Holy Mama yoga retreat – Ibiza

It was back in a very cold and miserable January 2016 when my friend Helen suggested that we went away on a Holy Mama (a mum and baby) yoga retreat in Ibiza.  An exercise based holiday with free (included in the price) child care in sunny Ibiza? I (Katie) of course jumped at the idea.

So at the start of October Max and I joined Helen and her baby #3 and Sara and her baby #2 on a 7am flight to Ibiza Town. Everyone agreed Dennis was getting the best deal with a child free week at home!  Although as we were off on holiday we were getting a pretty good deal too.

The retreat took place across three villas a short walk from each other and about a 20 min drive from the airport.  Generally the days started with a morning yoga class for an hour and a half.  During this time the babies were cared for by qualified nannies.

Our beautiful orange grove (plus Helen baby #3!)

All the nannies were really lovely and friendly.  The yoga class was held (weather depending) under some orange trees which was such a tranquil surrounding.  Yoga was followed by a child free brunch which was an opportunity to chat to Helen and Sara and the other guests.

I enjoyed the yoga on the trip. I personally prefer more of a flow yoga series and the practice on the trip was more of the long hold variety which I am less keen on. I did feel like I learnt some new poses and improved my technique though and our teacher Anna was really sweet. The best bit was that at the end of each class she used to put a blanket over us while we were on savasana and put essential oils on our foreheads. Lying there listening to the wind was bliss.  On the first day of the trip the morning  was spent getting the babies used to the carers so the yoga class was moved to the afternoon and the babies came along too.  Now it is quite hard to be zen with a toddler who has refused to nap all day climbing over you so that was not my favourite class.

This was explained in the holiday material which I had uncharacteristically read quite thoroughly .  I didn’t realise this in advance however so it was quite disappointing.

Other than the first day we had our afternoons free to explore Ibiza.  Ibiza is quite a small island and generally easy to get round so we felt like we had a good explore visiting Ibiza town, local villages and beaches on each side of the island.>

Artistic ice cream from Ibiza Town

The villa we were staying in was nice and spacious with a lovely balcony and pool.  Our villa was the ‘kitchen’ of the trip with all food being prepared there. This had its advantages in that we were close to the food but also meant that we had people in our villa from about 8am until around 8pm at night which grated after a bit.  Early in the holiday we also felt that we needed to wait for people to leave before cracking out the wine and Oreos (as we worried these might be frowned upon) but later in the week we cared less about this! The accommodation has moved for the 2017 season so will be slightly different.  I saw some photos and it looked lovely.

The view of our courtyard and pool

I am reliably informed by Helen and Sara and others on the trip that the food was amazing. I am such a fussy eater though that I didn’t enjoy loads of it but as I kept on saying to the chef this is my fault rather than the food’s.  All the food was organic and most of it was vegan (unapproved Oreos aside!).

Me a bit sceptical about green juice

The holiday also included a facial or pedicure from a nearby spa which was lovely, as well as two evening mediation sessions with babysitting included.  We went to the first session which was dance mediation but decided to give the second a miss in favour of going out for cocktails!

Would I recommend it?   Before I went on the trip I had built it up in my mind expecting it to be THE BEST TRIP EVER and as with everything like this there were bits that were rough around the edges so I was a bit disappointed at that.  However, looking back  now I remember all the things I enjoyed more than the things I didn’t, like getting to spend time with friends I don’t see that much and time with Max.   Overall therefore if you like yoga I would certainly recommend it as something to do with friends and  kids.



100 x 100m – 2017 edition

Early one morning I (Katie) received a text from Brian which broadly said “sooooo David, Nils and I were chatting and we are planning to do 100 x 100m soon. Are you keen?”  Challenging though it is, I love doing 100 x 100m so I was definitely in.

The negotiations then started. The first point of order was where and when.  We quickly agreed on 5 February 2017 at the Charlton Lido.  While it is a bit of a drive away Charlton is a no brainer for big sets.  Not only it is a heated 50m outdoor pool but it is also a real swimmers pool.  Everyone there has good swim etiquette which makes for a much less stressful experience.

A peaceful lido – photo from Sally Goble

The second point was a bit harder to resolve – what time were we going to swim off? Nils and David are much faster than the rest of us and wanted to go off 100 secs.  Whenever I have done the set in the past I have always swum it off 1 min 50s i.e. 110 secs.  100 x 100m off 100 secs does have a nice ring to it though and I thought, provided I maintained a steady speed, it should be okay.

The day before the swim there was lots of whatsapp chat about nutrition – Adrian offering to bring David gin kind of bants – and nerves. There was also a last minute panic as the website said the pool was only open form 9am – 12pm.  Now the set would take nearly that amount of time so everyone was instructed to arrive dressed to swim with garmins pre-set to a 50m pool length.

Everyone obeyed instructions and we managed to get in the water for 9.02am. Nils led the first 10 reps and after the obligatory first rep keenness everything went smoothly.  I was typically coming in around 1.32 pace giving me around 8 seconds rest.  David led the second block of 10 and everything went a bit crazy with the leading four doing well under 1.30 pace.  I was like hang on a moment guys, there are 80 more to go let’s not go crazy here so Manda and I stuck to the 1.31 / 1.32 pace.  This meant that I didn’t have as much draft as the others were so far ahead but on the whole I think it was better to keep a steady pace.  Brian and Adrian led blocks 30 to 40 at a much more reasonable pace and Nils led the final 10 before the chat / toilet break.  So far so good with Manda and I holding a steady pace at the back and we were feeling good.

Again there was the obligatory post break keenness coming in at 1.26 before settling back down into the 1.31 / 1.32 pace again. We were much closer to the group now so were getting the benefit of draft so the combination of the pace and rest was very comfortable.  The early fast pace was starting to tell up front over the last 20 – 25 reps and I moved up behind Nils who was now leading.  I did feel a bit bad after spending 80 reps drafting to go in front but hopefully the others didn’t mind and they had some draft in return!   I was then effectively leading the pack as Nils was so far head.  This and trying to hit a slightly faster pace made the final 15 tough going but it was good to have a bit of a challenge at the end.

And then we were done! I was a bit disgruntled that I wasn’t allowed to do the last 2 as swim down and had to do EXTRA swim down after the end.  A combination of the short rest and discipline around the start and breaks meant that we finished in 2h 45 minutes in total only to find out afterwards that the pool was actually open until 5pm so there was no need to rush.

Nils still smilling after 91 100s – photo from Sally Goble

Afterwards there were six very tired and wrinkly swimmers in reception with some terrible goggle marks. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed the swim and it feels like a really achievement afterwards to have finished.



UK Cold Water Swimming Championships

After having my baby in June I (Manda) had a somewhat compressed season, where I trained solely in Tooting Bec lido. As the water temperature dropped at the lido I was still going down once or twice a week and before I knew it, it was 10 degrees and I was truly hooked on the challenge of cold water swimming.

So when the entries for the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships (UKCWSC) came up and it was still a positively tropical 7/8 degrees at the lido, we enthusiastically signed up for a 4×1 width relay. As Brian commented ‘how cold could 33 yards be?’


The UKCWSC take place at Tooting Bec Lido every 2 years. It is a championships but it feels more like a festival of cold water and all the people that dare to swim in it. Everyone and anyone is encouraged to have a go at events ranging from Crisis’ Big splash to the head up breaststroke with added hat competition to 99 yards freestyle.

After signing up, autumn became winter and … well… it got cold…. MIGHTY cold. I was collecting used milk cartons at home for the igloo (see photo below) that Barbara from SLSC was building for the champs and as the cartons piled up, it was a daily reminder that I hadn’t swum at the lido for a while. Brian and David (the 4th member of Team Mermaids for the UKCWSC), taking the challenge seriously, carried on swimming at Tooting Bec and Parliament Hill respectively. Although I am pretty sure David took his time in the sauna more seriously than the swimming. Katie, like me, had been nowhere near the lido since it hit 7 degrees.

The water was hovering around 4 degrees and then no sooner had the Christmas baubles been packed away the weather in London became baltic, but the UKCWSC wasn’t until 28/1 so there was plenty of time for the weather to get better and for the water to warm up. Right??

Finally the day arrived and the water was 1.5 degrees (Lynne Cox would be proud). As we registered we tried to distract ourselves from our pending doom by having a look around all the fabulous stalls. It was like the Team Mermaids’ Christmas wish list in real life!!

After our briefing from Giles, current president of SLSC, we headed to our respective sides of the lido. I said good bye to Katie, whilst giving her the look of “we can still not do this” but off she marched and I knew my fate was sealed.

Brian was leading us off, then Katie, then me and then David would bring us home. David chose to swim last as there was a lower probability of him having to swim as I was 3rd. Now there is an urban myth about me and cold water swimming that goes something like this:

Once upon a time Manda decided to do the OSS December dip with the other Mermaids. The water was a balmy 5 degrees. The mermaids got in and swam. Manda got in, walked for 5 metres, then turned around and got out. Dom was disgusted. They all lived happily ever after.

So in short I was a massive flight risk. I didn’t know whether once in the water I would just get out. As much as I had psyched myself up for actually swimming the width, I knew that I wouldn’t be in control of myself, so I had to just hope that I actually started swimming and made it to the other side.

With shouts of “get your shoulders under the water” Brian was off… I was sheepishly standing on poolside waiting to remove my final layers of clothes… then Katie got in and took over. Now standing poolside in just my costume… She was getting closer… too close… so I got in and then…


The next thing I remember is my feet hurting and then hurling myself on poolside in probably the most unlady like fashion ever.


Victorious that I had actually made it to the other side, I returned to my family. Whilst asking me how it was, I proclaimed in my post swim euphoria “I don’t even remember Katie touching the wall”. Dom replied “that’s because you were already swimming when she touched. Your take off was dodgy to say the least”. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I couldn’t remember her touching the wall but surely I waited?! I decided to tell the team what Dom had said so that if we did suffer any penalties then at least it would be clear whose fault it was. Then Lisa, who had come to spectate, sent through some photos of our race and there it was in all its photographic glory. Katie gliding into the wall and me already a couple of metres away!


In the end we came 7th in our category and had PENALTY next to us, but then again so did most teams. Next time we are going for the win (if they let me in the team again!)

Big thanks to SLSC as the event organisation and execution was supreme and well done to everyone who was involved in the event.

Floating igloo on the lido