Official Results - Updated 09/10/2011

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2011 Pictures

Big Shoulders 2011 Race Director’s Message

Another year is in the books here at Big Shoulders OW Swim HQ. Thanks to our many, many supporters, Big Shoulders continues in its expansion mode, with 1002 officially registered swimmers. Sadly many people listened to the early weather forecasts for rain and 3-4 ft. waves, and stayed home, leaving us with a mere (but still a record) 756 finishers for the event (plus a few missing results we are adding in). Those who had faith and showed up were treated to a beautiful day, with the sun coming out just before the race, completely calm winds and flat 65 degree water. Sure, the water was a bit cooler than we’d like, but overall, it was gorgeous.

We had our usual array of crazy fast swimmers show up, lead by Adam Dawkins (59:08), Justin Chiles (1:01:20) and Jeff Halbert (1:01:25). Chicago Masters’ newcomer Megan Ryther set the pace for the women (1:01:34), followed by Erica Rose (1:04:04 sporting a cast) and Carlie Herich (1:04:14). For the 2.5K distance, Chris Clarke took top honors (32:13), followed by Rafal Szukala (33:22) and Dave Ackermann (34:40).

Big Shoulders hosted its share of Olympians once again, but the most notable one who made a return visit was our founder, Bill Mulliken. The entire Chicago Masters family was delighted to see Bill at the race. Joining Bill from the Olympic pantheon were David Sims, Craig Oppel and Steve Gregg, who turned in his jet pack for angels’ wings and escorted first-timer Helen White for the entire 5K.

Speaking of the Swim Angel program, Big Shoulders wants to acknowledge the support of Lauren Moriarty, who suggested the program, along with Marcia Cleveland, who helped guide it. Thanks also to all of our angels: Mark Jaeger, Paula Suozzi, Katie Braun, Steve Gregg, Nichole Ellis and Christine DeLuca. The program was a huge success, and will definitely be offered again.

A special thanks to our sponsors, including our newest sponsor, Big Shoulders BBQ, who provided delicious pulled pork sandwiches to our swimmers and volunteers. Thanks also to: USMS, H2Open, Finis, Big Shoulders BBQ, Triswim, Xterra Wetsuits, Hammer Nutrition, Kirk Eye Center, Urban Tri Gear, Kiefer, Blue Seventy, UltraSwim, AquaSphere, Walgreens, Sheean Design, Clif Bar, Quench Gum, AOMS, and HumanLabs.

Also, a special thanks to the UIC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Team and Coach Paul Moniak, along with Assistant Coach Noelle Wilhite and Diving Coach Susan Bromberg, who did a great job keeping Big Shoulders a well-oiled machine despite ever increasing numbers. Thanks also to Nichole Ellis and the Northwestern University Women’s Swim Team for their help.

Finally, thanks to all of the 1002 of you who signed up to swim and support Big Shoulders. Your support allows us to continue to support the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Be sure to come back next year for the 22nd Chicago Masters’ BIG SHOULDERS 5K & 2.5K Open Water Swim Classic on September 8, 2012. In the meantime, please email any suggestions/comments to us : bigshoulders2011 (at sign), or post on the Big Shoulders Facebook page at

BIG SHOULDERS 2011: A View From the Beach:

From Foggy Dawn to Daylight: For Bill

When the fog is heavy and the forecast grim, we swimmers call upon a little bit of luck to go along with our inner resolve. Our Big Shoulders swim today was no exception. After a sweltering summer with temperate waters, nature decided to act up on the nation's east coast and subsequently spun some fury our way, resulting in tumultuous waves this past week. We held our collective breath, wondering whether remnants of the storm would mar our Saturday morning swim race. It didn't start pretty; it started foggy.

Poet Walt Whitman might say, "waves whisked away warmer waters". Sure, the big waves and howling winds were gone, but with them went that nice toasty water and in its place came some dire forecasts. Perhaps more rain? Trusty Tom Skilling said the water temp on Thursday was 67, and race day readings were announced between 63-65 degrees, no walk in the park. Worse yet, at 6:30 AM the Ohio Street beach starting zone as well as a good portion of the course was shrouded in fog. Was this San Francisco? What kind of race might we face? Bill Mulliken, Olympic Gold Medal winner and Founder of Big Shoulders, came rolling in his wheelchair and it almost seemed, as if on cue, the skies parted and the sunbeams found their way down.

We all know what to do when Labor Day is past, the summer is a memory, and the kids are back in school. We prep for the second Saturday in September. What is the date today? Nine Ten Eleven; time for our favorite Lake Michigan race. What comes after 9/10/11? A Great Big Shoulders, of course. Number 21, to be exact, with 1000 participants, a new Big Shoulders record and one easily reached more than a month in advance. This one's for Bill. Bill Mulliken has been battling the toughest race of his life with the after - affects of a stroke. Our courageous captain has his hands full with rehab and challenges. Never mind; nothing would keep Bill Mulliken from making his race day appearance.

Preparation for the Big event was stupendous, once again, under the steady hand and amiable manner of Race Director Chris Sheean. In his umpteenth year as Grand Poobah of Big Shoulders, family man Chris generously donates untold hours to sheparding the further donation of countless more hours from all the kind volunteers who help all year and race day. This morning, Sheean successfully delivered his famous course instruction speech, which included the primo tip of the day: watch the white condo when you're swimming down the second leg of the triangle which is furthest away from the beach. It seems obvious, but everyone forgets. Hearing Chris's course talk is music to many returning Big Shoulders swimmers, the final signal that the race is about to get underway, so all swimmers had better get their minds in gear.

We were glad to see calm waters and big buoys at race time. Of course, by the turn at the white condo for lap one, attention shifts to aching muscles and ponderings of "why do I keep doing this every year". Those wonderings tend to fade by the second lap, only to be replaced by mind numbing general ache. Sighting on the course this year was terrific, with the chop corner cone placed squarely in front of the white condo. What more could you ask for? Still, some tricky currents in certain areas threw off more than a few freestylers on the backstretch. Ageless perennial speedster George Wendt was on a roll and still found himself "turned sideways somehow" after one orange buoy. Butterfly pioneer Tom Boettcher noticed, "On a clear and relatively calm day like this, I can sight a pretty true, straight 5.0 K, while everyone else is getting their money's worth doing a 5.1 or 5.2. They should tip for the extra yardage!".

Speaking of doing it every year ... many do it because if we don't, we get rusty. The least rusty among us are the perfect record swimmers, those few hearty Big Shoulders participants who have made every single race since its inception some twenty one years ago. This year's list has been pared down to Tim Kelly, George Wendt and Laurie Tanimura. Yes, of course it was good to see Dennis Miller back again … did he miss a year along the way, or is he still part of the originals club? Tim found the course pretty routine, a little cold and flat but pleasant nonetheless and a bit more hospitable than the year when the course had to be condensed to one lap because of severe weather. George Wendt was smoking again (not literally, of course, though wouldn't that be a sight!), as he set the course on fire with a blazing 1:09. This came even as he got knocked a bit off course by an errant kick and took a goggle-full of water.

The bottom line is just what we ought to address here and now, as we honor the winners of today's race. For the 5 K swim without wetsuit, Adam Dawkins was the big winner in 59:08, with Justin Chiles and Jeffrey Halbert dueling it out for 2/3 in 1:01:20 and 25. On the women's side, Megan Ryther won top honors in 1:01:34. Olympian Erica Rose followed up, toting a cast, while Carlie Herlich came in third.

For the 5K wetsuit division, David Zurbricki won top honors with Bob Lewis in second and Michael Hogarty third. Polly Surhoff led the wetsuited women, while Ann Berres-Olivotti and Lauwren McQuaid followed up.

For the 2.5 K distance, no wetsuit, Chris Clarke took top honors in 32:13. Rafal Szukala was right behind him in 33:22 and hometown favorite David Ackerman was third in 34:40. Watch out for Bryan Malas, because the famous prosthetics specialist is always knocking at the door, this year in fourth. For the women, Kelly Perry turned in a winning 33:54, while Betsy Mullins swam a 35:40 and Kira Redig swam a 36:53. Is that another Redig, Patty, right behind her in 37:36?? Way to keep things in the Family!

For the wetsuit side of the men's 2.5 K, Stefan Timms was top gun in a quick 31:18. Who is that in second place? Could it be true? He runs the race, then he swims the race? Chris Sheean must have decided he was needed on shore and picked up the pace to arrive in second place. Speedster and Swim Across America dedicated coordinator John Martin took third. For the women, Catherine Scott took first with Bean Klusendorf and Patty Gawrys coming in second and third.

Butterfly was back again at Big Shoulders, with Tom Boettcher pounding out 5 K for the twelfth time. This year, race sponsor HumanLabs ran some more "n=1" experiments on Boettcher, who spent his summer in Silicon Valley teaching at NASA's Singularity Quantified Self program. Rumor has it the alternative strokes are catching on and some newcomers took a turn, such as Tom Maude, who said, "I did swim the first full 2.5K Butterfly, did some backstroke and breaststroke and finished off with freestyle. The great Butterfly swims of Tom Boettcher at many Big Shoulders and my Teammate, Oz Osborne, at the Elgin Blue Wave MS Team, who won the 200 yard Butterfly National MS Championship for 2011 encouraged me... I rather think that doing the Butterfly at Big Shoulders is an attempt to Fly with the Sprit of Big Shoulders. Thanks for this Greatest of Open Water Swimming Events." Team Nasti did its part for alternative strokes, as Jeff Maydak swam the entire course all backstroke, and Ross Bogue wrote in about his butterfly endeavor. Next year, Jeff can be part of the vigilance team scanning the skies for aggressive seagulls.

Big Shoulders remains a draw for the world's premier butterfliers as Olympic silver medalist Steve Gregg showed up for a special swim, one that summoned a different kind of courage. You see, Steve showed us how to be an angel and take care for the most intrepid beginners among us. How did he do that?

"Swim Angels" is a program instituted this year at the suggestion of Lauren Moriarity to help those newcomers who wish to embrace the Big Shoulders challenge yet feel a little out of their element and unfamiliar with the surroundings. Volunteers like Laurie and Mark Jager signed up to usher and "shadow" newcomers around the course simply to let them know someone is there. Says Mark,"I had already reached my own personal 5K goals, so I was glad to help Bill from Gurnee as he stuck to his goal of finishing 5K. It was fun for me!" One special swimmer was Helen White, who was bound and determined to finish that 5K under the allotted time. She made it out of the water with Olympian Steve Gregg at her side. When Steve comes in last, the cause of inclusive swimming comes in first. What a great idea and nice addition to Big Shoulders. Cheers for Helen and all the courageous newcomers to the Big Shoulders community.

On the medical front, rather ironic, isn't it, that the name for such a debilitating medical incident - a "stroke"- could be shared by an action we all associate so closely with progress through the water and repeat so many times. On a day of so many swimming strokes, perhaps it is appropriate to think for a moment about medical strokes and our own vulnerability. The National Stroke Association champions the use of the term "brain attack" in describing the symptoms, results and responses typical of a stroke, something we all should pause for a moment to study and understand. We also may thank Bill for his courageous example. With each of our powerful water strokes, we can share that certain sense of vulnerability as a Big Shoulders community.

UIC Head Swim Coach Paul Moniak and his minions were back again this year, smoothly completing race day logistics and bringing a nice sense of youthful vitality to the scene. Paul must be doing something right over there, for he oversees not only top athletes but, more importantly, top-mannered young adults. Northwestern's swim crew was also on the scene, bringing plenty of purple to our Saturday. Chicago city professionals such as the Fire Dept EMT's, CPD's, Park District guards, and logistics help were all on hand. We are grateful for our sponsors, who join us in the vision of a great open water swimming event. Sponsors this year include: USMS, H2Open, Finis, Big Shoulders Barbeque, Triswim, Xterra wetsuits, Blue Seventy, Gold Bond Ultimate, Izze, and HumanLabs. While remembering all those connected to our race, let us also remember those connected to us in sacrifice. Big Shoulders weekend coincides with the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, a time for competitors to feel humbled by the sacrifices of so many brave souls ten years ago.

Once again, Big Shoulders finished with a bang, this time in the form of heavy metal music at the finish line. Notes Chris Sheean, who had to announce over the likes of Iron Maiden, "I haven't heard stuff like that since the 80s!". Perhaps these head-banging tunes provide antithesis for the Lyric Opera's season preview gala in Millennium Park Saturday evening, just part of the many wondrous activities offered by our marvelous city. Just staying to linger over the scene of Lake Michigan returning to normal, without all the trappings of a large event and the encumbrances of defined orange boundaries, was peaceful and calming.

One last message: Now hear this, Bill Mulliken. You weren't just sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines of your progeny, your race. You were sitting atop the shoulders, Big Shoulders, of 1000 swimmers and their fans who thank you, support you and wish you speedy recovery. We hope you find some grudging daylight from your foggy challenge. Each and every stroke in Lake Michigan today served as tribute to your efforts for the swim community worldwide, from Olympic programs to the open water marvel Big Shoulders. As a community, we are all pulling for you, Bill. This one's for you.