Kayak Escort Practice Swim

This morning, while 45,000 runners sweated through an unseasonably warm October morning in the Chicago Marathon, I went for a nice long swim in Lake Michigan.

Jarvis Beach

Jarvis Beach

I was joined in this outing by my new friend Thomas - ultra-distance cyclist, fellow Point swimmer and, it turns out, owner of a sea kayak! After a recent Point outing Thomas suggested that if I ever wanted to explore regions of the lake outside the swim buoys, he’d be glad to provide an escort. With the last blast of summer weather, the stars were aligned - I took him up on the offer.

Thomas and his kayak live in a charming old building on Jarvis Beach in Rogers Park (just south of Evanston). I arrived a few minutes after 7am and went to the water for a temp check. With the warm weather I had hoped the thermometer might show me a ‘6’. I did get one, but in the wrong decimal place - 56F.

I’d swum an hour at that temperature just yesterday, but this morning we’d planned a 2 hour, out-and-back swim. At some points we’d be half a mile offshore, and I didn’t want to risk either (a) having to turn back early or (b) having to be rescued. So I went with the wetsuit. It’s sleeveless, so I got a little taste of the cold on my hands, arms, and feet - but my core was protected.

In any case, the primary objective was fun; a secondary objective was getting some practice with a kayak before my 10-mile race this Saturday. Thermoregulatory practice can wait for another day.

We pushed off around 7:30am. The sun had just fully emerged on the horizon, commencing its rise over the vast inland sea.

GPS track

GPS track

Aside from the cold, the lake could hardly have been more perfect. Glassy, with tiny 2-3 inch swells to remind you that gravity still existed. With the sounds of the city muted on a Sunday morning, there was nothing to hear but the slap of my hands (and Thomas’s paddle) against the water.

The plan was simple: Swim north for an hour, towards Northwestern University. Then turn around and come back. I stowed a Garmin GPS unit in my swim cap, and here’s the story it tells:

In an hour (actually, 59 minutes), we made it nearly to the peninsula separating the Northwestern lagoon from the lake. After a 5 minute break to feed and chat, we reversed course and returned to Jarvis Beach 61 minutes later. We took a somewhat longer route coming back, so it seems I was fairly close to even-splitting it.

I also took two intermediate feeds at 30 and 90 minutes, lasting a total of 3 minutes. Remarkably, though I scheduled the feeds according to my watch, they occurred geographically at nearly identical latitudes - notice the slight “jigger” in the trace line at Elliot Park. (The “jigger” shows us drifting eastward during the break.)

A few stats:

  • total time in water: 2:05:16
  • total break time: 8:03
  • total swim time: 1:57:13
  • distance covered: 5.2 miles
  • pace per mile: 22:32

Just a spectacular morning. Thanks, Thomas!