Over the late May Bank Holiday weekend we (Katie, Dennis and Max) went away for the night to the Cotswold Water Park. I took advantage of the trip to have my first lake swim of the year at Waterland Outdoor Pursuits which is situated at Lake 32 of the park.
On arrival we paid our £5 and were directed to Jo at the cafe who would explain the course to us. The lake has a 450m, a 750m and 1,500m loop.
I was just going to do the 750m lap as I didn’t have my wetsuit but once I was in it felt so gorgeous at 20 degeees plus, that I changed my mind and did the 1,500m loop. I’m glad I did as the 750m loop was chocker and I only passed two other people on the bigger loop.
I would definitely recommend the lake for people in the Cotswold area.
I then went to Jacks in Cirencester for cake(s) which was as yummy as ever!
This year’s winter challenge was meant to be a little less taxing and a bit more fun, however, as proven by the results below we failed! That being said Brian won, so chapeau Brian! Kate, Lisa and Pivo posted 0 and me and Katie post some (but not many) points!
Even though it was a bit of a disaster (I (Manda) couldn’t bring myself to part with my team mermaids cap!), we like to look at the positives so here are the good things that came out of the winter challenge:
We did 100×100. Katie, Brian and me went down to Charlton with some others and swam the 100×100. Katie and Brian then did a cheeky 10k pyramid a few weeks later. Ultimately this helped with the training for mine and Katie’s Swimathon antics and Brian’s 24 miles over 24 hours swim.
I did an hour continuous swim on my own at Crystal Palace, which at the time was a big deal as I was having to do most of my training alone whilst on maternity leave and the lido was no longer viable for anything over 1k. I spent most weeks bribing myself to finish the set with the thought of a galaxy caramel but this week I just plodded on knowing it would secure me 20 points… and a galaxy caramel!
We have started doing the odd 1 length fly in training voluntarily!
Brian did a festive swim back in Ireland over Christmas and even got featured in the local newspaper.
We became hard-core* cold water swimmers. The temperature plummeted and we kept swimming at Tooting Bec Lido. Despite myself and Katie admitting defeat in November, we managed a brisk 30m in 1.5c* as part of the UK cold water championships in January and then reappeared in the lido once it hit 10c again. We are now regulars at the SLSC Sunday morning races and we hope there will be more of the same next Winter!
Training sessions are for SLSC members only. You can get a Club only membership costs for just £25 (£20 for 19-25 year olds) but with the club only membership you have to pay for your entry to the lido. More details here: https://www.slsc.org.uk/club-events/training-sessions/
Brian here, occasional guest blogger for team mermaids.
On the 22nd April I took part in the 2swim4life event in Guildford Lido for the second time. The format of the event is that you swim a mile every hour for 24 hours. I was aiming for about 26 minutes per mile, which would mean I had just over half an hour to rest, recover, refuel, etc. The swim started at 9am on Saturday morning, going overnight until 9am on Sunday morning.
Having done the event in 2015, I knew it was a good idea to stay in Guildford on the night before the swim, so I had booked to stay in the Premier Inn across the road. I was due to swim in lane 3, and had made contact with some of the other swimmers in my lane before the event. We met in the lido while assembling our tents, and then went for dinner in the premier inn to talk about the swim, and all things swimming. Most of the other people in my lane had swum in 2swim4life before (either as a relay or as a solo), so there was a lot of experience in the lane, and we agreed to share the workload in the lane, and to rotate the lead so that everybody got a chance to draft.
I was very lucky to have lots of experienced crew to support me during the swim. Dan, Allison, Lisa, Katie and Charlie all helped, mostly making sure that I was getting through the rest periods OK, and eating enough food. Although half an hour sounds like a long time, it was a real struggle to get everything done before I needed to get back to the pool. I quickly settled into a routine where I would get changed into my next swimming togs straight away, put on as many layers as possible, and have something to eat and drink. That would usually take me until about a quarter to the hour, which meant I had about 5 minutes to relax, before heading down to the pool area about 10 minutes before the next swim.
Having started in lane 3, I quickly started to get too cold. The advantage of drafting off other swimmers is that you don’t need to work too hard, however given that there were 8 or us, I was only at the front of the lane for 200m each mile, and was getting cold as I was not working hard enough. The water temperature was about 20 degrees, so it was easy to get chilly when you stopped working. I think Dan and Allison were getting very worried about how I would finish the event if I was already shivering after only 2 miles. I remember hiding out in the tent between the swims (the sunshine almost made the tent into a greenhouse, so it was nice and warm).
Dan and Allison had been checking the other lanes, and after three swims we decided that I should move up to lane one. This lane had a mix of solos and relays, but crucially allowed me to swim a bit faster and keep warm. I settled into a routine of swimming with another soloist (David) and an Otter swimmer every second mile (he was in a two person relay). I was still only swimming at the front every 200m, but it allowed me to swim faster on average.
We did get a bit carried away though. We did mile 5 in 23:40 which was my fastest mile of the event. It really felt good to put in a faster mile, but I think I definitely paid for that later in the day… Between mile 7 and 16 we settled into a steady routine, and all of those were between 25 and 26 minutes. The final 8 miles were a lot tougher, and my pace really started to fall off. This was partly due to it being nighttime, but also I started to pay for the sub 25 minute miles earlier in the day. I was happy that I managed to maintain a faster average pace than in 2015, but annoyed with myself that there was such a variation between the fastest and slowest miles. I’m sure my last 8 miles would have been easier if not for that pesky 23:40 early on 🙂
Part way through the day, I realised I was short of towels, so put in an emergency request to Lisa and Katie to bring some spares with them. In an ideal world, I would have had 24 togs and 24 towels so that I would never have needed to put on wet togs or dry myself with a wet towel. In the end I think I had about 11 pairs of togs (about half of which I managed to dry during the day), so I was putting on wet togs for the last 8 or so swims. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I brought so few towels — maybe I had forgotten how miserable it is to dry yourself with a cold/wet towel.
In terms of food, I had a massive plastic box filled with all sorts of goodies. As it turns out, I had brought too much, so some of it was either “donated” to the lifeguards at the end of the event, or brought home with me. I think the food I enjoyed the most was: cold pasta, bagels, noodles, hot ribena, chocolates, and biscuits. I would definitely try to bring less food if I had to do it again.
I thought I would be able to relax at the end of the 24 miles, but the journey home turned out to be just as grueling as the swim… It was London Marathon weekend, so I was not able to drive home like I had done after the previous swim. Instead, Charlie and I got a taxi to Ealing Broadway (the end of the central line), and took the tube all the way to Bank, before changing for the DLR. Then I had to negotiate through the London Marathon crowds with a big heavy plastic box (luckily it had wheels), and a duffelbag full of my swimming kit/tent/chairs etc.
I was so exhausted when I got home, that I managed to sleep through seven hours of cheering crowds, marathon runners, and street sweepers. By the time I woke up, it looked like the marathon had never been…
All in all, I am glad I did the swim. It had its tough points, but there was a really good camaraderie, even if the “chat” in the lane became more and more brief as we all got more and more tired. I think I’ll give it a miss in 2019, but if one of my valiant crew decides they want to swim it, I’ll be first in line to return the favour and crew for them.
The BBC published an article recently (see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-39568781) about a lady losing her sight in one eye after an eye infection. There was some advice about contact lenses and swimming was mentioned:
‘a rare but serious eye infection caused by a micro-organism that’s common in tap water, sea water and swimming pools’.
All people who I swim with who need glasses either wear contacts as standard or switch to contacts and normal googles for swimming. I’m the exception as I generally wear prescription goggles apart from when I’m racing.
Admittedly, initially my main reason for this wasn’t protecting myself from infection (more to avoid having to faff around putting contacts in and ordering contacts) but as a result I have tried out a lot of the prescription goggles on the market.
Here are some I have tried / some I have seen recommended by several different people on DYST / OSS but if you have any feedback on the below or other recommendations then please put in comments.
The View Platina are my go to favourite. They are cost effective, last well and come in black or blue lenses so suitable for all pools and all weather. You can buy the matching strap and nose piece but I have always just used an old one I had. You order individual lenses so you can have different prescriptions for each eye if needed. A lot of sites only offer the black version but Jackson Sports have both and are run by a friendly team who will check stock etc for you.
1 x Lens cost: £8.00 (current price at Jackson Sports)
Total goggle cost (2 x lenses and brand specific strap and nose piece): £24.50 (current price at Jackson Sports)
I originally used the Speedo Pulse prescription lenses which are very similar to the View ones. They then seemed to stop doing them so I tried out their Mariner googles, which are their cheaper* pair and you have to have the same prescription for both lenses. These didn’t work well with me and leaked badly. The good news is the Pulse ones are back on sale on the Speedo site, along with a couple of new prescription goggle options, but are more expensive than the View for what I believe to be the same lenses, so I think you are better off purchasing the View lenses.
*cheaper short term but not long term if you have to keep buying the full pair of goggles at £20 rather than just buying replacement lenses when needed.
I really liked the look of the Eagle as they appeared very similar to the Zoggs Predator Flexes that I am a massive fan of and give you an increased field of vision unlike the standard prescription goggles available. I just didn’t find these comfortable on my small(ish) head but lots of people love them.
1 x Lens cost: £9.49 (current price at proswimwear)
Total goggle cost: £35.00 (current price at prescription swimming goggles)
High street alternatives
Boots and Specsavers do offer prescription goggles, however I can’t find anything on their site. Prices sounds comparable, if not cheaper than the above, based on what people on OSS/DYST have advised so always worth checking them out.
Back in January I (Manda) had what I thought at the time was an amazing idea (these things so often start this way…). After doing the swimathon in 2016 at 30 weeks pregnant I asked myself what could I do it make it harder this year? I know I thought let’s do the swimathon multiple times on one day and let’s also drag Katie along to share the pain! For some reason Katie also thought this was a good idea and we started to look at logistics. We originally discussed swimming in four sessions on the same day but we couldn’t find sessions that worked so we settled on attempting the 5km distance three times on the same day. This is the tale of how our swims went.
Swimathon 1: Thornton Heath
Thornton Heath swimathon was meant to start at 6:30 so per the official swimathon email we turned up 30 minutes beforehand to find the centre didn’t open until 6:30. After some knocking on the door, shouting “SWIM-A-THON” through the glass doors and Katie doing some arm swinging action to represent swimming (I think?), the receptionist let us in. 6:30 came and along with the entire over 60s population of SE London, we made our way to poolside to discover there were only 3 of us doing it and we had one lane for us. Things were a bit disorganised and we were allowed to wear our Team Mermaids hats rather than the official swimathon hat. We were told we could start and Derrek sped off, whilst we casually dipped our toes in the water to discover it felt like a bath. Admittedly my 10 month old baby is in training for UK Cold Water Swimming Championships 2019 and therefore, I might do his bath a bit too cold BUT the water was warmer than his bath! We had planned to do 5k straight for the first one, just to get it over and done with but after each 1k Katie wisely stopped to allow us a quick sup of nuun each.
Lane buddies: Derrek
Swim time: 1:19
Water Temp: at least 31
Hat Colour: Team Mermaids
Tooting Bec Lido
It was a glorious day on Friday so Katie suggested a dip at the lido and it didn’t disappoint. We only did 200 yards but it was lush! One of the regulars suggested we did more than 2 lengths but we furiously clinged on to our excuse of having to swim another 10k, whilst we hauled ourselves out of the pool.
Lane buddies: SLSC members and a duck
Swim time: 3 minutes
Water Temp: 12
Hat Colour: Team Mermaids
Swimathon 2: Pancras Leisure
This is a relatively new pool, which Katie loves because of the purple wall they have in the pool area. We again arrived 30 minutes pre our swim start and slowly got ready. Once on poolside we spoke to our lane buddies and tried to suss each other out. The other lady in the lane had a garmin 920 XT, a gel and a nice swimming costume… she must be good! I straight out asked the guy what time he was hoping to do and he said 1:16/1:17 so I said he should lead, whilst Katie gave him dagger eyes. He kindly said that if we wanted to pass him just to tap his feet, but I explained we had already done 1 * 5km and had another one to go so we would either welcome the drafting (or extra drafting in my case!) or be taking it steady a long way behind him as 1:19 was more what we were aiming for. Katie was made to leave 5 seconds after him and there was 5 seconds between me and Katie. The first 100 I turned in 1:23.. WTAF! I was trying to bridge the gap to Katie and unknown to me Katie was trying to bridge the gap to the man, which would have been great if the dude could have paced. He managed to overtake us twice, first time being after 600m and second 1800m and then didn’t again… that’s all you need to know about his pacing! After the 1:23 I decided to let Katie do what she wanted to do and I was just going to accept my fate and just plod as I didn’t want to suffer for this crazy pace later on. She did settle down but it was still punchy hence the rather swift time we posted.
Lane buddies: Fast man with no passing and lady with pretty costume
Swim time: 1:15
Water Temp: 27 ish
Hat Colour: Pink (Katie), Black (Manda)
Swimathon 3: Balham
We picked Balham for the final swim due to (a) proximity to our houses and (b) because this is where Katie always used to do the swimathon when she was a kid.
I went home to feed my baby pre final swimathon. I also minced around a bit at home as I thought it didn’t start until 18:30 and therefore, needed to be there AROUND 6. 17:55 I rocked up at Balham leisure centre, had a chat to Dennis and Max, who were just leaving after having seen Katie and then walked towards leisure centre. At this point, still thinking I had 30 minutes until swim start time, I realised I had left my pre swim nutrition of a crème egg in my car, so went back!! When I finally got to leisure centre reception, whilst shoving a crème egg in my mouth, I saw Katie and others on poolside ready to go. Uh Oh!
I ran to poolside and dumped all my stuff there. Fortunately everyone was super relaxed about the start time, which would have annoyed me normally, but actually was to my benefit this time.
After the excitement of St. Pancras and with no one to race we settled back in to our normal plodding pace with a couple of stops for Lucozade. Katie even forced me to go in front for 2km which I was not happy about.
After 4100m, we had a final drink of water and then with a chant of “so near, BUT YET SO FAR” Katie pushed off and 900m later we were done.
Lane buddies: NO ONE 😀
Swim time: 1:19
Water Temp: 28 ish
Hat Colour: Black (Katie), White (Manda)
Thanks to all the leisure centre staff who counted our laps today (even if we didn’t always agree with your counting!), dealt with us rocking up early, rocking up late and generally just being enthusiastic about the event.
Well done to everyone else who completed the 2017 swimathon especially to honorary mermaids Laura and Josie!
Myself and Katie were at the London aquatic centre on Saturday (18 March), aka the London 2012 Olympic Pool, for a lesson with Olympians, power couple of GB swimming and founders of Triscape David Carry and Keri-Anne Payne. Triscape is a health and lifestyle company that focuses on swimming coaching in various set ups and locations.
Before heading to swim, we had a chat with David and Keri-Anne about our swimming, why we do it and what we wanted to get out of the lesson. Katie wanted to know what dry land training she should be doing to compliment the swimming. I decided to aim high and request to swim faster, longer and without shoulder pain.
We made our way out to the pool and after a short pool side warm up, we plunged into our private lane and did a 300m swim, where we were told not to change anything yet but just to do our normal stroke. I can do that!
Over the next hour, we covered 3 key elements to “straight line swimming”, the triscape swimming method. We focused on our head position, breathing and rotation.
First thing to sort was head position. We had to stop looking forward. We watched a video Keri-Anne had taken of us swimming and watched David’s demo of the impact that his head position had on his body position and therefore, streamlinelyness (new word people – keep up) and it all made sense. I like to look forward whilst swimming, as I need to know where Katie is at all times for fear of letting her get too far away or even worse tapping her toes (not her favourite thing!), but as soon as I did put my head down, I instantly felt the benefits. It is going to be a difficult one to crack, especially, as we get closer to public lido swimming, where unless you know what is going on around you, you are destined to bang heads with someone.
With the rotation theory, while I couldn’t feel the benefits to the same level, a simple pool side demo from Keri-Anne to show the impact it has on your shoulder muscles was enough to convince me that this is the path to shoulder pain relief.
Soon enough David was sprinting 50m to check he still has “it”* and our time was up. Armed with our new technique we went into a public lane and did a short pyramid set to practice. We both promised to make sure we put time in our sets to focus on getting this nailed…otherwise we might have to book ourselves on one of their trips abroad 😀
We both really enjoyed our coaching session and we would definitely recommend the session to other swimmers.
After the success of 100 x 100m a few weeks ago everyone started getting very optimistic and suggesting more 10km sets.
This is how we ended up at Charlton Lido again on 12th March 2017 attempting a 10km pyramid. We were a reduced group this time as Adrian way away skiing (I think he might have planned the trip to avoid the set) and Manda wasn’t very well.
So the set pretty much did what it says on the tin and went like this:
We started off on 1.40sec per 100m pace but after the first 200m David took pity on my lack of rest and we moved up to 1.44sec per 100m pace (apparently Nils’ tempo trainer only goes up in 2 sec intervals)!
The day before the set I had run over 13 miles as part of the Swimmer so basically my only goal was to finish and if possible maintaining good (or at least good for me) technique. At least this is my excuse for the awful times I posted!
Overall it was a good set and nice to tackle the distance in a different way to 100x100m.
Back in the depths of winter last year Manda texted me to ask me if I was up for doing ‘The Swimmer’ in March. I hadn’t heard of the event before but with a name like that surely it was right up my street and I promptly accepted.
Fast forward a couple of months and we are having dinner with Laura and Josie our running friends and they are talking about an event where you run between London lidos and go for a dips in each. That sounds like fun I said – meaning fun for people who like running. At this point Manda pipes up and say ‘that is what you are doing in March’ errrrr no one mentioned running was part of The Swimmer. How much running I tentatively ask? 14 miles? What the bleep?!!
This was how I ended up nervously standing outside Gail’s at 7.30am on 12th March waiting for The Swimmer to begin.
So what does the event actually involve? We started at Hampstead Tube and ran up to the men’s ponds on the Health. This is probably a little over a mile. We then had a dip in the men’s ponds. The water temp was around 9 degrees. I climbed down the ladder on one side and planned to swim round to the other and climb out. When I got round to the other side thought there was about 10 people queuing to get out so I promptly swum back round to where I had started. I was not hanging about in 9 degrees.
We were just getting changed when someone came in to tell us the ‘good news’ – today was one of the only day of the year during which the ladies ponds are open to men and we were going there for a bonus dip! The most common reaction to this news was ‘but I only brought four costumes!’
After we finished getting changed we set off on the roughly half mile run to the ladies ponds. The changing rooms have recently refurbished and are lovely. I would certainly recommend this as a place for a swim for any North London ladies.
After a short paddle around we were back on the road again down to Parliament Hill Lido. The pool water was slightly warmer than the ponds and I did a length (60m).
After Parliament Hill Lido the serious running began with a 6 mile traverse to the Serpentine. I was grateful for the Helen’s (@helenexpalinsit) company on the running as how shall I put it – well we were right at the back! We didn’t arrive too far behind everyone and I enjoyed my half-length in the Serpentine with the ducks to cool off!
After some cake we started on the final 6 miles down to Brockwell Lido. This is where the running started to get pretty tough. Helen and I kept the pace steady though and we made it to Brockwell by around 12pm for a final one length.
Overall it was a fun, relaxed and friendly event. Manda had given her ticket to Lucinda Bayliss and it was really nice to catch-up with her and her husband Mark about their summer race plans. The longest I have ever run before in one go is 7 miles the one time Manda and I ran round Richmond park and it almost killed us so the distance was definitely a challenge for me but it was manageable as you have the breaks for the swim.
About 3 years ago Amanda lent me her copy of Gold in the Water by PH Mullen. I pretty much only ever read now on my Kindle so I read about 8 pages and then gave up. Books are just too big to carry around and I ended up returning it to Amanda 2 and a half years later unread.
Gold in the Water has however recently been published on Kindle so I gave it a second try and I am so glad I did as it is magnificent.
The book tells the tale of the once glorious but now a bit down at heal Santa Clara swimming team in California and its swimmers as they prepare for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This is a time when no one has even heard of Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe was still referred to as a promising teenager! Both are now comfortably retired after glittering careers which shows you how long ago 2000 is now.
The book opens by depicting a showdown between rookie Tom Wilkens and veteran Kurt Grote as they race the 200m breaststroke at the 1998 Pan Pacs. This thrust you right into the action and the drama giving you a taster of what is to come in the remainder of the book. This time the experience of the veteran prevails.
Gold in the water focuses on the stories of 5 or 6 swimmers and their old school, unbending coach Dick Jochums as they individually strive to reach the same goal – a place on the Olympic team.
You have the all American Tom Wilkens, Kurt Grote who is combining swimming with a medical degree, the analytical Dod Wales whose father was an Olympian, the reluctant and depressed Tate Biancci and Moldovan refugee Serghei Mariniuc who trains a few times a week for fun. You even have a brief guest appearance from Team Mermaids hero Dara Torres as she prepares for her first comeback.
The book draws such a vivid, insightful picture of the ups and downs of the swimmers’ journeys that you can almost smell the chlorine and feel the lactic acid in your blood as you read. It is not just a the story of the swimmers though as it also tells that tale of their coach Dick Jochums as he searches for redemption through them. Jochums promising early coaching career hit the skids after he over trained his first prodigy Tim Shaw and after allegations of financial irregularities at his former swimming club. Jochums returns to Santa Clara aiming to return it and through it himself back to its former glory. Jochums is a coach of basic principles. He doesn’t believe in any of this modern technology rubbish and gives the swimmers the same few basic work outs on rotation with a firm focus on race pace speed every day. He is an anti-hero, deeply flawed but passionate man. He wants desperately for his swimmers to succeed even if he doesn’t always do the right things to make that happen.
It is such a page turner that you forget that this is not just a story but a depiction of real life. **spoiler alert** This makes is even more heart-breaking when not one of the swimmers get their fairy tale ending. Grote, after taking a year off med school injures his knee and can barely train. Wales falls victim to his old flaws of a too conservative first 50m and touched third in the 100m fly at the Olympic trials. He is not destined to follow in his fathers’ footsteps. The saddest of all in Tom Wilkens who after all the thousands of kms swum and all the stellar times posted, cracks under pressure at trials and fails to qualify for his favoured event the 400m IM. He does qualify for the 200m breaststroke and 200m IM in which after a race of epic determination he wins a bronze medal in Sydney.
We would both thoroughly recommend this book to everyone whether you are a fan of swimming or not.