BIG SHOULDERS 2007
5K Longcourse Results
2.5K Shortcourse Results
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The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
BIG SHOULDERS 2007:
A View From the Beach - Big Beach Ball
Do you remember the ubiquitous plastic blow-up beach ball of youthful trips to the beach? Whose spirits wouldn't brighten at the sight of all those colors as your lungs heaved to fill one with air for a day by the surf?
Well, there is no question that 670 sets of lungs were heaving during and after the 2007 Big Shoulders Open Water Classic on a bright, sunny September 8th Saturday morning. And noone knows exactly who thought to bring that big bright bouncy beach ball along to our 5 Kilometer/2.5 Kilometer swim party, but there is no doubt the ball matched the spirits of the day and bounced around our thoughts before and after our swim.
It can't be denied that many were pensive pre-race. Three weeks previous, heavy rainstorms and a lake inversion had dropped shore water temps to the low 60s, a common occurrence for Lake Michigan. Two days in advance of the race, temps were still brisk with heavy thunderstorms pelting the downtown one day before blast-off. Big Shoulders Grand Poohbah and Race Organizer extraordinaire Chris Sheean went so far as to call for all swimmers to petition to their deity of choice in his pre-race email low-down. It may be surmised that someone's deity is working out there, for the skies parted and the seas remained relatively calm compared to last year's race.
Who can really guess what we'll find as we round turn one and head down the long stretch of the hypotenuse towards the white condo and churn corner? Churn corner has earned its name for behaving in a perpetually choppy manner as swimmers round the orange buoy for the long straightaway along the concrete retaining wall that melds Chicago's towering architecture to our waters. But churn corner wasn't enough this year to throw off two truly sparkling stars of the open water long distance world, one a home grown favorite and one a home cultivated sensation who is venturing afar and making waves in the world of swimming.
Local dynasty swimmer and admired family man Richard Kramer has won Big Shoulders so many times that we all have stopped counting. He now tinkers with a variety of training and motivational techniques to keep his perspective fresh, yet somehow continues to produce inspired and gutsy 5K's for our spectators each year. Looking like he could fit right in with swimmers half his age, Richard handily won this year's twice-around in 57:13, one of his fastest times.
On the feminine side of the fin, locally-cultivated former Northwestern University distance phenom Erica Rose blazed to victory with a breathtaking time of 58:25. Erica has shared the turbulent waters of the Escape From Alcatraz race with Big Shoulders' butterflier Tom Boettcher and ventured to many distance classics around the globe as she makes a name for herself in the top flights of competitive swimming.
The "All-Seventeen" award goes this year to George Wendt, Dennis Miller, Laurie Tanamura, and Tim Kelly. Laurie clearly was prepared post-race for the onset of Chicago's infamous winter, donning her ski parka and hat to ward off the remnants of race hypothermia and remind us all that time and warm Chicago temperatures indeed are fleeting. Tempus fugit, but our Big Shoulders iron swimmers do not disappoint as they return each year to brave the waters of Lake Michigan.
A swim with the character of Big Shoulders is bound to have its characters, and our resident butterfliers were back again this year to lend color to the event, not unlike our colorful bouncing beach ball. Pioneer Tom Boettcher, dubbed Sir Butterfly by SWIM magazine, made his ninth consecutive all butterfly swim a test of technique and determination over the scourge of familiarity. This veteran Lord of the Fly muses that he is one of few that swim a straight course, while many poor souls swing a little wide on the hypotenuse due to currents. "I find myself getting passed, then passing, then getting re-passed by a subset of freestyle venturers throughout the swim because they were weaving back and forth. A straight swim is perhaps the one benefit of having to lift your head to breathe." Dan Projansky came back in great shape to finish in a personal best as the panache of these two characters lent color to our yearly athletic showcase.
Race Founder and World Swimming guru Bill Mulliken was making the rounds and overseeing his inspiring creation. The man who earned Olympic gold is now focusing his insight and wisdom on the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid. Chicago is fortunate to have a favorite son so well known and respected in the international swimming community. Familiar names like Joy Stover and Phil Dodson were in the mix again this year. Record-holding Master and favorite good guy swimmer George Wendt again turned in a blistering performance, while a quick scan of the results shows that there are many more Wendts in the soup. Likewise, there are many swimmers from all over the country traveling to participate in what Mulliken calls "the world's most architecturally significant open water race. Other happy swimmers such as Russ Haffner and Brian Mendis came back for a couple spins around the Lake Mich block, and one swimmer was master of the two's this year. Two years ago, George Christy reports that he could not swim two laps of the pool, yet on this bright Saturday he made it two times around our Big Shoulders course. That is certainly an order of magnitude improvement in short order, George!
Numerous volunteers and skilled helpers make Big Shoulders seem seamless every season, and this year was no exception. As always, Race Director and admirable family man Chris Sheean provided the steady hand of a wise master in guiding Big Shoulders all year long, through thick and thin. Chris' lovely wife and daughters clearly deserve a Big Shoulders' pat on the back for sharing this key figure with us all these years. Scott Reeves took on the daunting task of race registration, and we are always happy to see Pam Smith managing race day activities with style and flair. There are so many others to thank, such as the Park District Lifeguards that scan the waters for our safety. And how about the swimmers of the U. of Illinois collegiate varsity team, headed by Paul Moniat, or even the dedicated masseurs who release our post-race muscular aches and pains? Race sponsors help in so many ways that we are glad to have them on board with each passing year.
Would you like to know who really personifies the spirit of Big Shoulders? How about a pair of James's. Not James Bond or James Dean, but James Ursin and James Squair, who hung in there and finished at the gutsy end of Big Shoulders to the cheers of a welcoming crowd. James Urisn came all the way from North Carolina and James Squair ventured from Michigan to add to the great chi of Big Shoulders, a race that is a gathering. Finishing times or racing styles don't matter to the Big Shoulders community so much as effort, spirit and participation in any form. Big Shoulders swimmers participate with class and a dignity often missing in other sports. Each of us knows that there is no such thing as an unofficial swimmer. Every stroke, every intention, every will to participate matters to the class and dignity of this fine event, one that grows in popularity and character each year.
Inscribed with the theme "Big Shoulders 2007 Big Fun", and signed by so many helpers and swimmers, our beach ball is a fine reminder of the spirit of volunteerism, participation, and community that makes Big Shoulders such a unique athletic phenomenon. Big Shoulders personifies a national swim classic with midwest soul and some characteristic flair. And fun. There's no question that on Ohio Street beach on this fine September Saturday, we had a ball. One big beach ball.