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!

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2Swim4Life 2017

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.

The calm before the storm — Guildford Lido on Friday evening

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.

The plan…

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.

One of the early miles

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).

Finishing one of the miles

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 🙂

2015 vs 2017 splits

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.

I’m finished!!!

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.

A key part of my nutrition strategy (and bribes for Katie)

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…

London Marathon

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.

A tale of three swimathons

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

Time: 06:30

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.

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Lane buddies: SLSC members and a duck

Swim time: 3 minutes

Water Temp: 12

Hat Colour: Team Mermaids

—–

Swimathon 2: Pancras Leisure

Time: 15:00

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.

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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

Time: 18:00

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.

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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!

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Now what to do for 2018?

 

The Swimmer

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!

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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.

The Swimmer is run monthly over the winter and you can check out the website here. http://www.theswimmer.org/

I could potentially be tempted to try the Olympic Odyssey…

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?’

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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…

NOTHING!

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

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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!

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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.

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Floating igloo on the lido

Watching a marathon – nearly as tiring as running one

Dennis (Katie’s husband) and his friends, Ali and Dawson, over the last year have been competing in a challenge to run 1,000 miles. This competition culminated in the Berlin Marathon on 25 September 2016.  With emotions and nerves running high Max and I joined the guys in Berlin to support them.

After some serious carbo loading the night before (I wasn’t doing anything but it would be rude not to participate) we were up early to walk down to the start. We said goodbye to the guys and Jen (Dawson’s wife) and headed back to the hotel to meet Bows, one of Dennis’ friends who lives in Berlin and was going to be our tour guide for the day.image

We tried to get to the start but the barriers made it hard to get round to a place to watch. We settled therefore for the 7km mark.  Watching the pros come past was amazing.  They made it look pretty effortless.  We utterly failed to see Dawson and Jen but we managed to see Ali and Dennis who were running together at this stage.  They were full of excitement and it was high fives all round.

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We then set off to move to the 21km point. This was about 4-5km away for us and with Dawson and Jen already at about 12km when we left the race was on!  Despite about 2km of running with the buggy on my part they were long past the half marathon point by the time I arrived.  I did manage to catch Dennis and Ali though.  By this point they were looking a bit more hot and bothered than excited but they waved and shouted back.

After this we had just a short walk to the 38km point as the course did a massive loop. This time we managed to catch Dawson and Jen and pass over the requested Gatorade.  I think Dawson was more excited to see the Gatorade than to see us!  By this time Ali had moved ahead of Dennis and we missed him in the throng. We almost missed Dennis too as the tracker was showing him well past our point but as we were leaving to walk to the finish we spotted him.  At this point there was only energy for a half-hearted wave at us.  We then sprinted over to the finish, which is just part the Brandenburg Gate, arriving just after Dennis crossed the line.

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Dawson and Jen finished in 3 hours 36 minutes (a 10 minute PB for Dawson) in an absolutely perfect demonstration of pacing. Team Mermaids are impressed!  Ali finished in 3 hours 52 minutes and Dennis in 3 hours 55 minutes, both very pleased to go under 4 hours and not to have to run a marathon ever again.  Well done everyone!

SLSC 110 length anniversary challenge

Each year SLSC hold the anniversary challenge to celebrate the lido’s history. Participants swim one length for every year the lido has been open.  The lido opened in 1906 so those who are good at maths will work out that this year this was 110 lengths. At 100 yards a length this is just over 10km of swimming.

In 2014 Manda and I participated in the 108 length challenge as a relay and last year we stepped up to compete in the 109 length challenge solo.

I really enjoyed the event last year so with Manda building up her distances following Miles’ arrival I persuaded Brian to (a) become a member of the lido and (b) enter the swim with me.

We were busy training away when I discovered a small diary ‘incident’ and realised that the weekend of the swim was the weekend that I was away in Berlin as Dennis was running the marathon. After a morning of tears at the thought I was missing the challenge I managed to persuade Brian to come and swim the distance a week early with me.  Poor Brian – the things we make him do!

We agreed to meet at the lido at 7.30am on Saturday morning (17 September) only to find out that there was actually an aquathlon on and the pool wasn’t open until 8.30am. Oh dear!  This kind of c&ap would never happen if Manda was in charge.

We went back to my place and then came back for 8.30am. We decided to split the swim up into 3 blocks: 40 lengths, 40 lengths and then 30 lengths.  We finished the first 40 lengths in just over 56 minutes and then had a toilet and gel break.  We then started again for another 40 lengths before stopping for another gel break.  We then set out for the final 30 lengths with me telling Brian it was just like a normal training session. He gave me one of those “I’m too tried to respond but I am unimpressed” looks.

We finished in around 2 hours 44 minutes of swimming time and about 2 hours 51 of total time. This was slower than last year (even taking into account the extra length) but I think the competition environment helped a lot last year.  I really enjoyed the swim.  We had the perfect weather in that it was overcast so the lido wasn’t too busy but the water was still lovely and warm.

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Once wasn’t enough for Brian though and he was still planning on swimming in the official event the weekend after. Unfortunately though he forgot his wetsuit and managed 72 lengths’ skins before having to admit defeat from the cold.  Next year B!

 

All out swim at Pells Pool

I (Manda) have swum in Pells Pool in Lewes for the last 2 years and this year it didn’t look like I was going to get my annual dip in but then Paul Bates of Big Rick’s swim team and massive supporter of Macmillan Cancer care posted something about the ‘all out swim’ taking place there. This event started at Tooting Bec Lido but is now held at Pells Pool, Sanford park lido and Brockwell lido. You can typically do a distance of either 2km or 5km and they can be done as relays. Signed up I headed down to Lewes on Sunday morning with Miles and Dom.

The sun was shining and with Coniston in my arms I knew I was capable. I was sharing my wonderfully wide lane with 3 other swimmers. One had put his estimated time for 5k at 60 minutes but he protested he wasn’t a future Olympian and I should go first.

Slowly but calmly the metres ticked away. I spent the first 30 minutes berating myself for setting my watch to 46m when I realised 2 lengths in that that was 50 yards, which would have been a lot easier on the brain!

I got to half way and with a small cap adjustment I ploughed on to bring myself home. After just under 1 hour 20 minutes of swimming I was done. But I love this pool, the sun was shining and it was a wide lane.. So maybe a few extra lengths wouldn’t hurt. I did 4 extra before Dom gave me the ‘look’. Aka ‘your child needs feeding so get out the bleeding pool’!

It was a great event for a brilliant charity and definitely one I will be keen to do again.

Thanks to all the volunteers so for being so wonderful and Pells pool for being so beautiful!

The Lake District: “Wild swimming” adventures

As we were staying in Coniston for an extra week we decided to try and turn ourselves into wild swimmers.  Here how we got on…

Coniston (Manda)

One dip just in this beautiful water wasn’t enough, so realising that there was a water entry point a 5/10 minute walk from the cottage we were staying in, we put our wetsuits back on, refastened our tow floats and walked casually along the road in our flip flops.  Our hope of doing this bizarre walk unnoticed fell flat on its face within seconds when a shout of “Amanda, Katie” was heard… Josie was staying in cottage by us and was starting her journey back to London.  We said our goodbyes and off we ventured.

After Katie said goodbye to our flip flops (not sure who she expected to steal them) we waded into the water. Now hands up it was me (Manda) who thought this was a good entry point but there were several moments that I questioned this during and after.

 

First point: #weedgate

More on this shortly..

Second point: #swangate

Upon entering the water there were 2 swans with signets making their way over to us.  I was calm at this point as we were about to swim off in the other direction but THEN one decided to come after us.  Faced with flashes of Outdoor Swimming Society posts describing broken arms after swan attacks, I screeched something in Katie’s direction and then proceeded to head down sprint away.  After what seemed like a lifetime I stopped and glanced back to see the swan not moving but I am sure it was giving me evils and Katie had not swum away with any sense of urgency and was a good 50m behind.

We had a lovely 2 km swim in the rain and mist. Cautiously we made our way back to our entry point.  Katie hoped that her flip flops were still there, I was more concerned that we didn’t have round 2 with the swans.

Now going back to first point.  To get into the water we had to wade and swim through some weeds.  This didn’t seem like an issue until the next morning we woke up with “swimmer’s itch” – millions of (well not literally) tiny bites all over our bodies .  A week and a half later we are still suffering from the blighters.

Buttermere (Katie)

After a chat with the owner of the Swim the Lakes shop in Ambleside, we had some good insider knowledge of the best approach to taking a dip in Buttermere.  After over an hour’s drive, the last bit winding through the hills, we eventually arrived in at the Fish Inn in Buttermere, which is the best place to enter the lake for swimming purposes.  We changed in the car park and then wandered down to the lake in our wetsuits with tow floats in hand.

The lake was as beautiful as promised.  Our aim was to swim to the other side of the lake and back.  The challenge was that we only had about an hour as Miles needed feeding again soon. After about half an hours swimming we still looked like we were miles from the other side and decided to turn back.  Looking at the Garmin map afterwards it looks like we had made is about three quarters of the way over.

Buttermere was much colder than Coniston had been particularly in the middle as it is fed by a waterfall. On the way back my hands were so cold I had to swim fists.  I don’t think either of us are destined to be channel swimmers!

We arrived back to quite a bit of interest from the locals. Apparently a group of ladies were quite concerned that we were swimming given we seemed to need flotation devices.  We reassured them that we were competent swimmers and the tow floats were mainly for visibility!

Grasmere / Rydal Beck (Manda)

Fuelled by our wild swimming success, we decided to go for one last dip before heading back to London. The choice was between Coniston again, a waterfall near Rydal or Grasmere. I (Manda) researched in Facebook, wild swim and various other places and decided that now we were proper Wild Swimmers a small hike to a waterfall would be no problem for us. Rydal Beck we are coming for you.

Katie drove as far as she could up the hill that lead to the waterfall and then we proceeded to walk up. We had Google Maps so what could go wrong.. We reached a point where we were meant to turn off left and there was a path, however, it was covered in fern. I’m sure it was manageable but we decided to head back. Our wild swimming days were days were over!

Instead we headed to Grasmere and thanks to lakeswim 2016 Facebook page we knew where to park and where to start swimming from. Due to the time we had lost gallivanting around trying to find a waterfall we didn’t have much time to swim in Grasmere but the little time we did spend in there was bliss.  We kept turning on our backs and floating around so we could admire the beautiful scenery.  This is one we will defo be heading back to in the future.

Swimming in Lake District resources:

These are what we used in deciding where and how to swim:

Lake district national park swimming page:  http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/water/swimming

Explains what waters/lake you can and cannot swim in and additionally, which one have less boat traffic etc.

Swim the lakes: http://www.swimthelakes.co.uk/

The chap who runs this gave us excellent advice re where to enter the water at Buttermere.  They have a brilliant shop in ambleside that caters to all your swimming needs.  We are looking at doing one of their trips in 2017.

Swim secure: http://www.swimsecure.co.uk/

Tow floats for purchase.  Note: you can also buy these from swim the lakes (see above)

Wild swim map: http://wildswim.com/

Search for swims and dip spots on this map.

Lakeswim 2016 facebook group: find on facebook

Lots of chat and resources (including excellent files that show entry points, where to park etc) on the waters.

 

Henley Mile – Skins vs. suits 2016

The question is age old – how much difference does wearing a wetsuit make?  

It is almost impossible to answer that question.  Races, courses, water flow, how you feel on the day are all different.  The closest you are ever going to get to answer the question however is doing the same swim twice on the same day, one with your wetsuit and once without.  That is what I (Katie) did on 10 July 2016 at the Henley Mile event.

Henley swim run four events a year: the Classic, Thames Marathon (aka Bridge 2 Bridge), Club to Pub and the Mile.  Team Mermaids have competed in all of these events before apart from the Mile so I wanted to complete the “set” this year.  I went on the website to enter and saw that they were running the suits vs. skins challenge which I thought looked like fun so I signed right up!

The Henley Swim events are always really well organised and professional.  They also tend to have a little something which makes them different and standout from other events I have swim in such as club to pub where the swim ends up at a pub!

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The Henley Mile was a full day of races covering different distances from one mile down to 200m for the kids.  The first wave went off at 9am which makes it a much more civilised start than the 4am classic start time.  The event was combined with the Open Water Swimming Show hosted by H2Open magazine which had a combination of talks, demonstrations and stalls selling swimming gear.  Our very own Dan Bullock was there giving talks and doing demonstrations along with Cassie Patten – Olympic Bronze medallist in the 10km open water swim in Beijing.

As the rest of Team Mermaids and friends were out of action for one reason or another I managed to persuade Dennis and Max to come down and support me and keep me company during the day.  

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My first race was at 10am – this time in my wetsuit.  The day has started off quite overcast and by the time we were walking the mile down to the start it was pouring down.  Once you get in the water though a little rain doesn’t matter and we were quickly off.  The course is absolutely lovely – swimming downstream between the Henley Royal Regatta boomed course.  It is nice not to be just going round in circles for a change but also not needing to constantly slight.

I was uncharacteristically enthusiastic at the start and tried to keep up with the three leaders.  I managed to stay with them until just over half way but then dropped back.  I was then swimming neck and neck with another lady for about 500m.  I lost sight of her at around 200m to go (where there is a helpful sign telling you to sprint) and I had a sneaking feeling I would find her on my feet.  A minute or so later I had that tell-tale tap on my toes which spurred me on to sprint down the last 100m or so.  I finished fourth in my wave of skins vs. suits participants in a time of 21 mins 5 secs.  The river flow must have been pretty strong as I would generally be happy with anything under 24 mins for a mile.  Overall I was pleased with my swim but I was also pretty tired and now sure how I was going to mange to do the whole thing again!

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My next race wasn’t until 3.40pm so while Dennis headed off for his long marathon training run Max and I hung out at the open water show looking round the stalls and chatted to people.  Once Dennis had finished his run we drove into Henley itself for a bit of carbo loading at a local Italian.  

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By the time we got back to the event the sun was out and it was lovely and warm which was good news as I registered and got ready for my skins race.  The water was a balmy 18.8 degrees, however, I haven’t done any skins swimming so far this year so getting in was still a bit of a jolt to the system.  Once I was swimming though I didn’t feel too bad.  For this wave we also had elite and other traditional swimmers with us so it was harder to tell where you were in the field of suits vs. skins participants.  There were two young elite swimmers who sprinted off from the whistle and I settled down to swim with three or four others – not sure if they were the same swimmers as the morning swim though.

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I think my morning exertions had taken its toll a bit and I didn’t feel as good in the afternoon swim.  Again I tried to keep with the three leading ladies but lost touch a little over half way.  Over the final 200m I was racing against another lady.  She was half a body in front of me and my efforts to catch her were being hampered by my goggles being totally fogged up and not being able to see the finish line.  In the end I didn’t quite manage to catch her.  

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So what difference does a wetsuit make over a mile?  Well in my case 1 min and 31 seconds as I finished my second mile in 22 mins and 36 second.  So in percentage terms I was 7% slower without my wetsuit.  I think to be honest some of that will down to not having such a great swim and not taking out as fast as I did in the morning.  Overall though a wetsuit makes less difference that I would have thought!

I would absolutely recommend this event for next year.  It was a great race but also a fun day out.