For many of Big Shoulders’ glorious 24 years, conditions have been picture perfect, with sunny blue skies, smooth, calm water, and water temperatures in the mid to high 70s.  But that was not what Mother Nature had in mind this year.  A big storm blew through the night before, sending Lake Michigan into a swirling, churning fit.  Saturday morning dawned with 1-3 foot waves, partly cloudy skies with winds out of the north at 10 mph, and water temperatures that ranged from 66 at the shore to 63 or colder along the outside of the course, with pockets that felt much colder. 

Big Shoulders Swimmers were undaunted, however, and marched into the water determined to push right back and accept Lake Michigan’s challenge.  Swimmers fought through some weeds in the first leg’s chop, and did their best to stay on course in the second leg despite a very determined north wind.  The second buoy was placed a bit further north than in past years, forcing swimmers to take the 3 ft. waves head on as they battled to make the turn.  Their efforts were rewarded by the lake, however, with those same waves allowing them to body surf the last half mile back to shore.

The rough conditions and cold temps slowed the Big Shoulders contingent down a bit, but 770 rough and ready swimmers finished the 5K or 2.5K events.  Adam Dawkins returned to the winner’s circle in the 5K with a time of 1:04:32, followed by Justin Chiles (1:05:13) and Aaron Gabriel (1:05:49).  On the women’s side Adrienne Bicek took the top honors at 1:05:17, with Danielle Schumacher (1:05:57) in second and Mallory Mead (1:06:28) in third.  Chicago Masters’ own Bob Lewis grabbed the top spot in the wetsuit division (1:06:45), and Ann Berres-Olivotti won the honor for the women’s wetsuit division (1:13:49).

In the 2.5K, Marc Hensel won it with a time of 34:11, followed by Ruben Figueres (35:17) in second and Brendan Joyce (35:23) in third.  Liz Dillman won the event for the ladies in a time of 36:21, with Lauren Hodder (36:36) coming in second and Kelly Perry in third (38:33).  The wetsuit winner, Albert LaValle, turned in the fastest overall time at 33:43, while Michelle Nadel won it for the women in a time of 37:45.  Congratulations to Ross Bogue, who channeled past flyers Tom Boettcher and Dan Projansky and won the 5K butterfly division as its only entrant. 

But Big Shoulders isn’t only about the top dogs and their fast times.  Big Shoulders is also about those swimmers who came to Ohio Street Beach and accepted the challenge set forth by this year’s rugged conditions.  People like Claudia Solis-Lemus, who overcame her fears and completed her first open water swim with help of Chicago Masters swim angel, Mark Stori.  Big Shoulders is about guys like Paul Stalter, who has battled cancer over the past few years, and wrote on our facebook page, “I didn’t care about my time, or the difficulty I felt, but that I had accomplished something amazing.”  Way to go Paul!

Big Shoulders is also about relationships and lasting friendships.  We said goodbye to our friends, Jon Erikson and Chris Clarke – long time open water studs who passed away this past summer.  We also said goodbye to our founder and friend, Bill Mulliken, the Olympic Gold Medalist who started Big Shoulders and guided Chicago Masters for decades.  We honored Bill by placing “WDM” on the sleeves of this year’s race shirts. 

Long time friends have used Big Shoulders as a chance to meet up, share a meal, take on the challenge, and bask in the glow of it.  Friends like Lennart Larsson, who came all the way from Sweden to swim with Terry Laughlin (yep, the Total Immersion guy).  And Big Shoulders would not be what it is without the massive contingent from Noblesville, IN (Team NASTI), the impressive and fast crowd from Indy Swimfit, the huge crew that coach Sue Welker brings in from Naperville, and this year’s crew from Miami of Ohio that drove up in Bill Mulliken’s honor. 

Big Shoulders would also like to acknowledge the swimmers who came out, gave it their all, but couldn’t quite finish the job due to this year’s tough conditions.  Sometimes, it’s not finishing that matters, but being willing to toe the line and give it a shot, despite the fact that it wasn’t your day.

Big Shoulders Race Committee would like to thank the Chicago Park District Lifeguards for a spectacular job in keeping us all safe on a very challenging day.  Thanks also goes out to the University of Illinois at Chicago Men’s and Women’s swimmers and coaches who came out and provided the bulk of our volunteer force with smiles on their faces. They earned their delicious Big Shoulders BBQ ribs, just like those who swam.  We also need to thank our sponsor, Finis, who once again stepped up and was a major presence on the beach and behind the scenes.  Thanks also to our many other fantastic sponsors: Protein Plus; XTerra Wetsuits; Einstein Bagels; Nature’s Path; Malibu C; Greater Than Sports Drink; Big Shoulders BBQ; Fitness Formula Clubs; Starbucks; TriSlide; Foggie; Sheean Design and Human Labs.

And thanks to all of those who signed up and came out for Big Shoulders 2014.  Our beneficiaries, the UIC Men’s and Women’s swim teams and the Alliance for the Great Lakes also thank you.

Big Shoulders 2015 will be held September 12, 2015 and is an event not to be missed.  It is the 25th year of Big Shoulders, and it will be the 5K National Championship for USMS.  Registration will open on March 1st, and will undoubtedly sell out in a matter of days.  Circle your calendar, and we’ll see you next year!

The Big Shoulders Race Committee

For results, please review files below or visit or

2.5K Age Group     2.5K Overall     2.5K No Wetsuit     2.5K Wetsuit

5K Age Group     5K Overall     5K No Wetsuit     5K Wetsuit


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