Swim Course Details

The Swim Course is held in Monroe Harbor, with the Start Line at Balbo Drive and Lake Shore Drive. Participants should plan to be in the Swim Start area at least 30 minutes prior to their dedicated wave start time.

New for 2022: The swim will have a rolling start.

What is a rolling start?

Athletes are set off in groups of approximately 5-10 athletes for the swim start and will be sent off every 5-10 seconds. In effect, this will create a “time trial” dynamic for the race and for the determination of the results.

Each athlete’s individual race time will start when they cross the swim start timing mat, under the swim start arch.

How does this work?

The (on-shore) pre swim start area will be divided into starting zones/corals. Groups will commence a rolling start based on the below times:

* The International swim cut off time is 60 minutes after the final International wave.  

*The Sprint swim cut off time is 30 minutes after the start of the final Sprint wave.

Timing chips will activate once athletes cross the designated swim start timing mat, at the entry stairs to the swim course.

Note: Inflatable devices are not permitted.

International swimmers first head south, swimming parallel to the sea wall for 375 meters. Small buoys will be set every 25 meters along the southern stretch, creating a lane separation. Large yellow buoys will identify each 100 meter mark. A large orange buoy will identify the southern turnaround (and the Swim Exit). After making a 180 degree left turn, swimmers will advance north, passing the Start area and exiting the water near the Chicago Yacht Club.

Start Time: 6:00 AM

Distance: 0.93 miles (1,500 meters)

Course Limit: 60 minutes after the final International wave

Sprint distance swimmers head directly north, swimming 750 meters parallel to the sea wall and exiting just south of the Chicago Yacht Club. A large orange buoy will identify the Swim Exit area, where volunteers will assist swimmers out of the water.

Start Time: 8:15 AM

Distance: 0.47 miles (750 meters)

Course Limit: 30 minutes after the final Sprint wave

The above course limits were calculated to encourage continuous, forward progress as well as applying water exposure and exertion factors. The cut-off times accommodate 99.9% of the previous participants’ swim times [average International swim: 37 minutes; average Sprint swim: 21 minutes]. Participants unable to complete the full Swim Course, or who exit the Swim Course prematurely, may not advance onto the Bike Course.

The Event will provide a special needs table at the Swim Exit for those athletes who require eyeglasses, inhalers or challenged athlete needs immediately after exiting the Swim portion of the race. Athletes are responsible for handing their items to a volunteer for placement on this table before proceeding to the Swim Start.

Once finished in Transition, athletes will proceed nearly one mile (on foot) south to the Swim Start area, located at Balbo and Lake Shore Drive. Participants should plan to be in the Swim Start area at least 30 minutes prior to their dedicated wave start time. Please consult the Wave Start charts below for exact details.

NOTE: Athletes should use the Gear Check service, and NOT discard clothing, flip flops, shoes or other items in the Swim Start chute.

The Life Time Fuel Station, located near the Swim Start, is available with athlete water, Gatorade Endurance and toilets prior to racing. Water is also available in the Swim Start chute.

Only the swim cap placed in the race packet may be worn during the swim. Do not trade swim caps with other athletes, as the caps are color-coded to assist race management with organizing the swim start. Swim cap color dictates a specific start wave; however, more than one wave may have the same colored cap.

A special Gear Check area will be available at the Swim Start area for athletes to check small, pre-race items (flip-flops, T-shirts, jackets, etc.). Clear bags are  provided during Packet Pickup.

Once Gear Check bags are dropped at the Swim Start, athletes will not be able to access those bags until they finish. Those bags will be transported to a Gear Check Tent at the Finish Festival, located at the corner of Columbus and Balbo (no need to return to the Swim Start area).

Athletes will have until 2:00 PM to retrieve their items from the Finish Festival Gear Check tent.

Lifeguards and support vessels will be lined-up throughout the course. If assistance is needed, visibly raise and wave your hand and a staff member or rescue personnel will assist you. if you need to grab onto a surfboard or the wall for a second you may do so without being disqualified, so long as you do not make forward progress.

Athletes may wear wetsuits if the water temperature is 78.0°F or below. See the Event Rules for full details.

  • Ensure adequate time to get from Transition to Swim Start.
  • Remember to bring the race-issued swim cap, wristband and clothing bag.
  • Age Groups/Divisions will file into the Swim Start chute, led by volunteers with large Wave signs. Please watch for your wave.
  • When entering the water, please jump feet-first. No diving.
  • Warm-up and pre-race practice swims are not permitted.
  • The timing strap must be placed securely around your left ankle, and recommended to be tucked underneath your wetsuit.
  • Each athlete individual race time will start when they cross the swim start timing mat, under the swim start arch.

After exiting the water, all participants run north along a carpeted path for approximately 400 meters. The Transition area is located on the grass reserve south of Randolph St. and east of Lake Shore Dr. Participants enter Transition from the south end, then exit (on bike) at the north end adjacent to Randolph Street. Remember, there is no riding within the Transition area. Athletes will begin riding their bike after crossing the “Mount” line outside of Transition.