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

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

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 🙂

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)

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. Instead, rewards derive from tackling challenges – distance and/or unique conditions – and overcoming them.

Which is why Big Shoulders 2010 was an instant classic.

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Big Shoulders: Notes on a psych sheet

Tomorrow’s Big Shoulders 5K will have a legitimate claim as the most competitive Masters open-water race in the U.S. outside of the Waikiki Roughwater, and maybe some years of the La Jolla Roughwater. For the first time, there will be an “elite” wave of the top 50 swimmers, according to seed time. Here they are:

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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. My only (ever so slight) concession to the cold: a neoprene cap.

I had no particular plan this morning. But as soon as the initial head rush passed, I actually felt OK – so off to the pier I went. 1 mile and a little under 25 minutes later, I returned to the Point and climbed up the ladder. Somewhat miraculously, I was fine – no shivering, and I could even feel my fingers.

I came back the next morning and did it again. The lake was marginally warmer – about 59F – but unlike the previous morning there was wind and chop. I was still fine when I finished my 1-mile round trip, if somewhat more drained from the chop. I briefly considered a second go-round, but hey – it’s Labor Day.

A small step, but a confidence booster nonetheless.