View Full Version : Big Shoulders

August 29th, 2006, 09:54 AM
Was wondering if anyone else was swimming Big shoulders and just trying to finish. I've been out of the water 10 years. I just got back in last year after double surgery on Rt. arm. Was sidelined again in March for another surgery same arm. So i've been back since middle of june. I can do the distance (and then some) but have been a little scared reading about all the gung-ho open water swimmers. any suggestions or advice?

August 29th, 2006, 11:04 AM

Where is Montgomery, IL? I've never heard of it.

August 29th, 2006, 11:23 AM
You should be fine. I was a very mediocre HS swimmer. I was off for at least 15 years before I started swimming again.

I swam the 2.5K the last two years. The first year I had only been back swimming about 3-4 months and was doing 2000 yds max per workout 3x/wk. I was very close to last but there were a handful of people behind me.

This year I will be doing the 5k just to finish. I enter open water and master meets just for motivation to keep working out.

There is a break-water protecting the beach where Big Shoulders is held. This limits the amount of chop in the water. I think you will be fine.

Enjoy your swim!

August 29th, 2006, 11:27 AM
Craig, Montgomery is west of Chicago near Aurora.

August 29th, 2006, 12:00 PM
My advice is don't worry about it. You'll do fine. Don't worry about the gung-ho swimmers at the start. Let them do their thing and just establish your pace and look for open water to swim in. I think you'll find things open up pretty quickly after the start.

I've done the swim a couple times before and just decided yesterday to do it again this year. It's a fun event!

August 29th, 2006, 07:02 PM
We're 45 miles west (and a little) south of Chicago. Thanks for all the encouragement. I hope I get to meet you next week.

August 30th, 2006, 07:30 AM
Hi Megan,

I did Big Shoulders last year for the first time. (I'm doing it again this year!) It was an interesting experience. Here would be my advice:

The start is in the water. Everybody lines up by a starting bouy. Stay toward the back of that pack. Take off and swim at your own pace. That way you won't have to worry about those who are too eager running you over.

Something I didn't realize would be all the other swimmers (from other divisions) passing me. (not that I'm that fast). There'll probably be always be alot of people around you alot of the time. Some bumping and such is normal.

Most of all, try not to stress it too much. Have fun! :)


August 30th, 2006, 08:57 AM
Don't worry about the race, the start is the worse part of the whole thing. This will be my 6th year I believe and I have found that once you get past the first bouy the swimmers span out. I will say that last year it was very choppy on the back, longest section. I found myself in the air a couple of times in mid stroke. It was fun to watch the other swimmers try to swim through the waves instead of using them to there advantage.

Have fun!


August 30th, 2006, 10:57 AM
These are all good comments. The only things I would add is that the race divided up its start last year into many divisions so the start was not as crowded as it had been.

Second thing--if you want to avoid physical contact, swim wider around the buoys rather than closer. The more competitive swimmers will angle closer into them and there may be some jostling for inside position. You can avoid that by swimming 3 feet off the buoy. Good luck.

Its a very well done event

Wild William
August 30th, 2006, 05:34 PM
I too am doing the Big Shoulders for the first time this year with a goal of finishing. My niece decided it was something we should do.

Getting excited as it draws near.


September 4th, 2006, 10:00 PM
I'm taking a road trip from NY with two friends to do Big Shoulders for the first time. After having my best race of the summer yesterday, to place 2nd overall (finishing on the heels of the winner) in the John Daly Ocean Mile in Long Beach NY (they moved the race to Reynolds Channel bcz of storm surf from Ernesto; I was a bit disappointed at first, but the race was great fun) I'm really looking forward to racing along the Chicago Lakefront. This may somewhat rival the Manhattan Island Marathon as an experience.

I had my final swim of the 2006 season at Lake Minnewaska in New Paltz NY today and expect to experience some withdrawal pangs as soon as tomorrow.
See you at the starting line.

Matt S
September 4th, 2006, 10:41 PM

Delighted to hear you'll be in Chicago this weekend. This will be my 5th year in a row for Big Shoulders. I'd like to shake your hand and chat face to face. As you will see on Saturday, the race is a zoo, and finding old friends can be a challenge. I'll make you an offer, I'll wear a white Total Immersion swim cap if you will too (that is, during the prerace period. You gots to wear the cap they give you during the race.) Deal?


September 4th, 2006, 11:10 PM
Deal. I'll wear the TI cap pre-race. I'll be there with my swim buddies Dave Barra and Steve Shtab.

September 10th, 2006, 03:03 PM
I just got home from Chicago. Wow, pretty difficult conditions! Somehow I swam a little faster this year even though it was very rough out there.

Once again a great event by the organizers.

September 10th, 2006, 11:39 PM
Grey skies and choppy waters made Big Shoulders a little more challenging this year. What a ride! I did the 5K this year after swimming the 2.5K the last two years. Taking the turn to start the second lap I thought I might have been smarter to have done the shorter distance again this year.

Kirk, I don't know how you swam faster this year - that is impressive.

September 11th, 2006, 06:44 AM
I have no prior experience with which to compare, but I enjoyed the race enormously. Water quality was great and was warmer than most races I've done this year. Wind chop made it a challenge to maintain form and navigate.
I started on the far left side then went too far left on the first leg of the first loop, used the tall white building as my landmark on the second leg, kept myself a constant distance from the seawall on the third leg, then corrected my misdirection on the first leg, 2nd loop by using the shoreline as I had the seawall.
George Wendt, who won the 55-59 age group in a very impressive 1:10 (I was 2nd but 8:00 behind) swam the same time as last year if that means anything.
Several people told me they'd not previously seen waves going over the top of the seawall on race day.

September 11th, 2006, 11:15 AM
Originally posted by totalswimm
George Wendt, who won the 55-59 age group in a very impressive 1:10

No, not the George Wendt who starred as Norm on Cheers for anyone who's wondering :) Actually I think this George and the Cheers George are related, though.

My friend who also swam called that second buoy (the one between the second and third legs) "the washing machine." I agree. That one was tough to get around. On the second lap there were a lot of people kind of stuck within 10 meters of that buoy really struggling to get around it.

Matt S
September 11th, 2006, 01:39 PM
Wow, my 1:19.22 looks a lot more impressive than I first thought. I was over 2.5 minutes faster than last year, and 30 seconds faster than 2004. Conditions were much more favorable both years.

And, as if I needed more proof I'm in an evil, competitive age group. My time got me 19th in 45-49, and would have been the same in 40-44. However, I'd have medaled in either 35-39 or 50-54. And, do NOT get me started about NQTs!

Terry, great to meet you face to face and shake your hand. Also, you looked terrific shooting past me the second time around the "washing machine" buoy. (Indeed, I thought the swells were 2-3 feet at that point.)

Thanks again to the organizers. It's always fun to see the UIC swim team turn out, and marvel that anyone that young would be caught dead running an event for us old fogies.


September 11th, 2006, 03:14 PM
I'm proud to dsay I survived my first Big Shoulders. Thanks to everyone with the great advice. I really enjoyed myself and can't wait until next year. The second buoy WAS really hard. I felt sorry for the 5K people who had to do that one twice. Thanks again.

September 11th, 2006, 03:21 PM
The second bouy was really bad, the first time around I got way to the left of it and had to swim against the waves to make it around it. The second time around I tried my best to stay to the right of it but again I got under it and had to swim back around, not as bad the second time but still... Got gagged a few times on a mouthful of lake water, yeck! But all in all it was a pretty good time for myself, I was only a minute off of last years time and I basically had a month off where last year I swam doubles in the summer...

Cheers to the organizers as well, they always put on a great swim!


September 11th, 2006, 07:47 PM
Originally posted by knelson
No, not the George Wendt who starred as Norm on Cheers for anyone who's wondering :) Actually I think this George and the Cheers George are related, though.

They are related. I played water polo at Brown with (swimming) George's son, Dan. That whole family is fast in the water!

September 12th, 2006, 07:14 AM
I didn't have trouble with the second buoy. (Maybe I caught one of the few easier waves). What surprised me (besides how high the waves were) was the last leg of the swim, near the sea wall. I thought that would be a piece of cake, with the waves helping push you along to the finish line. No such luck! A couple times my legs came right out of the water kicking.

This years was the worst open water swim conditions I've ever done. And I'm proud to say, I SURVIVED!!


September 12th, 2006, 07:22 AM
Makes the 58-minute winning time by Jeff Erwin, who also won the 3K at the FINA World Championships in 38 minutes, all the more impressive. It seems that nothing can slow him down.

I compared my times with his -- he beat me by 10 minutes at FINA and doubled his advantage on me to 20 minutes at Big Shoulders, though that was only 66% longer -- and gained even more respect for his ability to handle challenging conditions.

The next 5K on the USMS calendar is Oct 21 in Sarasota FL. I've already booked my flight. Is anyone else here doing that?

September 12th, 2006, 02:29 PM
Well I haven't swum the Big Shoulders 5K yet, but I keep putting it on my calendar every year (only to scratch it off for one reason or another).....Maybe next year will be my year?

Congrats to all who swam this year!!....Sounded very brutal from the description given both on the Big Shoulders Website and from the testimonies given here. Kirk seems to have established himself as an elite open water swimmer now with 2 back to back strong performances....Congrats Kirk! ....AND my old friend Jim Dugan (from high school...way way back) appears to be back in top form again! He won the event back in 2000 and then disappeared for 5 years....He seemed to do o.k. though for being out for so long ....coming in 3rd with a time of 1:01.05.


September 12th, 2006, 02:46 PM
Originally posted by newmastersswimmer
Kirk seems to have established himself as an elite open water swimmer now with 2 back to back strong performances....Congrats Kirk!

I wouldn't go quite that far, but thanks Jim!