Jordan Conover is ready for the Big Shoulders 5K Swimmentally, physically and quite personally.
The openly gay Conover, 31, who lives in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood, will participate in the annual event for the first timeand this will be the longest continuous swim he's ever done.
The event is Saturday, Sept. 8, at 8 a.m.
"Growing up, my parents both worked two jobs and had to keep my brother and I occupied during summer breaks, so they put us through swimming lessons every year," Conover said. "We also had the advantage of growing up 20 minutes away from the Lake Michigan shoreline where we spent the better part of our summers with our aunt, Linda, who is a school teacher and had summers off.
"I am always seeking ways to challenge myself physically; this is a challenge, for sure. Your body is your greatest gift, your vital tool that deserves special attention. You only have one. Use it to its maximum potential, no matter what state of health you're in or what limitations you might have. I am blessed to be healthy and I'm always looking for ways to challenge myself.
"Finally, Chicago weather is fascinating due to its geographic location. We are experiencing our hottest summer in 17 years, and according to the 'Ask Tom Why' weather blog, this summer's oppressive heat is responsible for the earliest 80-degree surface-water temperatures in Lake Michigan; they are more common for late August and early September. The unseasonably warm lake waters make practice swims more enjoyable and eliminate the need for wearing a cumbersome wetsuit. In addition, the reality that this summer is drier than average gives swimmers more opportunities to practice without having to compete with the weather elements that would likely slow us down. I love discussing the weather and how it impacts the city I love."
After all, Conover studied meteorology at Indiana University and has been nicknamed Jornado.
He swam on his high school swim team in his native Indiana, and completed the 2011 Chicago Triathlon. He also has run three marathons, plus multiple shorter-distance races.
"Before participating in last year's Chicago Triathlon, it had been 11 years since I swam competitively," Conover said. "Swimming is the best endurance sport since it targets almost every muscle. I discovered that running long distances is very strenuous on the body; I had physical therapy on my knee after finishing my third marathon."
He learned of this 3.1-mile swim through an online Google search. His goal is to finish in less than an hour and 45 minutes.
"The big difference between the Chicago Triathlon and Big Shoulders is the volume of participants," Conover said. "The Chicago Triathlon hosts 10,000 participants, [as opposed] to 1,000 for the Big Shoulders. There are 80 to 150 swimmers per wave in the Chicago Triathlon. Each wave kicked off in DuSable Harbor in a rather confined space, where we were literally swimming on top of one another and getting elbowed. That was certainly a memorable experience."
Conover trains at Ohio Street Beach multiple times per week.
"The biggest challenge could be the condition of the lake on race day," Conover said. "Luckily, we have been able to train under light southerly winds, which puts the lake in a calmer state. The slightest change in wind speed and direction can change the condition of the lake drastically, giving it more wake and wave action.
"It is much more challenging to swim when the winds are from the north or northeast. Trust me, I learned the hard way after a cold front moved through, stirred up some wave action, and then had the pleasure of swallowing a few cups of lake water as a result."
"The  Chicago Triathlon brought back my passion for this sport; it encouraged me to practice and compete in Lake Michigan," Conover said. "Swimming in Lake Michigan is a completely different dynamic compared to a lap pool. Olympic pools offer a controlled environment versus Lake Michigan where the weather and water conditions are unpredictable."