Race Report: Diamond Lake Open Water Challenge (Cassopolis, MI)

Race Report: Diamond Lake Open Water Challenge (Cassopolis, MI)

And now, for a belated report on the Diamond Lake Open Water Challenge, in which I partook two Saturdays ago, September 18. I had been waiting on the official photos from the day, but no such luck. The images below I either took myself or scavenged off Facebook.

I hadn’t planned to do this race, but late last month I had one of those “Oh, what the hell” moments, and that was that. Even as the official Olympic marathon swim distance, 10K’s are still pretty rare below the elite level. And this one was less than a 2 hour drive from Chicago. I saw it as an opportunity to see what I could do in a casual setting, where I probably wouldn’t be racing anyone, in water that wasn’t 84 degrees – in other words, everything the Noblesville 10K wasn’t.…

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Little Red Lighthouse Swim Preview

Little Red Lighthouse Swim Preview

Yesterday afternoon, NYC*SWIM announced that the Little Red Lighthouse Swim is moving up the Hudson. The 5.85-mile course has traditionally run between 56th and 172nd Streets (or vice versa, depending on the tide). Tomorrow, and possibly also in future years, the swim will begin at the 79th Street Boat Basin and finish near Inwood Park, all the way at the top of Manhattan Island.

The new course is a full 10K, and will pass climactically under the George Washington Bridge just over a mile from the finish. The Daily News of Open Water Swimming reports that it will be the largest 10K swim in the world, with 250 swimmers.



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Remembering Elk Lake

Remembering Elk Lake

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the Cascade Lake Swim Series & Festival was the highlight of my Great Summer of Open Water. I was reminded of this when I recently discovered Bob Needham’s report, which includes some gorgeous photos — and even a video! The video captures the frantic finish of the 1500m race. You can see me stumbling in at the very end (I’m the one without the B70).

It should be obvious why I prefer in-water finishes :-)

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Swimming at Chicago’s Promontory Point

Swimming at Chicago’s Promontory Point

Summer’s almost gone in Chicago. The winds are picking up; white caps on the lake are a little more frequent; the morning temperatures have a little more bite; the evenings a little less light. Soon, the lake will turn over, bringing the cold depths to the surface, and the air will fail to warm them.

So, it’s about time that I write about my favorite little corner of Lake Michigan: the cove formed by the southern face of Promontory Point and the 59th Street Pier, with the 57th Street Beach in between. “The Point” has been used by long-distance swimmers for decades, who appreciate its several unique features:…

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Race Report: Big Shoulders 5K (Chicago, IL)

Race Report: Big Shoulders 5K (Chicago, IL)

RESULTS here.
Official write-up here.
Rob Aquatics write-up here.

What the gods giveth, they can – and do – taketh away. This is Chicago, people!

Big Shoulders ’09 was a picture-perfect beach day, with calm 73-degree water. This year, the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine blew through, giving us clouds, rain, wind, and choppy, cold water (62-63 degress F).

It’s all in the game, though, right? Open-water swimming isn’t supposed to be predictable – that’s what pools are for! Maybe you get a beach day, or maybe you get a storm. Maybe the water is calm and comfortable, or maybe it’s churning and cold. The more you can suck it up and say, “I don’t care. It’s the same water for everyone” – the more successful you’ll be.

Dare I say it? Open-water swimming is supposed to be challenging! It might be uncomfortable; it might be frustrating; it might even be vaguely dangerous. You may have to endure – god forbid! – a few negative thoughts. In open water, there are no “best times” – the clock is merely a ranking device.…

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Embracing the cold

Embracing the cold

As the 2010 open-water season draws to a close, my thoughts occasionally drift to the future – the blank slate that is 2011. And as I contemplate new goals and challenges, a recurring theme has been… cold water tolerance.

Aside from occasional childhood forays into the ocean off Santa Barbara – where it never rises much beyond the mid-60′s (F) – my cold water experience is pretty limited. Of my races this summer, the coldest was the 6K in Colorado, and that was only 67. When I moved to Chicago at the end of June, the lake was already in the mid-60′s.

So, when a cold front blew in late last week and dropped the lake down to the high-50′s, I figured it was time to take a page from Rob Aquatics‘ book and put up or shut up. The only thing missing was my adventure beard.

Into the lake I went early Sunday morning – certainly kicking, not quite screaming – with a hardy group of Point warriors. My trusty infrared thermometer took a reading of 58F, which was confirmed by two others.…

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Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

People say times don’t matter in open water – or at least that you don’t always know what they mean. And perhaps that’s part of its attraction. While in the pool “the clock never lies,” in open water it’s not much more than a ranking device.

Even so, I’ve been surprised by how closely most of my open-water pace times have approximated my pool speed at various distances – from 1:15 at 1 mile (Huntersville), to 1:17 at 1.5 miles (Livermore), to 1:19 at 2 miles (H’ville again) up to 6K (Windsor), and 1:22 at 10K (Noblesville).

When an event has been staged for many years, though – at the same location, on the same course layout – comparing times makes a little more sense. Big Shoulders is one such event.

In that spirit, here are the finish times in Big Shoulders across the 12 years of available data, starting with the 5K race:

5K times

That chart is a little busy, so let’s unpack it:

  • Each black dot represents one swim. The dots are “jiggered” slightly to the left or right of their corresponding year (so more of them are visible).


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“Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship

“Race” Report: USMS 10K Postal Championship

Another Friday, another long-ass postal swim at the UIC Natatorium. This time, for 10K: 200 laps of a 50-meter pool.

The 10K Postal Swim is as much a psychological challenge as physical. Even 5K is a pretty brutal distance to do as a straight pool swim. For the 10K, you do the 5K… and you’re only halfway done. So it may very well be the single toughest USMS-sanctioned event – except perhaps for the biennial open-water 25K.

I was joined by fellow distance freak Amanda Hunt, which made for less lonely laps. Heidi K. from the Smelts and my favorite U-Chicago professor were also on deck, as lap counters – which I’m told on good authority is a similarly mind-numbing experience.

My goal? 2:17:52 – my open-water 10K time from Noblesville in July.…

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2010: the two-thirds review

2010: the two-thirds review

In the first 8 months of 2010 I swam 452.4 miles (796,224 yards). Here’s the mileage by month, with days out of the water: 52.1 (7 days off), 52.8 (2 days off), 63.7 (3 days off), 60.0 (4 days off), 45.7 (8 days off), 64.1 (5 days off), 52.9 (6 days off), and 61.2 (6 days off).

I’m pretty happy with that consistency. The only somewhat anomalous month was May (45 miles), during which I got sick and missed 6 days in a row right before Atlanta Nationals.

This coming month will be an important one in preparing for the 10-mile swim on October 16. Assuming I stay healthy (fingers crossed), I have a soft goal of 75 miles (132,000 yards) for September.…

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