With temperatures topping 80 degrees yesterday, you can't exactly say that fall is in the air. But tonight at 10:09 p.m., it is the official end of summer and start of the autumnal equinox. With school in full swing, the leaves changing colors, the nights growing longer and the days shorter, and the temperatures cooling (eventually), it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to batten down the hatches and go into hibernation until the mercury heats up instead of cools down. Here's a list of ways to stay active on the first day of fall
Open water swimming. The Chicago Park District may say that the beaches are closed--and I'm definitely not condoning any unfavorable, frowned-upon behavior--but there are still chances to hop into Lake Michigan before the whitecaps, chilly temps and icy shards arrive. Open Water Chicago is still swimming in the lake at the spot they call L1, the orange ladder close to the Lakefront Path's curve between North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach, and reporting some pristine lake conditions. While you may want to tote a wetsuit along to brave the 64 degree waters (as reported earlier today), you won't be sorry you felt a chill after swimming in what looks almost as still as a mirror. That's my kinda morning.
Masters swimming. OK, so the weather's not exactly inducing a craving for outdoor pursuits (gray, a little gloomy and not too warm), but as I mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean you have to sit on your couch in front of the TV. Hop in the pool instead and go for a structured workout with like-minded fishes of the sea at one of the Masters groups around the city. You can sign up to swim with Max Multisport at Northside College Preparatory School and Northeastern Illinois University, Vision Quest and Well Fit at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Chicago Blue Dolphins at UIC or Moody Bible Institute. That's not even counting the Masters programs available at many fitness centers across the city, making it almost too hard to avoid getting wet.
Running. Sure, it's the obvious sport to pursue regardless of the weather and conditions because you can run pretty much anywhere as long as you bring your gear. But in the summer, your run workout is most often dictated the temperatures outside. How many of you skipped a run because it got too darn hot too darn fast on those 90 degree days? Or shortened it because the heat was just too much to endure during a 10, 13 or 15-plus miler? Unless you encounter an Indian Summer day, you can forget about timing your run to tolerate the temperatures. Or you may even find yourself waiting to run in the middle of the day because it's warmer and you don't have to worry about layering.
Race time. Following along with the running theme comes the need for speed. Around Chicago, you'll rarely find a weekend where there isn't at least one running race taking place. While you won't be able to check your run time against the clock tonight, you can hold off until tomorrow night's Strike Out ALS 5K at U.S. Cellular Field or Saturday's Park Ridge Charity Classic , deemed to be a fast footrace. And keep checking the calendar...there are plenty of races of all distances as fall stretches on.
Cycling. The marathoners are tapering, the kids are in school, the beach traffic is at a minimum. That only means one thing...now's the time to take your two-wheeler out for some miles on the Lakefront and squeeze them in before the ice hits. Tonight would be a perfect night for a pedal too, with volleyball matches filling the sand, ideal temperatures and weather that promises to perk up before the sun sets.
Cyclocross. Obstacles, mud, crazy terrain. That's just some of what you'll encounter on a cyclocross course, a sport that can be described as a hybrid of mountain biking, road biking and steeplechase. And tonight you can join Mox Multisport at 5:45 p.m. for cyclocross practice. The catch? You have to arrive on time or you'll miss the secret location the group will be visiting.
Kayaking. The water might be a little chilly for swimming--if you don't have a wetsuit--but that doesn't mean you have to stay off the lake or beg your boat-owning friend for a cruise. Sign up for one of the many kayak tours offered by Kayak Chicago . Tonight you'll find their weekly Wednesday paddle--a good bet for enjoying the Navy Pier fireworks, just not tonight when you enjoy a city lights tour that coincides with the harvest moon. And keep in mind that they paddle into October with a number of tours so there are plenty of fall days to head onto the river and lake--and work your core at the same time.
Not that you want to hear about how much I dislike fall--even with my constant marathon running, I can't come around on this changing time and parting with summer--but I'm hoping to convince myself that losing summer isn't necessarily a bad thing. And reminding myself to get out and attempt to enjoy the season before I'm really stuck indoors during the Chicago winter. It's working...a little. But I'm still counting the days until a ski country escape (Keystone opens November 5!)--hey, it keeps me sane in winter--and a mid-October escapade to San Diego, which reminds me not to pack away summer even if everyone else is pulling out their fleeces and Uggs.