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!
Now what to do for 2018?