RR: Big Shoulders Open Water 5K Swim Classic


It was windy, it was cold, but man this view was breathtaking…

I am gonna go ahead and officially put this down as the most challenging race I have endured. The physical swimming part was not what was difficult, I could have kept right on swimming no problem if not for the outrageous conditions!

Yes, Big Shoulders, you tested me mentally and tested me physically, but I had an awesome time.

The race was scheduled to start at 8, so I drove down around 5:30 after eating a bowl of Joe’s O’s (which taste and look just like cheerios, but because they are from Trader Joe’s of course they taste better, duh). I got down there quickly and parked at Navy Pier for a short walk to Ohio Street Beach. The air was a cool 57 degrees.

I grabbed my packet and goodie bag then just chilled out. I walked over to the lake and could tell that it was choppy and that we were in for a rough swim.





I sat down to enjoy my second breakfast…ezekiel wraps with peanut butter and a banana. Time passed quickly and I soon found myself stripping down to just my suit, cap, and goggles – no wetsuit for this swim. I checked my bags at gear check and then listened to the pre-race talk.

The race offers two distances the 5K or 2.5K and two categories, no wetsuit or wetsuit. I would say 90% of participants do not wear a wetsuit – takes all the fun away right? The course is laid out as a triangle with only three buoys to spot from, the 2.5Kers do one lap, 5kers two laps. Once done you run out of the water and over timing mats located on the beach. Your done! No running to transition to hop on a bike! :)SnipImage

I was in the second wave after the top 50 elite swimmers. My group, 30 and unders got in the water and awaited the start…in 62 degree water, jumping over waves. The countdown began and we were off!

The swim started off great, no congestion or thrashing, and I was feeling really good and couldn’t help but smile. I thought, “I love swimming, this is awesome!” The waves were so much fun to swim through, although at first it made me a bit dizzy. Most swims are through calm water and you become automatic with your stroke, but these waves made it interesting.

After the first buoy I noticed that I hadn’t warmed up like I usually do. Instead I was cold, I could feel that my feet were freezing. I was sighting constantly as well because the buoys were difficult to spot and so far apart. After reaching the second buoy it was SUPER choppy, I could feel myself riding the waves! I was still freezing and it was becoming unbearable and paralyzing. I could feel my legs and body shaking, my hip flexors were hurting, my teeth also began to chatter. All I wanted to do was get out of the water. I wasn’t physically tired, but it was so darn cold. How was I ever going to do another lap? Determination.

I rounded the third buoy to start my second lap and checked my watch…it read :43 minutes. Alright, just another :43 minutes of freezing my butt off. My mantra to get me through was to just keep going, just keep swimming, the faster you swim the sooner you will be out of here. As I rounded the last buoy the chop was insane and a women in a wetsuit grabbed me like she was struggling to stay afloat. I was scared she was going to pull me under with her so I swam to the side and asked if she was alright. She seemed to be ok so I began my final stretch. Towards the end I just gave it everything. I needed to get out.

Once I hit sand, I got up and started running towards the finish (the triathlete in me). I was so close to being done and then I just fell. It was like gravity pulled me down and my body shut down. I immediately got up and ran over the timing mats mumbling, “I’m so happy to be out of the water, I’m so cold.” I bee lined it to gear check to get my towel and warm clothes.

I was shaking for a good 30 minutes after I was done. After chatting with some ladies, one who did the 2.5K, they informed me a lot of people were falling after getting out. That made me feel better. I changed into lots of layers and grabbed some coffee to aid in warming my body. I had a long conversation with a man who seemed to be a veteran, he said the conditions are not usually that bad and it looked as if I was in the early stages of hypothermia because of my purple lips and uncontrollable shaking. After fulling changing I felt a lot better although my hip flexors killed.




Final Time: 1:33:34

This race really sparked my interest to get back into swimming and sign up for more open water swims. I had a blast and I really miss the swimming community. I also want to join a masters swim club and maybe compete at meets!

It was a gorgeous day and my sister happened to be in Chicago, visiting her boyfriend, so I was able to meet up with her for brunch and more warm coffee. It hit the spot. The rest of the day I relaxed and tried to recover. I felt off. You know the feeling you have after riding roller coasters all day? Well, I had that. No bueno.

It was an amazing experience though, truly unforgettable. I highly recommend signing up for an organized open water swim especially for all you triathletes out there. It is a great way to become more comfortable in the water without having to complete the bike or run leg afterwards.

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