along the point. This route is less wavy and always fairly close to shore. We encounter several other swimmers who swim from the point to the beach and back, a route I had never considered. By the time we were done we were comfortable in the water, not a bad swim after all. When we left the swim area at the point was crowded with bikes, gear etc, but with such a big swim area the population in the water seemed small. Usually wet suits avoid this area but there were a few wet suiters there, they were the ones complaining of the cold.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Promontory Point, July 13

With Jody away I needed someone to swim with so I hooked up with Will and Nickki from my winter swim team. Even though they are both north siders they prefer Promontory point which reader of this blog know as one of my 3 favorite Chicago Swim sites. Will and Nikki are actually very compatible with me as to speed and endurance, and both signed up for Big Shoulders, so it is a good match. Besides, they like to go out for a big greasy breakfast afterwards recouping any calories lost by swimming. I'm happy to go along with that.

In terms of the Lake there was hardly anything to complain of, lots of sun, cool air this time of morning, some light swells and 72 degree water. I'm only giving it a 9 instead of 10, the water was just a tad warm. We did about a mile, halfway out and back.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Ohio Street, July 6

Jody was upset that she missed July 4 when I told her about it. Since she is due to leave town for most of the summer I insisted that she come with me today. Fortunately the weather cooperated and we arrived on the beach by 6:30 with two thermal caps. At that time it wasn't so crowded but the lockers were already all taken and most of the bike racks were full. At the end of the summer we have had our share of cold water and are used to it, but after a winter of swimming in 80+ degree water the mid 60's sounds frightening. But armed with thermal caps I got Jody in the water with a first scheduled stop to check in with each other at the 1/4 mile buoy. When we got there Jody decided that this "wasn't so bad", in fact the water was 67.4, almost a degree warmer than the 4th. So we continued on to the half mile buoy and Jody is now saying "this is good". In fact so good we were reluctant to stop and went another 100 yards or so towards Oak Street. Jody, who floats naturally, noted that there was an outbound current so thinking the swim back might be harder we turned around. Back at the quarter mile marker she says "this is really good." And at the beach "this was excellent". And she was right, this was one of the great days of Lake swimming, a perfect 10 with little wind, a sunny sky and a water temperature that was perfect, even this early in the summer. We felt sorry for the legion of wet suit swimmers who would never get to feel just how great this water was.

Jody wasn't impressed with the thermal cap. She wears custom ear plugs and claims that just keeping the water out of your ears is what preserves head warmth. I say a thermal cap does as much as a wet suit. So by the principle of transitivity tiny earplugs will keep you as warm as a big wet suit. And much more convenient, just put them in your pocket when you finish swimming.

After the dry fall and early winter there was some fear about the water level being so low that Ohio street would be unswimmable. But with the wet spring and early summer that hasn't happened. If anything it seems a little deeper this year than last.

Added: Perhaps some of you saw the recent pictures of the algae bloom on Chinese beaches. It seems that like us algae like 68 degrees as the ideal water temperature. But this picture would not be ideal.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ohio Street, July 4

The 4th of July is the traditional first day of Lake swimming for me. But with the cool weather this week and a water temperature model that predicted an August like inversion bringing up cold water from the bottom in the Chicago area, I couldn't get any takers and, the air being 59 degrees, almost didn't go. Initially I went to the pool but the Lake was calling. So I left practice early, had breakfast and then went to the Lake parking at the Irving Park lot (free except weekends) and biked to Ohio Street. I got there at 8:30 instead of our usual 6:30. The water was fairly flat and cool, but not as cool as I had feared: 66.5 was the average of my readings.

There were probably 100 swimmers in the water. Most of the swimmers wore wet suits. Just as I was getting in a swimmer I know was exiting having just swum to Oak Street beach and back. He wore a full body wet suit and asked ME how warm the water is, explaining that he could feel nothing inside his suit. But another guy, very skinny, got in at the same time I did with just a suit and goggles, no cap. He finished when I did and apparently survived. I, of course, did not wear a wet suit but did wear a thermal cap. Having already swum some I went to Chicago Ave, there is now a buoy with "1/4 mile" written on it, and back. By the time I got back the sun had warmed the area well so it was very pleasant. A good way to start the season.

On the ride back I noticed a number of people at "ladder one" off of North Ave beach that is also a popular north side swim spot. But no one was actually in the water.