BIG SHOULDERS 2006
5K Longcourse Results
2.5K Shortcourse Results
Click here for Big Shoulders 2006 Pictures
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The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
BIG SHOULDERS 2006:
A View From the Beach
We all knew it had to happen…after several years of relatively calm waters, Lake Michigan had to rear her head and show some teeth! Big Shoulders swimmers got it right in the teeth this year as a northeasterly wind brought chop to every stroke of the race. How many went home with a few souvenir gulps of Lake Michigan water in their bellies? It’s a safe bet that all 650 plus participants took at least a sip, severely depleting the water level of our favorite swimming hole this Saturday morning.
In retrospect, it was lucky the race was even completed. An ominous forecast suggested cool temps, howling winds and possible thunderstorms. Race Director Chris Sheean stayed hopeful and refused to allow anyone to utter words like “postpone” or “lightening”. How on earth does one postpone a race with 600 plus participants and a bad weekend forecast? And it’s a USMS 5K Championship swim, no less. But why dwell on what wasn’t, when we all had a great adventure. In fact, getting thrown around on those choppy, wall-bounced waves was a bit like a perpetual, stomach-churning rollercoaster ride at Six Flags.
The racing featured all the usual suspects plus some out-of-town heavies for this popular Midwestern event. Hometown favorite Richard Kramer gave a valiant effort in the 5K, but arch nemesis Jeff Erwin had a banner day to win the overall title. On the female side of the orange buoy, Shannon Mingo from Maryland was the fastest overall woman. Chicago star Nadine Day also had a banner day and can call herself a champion of the 5K. The 2.5 K might have been the wiser race for purposes of general sanity. Brian Malas came out for the once-around after a strong showing in the World Masters Championships earlier this summer in northern California. Brian, a prosthetic specialist, and his lovely family reside right here in downtown Chicago. Vanessa Meyer, also from Illinois, won the women’s 2.5K.
Yes, of course, as everyone wonders each year, our perennial ironpeople were back. Those who have completed all 16 Big Shoulders 5Ks include George Wendt, Lori Tanamura, Tim Kelly and Dennis Miller. Dennis the Dentist has been experimenting with bicycle acrobatics this summer, and he has the war wounds to prove it. We heartily encourage our fitness-minded friend to swim to work rather than bicycle. Other friends of Big Shoulders who have been showing up for years include Russ Haffner, a tried and true swimmer of open water long distances. Old Chicago friend John Becker traveled all the way from Texas to show us how its done, but he swapped his cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat for goggles at the start line.
Defying all logic, the turbulent waves did nothing to deter our resident butterfliers from their annual madness. Big Shoulders original butterfly solo 5K groundbreaker, Tom Boettcher, made it eight in a row with a commanding power stroke. Mr. Boettcher was unfazed by the difficulty, a little weary, but suggested he may reconsider eating breakfast before choppy swims in the future. Boettcher’s swim was quick and rhythmic, especially given the conditions. One fan approached him at the finish line to say “I’ve never seen anything like that in any sport - I swear it’s the premier performance” (that guy must not get ESPN on cable). Just how does one swim butterfly in choppy waves? “Be like water, my friend” … yes, its straight from a Bruce Lee movie, but it applies when the waves are bending and twisting you every which way. Dan Projansky held on to finish his third all-butterfly swim despite those tough corner waves bouncing off the concrete walls. Dan said a fellow swimmer actually stopped in mid-swim to clap for him as he went by. There is a distinct feeling of camaraderie amongst all the Big Shoulders swimmers, who share mutual respect for each other’s efforts.
Speaking of exceptional human feats, Big Shoulders 2006 hosted one swimmer who just flipped for the race. Right over his handlebars, that is, and just nine days before our 5K classic. So what did Russ Kissel of Riverview, Michigan, do with his newly broken arm and a green light from his doc? He swam all 5K, of course. Year after year, Big Shoulders provides the perfect canvas upon which individuals may challenge themselves and the notion of human limitation.
Of course, Big Shoulders in a championship year will bring some of the interesting characters of our sport out of the woodwork. Terry Laughlin, who stitched together swimming wisdom from many great minds to form Total Immersion, showed up for his own Lake Michigan total immersion. Terry’s outfit has taught so many eager adults how to transcend their fears and swim with confidence - with a heads down freestyle. Unfortunately, a good portion of them are now swimming without looking where they are going! (The Chicago Cubs suggest batting helmets in Lake Michigan for cranial protection from potential collisions). Marcia Cleveland from USMS national graced our waters with her presence, and of course Gold Medal winner and race founder Bill Mulliken was sharing stories and good-natured observations of his “architecturally significant swim” creation at the adolescent age of 16.
The buzz on the Big Shoulders T-shirt was "Retro and Cool" -- Route 66 style with simple bold lettering that symbolizes the simple bold character of the race. Kudos to Sheean Design for the great artwork.
It goes without saying, but we shall say it anyway, that the volunteers make Big Shoulders a big hit. The UIC swim team volunteers and others under the guidance of stalwart and unflappable Pam Smith do a great job at both the beginning and end, with familiar faces such as Boyd and UIC’s swim coach helping right 'til the final cardboard boxes are tossed. What a great team. We welcome the dedicated Department of Parks and Recreation lifeguards for returning to post vigil along the course, even when their orange jackets look like buoys and swimmers inadvertently head towards them. Great job, guys, and we won’t mention anyone catching a quick smoke out there. Want to appreciate the smooth registration process? Think of this: Big Shoulders still welcomes race-day registrants. That’s a friendly, and logistically challenging, aspect of such a big race. Our chip and timing system is run by a competent bunch and seems to handle the growth with ease. As long as Lake Michigan can fit a few more swimmers, we are glad to have the new participants!
What was the result of Big Shoulders 16? Every swimmer could compare finishing order to others if they wished, keeping track of who they passed in lap one or two. Many swimmers could compare their times to previous years. The simple fact remains that everyone who dared set foot into Saturday morning’s choppy soup performed some measure of self-testing that they’d never dare on an ordinary day. For this, every participant can be awarded not only one of those stylish bronze medallions but also the satisfaction of having swum a personal best.
The Big Shoulders Website Gang