Preliminary Results
Official Results

Not gonna lie, it was a tense week at Big Shoulders Central.  You couldn’t tell from the calm that permeated the emails over the past weeks, but after last year’s cancellation, we were a bit stressed out with the “Beach Hazard Statements” and “Small Craft Advisories” that seem to be the new normal here on Lake Michigan.  On the Wednesday before the race, the Race Director made his way to the office from UIC after swim practice, a guy stopped me at Roosevelt and Halsted and asked, “Hey man, can I pray for you?”  The RD responded, without hesitation, “absolutely.”  He seemed a bit surprised by the RD’s enthusiasm, but said, “great, what can I pray about for you?”  Now perhaps the RD should have said something like “world peace,” or something of a similarly noble nature. But, it was Big Shoulders week, so he blurted out the thing that was foremost in his mind – “Pray for flat, safe water on Lake Michigan this Saturday.” The prayer guy smiled as the RD explained that he is the race director for a 5K swim in the lake, and proceeded to provide said prayer.  

The day before race morning dawned with another bleeping beach hazard advisory, and strong winds on the lake.  We tried to remain calm, but we were admittedly nervous wrecks.  The next morning, when the Race Director opened his back door to head to the beach at 5 to set up for the race, he was met with an awesome sight – calm.  The trees in the backyard were perfectly still. At Ohio Street Beach we arrived to find the Chicago Fire Department Marine Unit Chief (those guys are AWESOME), and we smiled when we looked at the lake.  A light breeze and some minor wave action inside the playpen meant the race was on!

A couple of small hurdles we all still had to overcome. First, the net result of all this wind is that the lake has been thoroughly stirred up, resulting in lake water temperatures a full 10 degrees below normal for this time of year.  Big Shoulders swimmers met the challenge head on! Yes, several of us donned our neoprene skins to battle the cold, but many opted for bare skin.  You all deserve a huge hand regardless! The second hurdle was the surprise extra 250 meters per lap around the course.  So this year, we held the first ever Big Shoulders 5.5K Open Water Swim! No problem for Big Shoulders Swimmers!  We had over 750 swimmers complete either the 5K (460) or 2.5K (296).  Amazing!

Similarly incredible were some of the stories on the beach.  Big Shoulders welcomed back Heidi Musser, a gifted swimmer, who without the ability to see managed the 5K with the help of her angel swimmers.  We also had swimmers from nearly every state, a contingent of 16 nadadores from Mexico city, along with folks from foreign lands, including Australia, Ireland and Florida.

The 5.5K swim showcased some fast swims.  On the men’s side, Chicago Masters’ own Justin Chiles won in a time of 1:15:06, followed by Craig Frederikson, who missed the top spot by only 3 seconds. In third place was Nick Mach.  On the women’s side, this year’s race was won by Anna Wisniewski in a time of 1:20:48, followed by Campbell Costly and then Marlena Tonelli. In the wetsuit aided race for the men, Fred Schuster took the top spot in 1:12:06, followed by Andrew McCollister and Nicholas Talarico.  The women’s wetsuit 5K was won by Britta Miller in 1:19:05, followed by Jennifer Wortman and Elaine Mahon. 

The top 3 in the 2.75K swim were Christopher McGue, Ramon Cepeda and Euan Spence.  On the Women’s side the top 3 were Kelsey Herbst, Leslie Beigler-Ciacci and Jessica Smith.  For the neoprene clad, Nicholas Gehl won top honors for the men, and Jessica Achstatter for the women. Congratulations to all of our winners!

As has been the case since its inception in 1991, Big Shoulders could not happen without the watchful eyes and swift boats of the Chicago Park District Lifeguarding crew.  Thanks to them and the Chicago Fire Department’s Marine Unit for keeping us all safe!  Thanks also to our amazing sponsors, Indiana University Health Sports Medicine, A3 Performance, Big Shoulders BBQ (great ribs again!), SwimTrek, TriSwim, Monnie Burke’s Restaurant, Big Shoulders Coffee, Sheean Design (thanks bro), XTERRA Wetsuits and Kind Bar.  

Finally, a very sincere thank you to all the folks who made Big Shoulders happen this year: the exuberant swimmers and divers from University of Illinois at Chicago; Coaches Tim Loeffler, Susan Bromberg and Ashley; the Big Shoulders\\\ Food Committee (Candace Cham, Kyle Geissler, Julie Anne Parrilla and Nial Funchion; and a special thanks to the ultimate wing man, Bob Lewis, whose unending optimism, calm demeanor and willingness to laugh at all my stupid jokes makes this job fun.  THANK YOU ALL!

Next year is a big one – Big Shoulders XXX, the 30th installment of our event, set for September 12, 2020.  

Registration for Big Shoulders 2020 will open on March 1, 2020 at 10 am CST.