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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we can point you towards the social media for some members.
Try a Tri / Fry Fit:
Swim Smooth CI / Tri 3 Fit:
Guernsey swim adventures:
30 bays in 30 days:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The 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!
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.
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.
I (Manda) have recently noticed that my right ear always seems to have water stuck in it post swim and occasionally I also suffer from an inkling of pain in there post swim.
There have also coincidentally been a few bits on social media re surfers ear so taking that and the pain into consideration I thought it was about time to invest in some ear plugs.
I put word out of “outdoor swimming society” and “did you swim today” on facebook asking what people recommended and why. Below are some (there were loads – thanks all!) that were recommended.
From the recommendations it seems that the key requirements for ear plugs are:
Functionality – They work! i.e they stop the water coming in
Comfortable – you want to forget you are wearing them.
Sound permeability – They let the sound in. Sensory deprivation can be alarming in open water.
Durability – you aren’t going to have to buy new ones regularly
Affordability – There is a large range but you want value for money
As with most things in life there isn’t a one solution works for all, so the advice from OSS members was to start cheap and then work up if not getting the desired results.
Please feel free to add comments if you have other recommendations or wish to add any comments on the ones already featured.
UNDER £5 PER PAIR
Blu Tack (yep – someone recommended blu tack!)
Where to buy: any good stationers!
£1 a pack!
Positive: Cheapest you will find. Easily replaceable. Mouldable.
Negative: Not sure whether the manufacturers/ear specialists would recommend in ear use!
Where to buy: High street pharmacists and various online outlets
£4 for 3 pairs
Negatives: Don’t last long and can’t hear anything once in.
Positive: Do the job. Mould to the ear.
Where to buy: Sports direct and various online retailers
£3 for 1 pair
Comment: “They do the job”
Where to buy: Various online retailers.
Positive: //coming soon//
Negative: //coming soon//
Zoggs (adult and junior)
Where to buy: Various online retailers.
Positive: Cheap and comfortable
Negative: Don’t last long.
Tip: try the children’s ones if not getting on with the adult ones.
UNDER £10 PER PAIR
Where to buy: speedo direct or other online retailers:
£7 a pair
Positive: Affordable. Come in variety of sizes. Can hear better than other under £10 options.
Negative: Very rigid/hard.
OVER £10 PER PAIR
Where to buy: Directly from SurfEars
£50 a pair
Negative: Priciest non personalised on market
Positive: Strap to keep pair together. Still can hear. Come in 3 size options.
Where to buy: Online retailers or direct from finis.
Positive: can hear decent amount with in. On a string so less likely to lose.
Where to buy: From SwimEars directly (if anyone has a UK stockist let us know)
Positive: Easy to use. Durable. Come in 3 sizes.
Specsavers custom made plugs
Where to buy: Go into local Specsavers
Negative: 3 week wait for manufacture
Positive: Affordable high-street accessible personalised option.
£15 – £20
Positive: Quick to do and surprisingly easy.
This can range in cost and might need a GP referral but definitely appears to be the cheapest option if you want someone to make you customised plugs.
Alternatives to ear plugs.
If you don’t get on with earplugs then there was some other suggestions:
- Neoprene hats/2 hats. This helps stop the water getting anywhere near the ear but might not be as effective as ear plugs but worth a try if you don’t get on with plugs.
- Earol swim tea tree oil spray.
Apply pre swim. Preventative. Natural spray.
- Swim Ear
Apply post swim to dry up water.
- Swim seal
Apply pre swim. Preventative. No alcohol.
Every year SLSC put on public events over the summer at Tooting Bec Lido. We have previously taken part in their aquathlon series but this year as I (Manda) am not fully back running yet, I thought it would be nice to take part in the Mid-Summer Relay.
The event takes place at 8pm on the Wednesday of the week of the summer solstice, so once the public have left the lido (which was a hard task on the hottest and sunniest day of the year) 40 teams get ready to battle. There were teams there from all different swimming clubs and organisations including the Serpies, Spencer, and the MET police.
The format is 4 people who each swim 4*1 length and teams must have at least one male and one female so we roped Brian and Tricky into our team.
We listened to the briefing and I promised to try not to mess up (especially after my recent relay disasters at the Cold Water Championships and then more recently at a SLSC head up breaststroke relay where I pushed off under the water which was firmly against the rules!).
Ready, steady, go!
Katie was off on leg one and she had pretty much clear water for her first length. That was where the clear water ended, as for the next 15 lengths you sprinted your way through the water hoping you weren’t about to be taken out by an oncoming swimmer, which I did witness a couple of times.
4*1L sounded easy, but actually sprinting 400 yards was proper hard work and we definitely earned our post-race pool-side included-in-the-price falafel and positively-tropical prosecco*.
It was lovely to see so many other swim clubs and swimmers taking part and enjoying the lido.
There was some controversy with the results as we were in the wrong age category and therefore missed out on our podium spot. However, we will be back next year to regain the third place that was rightfully ours (and drink more prosecco!).
* achieved by mixing warm prosecco and mango baby puree
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!
Ideas for next year’s Winter Challenge welcome!
*by our standards!