Ultimate London Pool Crawl 2017

Team Mermaids’ Pool crawls started in 2014 off the back of wanting to tick off a block of pools for the  Winter Pool Challenge.  Somewhere along the journey we decided we actually enjoyed binge pooling and started doing it as a “thing”.

See other pool crawls here.

Last year we didn’t get around to doing any pool crawls (babies and stuff got in the way).  Paul aka Pivo realising this, whilst blog reading, threw the question out to the group:

“What is the most pools you think we could do on a pool crawl? 8/9/10??”

I (Manda) responded that I thought 10 was possible and we would probably need 12 hours to get them all done.

After a lot of chat and analysis (seriously a lot….pool times, tube closures, school terms) we locked in Saturday 14th October and set about planning.  The core group attempting the full 10 pools would be me, Brian and Pivo.
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Pool 1. Aquatic centre. (Manda)
I arrived at Stratford station to find Brian waiting for me. I was ready to walk around the outside of Westfield shopping centre to the pool but Brian confidently lead us off into the shopping centre. We then proceeded for 10 minutes to try exit said shopping centre until we gave up and went back to where we entered and walked around the outside.

‘If this is the worst thing that happens today I’ll be happy’ says Brian.  Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

We swam our 1km with company from Wil of Guernsey swimming fame.  We did try to persuade him to come along with us for the rest but he wasn’t at all keen! No idea why.  Stay in Olympic 2012 nice clean pool or start schlepping west to dingy pools….

On schedule we left the aquatic centre.

Pool 2.  St George’s (via York Hall). (Brian)
Having left the Olympic pool, we got the central line to Bethnal Green for York Hall.  The omens were bad as we passed a dead rat on the way to the pool…  Paul immediately spotted the fact that the centre did not open till 8am (it was currently 7:50 so we thought we would have a short 10 minute wait.  Manda then double checked the timetable online and we realised that although the centre opened at 8am, the pool didn’t open till 9am.  Disaster!  A quick check of the next pool (Mile End) indicated that it also didn’t open till 9am, so we had to plan a quick trip to pool #4 (St George’s), and come back to Mile End and York Hall afterwards.

Luckily, there was a direct bus from York Hall to St George’s, so we got there just after 8.  This was the first time I (Brian) had swum in St George’s during the day, and it was a completely different pool with light streaming in through the multiple balconies on the south side.  We happened to pick one of the central lanes, which was above a set of water outlets, so we had a very unusual sideways current as we swum up and down.  Luckily we were the only people in our lane, so it didn’t cause any accidents.

Pool 3. Mile End.
Somewhat back on track with pool 3, where we arrived by DLR and bus from St George’s. I had left my goggles at London Aquatic centre so a bad start for all so far.  Mile end is where we all used to swim at with Swim For Tri, but it had been a while. We were greeted by numerous kids everywhere and a large changing hall. A quick change and straight into the water. Unfortunately the pool seemed like it had not been cleaned in a while. The water was manky, but the plus was there was aqua aerobics on at the same time, so we at least had some tunes and a small boogie.  Manda commented she needed a cocktail to make this a proper Vegas style pool crawl. Good times. Back to the central line and retracing our steps to get to York Hall for take 2.

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Pool 4.  York Hall. (Brian)
We finally headed back to York Hall.  It was an easy central line tube ride away from Mile End.  Somebody had cleared away the dead rat, which we took as a good sign.  There was some confusion getting in, as the receptionist started to explain that paying for a single swim would have been cheaper than using out daily pass.  He did not seem impressed that we were swimming in 10 pools, of which 8 were Better pools, in one day…  The kiddies pool at York Hall was busy with lessons, but the main pool was quiet (one other person in our lane).  The pool is 33.33m so we did a 30 length inverted pyramid set.

Pool 5. Ironmonger Row. (Manda)
Back on schedule we arrived at Ironmonger Row. We swim here every Friday morning at the Team Mermaids training session so I wasn’t initially that fussed about swimming here but it is a good one for pool crawling due to its central location.

I starting walking into the ladies changing room and shouted back to the boys “it’s like being home”.  My ambivalence towards this pool had suddenly done a 180.  There was something reassuring and reviving about diving into the cool, clear, calm(ish) waters of Ironmonger Row and I suddenly felt a lot more positive about the remaining challenge ahead.

Ironmonger Row is 33.3 yards long, which is about 30.4m so you only need to swim 33 lengths, but that would mean getting out at the other end.  Who would do that? Brian, on a one man mission to not have to swim a metre more than he had to.

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Pool 6. Golden Lane. (Paul)
Ah Golden Lane, not something I thought I would be looking forward to, it being the shortest pool and somewhere in deepest darkest Barbican. After a great swim at Ironmonger Row, with a cold pool and nice changing area we were able to sit down and have coffee and cake at Look Mum No Hands – ahhh a chance to do something normal on a Saturday morning. This was the first pool we all had to pay for, 5£ and a small pokey changing room. Into the pool, and there were adult swim lessons and an elderly lady with a pink shower cap on, slowly going up and down the pool. Whilst Brian and Manda tried to work out how best to negotiate the human and noodle traffic in the pool, I got friendly with the lifeguard, told him what we were doing, and he kindly put in another lane rope so we would not disturb too many other swimmers. He thought we were all mad, and was confused as to why we were doing this. So were we by this point!

Pool 7.  Cally Pool. (Katie)
Given my general state of health, additional passenger and lack of recent swimming I had decided that I didn’t really fancy a full 10 hours of schlepping round the pools of London and therefore decided to join for the second half of the crawl only.  I was aiming to join at Ironmonger Row but parenting duties meant that I wasn’t able to leave home until 11.15am.  A misreading of the timetable saw me heading on the Victoria line to Kings Cross and by the time I had realised my mistake I didn’t have enough time to make it over to Old Street to join at Golden Lane.  I therefore decided I would get in 1km at St. Pancras (I do like the purple wall) before heading up to join everyone else at Cally Pool.  I arrived at Cally Pool ahead of schedule and therefore manged to get 1.4km (7 x 200m alt swim and pull) in before Manda, Brian and Pivo arrived.

Cally Pool isn’t the nicest pool in London.  Two of the lanes were being used for lessons and with a large ‘medium’ lane there was only a narrow fast lane which already had its full quota of alpha males plodding up and down refusing to let faster pregnant lady in front.  This made for quite a painful 2.4km / 1km.

Pool 8. Pancras Square. (Manda)
We walked to Pancras Square from Cally.  We had a nice walk through Granary square and along the canal.  This area once housed Kings Cross Pond Club so always brings back nice memories of when the Friday morning swim club went al fresco.

A sense of calm was now upon us as on schedule and nearing completion.  Brian then disturbed this calm somewhat by giving us a 4*10 length set.

My reaction was “Let’s just get it done”.
Pivo: “What the F?”

Katie: “NO”

Before we knew the 40 lengths were over and we were off again.

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Pool 9. Oasis. (Paul)
We  arrived at Oasis, and I was still fuming about the type of set we did at St Pancras (seriously who does 4 x 250???).  I had written this set so knew it would be better.  We arrived via Covent Garden and all its hustle and bustle, but once at the pool, all seemed (relatively) calm. The medium lane in the outdoor pool was empty so we piled in there, all the time cruising past those in the fast lane (even me who was starting to fade… ok HAD faded). This set was mixed up, in order to distract you so the swim went quick, unlike St Pancras (Brian are you getting the hint!). The only thing worse than 4 x 250 would be an Uncle Davey 1 x1000 m set!!! We all noticed for the first time as well that Oasis has outdoor showers and a sauna, who knew? Not us.  My fading continued so Katie stepped up to the 3 slot now there were 4 of us, but at least after this it was the nicest pool, and then burgers!!

Pool 10. Marshall Street Baths. (Katie)
Marshall Street is a Team Mermaids favourite located just off Carnaby Street (so you can combine shopping and swimming).  The art deco setting and quite lanes made it the perfect place for a final stop.  Once again Brian being Brian only swam 33 lengths… we did 34.

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SLSC 110 Lengths Challenge 2017

The 110 lengths challenge held this year on 30 September 2017 is the closing party for the summer swimming season, celebrating a great summer at the lido and another year in the lido’s history.   Tooting Bec lido opened in 1906 and in previous years the challenge has been to swim one length for every year the lido has been open.  This year, however, the organisers very sensibly decided to cap the swim at 110 lengths which is the equivalent of 10k.

We have previously swum the challenge as relay in 2014 (read our account here) and as solos in 2015 (read our account here).  Last year I (Katie) was away for the event so dragged a reluctant Brain to do the swim with me one morning.  This year, after some mixed training over the last month or so and with another baby on board, we decided to swim as a relay again.

Just before 1pm we rocked up to join 20 solo swimmers and 9 other relay teams attempting the challenge.  After a briefing the solo swimmers were off, including Emma Watson, who arrived just in time with a just out of the oven fruit cake in tow.

In 2014 when we had last swum as a relay team the format was very relaxed, we got in when we wanted, swum together and counted our own lengths.  We were unprepared therefore for a formal mass relay start and Manda didn’t even have her hat and goggles on.  This ended up with her starting two lengths behind me.  We had decided to swim at the same time rather than in a standard relay format, which would mean no delay in cake consumption.

I was unsure how I would feel on the day as I am still suffering quite badly with sickness and have not been doing much training so we had just agreed that I would swim as many lengths as I felt able to and Manda would swim the balance (I think she was scared that I would only manage 10).  On the day the water was a lovely 16 degrees and I just took it steady and plodded through the lengths.

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Trying to keep track of how many lengths each other had swum so we finished after the requisite 110 lengths was challenging our mental arithmetic somewhat but we managed it with Manda stopping at the end of her 56 lengths when I was just starting my 54th.  Overall between us we completed the relay in 2 hours and 48 minutes.  This is slower than when we did the event as soloists even taking into account the additional length but I think that is mine and bump’s fault!

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Once we were out it was time for some still warm cake – delicious – and to watch the soloists and other relays finish.  The team organised by Bronnie Gray including last minute addition Fiona Wiggins, who was sporting her Team Mermaids hat, did an amazing job with 10 people each swimming 11 lengths.

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Well done to everyone who swam on the day.  Next year we are going to give the solo a crack again!

Maternity Swimsuits

Why are maternity costumes so nasty?  Proper Nasty.  Low back, low front, frills and generally all black.  This is a time when you need chest support but swimwear brands are not bothering and worse still, making the front even lower than normal.  Why??

We don’t want anything different to what we wanted beforehand.  We just want it to support us where it needs to support us and grow with us.  We never wanted frills, boob spillage, boring costumes beforehand so we definitely don’t want them during a time where we might be struggling to feel ourselves.

It comes as no surprise that amongst us and our friends, none of us have gone down the maternity costume route.  Instead we have all looked to our favourite brands and just worked what they have in the normal range to suit our changing bodies.  Some worked, some didn’t.

Before we get into the costumes we tried, if anyone has tried this one please let us know!

http://www.boohoo.com/maternity-ava-mermaid-off-duty-swimsuit/BZZ49723.html

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Manda:

Speedo – the cheap one. I went 2 sizes up in one of their cheaper costumes. A cheap one on the basis of I didn’t know how long it was going to last me so I didn’t want to spend a fortune but actually the cheaper non-chlorine resistant fabric was great as it happily stretched over bump whilst the remaining fabric remained secure around the chest and bum.

Current version on sale by speedo: http://www.speedo.com/uk/en/powerback-swimsuit/806187A589.html

Cost: £20

Good for bigger boobs pre and post-natal:  YES and NO.  It fit my smaller chest but I was subject to flattening.

Grows with bump: YES

Post-Natal: NO – it was too saggy in stomach area and as not chlorine resistant material it had already started to thin.

Funkita 2 piece. I went up a size in both parts of this and that happily suited me right up until 40 weeks. I then wore it all of last summer at the lido whilst I was breastfeeding and the weight was still peeling off.

Current version on sale by Funkita: https://www.simplyswim.com/products/Funkita/LoveFunkitaSportTwoPiece.aspx

Cost: £40

Good for bigger boobs pre and post-natal: NO – I didn’t go up many cup sizes but still found that there was a lot of leakage until I was back to pre-baby/post-breastfeeding size.

Grows with bump: YES as no bump coverage

Post-Natal: YES

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Speedo. I choose this one as it had a higher neck but it still offered the support at the back. Unfortunately it was expensive and the material at the front was not flexible as hoped so I grew out of it in a matter of weeks.

Current version on sale by speedo: http://www.speedo.com/uk/en/speedo-fit-splice-xback-swimsuit/810830B348.html

Cost: £50

Good for bigger boobs pre and post-natal: YES due to high neck but might be super squashed depending on size.

Grows with bump: NO due to restrictive material

Post-Natal: YES

Katie:

Similar to Manda I struggled to find maternity costumes that were sufficiently functional to allow for freestyle and tumble turning.

Speedo – the cheap one. I took myself down to my local Sports Direct and purchased a couple of cheap costumes from there. I went for ones that weren’t endurance material so that the material was more stretchy and therefore lasted me through my pregnancy.

Cost: £20

Good for bigger boobs pre and post-natal: NO

Grows with bump: YES

Speedo – post natal.  Once I had had the baby I invested in two speedo costumes with an inbuilt bra as I felt that I needed some extra support while breastfeeding.

Current version by Speedo: https://www.bravissimo.com/products/premiere-ultimate-swimsuit-blackteal-so105btl/


We have also asked Laura (who was pregnant when wrote this!) and Lisa, who is now 30+ weeks pregnant.  Both continued to swim through their pregnancy.

Laura:

A super keen swimmer friend of mine opened my eyes to Dolphin Uglies.  These swim costumes a few years back and I love them because they have a thick liner that stops all chances of see-throughness. Plus you can find them on SportsDirect for super cheap (under £10) if you aren’t too picky about the pattern.

Annoyingly I was already close to the largest size available for these costumes (tall problems) so I ordered 2 sizes up (their largest option) and that fit up to about 6-7 months of pregnancy.

Current Version: http://www.sportsdirect.com/uglies-dolfin-exclusive-swimsuit-ladies-354069?colcode=35406992

Cost: £10 – £30

Grows with bump: Sort of, the double thickness gave me a few extra weeks of stretch I’m sure and it the nice wide straps never made it too uncomfortable.

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Eventually though I went to H&M and bought a cheap pair of bikini bottoms and wore those with a Oiselle sports bra for the rest of my pregnancy. Two piece bikinis just became more comfortable. I would have spent more money on a proper sporty maternity swim costume if there was one. The options aren’t just limited, they’re non-existent!

Lisa:

Natatio Swimwear – Two Piece.  My chest had gone from a C to a FF and it had been impossible to find anything that was fitting everything into place without anything falling out and that had some style to train in without feeling frumpy – unlike all the other two pieces I’d tried this one fitted my top perfectly without any bits falling out anywhere. It’s really comfy and supportive and I love the style of the back of the top, the material also feels really soft on the skin.

Current Versionhttps://natatioswimwear.com/

Cost: £40 for the bottoms and £45 for the top.

Good for bigger boobs pre and post-natal: This two piece will work for both pre and post natal training and swimming – definitely supportive for the bigger boobs and they definitely don’t spill out anywhere! A great thing is that you can buy different size top and bottoms.

Grows with bump: I bought the regular bottoms rather than the high ones and as my bump has got bigger they are still comfortable to wear.

Post-Natal: Can’t currently comment on this but can’t see that they would be a problem post but will still be comfy.

Funkita.  I went up a size on the funkita two pieces and although the bottoms fit fine and bump feels fine with them the tops just don’t support a FF chest size (they also only go up to a size 14 and you have to buy the same size bottoms and tops) – I feel like I’m auditioning for a new swim porn movie in them (they are very low and definitely don’t cater for bigger chested ladies) so they are on hold for post natal when the boobs get back to normal! None of my One pieces are viable for bump and big pregnancy boobs!

Zoggs.  I have a old zoggs costume which I’ve had for years and once I stopped being able to wear any of my old Swimwear I tried this one on one day and amazingly it fits both my bump and boobs although not sure it will fit right to the end of my pregnancy but has been a great costume to get into for now.

Lake District 2017

After our week in the lake district last year, we were keen to do a longer Buttermere swim and also explore some areas of the lakes we hadn’t got to.

Saturday (Manda)

Saturday we arrived in Penrith accompanied by David and Brian to pick up our very small hire car, which with 3 tall adults, little me and our accompanying swimming paraphernalia meant the poor car was destined to have a challenging weekend.

We follow various Lake District residents on Instagram/twitter so we were grateful that  @suzannaswims (who now offers bespoke lake district swimming tours www.suzannaswims.co.uk) and @lottiethompson gave us advice when we ask where to swim in Derwent.

For our Derwent swim we started from Calfclose bay, where you can park 300m away in Great Wood NT car park.  We swam off with the idea that we would probably do around 15 minutes/1k taking into consideration we didn’t want to get cold (me, Katie and Brian were skins and David was in his thermal wetsuit!) and we were saving ourselves for Sunday’s race.  Despite the initial face burn the water felt “ok” or at least I thought it was until I tried to talk at 14 minutes and could hear I sounded almost drunk!  We promptly swam back to shore and therefore, ended up being in the water for around 30 minutes.  A quick change on the shore and a dash to the car where the heaters were turned up to the max.  Poor David who wasn’t remotely cold was subjected to sauna like conditions for the drive!

We dropped our stuff off at our hotel on the banks on Thirlmere.  Despite this being a non-swimmable lake/water (who knows what it is!!) this was a great location for us to be based as only 25 minutes from Keswick, 20 minutes to Ambleside and 40 minutes to Buttermere.

It was also a 5/10 minute drive from Dobgill car park where you can walk 20 minutes (uphill) to Harrop Tarn.  Following the instructions provided to us by Lottie, we eagerly set off.  According to Lottie getting there takes “10-20 minutes depending on hill fitness”…needless to say we are not hill fit!  The walk takes you up through the woods and then slowly you can hear water gushing getting louder and louder.  After coming out from the woods, you are greeted by a waterfall.  What a magnificent treat.  Further along the path, the tarn appeared.  We made our way through the grass/bog (see pics of Brian bearfooted!) to the water’s edge.  The water was Baltic.  We took it in turns to have a swim – it lived up to my magical expectations and then some.  Rolling hills, lily pads on the water, dark black water, pine trees, no one around -> MAGICAL.

After a quicker dash back to the car whilst the light was fading, we headed back to the hotel to pick up Katie, where she was deservedly resting at the hotel and headed to Ambleside for some pasta and then went back for an early night.

Note: if you do fancy some lake crawling, please ensure you read the below:

http://www.ntlakesoutdoors.org.uk/swim-safe

 

Sunday (Katie)

So Sunday was the day of the race.  It dawned nice and sunny but no sooner had we packed the four of us and our luggage into our tiny Citroen C1 it had started to rain and that turned out to be the order of the day.

The race didn’t start until 10.30am but we had heard horror stories about the state of the parking in Buttermere Village so aimed to arrive nice and early.  Having traversed the winding roads into Buttermere with our car barely making it up some of the hills we arrived at 8.30am and secured our parking spot.  It was still raining so we stayed in our car to wait it out.  During a short gap in the rain we rushed to register and for refreshments in the café which had opened early especially for the swim.

Manda, Brian and David were doing the 10km race.  I (Katie) was originally entered into the 10km as well but I am expecting a baby next year and severe sickness means I have done a total of 5 training sessions in the last 8 weeks which meant that I wasn’t feeling up to the 10km and dropped down to the 5km.  I almost changed my mind back again when I saw that the 10km race hats were purple!

The time soon ticked away and we were changing into our wetsuits and heading down to the start of the race.  It was still raining….we waded through what I can only describe as a bog to get to the start (okay well maybe not a bog but I am from London so I am mudaphobic) and arrived at the water’s edge.

The start of the race was about a 5 minute walk up the lake so I waved goodbye to Manda, Brian and David as their wave was starting 15 minutes before mine.  Soon it was our turn and I was walking up to the start.  One good thing about the cold and miserable weather was that it didn’t actually feel ‘that’ cold getting in.  It was one of the things I had been worried about, after a summer of a lido of 18 degree plus the advertised 14 degrees of Buttermere was quite intimidating.  I was wearing my booties though which helped keep me warm.

We all piled into the lake and started swimming…then about a minute later we all stopped again.  Oh you we were only swimming to the start!  You could see a lot of confused people frantically trying to re-set their Garmins.  Finally we were really off.  I swam down to the first buoy which seemed to have come loose and drifted to shore so a load of us then had to swim back up on the other side to next to the next buoy.

Conditions for the swim were really tough.  You felt like the wind was in your face the whole time which was making the water pretty choppy.  I wanted to give up a 100 times but before long I was at the top of the lake and then across to the other side and which point I had no choice but to swim back down.

I finished in 1h 30 mins which given my lack of training and extra human baggage I was actually reasonably happy with.  I do think the course was a bit short though as there were a couple of buoys at the top end of the lake on the course map which I don’t think were there.

After finishing I, very inelegantly, exited the water and went to retrieve my stuff.  I was walking back to the car when I found Manda huddled under a tree getting changed.  ‘I thought I might find you here’ I laughed.  ‘I wasn’t cold’ she replied ‘just miserable’.  I knew what she meant.  Buttermere is absolutely beautiful and a still one of my favourite places I have ever swum but the rain, wind and waves had not made for the most fun experience this time round.  Manda wasn’t alone with an early exit.  Out of 170 registered to swim only 56 people finished the 10km.

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We quickly got changed and then went back to see the boys finish.  David was beaten by only a few meters into second place in a time of 2h 28 minutes.  Brian in a hitherto unseen racing gentlemanliness let the lady he was swimming with finish in front of him coming in fifth in 2h 39 minutes.  Well done guys!

After finally getting changed and dry (well drier!) we couldn’t face going back to the lake for the prize giving so we headed back to Keswick for some well-earned lunch.  We mooched around Keswick eating fudge and drinking tea until it was time to get back for our train.

A lovely weekend despite the rain and race conditions – we will definitely be back in the Lakes next year!

Traversee du lac d’Annecy 2017

I blame Josie Arden for the fact that Brian and I ended up in France at a 5k race without being able to understand a word of the briefing! She originally mentioned this race to me and it ticked all the boxes.  Decent distance – Yes! Lake swimming – Yes!  Sunshine – Yes! Crepes and Ice Creams – Yes!
 
The 86th edition of the Traversee du lac d’Annecy, took place on August 15th, the public holiday of Assumption Day, as it does every year.
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We originally had optimistically thought to do the 10k but after some email correspondence with the organisers, we realised we weren’t in the right league for that race (The winner was Axel Reymond in 1:57).  Armed with our ASA membership we entered the 5k.
 
After some amazing swimming around Tallories on the Monday, we registered the night before the race and I promptly broke my cap, whilst eating ice cream.  Not a good sign.

 

 
The morning of the swim we boarded a bus provided by the organisers to take us to the start. We then somehow managed to stand next to another group of brits at the briefing, who had one of the party translating. All I took from it was
 
1) first red buoy on right
2) follow Lake
3) turn at end at another red buoy
4) aim for castle – finish underneath
 
That was it. Who knew if anything else important was said.

 

 
We had been advised that the start is a bit rough. I generally position myself towards the front at starts because the standard varies so much in the UK, however, everyone here was a member of a club, therefore, the standards were high and we were at the back. I was still fiddling in the water with the timing chip (it was MAHOOSIVE) when the gun went off!
 
Brian positioned himself to the right of me so I could see him and the scenery when I breathed, however, we were on the edge of the swimmers.  This would be my normal preferred option to have clean water to swim through whilst pretending to be Keri-Anne Payne, but with such a high standard and seeming like I am always just plodding in races this season, I wanted to take advantage of swimming in a pack and tried to gently coerce him into moving over.  He didn’t.  I dropped back and swung around to the other side of him and began slowly overtaking people one by one.
 
By the time we got to the top of the lake we were in a nice pod of all men (some wetsuited) and me.  After turning the red buoy I just needed to “AIM FOR THE CASTLE”, with this ringing through my head, our pod began to swim off the other way.  I slowed down as I needed to think, I didn’t want to follow them and end up extending the swim, but they were probably French and understood the briefing – ahhhhhhhhhhh.  I stopped and waited for Brian to realise and whined in his direction “what are they doing? Where are we going?”.  He confidently responded “Aim for the castle/orange buoy” so off we went.
 
The race ended with the longest finishing chute in history.  It must have started 700m from the finish, so for 700m I kept thinking I must nearly be there… and I wasn’t.  Additionally, it got shallow, which makes you VERY aware of how fast or slow you were going.  It was SLOW.
 
We made it!

 

 
I ended coming 14th female (although I am not currently on the results).  I am really pleased with this, as we maintained a steady pacing of 16 minutes per 1k throughout the whole race.  Originally I wanted to be in the top 10 but 14th will do me, as I know I raced smartly*, I am not sure who above me was suited and I was exhausted afterwards – I couldn’t have done much more.  I think it is also reflective that I am near enough back to where I wanted to be post childbirth.
 
Annecy was amazing.  I really want to go back next year and do some more swimming.  Next time I plan to take the family, Katie and do the race first so we can maximise the adventure swimming and maybe take someone fluent in French.
 
 
*the guys who went off finished around 1 minute behind us

Henley Club to Pub 2017

Henley club to pub is the annual swim that takes you upstream from Henley rowing club before turning downstream past Marsh lock back to the Angel on the Bridge pub in Henley.

We previously did this event in 2014 but haven’t made it back since. In 2017 I returned to the race without Katie but I did have Pivo, Brian and Charlie for company.

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In a massive change of events, Pivo was in a wetsuit and me, Brian and Charlie were all skins. I had entered the open category rather than the traditional category resulting in me being one of only very few skins swimmers in my wave and same for Brian.

Brian and Pivo disappeared off with their pink caps for the men’s open wave, where apparently Brian drafted off Pivo for the first 400m and then following the men’s traditional and vets wave it was my turn to get in.

I waited until a minute to go before I plunged in. I was surprised to find warm water but with loads of weeds (probably both a result of all the warm weather!).

Now in 2014 the course was short (1300m rather than the 1500m advertised) and we turned at island so it came as a surprise when the top of the island appeared but the turning buoys were still approx 100m upstream.You really got to feel the current when turning as it felt like you were swimming horizontally but really you had already shifted 1m downstream. I was having to constantly readjust not to miss the buoy.

Once turned it was a case of carrying on pushing yourself past the fancy houses on the island in the middle of the Thames to make it to the pub. Must.Get.To.Pub.

About 100m from end, a suited swimmer came into my vision. She had been sat behind me most of the way and had now decided to make her move. No chance. I’m not a short distance swimmer so the effort I put into ensuring I finished in front of her nearly made me sick at end!

With cries of ‘the first traditional female’ I exited the water. Technically I was the first traditional woman out but seeing as I wasn’t in the traditional wave I had had a 10 minute head start off the traditional woman. It came as no surprise to see that I was actually second fastest female skins swimmer, however due to entering open category this wouldn’t be acknowledged. Whoops!

Post swim we cold footed it back to the rowing club to change and then headed back to the pub for some post swim food and drink.

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Henley swim have taken on board the feedback from the previous events and it is great to see this event firmly wedged on their events calendar. We will be back!

Swimming in Guernsey

I (Manda) come from Guernsey and when I go back I want to go sea swimming but the lack of company always stops me, so this time I decided to try and engage local groups to see if they would let me tag along and I wasn’t disappointed.  Katie and Brian then joined me for part of the trip, so they were dragged along for some of these adventures!

Our trip also coincided with 30 bays in 30 days, so we tried to tick off a few of these along the way.

Havelet Bay

I was working in my Guernsey office for a couple of days, so when I saw on the “Guernsey Open water swimmers” (GOWS) page that they were meeting for a lunchtime swim,  I headed on down.  The plan was a mile loop of Havelet Bay, which is situated at the south end of St Peter Port and has the impressive Castle Cornet overlooking it.  Fortunately there were 2 other people not wearing wetsuits so I decided to join them and I was pleasantly surprised at the temperature.  We did  a loop of the bay but regrouped at every buoy so no one was dropped and also ensured that me, without my contact lenses, didn’t end up in France.  Being able to swim at lunchtime was a dream come true and to be able to do it in such beautiful surroundings was even better.

 

Pembroke Bay (Try a Tri Guernsey)

One of my colleagues in the Guernsey office was joining a group swim on Wednesday and invited me along.  We were meant to be in Jersey on the Wednesday but fog ended that, so last minute (which you can do when the beach is 2 minutes away) I decided to head on down with support crew of husband and baby to make the most of the day.  Laura from Try a Tri had set up a triangular course for swimming around so that everyone would stick together.  This was great for me and allowed me to gain some confidence in the sea that had been lost since Majorca 2015!

 

Marble Bay (30 bays in 30 days)

I got recommended this bay by the organisers of 30 bays, so we googled and decided “why not?”.  Why not… well we have a 1 year old and marble bay is accessible by only a coastal cliff path but after parking at Jerbourg point, we headed towards marble bay.  After a beautiful walk with views of Herm and Sark, we arrived at marble bay to find no one there.  We took it in turns to swim and just generally hung around living our own private beach dreams until I started dreaming of my cold drink that I had left in the car and the Guernsey ice cream at the Jerbourg kiosk.  We were there at low tide and apparently it is even better at high tide, so another reason to head back.

 

Les Beaucamps (Swim Smooth CI / Tri 3 Fit)

6:30 Friday am, I am normally at ironmonger row baths, so I just relocated my session to Guernsey with Swim Smooth CI.  I swam in the fast lane with 2 chaps and bashed out some 400s and then some 200s.  It was a great pacing set, and as the co-queen of pacing, I managed to hit the target times with accuracy.

Lancresse Bay (Guernsey Swimming Club)

On Wednesday night at Pembroke, I accosted a man in the sea, as you do.  He was swimming back from a swim as I was doing my laps with try a tri.  I asked if they were doing other swims that week that we could come along to and he said they were swimming Friday night at 6:15 at Lancresse, so enthusiastically I told Brian and Katie when they arrived in Guernsey.  We then tentatively turned up then to find a massive group of swimmers.   After some discussion we headed out to the edge of the bay, which was turbulent!  At which point Katie declared “I am concerned we aren’t going to make it back”.  We did! But it took us 18 minutes to get back vs the 10 minutes to get out.

 

Herm Island

We wanted to get across to Herm but the weather forecast wasn’t great but we thought we would head over and see what the weather brought.  We boarded the boat dry and then arrived in Herm 20 minutes later to torrential rain.  We decided to go for a drink under cover and assess our options.  The rain didn’t let up and thunder and lightning started, so we decided we had best get the next boat back.  Brian wasn’t happy about the lack of swimming, so seeing water was just 10 metres away he decided to go for it.  Armed with my camera and my water proof coat I led him to the shore and off he went.  I was and still am very jealous!!

 

Saints Bay 

During lunch, we discussed afternoon plan, but it was still chucking it down so after seeking advice for a swim location on the GOWS facebook page we headed down to Saints bay. We were greeted by the swimmers we had swum with on Friday night and promised them we weren’t stalking them.  They had just finished so handed out some advice on where to head … “head for the lion and seal” – ya what?!  There is no parking at the beach so we parked by a slippery slope which we had to descend to get into the water – this turned out to be the hardest part of the swim.

 

Petit Port/Moulin Huet (Guernsey Swim adventures)

The swim we had come for.  The morning of the swim we were greeted with wind and lots of it, which prompted the organisers to say they had already decided on a revised route and would decide 15 minutes before swim start whether it would go ahead.  After descending 324 steps we arrived with shaky legs and surprise to see some chunky waves. Jacqui, from Guernsey swim adventures, said we were going to do the revised route to cradle rock and back twice through. A tide going out and a gap in the weather meant that 10 minutes to go, we were reverting to plan A. Ahhhh I had no idea what that was as I thought we were doing Plan B. So after several minutes of repeating, cradle rock, rock in ocean, buoy, cradle rock, home, to myself and Jacqui ensuring us that there was a rock in front of the headland we were off.

I optimistically galloped off into the waves as only an islander or an Irish man (Brian) can do, to find my goggles knocked off (same for Brian).  Katie sensibly and cautiously walked into the water as only a proper English lady should do. We then plodded our way around the course.

We returned to shore to be greeted with rain and our winning gold caps!

 

Soldiers Bay/ Bathing pools

Wil, who I had met at the previous Tuesday’s swim, suggested one final joint swim from Havelet bay, via bathing pools to soldiers bay. This bay is no longer accessible by land due to falling rocks but has a great history as it is where Victor Hugo used to swim.

I arrived late at the bay (due to wedding ring removal issues) to see people swimming off but Wil still there. ‘No problem we will catch them’ errrr ok. He proceeded to speed off and I spent the next 10 minutes sprinting after him (I might have put more effort into this swim than the race on Sunday!). When we got to the bathing pools, we hopped the railings and swam through the pool that was like a wave machine. Rounded the headland corner and finally caught up with the others. Wil then disappeared off into the gullies and the others headed for home. I floated in the ocean for a while hoping he would eventually reappear. He didn’t so I decided to head back. On way back I stopped at bathing pools again and then he appeared. After a somersault off the diving board, we battled our way through the pool and then back to shore.

 

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Time for a final bay. Bay #23 was actually bay #9 from the official 30 bays in 30 days for this trip.

A lovely sunny swim to finish off what has been an amazing and confidence building sea swimming trip.

 

Thanks to everyone who welcomed me/us to their swims.

If you are ever in Guernsey and want to join some friendly locals for a swim here are some resource ideas:

Guernsey Open water swimming Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/822350874509034/

Guernsey Swimming Club:

Apart from accosting scantily clad men in the sea, I am not too sure how to find out about these swims to be honest. However, contact us at hello@teammermaids.com and we can point you towards the social media for some members.

Try a Tri / Fry Fit:

https://www.facebook.com/tryatriguernsey/?fref=ts

Swim Smooth CI / Tri 3 Fit:

https://www.facebook.com/swimsmoothci/

Guernsey swim adventures: 

https://www.facebook.com/guernseyswimadventures/

30 bays in 30 days:

http://www.30bays.org/

 

SLSC Mile race 2017

The Mermaid cup, the SLSC’s women’s open mile cup, has been something of note in the Mermaid camp for a while, but alas we have never been able to win it because of Nancy Shaw.   Nancy is this formidable SLSC swimmer, who reigned victorious over most of the women’s open cups for several years, including the Mermaid cup and once whooped our butts during the mile swim, whilst she was heavily pregnant.  Nancy and family have now moved abroad, so despite our sadness that we were losing this great swimmer, we were finally optimistic about our chances of some cups in 2017.

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Nancy Shaw – SLSC’s best Mermaid for several years

 

On the day of the event, we did our usual Friday morning 6:30am training and then spent a day at work.  Perfect preparation!

Upon arriving at the lido, there was some disappointment, as Emma Watson (SLSC star baker EVERY week) was optimistic she would win the cup until I (Manda) had turned up and declared I was hoping to swim in 26 minutes.  She then offered me cake for a year if I let her win.  There was a fundamental flaw in her plan as Katie was still due to arrive!  We declined the cake offer, which shows how much this cup meant to the team.

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The evening started with the under 10s race, which was a hot contested battle by the next generation of Team Mermaids and then the half mile race.

We then got in and found the newly repainted black market that signifies the start point as the mile is 17.6 laps of the lido due to its 100 yard length.

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We were off.  Katie and I had been split up with Katie as number 4 and me as number 6 but as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Katie appeared next to me.  We then stuck side by side for the most of the swim, only separating a few times when Katie missed the wall on her tumble (Katie insists those walls are really hard to see)!

On the final length still side by side, I tried to keep our strokes in synch so we would touch together and then boom.  Everyone was pointing at me as the winner.  This was NOT the plan.  Katie had also been trying to keep us in sync so we would touch together but had held back slightly but I had snuck in and touched first.   We were both credited with the same time of 24 minutes and 47 secs.  Katie had been saying that if she didn’t swim under 26 minutes she was going to retire so I’m glad we beat that threshold!

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Hopefully we will get a chance to put Katie’s name on the cup next year.

As usual thanks SLSC and all the volunteers who ensure these events can run.

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Henley Classic 2017 – Light vs. Dark Blue

IMG_2915The summer solstice means only one thing – it’s time for the Henley Classic again!

This year I was competing in the Oxford vs. Cambridge alumni race again. The main wave starts at 4.30am. Now it is very lovely to swim when the sun is rising but 4.30am is very early so I made sure to check what time the alumni race would start. 5.45am, okay, that is more civilised. I had been invited to a house warming the night before so after just three and a half hours of sleep I dragged myself out of bed at 3.30 to drive down to Henley.

On arrival I registered and chatted to old friends from both Oxford and Cambridge, as well as some new faces who were joining the event. The format of the race is that there are four men and four women in both the varsity (current students) and alumni (old people) races. Varsity men start, followed by varsity women and alumni in the same order at two minute intervals.

It is quite eery swimming down the course without loads of other swimmers around. More so for me as my goggles had fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. Despite it only being 2.1km, the course seemed to go on forever but I remembered this year that the grandstand meant you were nearly home and put on a spurt.  Well I tried to at least!

Overall I swam the course in 36 minutes, which I was quite disappointed with, but in retrospect maybe 3.5 hours’ sleep, a full on training schedule and a heavy week at work is not the best preparation.

The Cambridge Varity men and women both won their match ups.    With the Oxford Men and Women coming out on top on the alumni races.  Well done everyone who races. Until next year!

p.s. if any Oxford of Cambridge alums are keen to compete just let us know!

 

Paddle Round the Pier, Pizza and Saltdean Lido

Our trip to Paddle Round the Pier didn’t start too auspiciously when about 10 days before the event Manda emailed with a title that just said ‘there are two races which one are you entered for?’ Err two races on the same day? This prompted lots of searching through emails and fears that we might be actually be entered into different races. Luckily we both had both gone for the Swim Trek organised 1.5km at the very civilised 10.30am rather than the Brighton Tri Club organised 2.5km at 8.30am. There was some initial discussion of doing both but sense soon prevailed!

So Saturday 2nd July 2017 saw us, plus Mer-Husbands, plus mini Mermen heading down to Paddle Round the Pier in Brighton. Paddle Round the Pier is an annual two day festival of all things swimming, surfing and sea related. The festival is over a large area just in front of the beach and has loads of stalls with food, clothes, activities and loads of other stuff. After a wander through the festival we registered for the race, got changed and headed down to the start. At the start we bumped into Outdoor Swimmer’s Simon Griffith who had swum in the earlier 2.5k race who politely enquired why we were only doing 1.5k when long distance is our thing.

After a race briefing we were off. We had expected a water start so it was a bit of a surprise when the gun went and we had to run in. We took quite a leisurely approach to waking in which in retrospect was probably a mistake as we we were right in the melee being kicked and pushed. My only goal for the first 100m was not too lose Amanda even if that meant having to breathe to the left! Luckily we managed to stay together as we headed out to sea.

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The first 200-300m were pretty tough with a combination of the rough sea and still having lots of people around us but once we turned along the shore we were greeted by amazing views of the shore line and the burnt out West Pier. We should probably have listened to the safety briefing more carefully as we ended up on the ‘scenic’ route after Manda sighted the wrong buoy but despite this we were, surprisingly quickly, turning back towards the finish line on the beach. Not too surprisingly, as it turns out as both our Garmins had the course at 1,290m rather than 1.5km.

Overall we finished 7/8 (3/4 women) in 21 mins 40 secs. I can’t say I loved it at the time but by now, a bit like childbirth, the swimming hormones have kicked in and all I remember of it that it was good fun.

After the swim we wandered back through the festival and watched BAD Ukes, a ukulele band playing pop songs – it was better than it sounds! We then went to Fatto A Mano for pizza which was very yummy and I would recommend if you are ever in the area.

Full from lunch we then headed about 20 mins down the coast to the recently reopened Saltdean Lido. Saltdean has lovely Art Deco style with a main pool, a kids pool with fountains and a large grass area for sitting. The mini mermen has an amazing time playing in the water and we enjoyed aperol sprits ice lollies (over 18s only)! If you are in the area Saltdean is well worth a visit.

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