Elizabeth Fry - Lake Michigan

Chicago to Michigan City

55.9 km (34.7 miles)

21 hours, 45 minutes on 2-3 September 2020

Observed and documented by Marcia Cleveland and Qing Li



  • Name: Elizabeth Fry
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 61
  • Nationality: Unied States
  • Resides: Westport, Connecticut

Support Personnel

  • Sonny Lisowski - boat captain
  • Lloyd Karzen - first mate
  • Debbie Masso - crew
  • Peggy Gaskill - crew
  • Marcia Cleveland - observer
  • Qing Li - observer, support swimmer

Escort Vessel: Mirage (DuSable Harbor, Chicago)

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Speedo lycra bathing suit, silicone cap, TYR goggles, wax earplugs, light stick & lights at night.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Lake Michigan
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Promontory Point, Chicago, Illinois (41.795462, -87.575424)
  • Finish Location: Washington Park Beach, Michigan City, Indiana (41.727458, -86.908967)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 55.9 km (34.7 miles) (map)

Promontory Point
Promontory Point and the Museum of Science & Industry. Chicago, Illinois.


Previous verified cross-Lake Michigan swims:

  • Ted Erikson - Chicago (Burnham Harbor) to Michigan City IN (60 km) - 36:37 August 1961.
  • Abdel-Latif Abou Heif - Chicago to Benton Harbor MI (96.6 km) - 34:38 in August 1963.
  • Ted Erikson - Chicago to Benton Harbor MI (96.6 km) - 37:31 in August 1963.
  • Jon Erikson - Michigan City IN to Chicago (Burnham Harbor) (60 km) - 19:11 in July 1980.
  • Paula Stephanson - Chicago (Rainbow Beach) to Michigan City IN (Washington Park Beach) (53.5 km) - 25:38 in August 2009.

The 1960s-era Lake Michigan races organized by Jim Moran are described in great detail in Conrad Wennerberg’s Wind, Waves, and Sunburn.

LongSwimsDB lists:

Swim Data

  • Start: 2 September 2020, 07:00:00 (Central Daylight, America/Chicago, UTC-5).
  • Finish: 3 September 2020, 04:45:06
  • Elapsed: 21 hours, 45 minutes, 6 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 66 77
Air Temp (F) 70 87
Wind (mph) 1 17

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Approx. every hour, with a few at 40-minute intervals. Vitargo drink, GU, Coca-Cola, electrolyte fizz, FRS chews.

Observer Log

Download PDF

Swimmer Statement

by Elizabeth Fry

What inspired you to do this swim?

I had planned to swim Lake Superior in August 2020 as my next lake of my Five Great Lakes goal, having already completed Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. I had chosen Lake Superior as the next swim to take advantage of the cold water acclimation from my North Channel swim in August 2019. The Lake Superior route began in the USA and finished in Canada. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the borders between the USA and Canada were initially closed to the end of June but the closing was subsequently extended to July and then August.

In late June, I reached out to Marcia Cleveland regarding her knowledge of a Lake Michigan crossing as this would not have a border issue. Information regarding a Lake Michigan crossing is limited at best. Records show that there were two Lake Michigan swims (1988, 2009) ratified by Solo Swim Ontario and a race held in 1961, 1962, and 1963 named the Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swim Challenge. I had suggested the course from Chicago, IL to Michigan City, IN. Through her research and experience with the Chicago Skyline Swim, Marcia was able to navigate and organize the crossing on my behalf. In retrospect, I am thrilled to have Lake Michigan as my third Great Lake as its distance of 35.5 miles is the longest of all the Great Lakes.

Please describe how you planned for the swim.

I have been training consistently through the years, using January every year to kick off high yardage and, in the recent years, adding core strengthening and conditioning. In March 2020, when the pandemic caused our gyms and pools to close, I set up and trained with gym equipment and a Vasa trainer that had been stored in my basement for more than a decade and became a disciplined participant in the Zoom workouts provided by Charlotte Brynn. The status of my Lake Superior attempt was uncertain though top of mind for me was staying safe during this time, not swimming an organized swim. By the first week in May, I began “swimming/dipping” outside with the water temperature in the high 40s/low 50s. Through the following months, swimming in the open water was the only safe activity available. This allowed me to train consistently and introduce open water swimming to traditional pool swimmers under COVID-19 protocol.

Regarding the swim itself, Marcia Cleveland arranged the logistical details concerning USCG approval, and the application and waiver, and she secured a boat. We arrived in Chicago a few days before the swim window and met with the captain to discuss the swim. The captain had experience as an escort for SWIM Across America relays. My crew is very experienced. I make my feeds ahead of time at a concentrated level and keep other “feed” items organized for easy access.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges? 

I had complete confidence in Marcia Cleveland, Qing Li and my crew, Peggy Gaskill and Debbie Masso that they would make the correct decisions for my safety. The unanticipated challenge was how the large 52’ boat and the captain would be impacted by wind and the slow moving speed of escorting a solo swimmer. The boat was entirely closed in and acted as a sail with the wind so it was difficult for me to stay as close to the side of the boat as I usually swim. At times it was difficult for the team to see me through the waves so Marcia had Qing be a pacer swimmer for safety. I typically do not have a pacer swimmer however it was very comforting to have Qing next to me as we approached dusk and in the darkness. She swam with me every other hour starting around 8pm, as stipulated by the rules for a pacer. To adjust for the navigation challenges at night, I followed the boat from behind rather than on the side since it was well-lit and easily visible from the water.

It was a very beautiful swim. I loved starting at the iconic Promontory Point and seeing the Chicago skyline as I left the Illinois shoreline. The finish in Michigan City, Indiana was too dark to see allow me to see the bluffs but a real highlight was to be welcomed by Julia Green on to the beach in front of the main lifeguard stand in Washington Park at 4:45 AM!


Click to enlarge.