Official Results

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

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Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee


BIG SHOULDERS 2009: A View from the Beach
Delayed Gratification and a Swim in the Sun

Welcome to summertime, Chicago style. Sure, it came a little late this year, but isn't it fabulous? We Chicagoans like to suffer a bit, toughen up, then bask in the glow of a perfect day. When we finally get our summer, we certainly know what to do with it! Call it delayed gratification, a concept familiar to swimmers everywhere. You know the drill... perseverance and determination pay off when the right time comes… and that includes celebrating one big marvelous event called Big Shoulders.

One of the best stories in Chicago sports is happening right under everyone's collective nose in Lake Michigan. With Big John Hancock looking on, Big Shoulders reigns supreme as the most hip, urbane 5K race in the country. Olympic Gold Medal winner Bill Mulliken's creation, known affectionately as the "world's most architecturally significant swimming race", stands out for standing up. This year's event may have been mistaken for a scene from Brigadoon as early morning condensation rolled eerily off the lake, enveloping our tall, proud structures in a velvet white blanket. But we waited patiently, and there was no mistaking that cheery sunshine that greeted our start and stayed 'til the finish. It could be that somehow Bill has friends in high places, or has done a deal with the devil, but that sun shone for just the right amount of time. With an attendance record of over 800 people, Bill's brainchild has fully matured to a perennial favorite on the swimming scene. Himself an influential and insightful personality on the USOC scene for many years, we all can agree that Bill is the perfect choice to head up indoor and open water swimming competitions should Chicago be selected next month to host the 2016 Games.

There was also no mistaking the quality of the top swimmers who showed from around the nation to compete for the title of Masters National 5K Champ. This year's designation as official championship race for the 5K is simply part of the ongoing effort, excellence and good-natured collegiality of long-time Race Director Chris Sheean, who promptly tosses aside his clipboard and a year's worth of cares to toss himself into the 5K swim. He certainly exemplifies the spirit of the race. Looking fit and feeling fine, Chris is the right man and public face of this classy event...we all thank his family and firm for loaning us his services over the course of the year, and we thank him once again for a job well done.

But on to the Big Fish, our 2009 Master's National 5 K Champions…ready? Andy Seibt for the men in a time of 56.21 and Erica Rose for the women in a time of 1:00.48. No outside smoke in Brigadoon this year, as both were hometown Chicago favorites. In the 2.5 K overall, it looks like Andy Schmidt of California took the men's title in a time of 32:49 while Julie Barr of Nebraska went a 32:39 for the ladies. Was that a brother/brother act as Nick Schmidt from Illinois came in right behind Andy? Wetsuiter David Wickstram swam a quick 29:38. Just check the results, though, and you'll see swimmers from far afield, Boston to Berkeley and Seattle to …well…Sugar Grove, IL! The Most Exotic City Name award goes this year to Pflugerville, Texas with Minnetrista, MN running a close second. Yes, we had some of our friendly neighbor Canadians on hand as well.

Certainly, the swift were here to compete for the win, but so were the hearty…those swimmers who train year round without fanfare and just hope to finish, many of them newly minted adult fish. We all found some surprises with this year's course, including a notable shift of the "triangle" eastward and closer to the breakwater jetties that protect the basin. Veterans of Big Shoulders and all those who regularly train at Ohio Street Beach were looking for that nice "chute effect" down the final leg along the concrete wall….but there was none! Another case of delayed gratification for which we swimmers are so accustomed. We had to fight for the finish rather than ride those helper currents, most likely because we were so far from the concrete walker's wall. The backstretch, or hypotenuse, actually felt as if it was offering some resistance. And who could forget the tasty cocktail of diesel fumes as we rounded churn corner for the final leg? Here's an idea: we all chip in to donate that old tub to the Federal Government's "Bucks For Boating Clunkers" program and get the Parks District a paddle-powered canoe!

We also had some time-tested favorites in the field, tough swimmers who year after year exemplify the spirit of delayed gratification and excellence in year round training. George Wendt came…and went…pretty darn fast in a 1:07, and Laurie Tanamura entertained us all by, like George and Tim Kelly, continuing her consecutive Big Shoulders streak with winter hat in hand..actually, on head. 19 in a row, way to go. Phil Dodson always puts in a gutsy performance. Did anyone see Dennis the Dentist Miller? All those pre and post race carbs gave us a collective toothache!

Our butterfliers returned this year to spice up the action in the big basin. Tom Boettcher pioneered the Big Shoulders 5K all fly, and this was number ten for the Butterfly Guy. Dan Projansky followed along years later and is still hanging in there. Following the popularity of his fitness best seller "Core Training", Tom says he used today's swim to test some theories for his upcoming work on human alignment. He also noted that this was the first year where he could actually see the bottom the whole way around. "You might say that Big Shoulders is finally going green… with lake weed. I'm thinking core, core, core down the opening length and some tall freaky plant is reaching up from the bottom to scratch my belly. Perhaps we'll have to send out Bill and Chris with snorkels, masks and lawn mowers next year for some prudent pruning." Those zebra mussels must really be working overtime to filter the finer lake organisms, leaving plenty of room for sunshine, new plant life and all us larger water organisms! Did anyone harvest some salad for after the race?

On the new faces front, open water swimming is beckoning all sorts of enthusiasts who have found a fountain of youth and vigor in open water swimming. One might argue that these are the most courageous of all swimmers, for they come to the sport as adults and must get past understandable inhibitions. Organizations like Chicago Masters and Blue Dolphins help get these swimmers acclimated to their surroundings and provide excellent technique guidance. Applause goes to one debut success story, Dr. Bernice Ruo, an internist and researcher at Northwestern Memorial who started swimming barely a few years ago after illustrious ballet accomplishments. Bernice's positive attitude and sense of adventure led her to chose Big Shoulders as her first competitive swimming race, and she made the 2.5 K look easy. See you next year, Bernice, and all your fellow adult onset fitness swimmers. Triathlons are fine, but Big Shoulders is truly where its at!

All the swimmers enjoyed the post race libations, including the Izze Natural Soda, (quite fizzy, which, after 3 miles of swimming, helps to make us wizzy), as well as the stylish mesh goody bags and sharp BS wear courtesy of Chicago Masters and Sheean Design. Swimming stalwart retailer Kiefer was on hand and wetsuit maker Blue Seventy was a big supporter. Their stylish and well-made gear has helped many a pro and late bloomer swimmer negotiate this fantastic sport and improve their health by taking hypothermia out of the equation. Smart move for the slim of stature. Bullfrog, Gold Bond and Ultra Swim all provided good stuff to slather on our weary bodies.

Once again, Coach Paul Moniak's respectful and enthusiastic band of water warriors from the UIC swimming team were an essential part of Big Shoulders logistics, and we enjoyed their youthful presence on the scene. Chicago Park's Districts did a great job in keeping the course safe and honoring the intentions of former chief Joe Pecararo, or "Joe Pec", who believed in Big Shoulders as much as Bill Mulliken. Announcers, officials and aficionados of Big Shoulders all helped make this year a great one, from the months of planning to pre-race dinner and post-race clean-up, and we thank them.

It was inspiring to see the bright red truck of Chicago Fire Department parked nearby, conjuring images of the bravery exhibited in a completely different venue that happened on a similarly sunny day in NYC at this same time of year, 9/11/2001. CFD went to the aid of their comrades under duress following the terrorist attack on our country, and we all commemorate their bravery. This year, it seems we did have one hypothermia case, which was handled with great professional care. Such an occurrence is bound to happen even when the waters are temperate…variables such as hydration, electrolyte balance, tempo, relative natural insulation (namely fat!) and personal metabolism all play a role in quickly sapping the body's core temperature and creating a serious medical condition. As swimming adults, though, its something we can all learn to manage with intelligent and informed personal choices of our swimming gear.

If you are looking for a predictable summer, don't try Chicago. Our swimmers must be made of sterner stuff, the kind who thrive on delayed gratification and know how to bask in the moment of athletic accomplishment… and perhaps a few post-race libations! For the final punctuation event to this fleeting summer, we bid Brigadoon Big Shoulders adieu for another year. For those who travelled far, and those who put Big Shoulders on their schedule far in advance to seek the gratifying completion of a distant challenge… we say "well done". For all of us who patiently waited for summer, and embraced the challenge of Big Shoulders, we say, "how sweet it is!" See you next year.

- The Big Shoulders Web Site Gang