All week leading up to this year’s Big Shoulders, the weather looked dicey.  The air temps dropped from the 90s to the 60s on Thursday, and Friday it was misting and cloudy with 3 foot waves. However, the race management team had their eyes on the NOAA forecast, and had faith in science.  Luckily, it proved accurate, as the morning dawned on September 9, 2023 with a glorious sunrise to greet the crew as the UIC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams were hard at work setting up for the racers to arrive.  The water was a very comfortable 70 degrees, with some 1-2 foot chop rolling in from the NE, nothing our intrepid swimmers couldn’t handle.
We honored our departed friends and teammates who are no longer with us during the pre-race talk.  For those who missed it (or couldn’t hear) here are the highlights:

Bill Mulliken -1960 Gold Medalist for USA, founder of this event and former president of CM
Sam Kooistra – member of the 1956 US Olympic waterpolo team, former teammate at CM
George Wendt – former world record holder in the mile for 60-64 age group, president of CM
George Yanos – longtime CM swimmer, my friend and neighbor, and beloved dad, grandpa
Russ Hafner – stalwart in the Chicago OW community, master chef, brother and friend
Geoff Mykleby – a beloved dentist and accomplished masters swimmer (Schroeder Y in MKE) Kevin Kelley – these all hit close to home, but Kevin was a beloved father of 4 daughters (I have 4 daughters) who succumbed to lymphoma 6 weeks after swimming BS last year. Has an impressive resume of OW swims.
Terry Laughlin – passed a few years ago. Swam BS a number of times, was generous with his time, and wrote what some consider to be the preeminent text on swimming, Total Immersion
Sue Frost – though she never swam BS, she was the ultimate swim parent for Lindsay Abney, went to every meet, and came to Lindsey’s first BS in 2011.

On the good side, we saw some fast and fantastic swims. For the second time, Danielle Schumacher was the overall winner with a time of 1:02:54.  The second woman was Dana Gianniny, and Kelly Link came in third. For the men, Bailer Biwer was the winner, with Don Secor in second, and Devon Healy in third. In the 2.5K women’s division, we saw Lauren Rose was the winner, with Jamie Haseman in second,  and Jessica Achstatter come in 3rd.  For the men, William Weaver got the win, with Eric Arndt in second and Michael Hogarty in third. The overall winners in the 5K wetsuit division were Marcelo Ehrhardt for the men, and Clare Bellendir for the women.  In the 2.5K wetsuit division, Joshua Carlson won for the men, and Tory Ondrla for the women. Congratulations to all of our swimmers!

On the lucky side, we are so fortunate to have so many amazing volunteers.  We want to thank and recognize the help of Bob Lewis, Marcia Cleveland, Chris Layton, Candace Cham, Tom Clune, Jordan Alexis, Julie Parilla, Ken Love, Kyle Geissler, Ashley Dell, Danny Sivak, Susan Bromberg, Jim Tuchler, Chief Jason Lach and the Chicago Fire Department Marine Unit, the Chicago Park District, and the UIC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams. We were also fortunate to have amazing sponsors, including A3, Big Shoulders Coffee, Sheean Design, H2Q Swim Labs, Big Shoulders BBQ, Indiana University Orthopedics & Sports Medicine,, Corey’s New York Deli and the USA Swimming Foundation.

We are incredibly lucky to have the support of so many loyal swimmers, and want to thank you for your ongoing support. We hope you can join us again next year for Big Shoulders 33 on September 7, 2024.

Results are available HERE for Big Shoulders 2023

HERE is a cool video USMS made of last year's race, to showcase our awesome event.
The George F. Wendt Memorial
Results are available HERE.


The George F. Wendt Memorial
Big Shoulders 5K & 2.5K Open Water Classic

Visited By An Angel

As dawn broke over Lake Michigan on Saturday, September 10, 2022 for the 32nd Meeting of Big Shoulders, we knew it wasn’t just another day.  We knew that our dear friend George was watching over us, and had worked out a favor to provide us with an absolutely perfect morning.  The water was calm and 72 degrees, perfect for all but the channel swimmers who showed up hoping for high 50s. 

It was a bittersweet day as we remembered George Wendt, the swimming icon, family man, and friend to all who knew him.  As hard as it was to be at Big Shoulders with out George for the first time, there was no doubt he would have wanted the race to continue, and for swimmers from around the country and the globe to gather together to celebrate the joy that is open water swimming. 

The fast conditions didn’t disappoint – we saw some fast times, and for only the second time in the history of Big Shoulders, the overall winner of the 5K was a woman, superstar Danielle Schumacher.  If you know Danielle, not a big surprise.  Her big smile and friendly attitude may disarm you at first, but make no mistake, this girl can swim!  Danielle came in at 1:08:20, with Tyler Hines, the first male swimmer, coming in 39 seconds later.  Rounding out the women’s 5K were Dana Gianniny (1:12:43) and Ella Wood (1:15:30).  For the lads, Ryan Downey came in second at 1:09:16, and Casey Ketterling (1:09:45) rounding out the finishers.

The neoprene assisted folks had a good showing in the 5K, with Chicago Masters’ own Bob Lewis taking top honors in 1:10:31, followed by Todd Walter (1:11:44) and Chris Scharver (1:14:16).  Polly Surhoff returned to crush the competition at 1:13:22, followed by Chicago Masters stalwarts, Janet Goodridge (1:16:55) and Susan Fanning (1:20:07).  For the 2.5K wetsuit division, Fares Ksebati returned to show us how it’s done, finishing first in 33:45, nearly two minutes ahead of second place swimmer Mark Hallman (35:29).  Maurice Tetzlaff came in third at 36:56.  For the women, Jennifer Vallo was first (38:19), followed by Jessica Achtstatter (39:08) and Brittany Turner (40:55).

Heidi Musser, born without sight, returned to demonstrate that great things can be accomplished by those willing to put in the hard work.  Heidi was guided and supported by her teammates from Swedish Fish.  Many others overcame physical and mental barriers to complete the swim.  Among the many great parts of the morning was seeing all on the beach converge at the water’s edge to cheer on the last swimmer as she crossed the finish line.  Such a great community we have! 

Many, many thanks to the volunteers, without whom this race would not be possible.  Thanks to Bob Lewis, the best co-pilot a guy could ask for! Thanks to Candace Cham, Kyle Geissler, Katie Marchetti and David Hines for their help in getting hot coffee, cold drinks and food to the swimming masses.  Thanks to the Chicago Fire Marine Unit, especially Chief Jason Lach, and thanks to the Chicago Park District Lifeguards for keeping us all safe.  Thanks to the UIC Swimming and Diving Coaches Ashley Dell, Susan Bromberg and Danny Sivak, and to all the swimmers and divers who came with smiles on their faces to support the race.  Thanks to Dr. Steve Hartsock and their medical team for providing on the beach support.  Finally, thanks to our awesome sponsors: A3, Big Shoulders BBQ, Big Shoulders Coffee, SBR, Indiana University Sports Medicine Group and Sheean Design.

Finally, thanks to all who registered, swam, and came out to support the event.  Big Shoulders continues after 32 years thanks to the support and community you all have created. 

THE 32nd ANNUAL BIG SHOULDERS 5K & 2.5K SWIM WILL BE HELD ON SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2023.  Registration will open on March 1, 2023. 


Registration for 2023 opens on March 1, 2023.

September 11, 2021
8 a.m. Ohio Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois
George F. Wendt (1947-2021)

The morning of Big Shoulders XXX began with a beautiful sunrise, calm, warm (70F) water, and clear skies.  As swimmers amassed on the beach, the excitement for our return to Lake Michigan as an organized event after 2 years was palpable. The race began like so many other years, with the UIC Men's and Women's swimmers cheering us on as we charged into the lake to start our waves.  Our good friend, George Wendt, entered the water as he has for every Big Shoulders, and by all accounts was excited for a good race.  What none of us knew was that this would be his last Big Shoulders. 

As we mourn the loss of our good friend, a role model and a swimming icon, it is incredibly difficult not to feel sorry for ourselves as we contemplate this tragic loss. George was one of the best people I had the pleasure to call friend.  But I have been reminded by many including his family that George died doing something he loved, swimming Big Shoulders.  
Here is a nice story about George.

---------------------------RACE DETAILS--------------------------------

Despite the loss of our hero, 775 swimmers completed Big Shoulders XXX, 464 in the 5K, and 311 in the 2.5K.  Congratulations to Heidi Musser, who once again completed Big Shoulders as a blind swimmer, with the aid of Andy Holck. Congrats also to all of our swimmers who were able to overcome adversity and complete the distance. 

Results are available
here.  Congratulations to Tyler Hines (1:08:45), the Men's 5K winner, followed by Craig Frederiksen and Devon Healy in second and third, respectively. For the ladies, Danielle Schumacher took the top honors at 1:09:11, followed by Lola Mull and Ashley Whitney. For the neoprene dependent (wetsuit division), 25 yr old Bailey Biwer edged out Chicago Masters' own consigliare, Bob Lewis in a time of 1:11:31. Brady Anderson came in third.  For the women, Polly Surhoff swam 1:17:43 for the win, with Maggie Alexander in second, and Kellie Moran-Jones in third.

For the 2.5K, Alex Van Huis took the honors for the men, in 39:03, with Alec Mull and John Kennedy filling out the top spot.  Kelly Perry (41:01) edged out Kelsey Prasse (41:11) in the women's 2.5K, with Julie Peterson in third.  On the wetsuit side, Fares Ksebati blazed in at 34:58, with Mark Hallman and John Kennedy going 2, 3.  For the women, Jessica Achstatter won it with a time of 39:28, followed by Jennifer Vallo and Karen Glenn.

Thanks to the Chicago Park District Lifeguards, the Chicago Fire Department Marine Unit, Lifeline Ambulance, and all of our amazing volunteers from UIC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving for helping make this race possible.

While it will be difficult to move forward, we know George would want Big Shoulders to continue, so we will soldier on without our fearless leader.  Big Shoulders will return in 2022 on September 10, 2022.  Registration will open on March 1, 2022.

Big Shoulders 2020 was canceled due to the global pandemic known as Covid-19.  While we mourned the loss of another Big Shoulders, the world was dealing with a much bigger catastrophe. It was all over the papers.  You should really try to keep up with the news more.

Big Shoulders 2019

2019 Results:

2.5K Age Group No Wetsuit
2.5K Age Group Wetsuit
2.5K Overall
2.5K No Wetsuit
2.5K Wetsuit

5K Age Group No Wetsuit
5K Age Group Wetsuit
5K Overall
5K No Wetsuit
5K Wetsuit




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.


Big Shoulders was canceled in 2018 due to thunderstorms, wind and 9-10 foot waves that prevented the Chicago Park District from being able to safely monitor the course.  


Results are available here:

2.5K Age Group     2.5K Overall     2.5K No Wetsuit     2.5K Wetsuit

5K Age Group     5K Overall     5K No Wetsuit     5K Wetsuit

Warm Sun, Cool Water, Good Times

Another Big Shoulders is in the books, and another year of some anxiety and worrying about the weather.  This year we weren’t worried so much about rain or water spouts, but about the rapid cooling of Lake Michigan’s surface water along the Chicago waterfront.  The water went from a comfy 72 a week before the race, to a cool 64 on race morning.  Luckily for us, the sun shone brightly and quickly warmed the air on the beach while providing a gorgeous morning with sparkling waves to the east and a sun splashed skyline to the west.  Yes, I am unabashedly fond of this particular swimming spot, and was so happy we had the chance to showcase it to so many.

The wind blew lightly out of the east at the start, making the first leg tougher and much of the second leg easier than in previous years.  However, the wind switched around to the Southeast once the race began, making sure that turn 2 (affectionately know as “churn corner” lived up to its billing. Most of those who swam agreed that the 300 meters in and out of that turn were by far the toughest part of the course. 

The choppy seas slowed down many, but perennial champion Adam Dawkins won the men’s 5K in an eye popping 1:03:10, with Justin Chiles and Scott Tyler rounding out the top 3.  On the women’s side, Joy Stover Halgren returned to Big Shoulders and reclaimed her spot on top with a winning time of 1:08:27, with Victoria Rian and Annie Ferguson just seconds behind to find a spot on the podium. The 5K men’s wetsuit winner was Andrew LaValle (1:02:57) and the women’s winner for the 5K wetsuit division was Janet Walberer (1:11:19).  For the 2.5K, Erin Tobias won the women’s division, and had the fastest time overall for a swimmer not aided by neoprene at 34:35, with Jennifer Coady and Marcia Cleveland coming in second and third, respectively.  On the men’s side, Ernesto Diaz Ramon won (35:57), Rafal Szukala was second, and David Doerr finished third.  Jim Tuchler (33:05) and Claire Browning (38:36) won the men’s and women’s 2.5K wetsuit division, respectively.

Also with us to brighten the day were the fantastic volunteers. The UIC swim team did a great job of hustling about to make sure the participants were taken care of in the water and on land.  They did such a great job, it almost covered up the glitch we had of no music throughout the morning.  (Reportedly, some of us older swimmers didn’t mind the quieter than normal beach which allowed us all to catch up with old friends and make new ones!).  We also need to thank our food committee: Candace, Casey, Anan and Rob for all of their hard work in securing bagels, bananas, apples, coffee, and the always well received donut holes. Thanks also goes out to George Wendt, Bob Lewis, Alex Boutov, Susan Bromberg, Chris Layton, and of course, the UIC head coach, Tim Loeffler.  These folks did a ton of behind the scenes work to pull off this year’s race, and this race could not happen with out their help.

Finally, we cannot forget to thank our sponsors: Big Shoulders BBQ (that smell of ribs wafted over the water and nearly pulled me out after my first lap); Maxim Sports Drink, TriSwim Shampoo, SkinSlik, Starbucks, Sheean Design, Indiana University Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, KIND Bar, Xterra Wetsuits, and A3/All American Aquatics.  Their support of Big Shoulders is invaluable, and we cannot thank you enough.

Big Shoulders 2018 will be on September 8, 2018, and registration will open on March 1, 2018.  Mark your calendar and set your alarm, and we will see you again next year.


A Song of Redemption

September 10, 2016 - Chicago, IL - One year ago, the race crew and participants of the 25th Annual Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic were sorely disappointed when Mother Nature played a terrible trick on them.  She pounded Ohio Street Beach with sheets of rain, 25-40 mph gusts of wind, and worst of all, 8-9 foot waves.  To cap it off, she spun up a waterspout and let it dance across the course during the time the race would have been held.  Fortunately for all, the Chicago Park District Lifeguarding crew had our best interests in sight, and called the race, keeping us all safe and able to swim another day.

Fast forward to this year. For starters, the open water swimming community gave Big Shoulders a mulligan, selling out the 26th running of the race in 2 days.  Then, on September 10, 2016,  the forecast leading up to the race was unsettled, with a 60% chance of rain that morning.  The swimmers and the race volunteers were undaunted, and prepared to push on.  In answer to our prayers, sacrifices and overall rubbing of the worry beads, the heavens delivered a wonderful morning, and the light rain before and after the race did nothing to dampen spirits.  In fact, with calm 70 degree water and a 70 degree air temperature, the swimmers had a perfectly splendid time on Lake Michigan. 

Those brave enough and able to join us on the beach turned in fast times on what was certainly every bit of a 2.5K swim course.  (Some speculate that the Chicago Park District felt bad about last year's cancellation and wanted to make sure everyone got their money's worth).  In the main event, Adam Dawkins turned in another jaw dropping victory with a time of 1:00:59, a full 3 plus minutes ahead of the next fastest competitor.  Craig Frederiksen took second (1:04:10), with Richard Vadivia (1:04:24) rounding out the top 3 with the next 4 swimmers bunched up within 11 seconds of the medal stand. On the women's side of the 5K, Victoria Rian took top honors in 1:08:52, with Adrienne Bicek in second (1:09:25), and Susie Shuck (1:10:02) finishing third.  For the wetsuit division, Chicago Masters' own Bob Lewis won it (1:07.14) with Anthony Colalillo in second (1:07:20) and Patrick Donovan (1:07:24) in third. For the women, Caitlin Madsen cross the line first (1:11:55), Kristen Courtney (1:18:59) was second and Lisa Huff (1:19:54) came in third.

For the 2.5K swim, the men's division's Corey McMeeking won it with a time of 33:28, with Marc Hensel in second and Jim Tuchler in third.  For the women, Liz Dillman (34:00) won it once again, with Erin Tobias in second and Andreea Ianoli in third. The wetsuit winners were Andrew LaValle (32:17) for the men and Jennifer Vallo (39:12) for the women.  

Big Shoulders owes a big thanks to its wonderful volunteers, including Bob Lewis, Rob Ellis, Alison Pease, Casey Platt, Mary Gebhart, Alex Boutov, Mark Caffray, Chris Courtois, Tim Loeffler, Susan Bromberg, Mike Tubb and the Men's and Women's Swim Teams from UIC.  Their willingness to pitch in and help out was invaluable, and their ability to do it with a smile made it a pleasure to be a part of this great event.  

Big Shoulders also owes thanks to its wonderful sponsors: A3, TriSwim, Nature's Fury Sports Drink, Finis, XTERRA Wetsuits, Nature's Path Nutrition bars, SwimTrek, West Superior Training, Kirk Eye Center, Big Shoulders BBQ, Starbucks, Natatometry and Sheean Design.  Without the support of these great companies, we would not be able to put on this event.  Finally, thanks to all those who came out to swim and support the swimmers.  Your enthusiasm, energy, dedication to Big Shoulders and overall love of open water swimming fuels Big Shoulders and keeps it at the top of open water swimming events in the USA.

We hope you will join us next year on September 9, 2017 for the 27th Annual Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic. As always, registration will open on March 1, 2017.

Results are available below:

2.5K Age Group     2.5K Overall     2.5K No Wetsuit     2.5K Wetsuit

5K Age Group     5K Overall     5K No Wetsuit     5K Wetsuit


In 2015, the race committee and the Chicago Park District were forced to cancel Big Shoulders 2015 for the first time in its 25 year history due to unprecedented 8-10 foot waves, sideways, sheeting rain and the appearance of water spouts on the lake.


For many of Big Shoulders’ glorious 24 years, conditions have been picture perfect, with sunny blue skies, smooth, calm water, and water temperatures in the mid to high 70s.  But that was not what Mother Nature had in mind this year.  A big storm blew through the night before, sending Lake Michigan into a swirling, churning fit.  Saturday morning dawned with 1-3 foot waves, partly cloudy skies with winds out of the north at 10 mph, and water temperatures that ranged from 66 at the shore to 63 or colder along the outside of the course, with pockets that felt much colder. 

Big Shoulders Swimmers were undaunted, however, and marched into the water determined to push right back and accept Lake Michigan’s challenge.  Swimmers fought through some weeds in the first leg’s chop, and did their best to stay on course in the second leg despite a very determined north wind.  The second buoy was placed a bit further north than in past years, forcing swimmers to take the 3 ft. waves head on as they battled to make the turn.  Their efforts were rewarded by the lake, however, with those same waves allowing them to body surf the last half mile back to shore.

The rough conditions and cold temps slowed the Big Shoulders contingent down a bit, but 770 rough and ready swimmers finished the 5K or 2.5K events.  Adam Dawkins returned to the winner’s circle in the 5K with a time of 1:04:32, followed by Justin Chiles (1:05:13) and Aaron Gabriel (1:05:49).  On the women’s side Adrienne Bicek took the top honors at 1:05:17, with Danielle Schumacher (1:05:57) in second and Mallory Mead (1:06:28) in third.  Chicago Masters’ own Bob Lewis grabbed the top spot in the wetsuit division (1:06:45), and Ann Berres-Olivotti won the honor for the women’s wetsuit division (1:13:49).

In the 2.5K, Marc Hensel won it with a time of 34:11, followed by Ruben Figueres (35:17) in second and Brendan Joyce (35:23) in third.  Liz Dillman won the event for the ladies in a time of 36:21, with Lauren Hodder (36:36) coming in second and Kelly Perry in third (38:33).  The wetsuit winner, Albert LaValle, turned in the fastest overall time at 33:43, while Michelle Nadel won it for the women in a time of 37:45.  Congratulations to Ross Bogue, who channeled past flyers Tom Boettcher and Dan Projansky and won the 5K butterfly division as its only entrant. 

But Big Shoulders isn’t only about the top dogs and their fast times.  Big Shoulders is also about those swimmers who came to Ohio Street Beach and accepted the challenge set forth by this year’s rugged conditions.  People like Claudia Solis-Lemus, who overcame her fears and completed her first open water swim with help of Chicago Masters swim angel, Mark Stori.  Big Shoulders is about guys like Paul Stalter, who has battled cancer over the past few years, and wrote on our facebook page, “I didn’t care about my time, or the difficulty I felt, but that I had accomplished something amazing.”  Way to go Paul!

Big Shoulders is also about relationships and lasting friendships.  We said goodbye to our friends, Jon Erikson and Chris Clarke – long time open water studs who passed away this past summer.  We also said goodbye to our founder and friend, Bill Mulliken, the Olympic Gold Medalist who started Big Shoulders and guided Chicago Masters for decades.  We honored Bill by placing “WDM” on the sleeves of this year’s race shirts. 

Long time friends have used Big Shoulders as a chance to meet up, share a meal, take on the challenge, and bask in the glow of it.  Friends like Lennart Larsson, who came all the way from Sweden to swim with Terry Laughlin (yep, the Total Immersion guy).  And Big Shoulders would not be what it is without the massive contingent from Noblesville, IN (Team NASTI), the impressive and fast crowd from Indy Swimfit, the huge crew that coach Sue Welker brings in from Naperville, and this year’s crew from Miami of Ohio that drove up in Bill Mulliken’s honor. 

Big Shoulders would also like to acknowledge the swimmers who came out, gave it their all, but couldn’t quite finish the job due to this year’s tough conditions.  Sometimes, it’s not finishing that matters, but being willing to toe the line and give it a shot, despite the fact that it wasn’t your day.

Big Shoulders Race Committee would like to thank the Chicago Park District Lifeguards for a spectacular job in keeping us all safe on a very challenging day.  Thanks also goes out to the University of Illinois at Chicago Men’s and Women’s swimmers and coaches who came out and provided the bulk of our volunteer force with smiles on their faces. They earned their delicious Big Shoulders BBQ ribs, just like those who swam.  We also need to thank our sponsor, Finis, who once again stepped up and was a major presence on the beach and behind the scenes.  Thanks also to our many other fantastic sponsors: Protein Plus; XTerra Wetsuits; Einstein Bagels; Nature’s Path; Malibu C; Greater Than Sports Drink; Big Shoulders BBQ; Fitness Formula Clubs; Starbucks; TriSlide; Foggie; Sheean Design and Human Labs.

And thanks to all of those who signed up and came out for Big Shoulders 2014.  Our beneficiaries, the UIC Men’s and Women’s swim teams and the Alliance for the Great Lakes also thank you.

Big Shoulders 2015 will be held September 12, 2015 and is an event not to be missed.  It is the 25th year of Big Shoulders, and it will be the 5K National Championship for USMS.  Registration will open on March 1st, and will undoubtedly sell out in a matter of days.  Circle your calendar, and we’ll see you next year!

The Big Shoulders Race Committee

For results, please review files below or visit or

2.5K Age Group     2.5K Overall     2.5K No Wetsuit     2.5K Wetsuit

5K Age Group     5K Overall     5K No Wetsuit     5K Wetsuit


Check it out! - Big Shoulders listed as one of the
7 Open Water Swims to do before you die!


Apropos of the first weekend of Bears football in Chicago, this year's race truly split the uprights.  The Big Shoulders Race Committee were working the worry beads and sacrificing to the open water gods for good conditions.  The National Weather Service had issued rip tide warnings for the Thursday leading up to the Saturday swim.  Amazingly, the winds died down, the sun shone for most of the morning, the water was a beautiful 72, and the air climbed from the low 70s into the 80s.  And just as incredibly, the National Weather Service issued a fresh set of rip tide warnings for the day after the race.  In other words, Big Shoulders' conditions split the uprights.

Those great conditions certainly yielded some insanely fast times.  In the women's 5K, visiting sponsor/supporter Luane Rowe, who got her chops swimming off the coast of Australia as a young Sheila, took the top spot in an impressive 1:00:43.  Megan Ryther came in second with a time of 1:03.10, and Chicago Masters' own Marlena Tonelli took third.  On the men's side, Northwestern phenom Jordy Wilimovsky crossed the Finis Finish line first in a time of 58:43, followed by perennial top finisher Adam Dawkins (59:43) and Justin Chiles (1:02:11).  The 5K wetsuit division also saw fast times, with Michael Yoch finishing first (1:01:36), Big Shoulders race committee member and Chicago Masters swimmer Bob Lewis was second (1:03:44), and Todd Walter came in third (1:07:31).  On the women's side, the wetsuit division winner was Ann Berrres-Olivotti (1:08:50), Megan Ridley was second (1:15:52), and Michelle Milne was third (1:17:13). 

The top 2.5K swimmers also turned in very impressive times, with Liz Dillman taking off like a shot at the start to win the women's (and overall) with a time of 31:35.  Mary Bartek was second (36:26) and Lauren Hodder was third (36:56).  On the men's side, Graeme Spence won with a time of 31:49.  Rafal Szukala finished second (32:35), and Marc Hensel was third (32:53).  John Martin took the top spot for the men in the wetsuit division in a time of 32:41, and Kris Berger won the wetsuit division for the women's 2.5K.

For the middle-of-the-packers, Big Shoulders 2013 was a glorious event as well.  The blue skies shone brightly above the skyline as these adventurers rounded the course.  And while it was a bit humbling to see the "Pink Menace" of the Top 50 elite wave swimmers go flying past for their second lap, the joy these swimmers felt at getting to enjoy the best Chicago has to offer in open water swimming allowed them to ignore these pink-capped marvels and stroke on. 

Missing this year from the water were butterfly maniacs Tom Boettcher and Dan Projansky.  Perhaps in answer to their absence, Erin O'Connell showed up and swam the entire 5K breastroke.  Apparently freestyle isn't hard enough for these folks. 

Also showing off their Big Shoulders were several swimmers in the disabled category.  Heidi Musser was born without sight, and completed the swim yet again thanks to her hard work, dedication, and a little help from guide Marcia Cleveland.  Several other amazing swims were witnessed, and we'd love to write about them.  If you overcame adversity, please let us know about it. 

Big Shoulders would also like to thank our amazing volunteers, the UIC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Teams, the Northwestern University Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Teams, and countless others with a bit more life experience, including Paul Moniak, Noelle Wilhite, Bob Lewis, Scott Reeves, Tim Kelly, David Hines, Casey Platt, Mark Caffray, Candace Cham, Jean Ridgeway, Russ Meyer, Carl Saxton, and our race director, Chris Sheean.  Chris needs to also thank his wife and family for allowing him to be preoccupied with Big Shoulders for a month every year for the past 15 years.

Finally, thanks so much to our amazing sponsors.  Finis stepped up and had a huge presence on the beach (literally and figuratively), and even supplied the women's champion, Luane Rowe.  Starbucks made its inaugural appearance as a sponsor, while TriSwim, Kiefer, Kirk Eye Center, Hammer Nutrition, XTerra Wetsuits, Greater Than Drink and Sheean Design returned to provide support.  And many of our 937 finishers remarked at the delicious barbequed ribs courtesy of Big Shoulders BBQ.  Big Shoulders would not be possible without the support of these great sponsors.

And thanks to all who came out.  Big Shoulders will return in 2014 on September 6th at Ohio Street Beach.  Registration will open on March 1, 2014.  Until then, keep stroking and keep smiling!

The Big Shoulders Race Committee

Official Results

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Official Results - Updated 09/10/2012

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2012 Pictures

A View From the Beach - Big Shoulders Pushes Back

Did you ever have a day, in work or play, when nothing seems to be going your way? When every move forward is met with a little friendly pushback? Nothing personal, of course. Its just business. Yet it was very personal this morning, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, for around 1000 swimmers who tussled with the waters of Lake Michigan. This year, Lake Michigan pushed back, with water and swimmers going every which way. Nothing personal, of course. Just business.

When it comes to the business of open water swimming, none is more affable yet capable than proud Dad, devoted husband and our favorite race's Tsar, Chris Sheean. Everything was right on the mark this year, business as usual for Chris, from race logistics to the helpful guidance messages on weather and hypothermia. Big Shoulders is still a community, albeit a bigger one, and we all care for each other out there in the choppy soup. It is the sight of others churning along on lap two that helps keep everyone going to the end.

The best news of the day came from an unlikely source, the EMT trauma team tent-ed diligently on the sand and waiting for customers. Hardly anyone came! Hooray! We throw an intrepid race, invite swimmers from all over the country to come meet the challenge, and we walk away healthier and happier. Who could argue with that? Even when Lake Michigan pushes back, the hearty denizens of Big Shoulders treat it as -- you guessed it -- just business, nothing personal.

The best visit of the day came from Race Founder Bill Mulliken, who made his cameo in high style then slipped away, knowing everything was in capable hands. It must please Bill to see his creation mature each year and bring so much challenge and fulfillment to so many swimmers. Olympic Gold Medal Winner Bill Mulliken is a man whose influence has extended to all swimmers pushing their way around that big triangle course.

Now lets get down to the nitty gritty -- how was the course and how did we fare? A persistent northwest wind made big waves that kept pounding the breakwater and creating some strange chop on the first and second leg, especially around the openings. As Chris said in his opening course remarks, "you will earn your doughnuts on that first leg" where the current was constantly slapping swimmers back seemingly to the start line. You round the first cone and what do you get? More of the same! Strange currents and more chop met us all, at least from the perspective of butterflier Tom Boettcher. "I think this may have been one of the toughest years for backstretch chop, though maybe I felt it differently than the long-axis freestylers. They weren't complaining, but they were swerving all over the place. Seemed like I was swimming into a fire hose, at least until the white condo turn. Then it was all downhill, like a surfing a wave."

Those that pushed the hardest against our weather -whipped waves win the prize and the glory. In the 5K overall, Adam Dawkins and Barbara Richter went one -two. Wow, what a pair of swims! Dawkins' overall fastest time of 59:33 left everyone far behind and set a standard for tough conditions. Barbara showed the men and women how its done with her 1:01.51. In the 2.5 K once-around, Liz Dillman and Kelly McNichols stole the show and went one-two. Liz is a familiar name at the top and went 33:03, while Kelly was ten seconds behind. Previous winner Rafal Szukala was another two seconds behind that, but in first for the men. Nice job ladies and great swims overall!

In the Perennial Perseverates category, George Wendt, Tim Kelley, Laurie Tanamura and Dennis Miller were back again, holding onto their perfect Big Shoulders record of having completed every 5 K since the beginning. Tim is a great help with race logistics and a credit to the swim community. With a kid heading off to Amherst, we suspect this hearty construction mgmt head honcho will become quite philosophical -- or quite broke -- in years to come. Says Tim, "our starting line reminder for my age-group is that a little chest pain is par for the course!" Of course, George Wendt continues to make swimming a family affair. With grandson in tow, he continues to provide example of quiet dignity and resolve as he maintains his fitness and competitive drive each year. Getting down to business, he went 1 hour, 11 minutes….Whaaa? That is really moving on a choppy day! Of course, Laurie Tanamura was back for 5K as well as her famous ski gear to make certain that unexpected snowstorms do not catch her off-guard. Remember, it did start off quite cold this morning. Dennis Miller once again completed the 5K swim, though he hears the bicycle calling his name.

In a pushback year, when its just business, the Business of Butterfly commenced in relentless fashion. Big Shoulders butterfly pioneer Tom Boettcher was back for his thirteenth 5 K all fly, pounding out a sturdy swim. Tom is coming off a butterfly and ballet summer, where on Sunday, July 15, he first crossed the Brooklyn Bridge all fly, then taxied over to Lincoln Center still smelling of East River to dance the matinee of "Bolero" with the Paris Opera Ballet. Are the two similar, we asked? "There is no question that having command over your alignment and use of your core is key to success in butterfly, freestyle, dancing, picking up luggage or tossing a ball. Being hired by Paris Opera Ballet for their US Summer Tour just reinforced alignment lessons learned through our research at HumanLabs and in Lake Michigan." There is an able New Member of the elite Butterfly Club at work in the waters -- last year, Tom Maude did half his 5K butterfly, inspired by Boettcher's example and determined to make it all the way this year, pushy water or not. Today, despite the pushback, a quite pink Tom Maude emerged from the water a few hours later but better for the challenge, stroking the whole way, 5K, all butterfly.

In the Favorite Swimmers category, this pushback year seems to have pushed back to Chicago a few prodigal swimmers from afar to rejoin our regulars. John Carl Becker returned after several years lost at sea. Specifically, Chicago local John has been working elsewhere but missing his friends here in our great city. Last week, he did the swimmer's version of a "Hawaii 5-0" action-packed adventure and swam the Islands Channel event. After many planes, trains and automobiles, he made it here to grace us with his presence, and blaze around the 5K course in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 30 seconds. Book 'em, Becker! Big Shoulders regular and favorite Dave Ackerman brought us mirth and good cheer while blazing around the 2.5 K course, and iron-willed Phil Dodson was not far behind. Ted Soltys always brings a good 5K swim to Big Shoulders, and this year was no exception at 1:13. Researcher Candace Cham is back from the Left Coast to help the world strengthen its immune system and swim 5K open water like a champ at 1:17.51.

In the Favorite Programs category , Swim Angels were back again this year. Please lets take a moment to recognize just how challenging it can be to shepherd a beginning swimmer around the course while hanging in there yourself. How selfless is it to volunteer your effort to help another who feels a little trepidation and benefits from a swimming buddy nearby in the water? Especially on a day like today, the input is invaluable. Swim Angel Mark Jaegar and several dedicated, passionate volunteer compadres banded together to help usher some courageous swimmers around the course. Some didn't make it (they are living, of course, they just stopped swimming a little early)….that is part of the scenario when the challenge is tough and the conditions prevail.

After finishing the course, our next challenge was to finish the food and drink. Coconut water -- all kinds of coconut water -- was quite the vogue for Big Shoulders 2012. Plums, bananas, bagels, Dunkin Donuts… you name it, we scarfed it. Pulled pork was last year, but this year was for pushback. Tasty ribs from Big Shoulders Barbeque were the order of the day for post-race snacking (that is, for those who could get their stomachs to settle down). Yes, all the way around, we had ribs on our minds, but they were our own aching ribs from making all sorts of twisting adjustments to the rollicking waves.

Kudos to Sheean Design, specifically the artistic one in the family, Chris' brother, for our Big Shoulders T-shirt design this year. How cool was that? No doubt, everyone will be proudly sporting their shirt around town and at the Opera Gala this evening in Millennium Park! Was that Chris' daughter helping out and taking notes for next year? Watch out, Daddy, or your reign over Big Shoulders will be usurped by your bright understudy!

All the usual volunteers and lifeguards helped make this Big Shoulders a personal -- and pleasurable -- affair. UIC Swimming Head Coach Paul Moniak orchestrated his good-natured crew for logistics help, and the Chicago Fire Department and Parks/Rec guards did a great job keeping us safe. Just check the back of your T-shirt and you will know who really cares about Big Shoulders: Lifetime, TriSwim, Strel Swimming Adventures, ONE Coconut Water, Big Shoulders Barbeque, Greater Than Coconut Water ( the two do taste differently), Hammer Nutrition, Finis, Kirk Eye Center, Kiefer, Xterra, International Swimming hall of fame, Swim Spray, Clif Bar, Sheean Design, Chicago Masters, Advanced Occupational Medicine Specialists, and HumanLabs.

In a pushback year, when Lake Michigan gets a little ornery and we are reminded of its vicissitudes, Big Shoulders swimmers have but one choice: to jump in and persevere. When faced with mutable conditions, we must adapt. When faced with challenge, we must rely upon training, technique and fortitude. When faced with the sight of our friends nearby, pushing along with us, we can do nothing less than celebrate our good fortune, good health and good cheer. For we swimmers of Big Shoulders, its personal!

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.

Official Results - Updated 10/3/2010

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2010 Pictures


BIG SHOULDERS 2010: Race Committee Message

The Big Shoulders Committee wants to give a big thanks to all of our swimmers who braved the cold and the rain to participate in BIG SHOULDERS XX! And thanks to the hundreds who turned out to cheer on their friends and families in a nasty drizzling rain.

Thanks also to our many spectacular sponsors who make the event possible, including H2OPEN, Chicago Park District, Speedo, Triswim, Izze, Blueseventy, Ultraswim, Awards and More, Inc., Stewarts Coffee, Muscle Milk, Hammer Nutrition, Superior Ambulance Service, Advanced Occupational Medicine Specialists, All American Swim Supply, Quench Gum, Sheean Design, Kirk Eye Center, MOX Multisport, XTerra Wetsuits, Kast-a-way Swimwear, Walter's Swim Supplies, Inc, Finis, UrbanTriGear, Gold Bond Ultimate, and HumanLabs.

We also want to recognize what has been a decade of efforts by our website crew. They have dutifully posted the updates, and done a great job coming up with the witty and unique write ups of the swim when the race committee was too wiped out the day after the race to peck out a synopsis.

Finally, be sure to join us in 2011 for The 21st Annual Chicago Masters' BIG SHOULDERS 5K & 2.5K Open Water Swim Classic set for 9/10/11!

Many thanks,

The Big Shoulders Race Committee


BIG SHOULDERS 2010: A View From The Beach

Barging In, Bouncing Around, Bowing Out… Gracefully

Big Shoulders Twenty Ten was the twentieth version of our mid-country classic, affectionately known as the world's most architecturally significant race. After twenty years of speeding and sloshing around the big orange cones in Lake Michigan at the foot of the Hancock, our swimmers were hardly fazed by the Big Weather that came barging in… or, for that matter, the Big Barge off to the side of the course. Of all times and all places, why right there, right then, a spectacle near our swimming path - a Big Barge on the Backstretch? From appearances, it was a one-time city project and was gone the next day. No problem for Big Shoulders aficionados; we'll enjoy the view and be on our way!

The Bouncing came courtesy of Tropical Storm Hermine, the remnants of which made their way up from Texas to dampen our morning but not our spirits. Fifty degree air temps, sixty three in the water, howling winds and driving rains greeted us as we arrived for 8:00 AM launch time, with many wondering why they bothered to get out of bed. Would there be lightening? Would we cancel? Everyone wondered and speculated as race organizers did a terrific job of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Amongst the aggregation of hoods, parkas, rain gear and goofy hats, one figure towers above and provides reassurance: Race Director Chris Sheean. Piloting the race to solid growth over the past two decades, Chris again demonstrated his experience and calm demeanor to sooth worries over barges and weather. He still exemplifies the spirit of Big Shoulders by swimming with the rest of us around the course.

For Big Shoulders' twentieth year, race entry was capped at 800, though many had a look at the forecast and conditions Saturday morning then decided to pull those covers a little higher and stay put. Final tally of participants for the 5K was 394, while the 2.5K was 174. Those are 568 tough customers. Rumor has it Race Founder and Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Mulliken made his cameo appearance and was glad to see the spirit of the race endure all environmental conditions.

Lets take a tour of the course conditions. Cold water characterized this day as southerly storm winds whisked the remnants of warm water off the surface and allowed for cold water "upwelling". Around lap one, waves bounced us as the storm raged and the driving rain was unrelenting. On the first stretch, turn one was choppy and the bounce didn't quit along the backstretch, past the barge and around chop corner. "I felt like I was breathing and eating rain", said all-butterfly swimmer Tom Boettcher.

1980 Olympic Swim Team member David Sims noticed, "This year’s race was not only physically more exhausting but was also mentally more exhausting. It was very hard to see the guy swimming 2-3’ to your side and to see the seaweed on the 1st/4th leg. I found it required a far higher degree of concentration just to maintain a rhythm and stay on course, let alone race!" David cited communion with the great physicist Newton and his Third Law, observing that course spotting required 2x as many head lifts, which in turn required, "a lot more leg action which in turn led to massive leg cramping and the occasional breaststroke. " Sims described a "feeling of disorientation from being rolled around in the waves. There were so many racers who had lost total control of their bodies and stood shivering, with teeth chattering and half-filled cups of hot coffee spilling all over their fingers. I was never so miserable and so happy at the same time in all my life."

Swimmers swerved left and right in concert with the waves. Those large orange course markers looked rather small from a distance. Many switched to breaststroke to spot the course, and several even flipped over for some backstroke. Perennial superstar and Big Shoulders lifer George Wendt noticed that conditions calmed a bit on lap two and helpful waves brought us home along the ledge as the southerly winds died down a bit. Comparing benchmark times from last year's race to this year's, the stormy conditions exacted an approximately 15% tax on our times but perhaps far more upon our weathered bodies.

Speaking of times, what a time our regulars had. For the once-around 2.5K, sprint champ Dave Ackerman swam a blistering 36:55… so fast there was steam pouring off his back with Marc Hensel and Phil Dodson rounding out the top three. Alexandra Nieto won the 2.5K for the women, with Karrie Wright and Alison Croucher in second and third. Top wetsuit times for the men over 2.5K were Stefan Timms, Chris Sheean and Marty Moran, while the top female finishers were Sarah Mulligan, Marissa Sindelar and Lyndsay Whitfield. Special tip of the hat to Phil Dodson for being one consistently tough character as he taught swimmers half his age how to really move. Likewise to George Wendt, who rises above the conditions every year to dominate the course. A wise course seer, his post-race assessment always hits the nail on the head for currents, waves and winds.

Speaking of 5K results, let's get right to it: the overall 5K Big Shoulders Champion for 2010 was Charles Rimkus in a time of 1:06:17, with Adam Dawkins a few seconds behind and Chris Clarke in third. Emily Hanson surprised us with a gutsy win over Olympian Erica Rose in a time of 1:08:43 with Erica five seconds back and Victoria Rian in third. What a finish for both the men and women, proving that even on the worst of days, Big Shoulders swimmers are the best of competitors! Top 5K wetsuit finishers were Dave Pushka, Lee Meyer and Joseph Novotny for the men and Stephanie Thomas, Mary Bradbury and Laurie McQuaid for the women. As always, everyone who dipped a toe and gave it a shot on this blustery cold and torrential day deserves acknowledgement, a warm drink and a decent post-race massage.

Awareness of Big Shoulders as a classic competition grows each year yet still retains its home-town, friendly, hearty feel. Our race was mentioned as part of a Wall Street Journal feature on long distance butterfly swimming that focused on the broad trend of core emphasis in stroke mechanics. Said extreme butterfly pioneer Tom Boettcher of his eleventh all-butterfly swim, "My core was working, I negative split the second lap, but neglected to sign up for the Big Barge Architectural Tour".

Laurie Tanimura typically dressed in ski parka and hat more reminiscent of a day at the slopes rather than a spin around the lake; then donned a wetsuit to be toasty warm for the race. At 63 degrees, many nay-sayers converted from die hard bare-skinners and donned wetsuits as necessary equipment for thermal protection. Big Shoulders regular Dennis Miller was back again for a once-around. Northwestern's Dr. Bernice came back for a second year of the 2.5K, demonstrating the expanding trend of adult-onset competitive swimming. Thanks to great tips from Race Medical Director Dr. Steve Hartsock, only a few experienced some effects from the cold but noone was worse for the wear. Some noticed that muscle cramping was a factor during the race, and there was a warming station for afterwards as well as great rescue capacity from Chicago Fire Department and dive team.

This year's race boasted a few other pleasant "barges" on its horizon, perhaps portends of things to come. First, the Northwestern Swim Team showed up for a hearty swim.... perhaps we might see a collegiate showdown in the future? Our little barge was the first ever Little Shoulders race. David Sims noted, "They looked like they were having so much fun despite the lousy conditions. The thought of jumping in to a cold lake on a cold morning would send most kids home crying but not this hearty energetic bunch, who found it exhilarating. Nevertheless, it made me wish I had done that when I was a kid. I can only imagine how Big Shoulders will grow in the years to come as a whole new generation of open water swimmers is being spawned in the waters off Ohio Street Beach."

Paul Moniak's good-natured crew of UIC swimmers once again proved themselves vital to the cause and fun to have around - a welcome dash of youthful energy on a stormy day. Chicago Parks District guards proved reliable, and our thanks extends as always to the countless volunteers and sponsors who truly make Big Shoulders possible and form the foundation of support for our swimming community. Sponsors for 2010: H2OPEN, Chicago Park District, Speedo, Triswim, Izze, Blueseventy, Ultraswim, Awards and More, Inc., Stewarts Coffee, Muscle Milk, Hammer Nutrition, Superior Ambulance Service, Advanced Occupational Medicine Specialists, All American Swim Supply, Quench Gum, Sheean Design, Kirk Eye Center, MOX, XTerra Wetsuits, Kast-a-way Swimwear, Walter's Swim Supplies, Inc, Finis, UrbanTriGear, Gold Bond Ultimate, and HumanLabs

Finally, during this commemorative twentieth year of Big Shoulders, who would not notice that our race date coincided with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We all quietly remembered the sad day in our nation's history as well as the fortitude of our emergency responders and courageous citizens.

Many race guests from far and near gathered Saturday evening under the soaring gables of Millennium Park to welcome the Lyric Opera's upcoming season. Amidst Puccini's arias and Mozart's overtures, we all bid this classic Chicago day goodbye in classic fashion until next year... barging in, but bowing out gracefully.

Official Results

5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2009 Pictures

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

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2008 Pictures

Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2007 Pictures

Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee

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.

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2006 Pictures

Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee

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

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2005 Pictures

A View From the Beach

If you happened to be walking by the Ohio Street Basin early Saturday afternoon, and you noticed all the pleasure boats crammed in the waters below the mighty Hancock, you might have a hard time believing that just a few hours previous the place was crawlin’ with swimmers. 572, to be exact, for the triumphant celebration of Big Shoulders Number 15, which happened to include a USMS Championship designation for the 2.5 K distance along with the traditional 5 K monster.

In general, change was the operative word for Big Shoulders as swimmers adjusted to staggered heats and even the nifty opportunity to run ashore for a 2.5 K split before finishing lap two of the 5 K race. Now would one call that a swim-run-swim? A biathlon? A crazy sight? What about the enthusiasm of the big purple team and their special camaraderie on race day. Big Shoulders does love surprises.

There still prevails a feeling of familiarity to Big Shoulders, but simultaneously no doubt of the event’s national prominence. It is no longer surprising to hear of swimmers fresh off the plane from San Francisco, Washington DC or New York just for the weekend. How could anyone go wrong? We have a premier race in a beautiful, clean city with plenty to do. As Bill Mulliken says, in a phrase we are still waiting for him to trademark, Big Shoulders is “the world’s most architecturally significant race”!

The Lake Michigan waters were decently warm. East/south east winds created surface turbulence across the water, whipping up some choppy soup off turn two and right down the backstretch. Swimmers didn’t do themselves any favors by staying close to that wall today. This is the nature of open water swimming.

Most swimmers agreed those new bright big orange buoys were money well spent. The course was easy to site from the water, if not easy to navigate for the currents. Three cheers once again to Chris Sheean, Pam, Peggy, Boyd and all the volunteers that continually help make this race terrific every year, even when the going gets tedious and time consuming. It’s these familiar folk, including the Department of Parks and Recreation and the lifeguards, that offer Big Shoulders the continuity necessary to grow with class and style.

Speaking of familiar faces, several of our tried and true performers came back for yet another twice-around to maintain their perfect streak of consecutive 15 BS swims since the race’s onset. These include George Wendt, Dennis Miller, Laurie Tanamura, Tim Kelly and Dr. Dave Heinz. Our resident dentist, Dennis Miller surprised us all with the happy loss of 35 extra pounds of carry-on baggage for his Big Shoulders trip. Lacking the extra thermal protection but looking svelte and trim, rumor has it Dennis is up for an Ocean Pacific bathing suit ad sometime soon.

In the sheer torture department, Tom Boettcher completed his seventh consecutive Big Shoulders all butterfly. In going toe to toe with Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins, Big Shoulders fixture Boettcher answered one of the typical pre-race questions – is the “fly guy” back again this year? One man was heard commenting “My God, he looks just like a porpoise. Its rhythmic, its beautiful.” French bicycling officials attended the race to test Boettcher for porpoise extract, but apparently his urine sample was dispensed somewhere along the second lap. Big Shoulders sponsor HumanLabs affixed some strange monitoring device to Boettcher’s head, but his general body feedback one day after the race was, “I feel like I’ve been hit with the Michigan Ave. 147 bus.” Consistency was the order of the day, as Dan Projansky came back for his second year of a butterfly performance. His training regimen is incorporated into the great coaching job he does up in Evanston, encouraging others to take on the butterfly.

Once again, without reservation, we all owe a big round of applause to the faithful volunteers and sponsors that keep Big Shoulders growing and striving. Chris Sheean is the focal point of a proud group that has overseen a tripling of race attendance in the last five years. Some volunteers also swim the race, some stay dry, some skip a year, but when you look under the tents and around the announcers tables, you see faces you recognize and humans who deserve a tip of the hat. Under the auspices of Chicago Masters, Big Shoulders has become a Chicago institution. Its no secret that this year’s Big Shoulders, the 15th, was both classy and fun; just what we look for each September and why we keep coming back. Can anyone imagine what #25 might be like?

The Big Shoulders Website Gang

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results

Click here for Big Shoulders 2004 Pictures


Big Shoulders 2004 proved to be another successful endeavor for Chicago area masters swimmers and Chicago Masters Swim Club. The weather was very hospitable, with an air temperature of 68 at the race start, and a water temperature of 70. After giving their GPS tracking equipment a year off last year, co-sponsor the Chicago Park District's life guarding crew guaranteed an accurate 2.5k loop. While most swimmers indicated a general approval for accuracy, many at the start were fairly daunted by the speck on the Eastern horizon that was a 3 foot inflated triangular buoy marking the first turn. The difficulty in seeing the buoy far off under the rising sun was complicated by the presence of over 250 like colored orange caps splashing through the early morning waters, but the challenge only heightened the accomplishment.

The race drew 439 competitors this year, growing another 10% over last year. In 1998, Big Shoulders had only 110 swimmers, to give an idea of how this event has grown into a National event that showcases the best Chicago has to offer in open water competition.

Despite its emergence as a national competition, CMSA swimmers showed home lake advantage is key. Naperville swimmers swept the men's and women's 5k titles. Richard Kramer continued his dominance of Big Shoulders, winning the 5k swim for the 7th time in the past 10 years in a time of 1:02:18, with adopted Chicago Masters swimmer Seb Neumayer in second at 1:04:40 and Carlsbad, California's Mason Bailey in third at 1:05:55. Naperville swimmer Liz Dillman was the women's top finisher at 1:07:10, with Kelly Perry of St. Charles following at 1:08:05, and transplant Kansan Joy Stover rounding out the top three at 1:09:00.

The 2.5k competition was no less spirited. North Shore star Phil Dodson shone brightly as the top male finisher at 36:23, just edging out Hoosier Mark Spratt at 36:36 and Randall Brezina of Bollingbrook at 38 minutes even. On the women's side, last year's champ Peggy Dempsey decided to give someone else a chance, choosing instead to take pity on the organizing crew and lend a huge hand of support behind the scenes. Taking advantage of Peggy's absence, Indianapolis' Raena Latina (38:38) just held off Kim Lynch (38:40), with Alexandra Wendt-Constantine (40:37) rounding out the top three.

There were several other tales of success this year. Blind swimmer Heidi Musser returned to Big Shoulders after a few years' absence, finishing the 2.5k with the help of her UIC guides. Several local stars continued prowess in their age groups: Chicago Masters' lane leader George Wendt won the 55-59 age group by over 20 minutes; Tim Griffin of Beverly Shores finished first in the 60-64 age bracket by nearly 16 minutes; Stephen Gentes of San Diego beat his fellow 50-54 year olds by more than 10 minutes; and Chicago star Sarah Randag eclipsed her fellow 30-34 year olds by over 5 minutes. In addition, 5k butterflyer Tom Boettcher returned, and was joined in his feat of athleticisim and insanity by Masters coach Dan Projansky.

The post-race sentiment on the beach was very positive, with swimmers enjoying the company of fellow finishers, while wolfing down Powerbars and guzzling Gatorade. Several competitors commented that Big Shoulders 2004 proved again to be a great cap to a summer of long course training. But this event would not be possible without significant contributions from several who must be recognized. Most importantly, the outstanding support provided by co-sponsor, the Chicago Park District life guarding crew. Thanks must also go out to our sponsors, Kiefer, Red Roof Inn, Hostelling International, Party Time Productions, Infolocus, Powerbar, Marathon Sportswear, Arena swimwear. In addition, Boyd Black, Molly Quinners, Pam Smith, Tim Kelly Ramon Nayar, Casey Platt, Mike Prangle, Coach Paul Moniak and the UIC swimmers made significant contributions to insure the success of this year's event.

Be sure to circle September 10, 2005 on your calendar. The 15th annual installment of Big Shoulders will be the USMS National Championship for the 2.5k distance! See you again next year.

Chris Sheean,
Big Shoulders Race Director


A View from the Beach...


Big Shoulders 2004:
Role Models and Chocolate Wind

“Hey, I smell chocolate. Where is that coming from?” Its pretty likely that some of Big Shoulders 420 or so swimmers asked themselves that question as they rounded turn 1 and headed down the long straightaway towards the city.

Ever since its conception by Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Mulliken, through its first national media placement in a 1998 Swimmer magazine article, and with the apt stewardship of Chris Sheean and his cast, the Big Shoulders trajectory has been up and away. No question that our beloved local race is now a national destination event. Big Shoulders has a certain aura, a quality that brings out special performances and asks for the best in all of us.

But what about the chocolate? In the city of Big Shoulders, a one-time tough industrial dynamo with some remnants still going strong, the chocolate aroma means only one thing: strong west winds. A strong westerly land breeze wafts the aroma of Fulton area chocolate factories across Chicago to Lake Michigan.

No doubt, that wind also adds a few strokes to our 5 K as we fight the surface push on our relentless drive towards the 990 white condo at the far corner of the city wall. Fair to say we Big Shoulders swimmers earned our distance this year. Fact is, we were very fortunate to have relatively calm surface water and relatively temperate waters. Seems we’ve hit the sweet spot on weather with the September race date, first Saturday after Labor Day. Speaking of Turn One, how did that cone get so far away anyway?

Chris and Pam were overheard conferring with one another:
“So where do we place the first cone this year?”
“I don’t know, you want to vex them?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Ok, lets place it in ohhh…say…somewhere near the shores of Michigan?”
“OK. We’ll tell ‘em GPS made us do it!”
“Right. Each year we’ll move it further away until we reach our ultimate goal: the Big Shoulders 10 K!”
“Its utterly diabolical. I love it!”
[Just kidding, with a tip of the hat to all race volunteers and sponsors for another job well done.]

Once again, Big Shoulders rounded up all the usual suspects for its highlights list. Perennial speedster Richard Kramer took the men’s race in his slowest time to date, but his margin of victory was still strong and his time a testament to the difficulty of this year’s race. Family man Kramer continually sets a fine example of how to balance life’s responsibilities with attention to physical fitness. Liz Dillman took the female race, and the top finishing spots on both sides were populated by familiar names like George Wendt, Dave Ackerman, Joy Stover and Candace Cham, with a sprinkling of Californians for flavor. In the One-Lapper, four men duked it out to the finish with local favorite Phil Dodson emerging victorious. Raena Latina won the 2.5 K for the women.

As our race progresses in size and stature, Role Modelling continues to be a strong theme. Consistent participants like Dennis Miller and Laurie Tanamura were back for another twice-around. Race founder Bill Mulliken started out full of oats and ready to go Two, but decided to bring it home after the first go –around. One nice aspect of Big Shoulders is the freedom it affords each and every racer to make smart judgments about endurance, performance and conditions. Its always a tough choice to round that turn for Lap Two, but Big Shoulders swimmers know that all forms of participation prove merit and deserve praise.

Another Role Model, Chris Sheean, jumped in for the swim even though he’s been concentrating his training on the upcoming LaSalle marathon in a few weeks. Big Shoulders calls upon each swimmer to craft a personal story of balance between life’s duties and the desire to train, prepare and test ourselves mentally and physically.

The Big Shoulders all-butterfly saga added a new twist for fans this year. Tom Boettcher steamrolled through another 5K all butterfly, his sixth in a row, while a newcomer joined the extreme butterfly club. Evanston coach Dan Projansky battled fatigue and cold as he finished his first all butterfly 5K in just over two hours. Imagine swimming butterfly for two hours straight with your metabolism slowly surrendering to the cool waters. You just don’t rev up body heat in butterfly like you can in freestyle. Imagine the tightening of your muscles as you continually pull your entire body out of the water for another breath. That was Dan’s initiation to the extreme butterfly club. Pioneer Boettcher said later, “I’ve quietly hoped as the years went by that someone would join me. The spread of extreme butterfly is the best tribute to this beautiful stroke, as well as the physical and mental creativity in all of us. If this trend keeps up, Big Shoulders will be 50% all-fly by 2007, right?” Yeah, sure Tom. By then the orange buoy at turn one will be half way across the lake too.

Last but not least, in a show of remarkable personal courage, local Kevin Helliker took that fateful turn for Lap Two of the 5 K, finishing in a fine time despite his battle with congenital heart challenges, as chronicled in the Wall Street Journal. Helliker’s personal choice simply to participate is testament to the extent to which each Big Shoulders’ swimmer demonstrates personal courage and willingness to meet legitimate fears with resolve and fortitude. In a sense, Helliker was a silent Role Model for the category “Showing Heart”. In fact, every Big Shoulders swimmer every year comes back to show their own version of heart. In the year of the Chocolate Wind, we salute them all.

The Big Shoulders Website Gang

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results


Big Shoulders 2003:  Race of Mystery!
Sometimes in life a large and dynamic phenomenon can present more questions than answers, leaving its participants perhaps puzzled but pleasantly perplexed.  Big Shoulders 2003 was just such an event, a race shrouded in the mystery of its own success.  Let’s explore some of the mysteries of this Lucky #13 Annual Swim: 

The Big Mystery:
Where’d they all come from?  Almost 400 people swam Big Shoulders this year!  Official count was 237 for the 5K and 152 for the 2.5K, making 389 overall.  Yet, Big Shoulders still felt as friendly and collegial as ever, proof of our Midwest hospitality and good nature.

Mysterious Distance:
Even with the help of high technology, namely the GPS, plus our cumulative experience, many hypothesized that the course was slightly short of an exact 5K.  As Race Director Chris Sheean so aptly put it in his quote of the day, “Hey, it’s a volunteer race and the Lake is free.  If any of you feel cheated out of some swimming, by all means please jump back in for a few extra strokes!”   We all found this amusing, though Chris was actually the only one to take himself up on his own advice.

Weather Mystery:
Just how did we luck out this year, when a few days previous the water was chilly, the winds gusting and the waves surging?  Today’s race was temperate and relatively calm, even though there were many shivers and chattering teeth heard at the start line.  

Mystery of the Day:
“Big Shoulders is always the first Sun…er, Saturday after Labor Day each year.”  Now that Big Shoulders has successfully made the transition to Saturday from Sunday, what will we do with all that extra weekend time post-race? 

Persistent Mysteries:
Dr. Dennis Miller was awarded the Iron Shoulders designation for having swum in every Big Shoulders race since its inception, joining the other Iron Shoulders Award winners honored last year.  What keeps him going?  Today was Dennis’ 13th Big Shoulders, prompting him to quip, ”Hey, I spend all day fixing teeth and inflicting pain.  Why shouldn’t I suffer a little once a year myself?”  (We are just kidding; Dr. Miller is a fine and trusted practitioner of the science and art of dental treatment, and we heartily endorse his craft.  Stop in and see him right down the street from the very same beach where Big Shoulders launches. He never said t

The All-Butterfly Mystery:
Tom Boettcher returned to once again swim Big Shoulders 5K all butterfly.  This is the fifth time in a row he has done Big Shoulders all fly, begging the question – What on earth possesses a man to swim 3.1 miles of butterfly?  5 times?  One wonders:  What is on his mind with every butterfly stroke?  And how many strokes of fly fit into a 5 K anyway?  Perhaps, in the answers to these mysteries, there is some window to the soul of all Big Shoulders swimmers…    

Sweet Mystery of Love:
In the never-ending circle of life and love, Chicago Police Officer and Chicago Masters Swimmer Nial Funchion won special recognition for his 26 mile Lake Michigan swim along the coast of Chicago from Evanston due south.  Upon completion of this swim, Nial presented his girlfriend, Big Shoulders 2.5k swim champ Peggy Dempsey, with an engagement ring hidden in his wetsuit.  It is hypothesized that Nial added at least 5 minutes to his swimming time over 26 miles by carting along that large rock for the entire distance!  Big Shoulders was proud to have this Aquatic Romantic as part of our crowd this year.   

Racing Mysteries:
Back with a renewed zeal for racing, Richard Kramer won the Overall 5 K race with a blistering time, reminding us of his many previous Big Shoulders victories.  Likewise, his female counterpart Nadine Day set a breakneck pace just 5 minutes behind in winning the women’s division.  In the 2.5 K race, the spread was 3 minutes between male winner David Wickstgrom and female champ Peggy Dempsey.  All swimmers encounter some racing mysteries as we cycle through phases of burn out and enthusiasm for training and competition.  We all learn ways to pay attention to the flow of our minds and bodies.    

The Mystery of the Cookie:
Everyone wants to know:  What is in those delicious Potassium Cookies courtesy Race Founder and Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Mulliken?  Its always good to see Bill’s smiling face on race morning.   

The Mystery of the Unknown Swimmer:
New names and faces come from all over the country to join us at Big Shoulders each year, though it is a mystery to us how so many have heard of this Architecturally Significant Classic.  Return to your faraway lands and spread the word -- swimmers of all abilities will always be welcome.  We are proud of every swimmer at Big Shoulders, from the first to the last.  Thank you to everyone for cheering right until the end, while enjoying a brunch of scrumptious neon green Gatorade and Gold Balance Bars, the gold standard in the world of mobile nutrition.         

The Antithesis of the Unknown -- Our Regulars return to Dispel Mystery:
We saw Cathy Gray, Famous Amos, Daddy John Martin, Laurie Tanimura, Amy Statton, pastry wizard and multi-talented Russ Hafner, Coach Tim and his masters group, and there are so many more beyond this short list. There is no mystery to why swimmers such as these return every year – we find camaraderie and challenge in the waves below Big John Hancock Tower.  

No Mystery -- The Quality of The Race:
It is no mystery to the regulars of Big Shoulders that every event is smooth, professional and fun thanks to all the volunteers that make it happen.  Race Director Chris Sheean has infused Big Shoulders with his gracious and admirable personal characteristics, providing a long-term guiding force in the personality and professionalism of the race.  Pam Smith has provided steady and surgically precise coordination and support.  Almost-a-Dr. and U. of Chicago cancer researcher and volunteer Candace Cham brings us all a smiling face as we overcome pre-race grogginess to register.  We thank all the volunteers, including the UIC Men’s and Women’s Swimming Team and head coach Paul Moniak, the Chicago Park District lifeguards, and all those who helped with provisions like cookies, Gatorade, etc.  It would be exciting for Big Shoulders swimmers to stop by a Flames home meet some time and cheer on these great athletes.  Let’s not forget sponsors such as Balance Bar, ADROC Productions, Hostel International, Ultra Swim, Adolf Kiefer, Gatorade, Infolocus, Sheean Design, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Amateur Athlete as well as the companies who understand when we allocate some personal time and effort to making this race great.    

Mystery of our Bodies:
Many voiced the sentiment that they were proud, grateful and relieved just to have finished the race once again.  For all that we know of our world, there is still too much mystery within our own bodies.  All of us are forced to confront the mystery of our own bodies; will we make it down that long, deep backstretch twice while the current picks up and our tendons tighten up?

One of Big Shoulder’s best-trained and most courageous swimmers, George Wendt, described how he found his calf and foot cramped in the middle of the race to the extent that he had to break stroke and stop to work it out.  Much to the chagrin of this marauder of the water, he fell off the lead pack but still finished in the Top Ten.  George’s incident is a good lesson for all in how to keep our calm in the face of adversity.  Big Shoulders does not reward panic; cooler heads prevail in the midst of extreme physical challenge, even if it means making a sensible decision to break or stop.  The boats are there to help, and there is no shame for ours is a race where every participant is a champ even if your body throws you some unexpected responses. 

The Great Mystery of Self:
Perhaps our greatest mystery, played both in and out of the water, is of the simultaneous frailty and robust nature of life itself.  How many of us have faced tragedy over the past year due to illness and accident?  How many stories did we share of brave displays in the face of cancers and similar health threats?  Perhaps we find some meaning or expression of our own will to persist in our yearly Big Shoulders endeavor.   That Lake Michigan triangle structure, marked by three ominous orange course buoys, serves as a mental architecture for us – it provides consistency and challenge by which we can meter our year and calibrate our own state of health. 

 As we reflect upon the mysteries of Big Shoulders 2003, let us be thankful we could all come together in health, vigor and friendly competition to celebrate the joys of extreme outdoor swimming.  It was a privilege to gather, and a joy to swim!  See you next year.


Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee

Official Results


5K Longcourse Results

2.5K Shortcourse Results




Another year of Big Shoulders in the books, but all those who participated know that this year’s event was truly special. The conditions were completely flawless – a sunny, cloudless sky, water temperature of 78 degrees, air temperature of 75 degrees, and water as smooth as glass. Thanks to Lakeshore Athletic Services, Big Shoulders made the technological leap to Champion Chip timing for the first time, with all swimmers’ times registered electronically. In addition, Big Shoulders made the move from Sunday to Saturday. The number of participants reflected the conditions, and served notice that Big Shoulders continues to grow in size and popularity. This year, 353 swimmers signed up to participate in the 5k and 2.5k events. Thanks to this record turnout, a record amount of money was raised to help support the men’s and women’s swim teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The additional swimmers and perfect conditions contributed to a significantly faster winning time, and faster times throughout the age group divisions. Chris Yontez of Los Angeles crossed the finish line fastest overall, with a time of 59:17, followed closely by Jim Barber (59:43) of Zionsville, IN and Chicago Masters’ own Bill Winters (1:01:14). Liz Dillman finished first on the women’s side, and fourth overall, at 1:01:27, with Nadine Day (1:02:12) of Danville, IL and Kelly Perry (1:03:01) of St. Charles, IL completing the top three spots. Some of the amazing stories to come out of this race were not the finishing times, but the racers themselves. Congratulations to all of the first time competitors of Big Shoulders, who were able to set and meet their goal of finishing an open water swim. They are an inspiration, and the new blood that keeps this sport growing.

Big Shoulders’ continued success is due in large part to the totally professional and unparalleled job performed by the Chicago Park District lifeguarding crew. Thanks to their support, Big Shoulders has been a model of safety for open water swimming. Big Shoulders must also thank the continued support of its sponsors, Infolocus, Kiefer, Gatorade, AdRoc, The Shamrock Companies, Chicago Amateur Athlete, Vertel’s and Balance Bar. Thanks also to the volunteers, including the many swimmers from UIC Men’s and Women’s Swim Teams.

Have a great year of training, and we hope to see you all back next year for BIG SHOULDERS 2003 on September 6, 2003. Check back to our website, for more information on next year’s race. Please also submit photos from the event that we may post on the site. Send your photos to

A View from the Beach...
the faces of Big Shoulders 2002

Faces. The Faces of Big Shoulders 2002… this year they were smiling faces. What more could we ask for? The weather was right and Lake Michigan decided to present itself at face value, holding no mysteries for 2002 Big Shoulders swimmers. The surface water temp was warm, welcoming, and consistent all the way around. No cold water inversions at far corner one, no choppy swirls at corner two.

Out of more than 350 swimmers, the Biggest of Shoulders yet, what kind of faces did we see?

Consistent faces: near as we can figure, and this is just “off the cuff”- Lauri Tanamura and George Wendt are the only two who have swum all twelve Big Shoulders, but plenty of familiar faces were back …Bill Mulliken, Chris Sheean, Tom Boettcher, Jennifer Jacobs, John Martin, Russ Hefner, Dave Ackerman, Phil Dodsen, Dennis Miller, etc etc. Pam Patterson handled logistics with a host of characters that included her Mom and Dad, the UIC Swim Team with coaches Paul Moniak and Ina Harizanova, Amy Smith, Jenny Bierbaum, Tim Kelly, Boyd Black, Bill Gray, Mark Jaeger, Kathleen Pisula, Mara Weil, Lee Carry, Chicago Parks District, and the list goes on…

Winning Faces: Our overall winner came from LA, the locus of Face Power, where first impressions are everything. And impress us he did, with a powerful sub-hour swim.

Facing Fly: The Butterfly Guy, Tom Boettcher, was back for yet another 5K all butterfly. Ho hum, it's just part of Big Shoulders now.

Facing Up: Word has it that a mysterious swimmer decided to flip over and really enjoy the fabulous architecture, completing the 5K all backstroke. Now the Big Shoulders IM Team can be assembled -- Founder and 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Mulliken has completed the 5K all breaststroke, we have our backstroker now, Boettcher covers the butterfly, and we have loads of freestylers.

Dog faces: New additions such as Cathy Gray’s Pal came sniffing around our ankle timing bracelets looking for food or fun. And what of this weird new science, the ankle timing bracelet? Seemed to work fine for everyone. Some of us remember grabbing Popsicle sticks as we trudged through that finish shoot sand. Ah, the face of change as Big Shoulders faces the future.

Facing Inward: After all the hellos and reunions of old friends, everyone had to get their “game face” on, calling upon reserves of strength and determination to complete their own little miracles. Just ask yourselves how many people in the entire world have ever completed a fresh water 5 kilometer swim…its no small feat.

Onlookers’ faces: Everyone prepping for the LaSalle marathon had a chance to run by and appreciate a sport truly removed from the common human experience. Imagine the esoteric nature of propelling one’s own mammalian mass through water. Why, 100 years ago the whole idea of competitive aerobic power swimming was all but nonexistent. Now look at us – we are charting new ground in human behavior, challenging our arms, legs, lungs and minds!

Face it, Chicago’s Big Shoulders is one special race, with plenty of characters putting on their best faces in and out of the water each year. For you first timers, we are glad to have you. Next year, c’mon back, join our legions of familiar faces and bring a few more along. Big Shoulders always has room for one more swimmer ready to go face to face with Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago.

Thanks again for your continued support of Big Shoulders

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee

Big Shoulders 2001

Dear Big Shoulders Swimmers:

The 11th Annual Big Shoulders was nicknamed "2001: A Swim Odyssey," and for some of us it seemed to live up to the name both in preparing for the race, and in the water. But early morning thunderstorms failed to dampen the spirits or slow the speed of the swimmers who competed in the events. We have you, the Big Shoulders faithful, to thank for another banner year, with 289 people registering for the race and 270 completing one of the distances.

We also must acknowledge and thank the many volunteers who slogged through the puddles and dodged the raindrops to set up and clean up the race. Chris Alcott, Candace Cham and Sarah Crewe must be singled out for their hard work. As always, our irreplaceable co-sponsor, the Chicago Park District provided a fine life guarding crew. Thanks to all of our participants and our sponsors, we were able to raise over $6,400 to help support the Men's and Women's Swim Teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

2001 yielded another high caliber group of swimmers, with Richard Kramer regaining his crown as the fastest overall 5k swimmer, in a time of 1:00.46. Chicago Masters' own Brian O'Mara was second (1:01.32) and Patrick Elder was third (1:03.14) for the men. George Wendt continued his dominance in the 50-54 age group, winning in a time of 1:04.49. The women's field was equally impressive, with newcomer Jessica Martin (1:03.46) blowing away the competition, followed by Susie Rabiah (1:08.16) and Joy Storer (1:08.34). The complete results of Big Shoulders 2001 can be found here. In addition, the results and future updates on next year's race can be found on the internet at

As always, we'll be back again next year. BIG SHOULDERS 2002, CHAPTER XII is tentatively scheduled for the Saturday after Labor Day, September 7, 2002. Hope to see you and your swimming friends at Ohio Street Beach for the race. Thanks for your participation in what we modestly term "the greatest open water swimming event in the Midwest."

Have a good year and we hope to see you for next year's race,

The Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders Swim
Organizing Committee





Official Results

And don't forget to visit the 2000 Photo Collection


Big Shoulders 2000, the year of the National Championship designation and a Very Big start to the new Millennnium. In fact, a more fitting moniker might be Very Big Shoulders for the scale, spectacle and superlative competition of the 2000 race.

Scale: Big Shoulders swelled from 200 to 300 participants this year, a 50% increase, including approximately the entire state of Texas. Our actual count was 299, with one slot of remembrance for the transformative contributions UIC Swimming Coach John Christie made to Chicago Masters throughout his coaching career. Although John lost his lost a battle to cancer this year, Chicago Masters will not forget his great contributions and dedication to swimming at the collegiate and masters level. 

Two Big Eyes from above gazed down upon Big Shoulders at the turn of the Millennium - GPS satellites 11000 miles away helped make our beloved 5K race an exact 5.00001 K (we were all counting). With more sand and less water than last year, the old familiar 30-60-90 triangle course took a more oblong shape protruding into Lake Michigan. 

Spectacle: The real spectacle of Big Shoulders 2000 was age-neutral peak performance. Accentuating a trend witnessed around the country and even at the Olympic level, Big Shoulders showed that Masters is a designation now representing new levels of peak performance. Unquestionably, swimming now sees a person-by-person, year-by-year redefinition of the interaction of time and athletic prowess. Especially at Big Shoulders, no one is willing to passively accept limitation.

During the 2000 Championship 5K event, 8 out of the top 10 finishers were over 30, two over 40, and of course, Chicago's timeless George Wendt is still stroking strong. For the female 5K, 6 out of 10 were over 30. The top four finishers - Jim Dugan, James Allen, Robbie Allen, and Richard Kramer -- all over 30 but swimming like they belong in the 2000 Olympics. Top four females, led by Susie Rabiah, boasted three over 30. And this story repeats itself throughout the race - John Martin, Dave Ackerman, Phil Dodson, John Becker, Ted Soltys, Tom McCabe, Chris Sheean, Patty Redig, Becky Heller, Susie Straub, and the list goes on and on - all continue to set a blistering pace as the wisdom of experience couples with the enthusiasm to compete.

Adding to Big Shoulders' unique spectacle was Tom Boettcher, the "butterfly guy" who came back to complete an unprecedented third time all-butterfly swim. Big Shoulders seems to be the perfect freshwater canvas to demonstrate the extensibility of human performance and technique innovation, and the swimming community is starting to pay attention. Just back from demonstrating his butterfly innovations during Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, Boettcher is winning converts to the viewpoint that more efficiency and power can be derived from the body's core movements in the butterfly stroke.

Superlative competition: our hometown Big Gun and Triple Winner Richard Kramer had his hands full roping Texans this year, and a couple got away. Jim Dugan sped off to take first place before moseying back to those Gulf Beaches, and out-of-towner Susie Rabiah from toney Shaker Heights, Ohio shook our female division to new heights by bumping off perennial local speedster Joy Stover. Other tough local competitors like Bryan Malas, Chris Kohl, Dave Ackermann, Phil Dodson, etc. held their own against the onslaught of outside talent.

Designation as a National Masters Open Water 5K Championship event meant that swimmers came from f urther afar than ever before. Texas, California, and New Hampshire were among those represented at our Millennial event. Big Shoulders was honored to have the Secretary of the National Masters organization show up to see what the Windy City fuss was all about. Our guest VIP Tracy Grilli was Truly Gritti, placing Top Ten in the female 5K with true Yankee New England determination.

Big Shoulders also remains a place where anyone with true grit can participate at any time. In fact, all the time. Five special swimmers have competed in every Big Shoulders since its 1990. This year, a special award went to 5 "Iron Shoulders" winners, those swimmers who have completed all 10 Big Shoulders: George Wendt, Tim Griffin, Tim Kelly, Leo Algminas, and Laurie Tanimura. In addition, Shoulders regulars like Delph Gustides, Cathy Grey, Russ Hafner, John Mitchell, etc etc. came back for another round.

Once again, Chris Sheean and Kathleen Pisula orchestrated a dedicated team of volunteers to make the ever-popular Big Shoulders ever-more professional in a city that smiles upon quality and performance. Every participant is thankful to those working behind the scene - in the midst of a tough Sunday morning swim, we all notice each and every volunteer effort that helps make Big Shoulders a special race. The Saturday night dinner party hosted by Dave Ackermann and the CMSA added a new dimension of camaraderie to our big Sunday - a perfect chance to carbo-load with fellow swimmers. Each participant recognizes the tremendous expenditure of personal time necessary to stage every part of such a weekend and we are thankful for the teamwork that brings us Big Shoulders weekend.

Big Shoulders 2000: unquestionably the ascendancy of a class-act race run by class-act people in a class-act city. 

The Chicago swimming community has lost a true friend and a dedicated advocate. John Christie passed away Saturday, July 1, 2000. John was the head coach of the UIC Men's and Women's Swim Teams. John also coached and provided unlimited support to the Chicago Masters Swim Team. Under Coach Christie's guidance, Chicago Masters transformed from a loose confederacy of recreational swimmers to a bona fide swim team.  He lifted the team literally from the basement at Circle Center to the top notch facilities at the Physical Education Building.

John Christie was a firm believer that swimming is a lifetime sport. To help make it a reality, John Christie dedicated his time to working with swimmers from the age group, college, and masters swimming levels. As a coach, John always sought to better his swimmers as swimmers and as people. John's dedication, humor and kindness will be missed by the many swimmers in Chicago whose lives he touched.

Chicago Masters will dedicate the Big Shoulders 2000 5k & 2.5k Open Water Swim in John Christie's memory.

The 5K Swim in Chicago's Lake Michigan

red victor "... and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City Of the Big Shoulders ..."

Chicago - by Carl Sandburg

"the city's barrel-chested athlete;
braving the stormy, frigid, brawling,
Lake of the 3.1 mile swim ..."

- Karl Boettcher




Official Results



Chicago Long Distance Classic -
Big Shoulders 1999

Big Shoulders 1999: Wow! We closed this Millennium in Grand Style!  All forces conspired to create the perfect open water race -- excited participants, calm weather, an extended course, and great volunteers.

Group_Photo.jpg (24096 bytes)

The Chicago Dedicated:
Race co-director Chris Sheehan jokes "Just swim North to Wrigley" at the start of last year's Big Shoulders event.

1999 Big Shoulders was Tale Of Two Swimmers -- The Newcomer and the Core. Newcomers pushed the Big Shoulders ranks to the 200 mark, an 80% increase over last year. Swimmers came from as far away as north Ontario and Virginia to take to the waters beneath Chicago's behemoth skyscrapers.

The heart of the story was still being told by the tried and true, the year-after-year regulars, the Core of Big Shoulders. Once again, a terrific job was done by Race Directors Chris Sheean and Kathleen Pisula in coordinating the tremendous volunteer effort needed to run Big Shoulders. Individual friends like Dave Kennedy of the Mayors Office of Special Events, Joe Pecoraro, Kirk Kleist and the lifeguards of the Chicago Parks District, dedicated event volunteers and swimmers from UIC all contributed in their special way to make Big Shoulders 1999 work. Our event sponsors, ADROC Productions, Kiefer Sports Group, Shamrock Graphics, Balance Bar, Days Inn LSD and Fitness Swimmer kept us humming through the year and added special help on the day of the race. Big Shoulders Volunteers are always the stars of the race, but there were a few other Core stars for 1999.

Once again, Richard Kramer set a blistering pace and taught everyone
exactly what to expect from national champion-caliber swimming. Consecutive victory number four for Richard came in 56:18, and we all enjoyed a foreshadowing of the powerful long distance swimming we will see at next year's U.S. Masters Swimming National Championship 5K Open Water Swim. Meanwhile, Joy Stover took top honors for the females in 1:03:59, a great time on a course significantly longer than last year's.  Naturally, George Wendt once again proved ageless, even age-negative, as he showed us how to good-naturedly achieve tremendous results. 

A whole host of Shoulders regulars made this year's race as fun as usual.  The likes of Cathy Grey, Delph Gustitis, John Becker, Russ Hafner (and the list goes on and on) swam, commiserated and helped bring a great summer to a close. Bill Mulliken, Big Shoulders founder and Olympic Gold winner, took on the 5K this year all breaststroke. Tom Boettcher came back to prove last year's all butterfly swim was no fluke, keeping a smooth rhythm and cutting his time by 17 minutes to 1:20. 

Unquestionably, the biggest story of all is Big Shoulders itself. The experiments with a 2.5K race and wetsuit division were a big success. Swimmers across the country are hearing about this terrific event. Running concurrently with this years race in national magazine Fitness Swimmer's Sept/Oct 1999 issue is a feature on last year's first-time, all-butterfly swim. Most importantly, Big Shoulders has won the designation as Host of the Year 2000 National Open Water Championship. Finally, this spectacular race takes its proper place at center stage in the national open-water consciousness. What a show it will be next year when the best and the brightest descend upon our pristine yet unpredictable waters. What a way to start the next 1000 years for Big Shoulders, the nation's open water classic in Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders! 

Big Shoulders 2000: Swimmers with Big Shoulders will be there.



Official Results

1998 Photo Collection








Co-Sponsored By The Chicago Masters Swim Club and the Chicago Park District

Sanctioned by U.S. Masters through CMSA (Sanction # 21816)

September 24, 1998

Dear Big Shoulders Swimmers:

Another year, another fantastic day to enjoy open water swimming in Lake Michigan. We enjoyed marvelous weather despite predictions that we would be besieged by thunderstorms and cold water.

We had 110 registered swimmers, with 99 who managed to complete the race. Thanks to the assistance of the volunteers, life guarding crew, and the Men’s and Women’s Swim Teams from University of Illinois at Chicago, we were able to complete the race without incident.

Three swimmers completed the 5k swim in under an hour. Richard Kramer continued to dominate the men’s field, finishing first out of the water for the third year in a row with a time of 56:45. George Wendt continued to defy logic and the aging process by coming in second overall, finishing in 58:43. Stu Patterson came in third overall with a time of 59:00. In what can only be described as a twisted but talented feat, Tom Boettcher completed the entire 5 kilometers butterfly in 1:37:33. Melissa Kuser was the first overall woman in the race, with a time of 1:03:36, edging out Kari Lydersen (1:04:59) and Joy Stover (1:06:05). Congratulations to them and to all who turned out and gave their best effort.

We are working hard to continually improve and fine tune the race, and appreciate any and all criticism and/or advice you may have. We recognize that improvements can and should be made, and appreciate your thoughts. Please send your comments via snail mail to Chris Sheean, 943 S. Euclid Ave., Oak Park, IL 60304, or email: The results of the 1998 Big Shoulders, as well as future updates on next year’s race can be found on the internet at

As always, we’ll be back again next year. Big Shoulders 1999 is scheduled for the Sunday after Labor Day, September 12, 1999. Hope to see you and your swimming friends at Ohio Street Beach for the race. Thanks for your participation in what we modestly term "the greatest open water swimming event in the Midwest."

Have a good year and train hard for next year’s race,

The Chicago Masters’ Big Shoulders 5k Swim

Organizing Committee