Sunday, September 12, 2010
Big Shoulders Report
Next Swim: Today, Sunday 9/12, 1PM
Last Swim: Big Shoulders, Saturday 9/11, Ohio Street Beach, Chicago
Water Temp: 62
Waves: Two Foot, Very Choppy
Crew: Diablo, Patriarch
One always hopes for good conditions on the big day, sunny with warm calm water. But of course those days are rare on the Lake Michigan shore. The conditions for Big Shoulders were more typical: cool, windy, drizzly, the tops of skyscrapers hidden in fog, cold murky water stirred into a very choppy froth. Adding to the gloom, my aching back was making me doubt I should even attempt to swim.
But then I caught something of a break. They announced that the water temperature was only 62 (I believe the coldest ever for a Big Shoulders), and that they would allow swimmers to change to the wetsuit division. As much as we would prefer to swim without wetsuits, Diablo and I quickly switched, as we knew from experience that swimming at 62 for a short time is OK, but after an hour or more we'd be colder than a can of beer in an ice bucket. Also, wearing a wetsuit gave me confidence because I figured that if my back starting acting up during up during the swim, at least the wetsuit would keep me afloat.
We weren't the only ones who switched, many others also did. Typically few swimmers wear wetsuits in Big Shoulders, but they predominated this year. Still, many swam without a wetsuit. The result was predictable, swimmers not finishing the race, dropping out after one loop, some even not even finishing a loop, climbing the ladders on the breakwall that parallels the final leg. On the beach there were many shivering swimmers who needed help to get out of their swimsuits and into warm clothes, and a few ended up in the medical tent.
Even so, I was amazed at the number of "skin" swimmers who completed the whole 5K, and there were even a few who seemed completely unaffected by the cold water, walking around afterwards in their swimsuits like nothing, and remember it was cool, windy and raining. I can't figure out how they do, I find them amazing.
As for me, I managed to complete the race (I was in the 2.5K race), even though my back was constantly complaining. I had to take it easy, but I still enjoyed it. I don't know my time but I'm sure it was very slow. But being as how it was such a tough day, I still felt like just finishing was an accomplishment.
Because of the miserable weather we didn't hang around on the beach, instead we took off our suits, climbed into three or four layers of warm dry clothes, and headed for hot coffee, omelets and hash browns.