Winter Challenge 2016/17: the review


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.
Brian with his brother in bottom right hand corner 
  • 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!


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

Winter River challenge: the results

So May is here and the 2015/16 Winter River Challenge is now officially over. The challenge was to swim the length of the 10 longest rivers in the UK (Nene, Spey, Clyde, Tay, Ure/Ouse, Wye, Great Ouse, Trent, Thames, Severn) over a seven month period.

Regular readers of the blog will know that we were VERY far behind our target so in April we asked (well begged) the swimming community, family and friends to help and ‘donate’ one swim to us during April to help us meet the target.

Thank you to all of the following people who donated the meters to us – we very much appreciate your help!

So how did we do in the end? Well we got sooooo close! We swam the length of the 9 of the longest rivers in the UK and we managed to get 94km down the UK’s longest river the Severn. In total we swam 2,087km out of a total distance of 2,347km. Of this 1,588km were swum by the core team and 499km were ‘donated’ by all of our lovely swimming friends and family.

To start with we were initial disappointed not to make the whole distance but then we took a step back and asked ourselves why we really did the challenge in the first place. There were two main reasons. Firstly, we wanted to have something to motivate ourselves to get off the sofa and go swimming on those cold, dark winters night. The challenge certainly helped with this. We were pretty much obsessed with meeting our weekly ‘target’ of 9,461m (this was the distance we each needed to swim every week to complete the full distance). This meant we had to swim two sets of 3km during the week and then a ‘long’ swim of 4km on the weekend. There were many swimming sessions we would have sacked off it if wasn’t for the challenge. As Manda kept on saying ‘those rivers will not swim themselves’.

The second reason was having something we could all do together at a team. Swimming is generally such a solo pursuit so it is nice to have something that you need to work with other people to achieve. So on that note, thank you to the core team Kate, Lisa, Hilary, Brian, David and Pivo for all their swimming over the last 7 months and a massive thank you to all of you who ‘donated’ your meters over the past month – we wouldn’t have got as far as we did without you.

The Accolades

The Winter River Challenge is at its heart a team challenge and a team victory but we do want to highlight some of the individual achievements during the challenge. The Winter River Challenge accolades therefore go to:

MOST METERS SWUM – Katie and Brian both swam a total of 293,375m each swimming one-eighth of the total required. Everyone managed to swim more than 100km over the seven month period which is not bad!

MOST METERS SWUM IN A SINGLE WEEK – the most meters swum in one week goes to Katie with 24,893, closely followed by David with 21,000 and Hilary 20,000.

MOST NUMBER OF WEEKS MEETING THE WEEKLY TARGET – Katie and Brian both hit the weekly target 17 weeks out of a total of 31 weeks

MOST DONATED METERS BY SINGLE PERSON – The most donated meters came from Mark Sheridan of Nemes Nutters with a huge 27,353m swam in one swim. Well done Mark!

MOST DONATED METERS BY A TEAM – DYST a Facebook community donated 97,596m but a massive shout out to RG Active, who despite being considerably smaller than the 13,000 strong DYST lot, managed a whopping 23,650m by 12 people.

MOST METERS SWUM WHILE PREGNANT – this award goes to Manda with a massive total of 223,114m swum while pregnant.

We hope everyone enjoys their summer of open water swimming. We will be writing about our adventures here on the blog and hope to see you at an event soon!

HELP! Winter River Challenge

The 1st of April will signify that we have 30 days of the Winter River Challenge to go and we already know that we aren’t going to make it by this date, despite a last minute surge by some of the team (thanks Hilary!).

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your metres”

We have asked friends and family to help out but to be honest most of them don’t like swimming (I knoooooooow!) therefore, are unlikely to be that helpful!!  (We are looking at you Dom and Dennis!)

What can you do to help us? Swim!

You can donate 1 of your swims during April to us.

You can only donate 1 of your swims so make sure it is a good one.  That being said we are desperate so anything from 100 metres to 10,000 metres will be gratefully received and it all helps us get the final metres done!  Then let us know how many metres you swam during your swim session and we will add it to our total and ensure you get a mention in the final summary.

Let us know by either commenting below, tweeting about it with hashtag #winterriverchallenge, tweeting us at @teammermaids12, email us on or send a carrier pigeon.

Happy swimming.
Team Mermaids


Here is a list of what has been donated so far:


Winter Challenge update – half way! 31/12

The 31st December not only marked the end of 2015 but also the end of the first three months of the Team Mermaids 2015/16 winter challenge. We have just another four months left to complete the challenge.

Our challenge this year is to swim the distance of the ten longest rivers in the UK. The total distance is 2,347km. So after the three month point how is it going? Well in short not very well! To be on course to complete the challenge we would need to have completed 1,046km by 31 December 2015 and we have currently swum 539km between us. A massive 507k behind! Brian is currently leading the way with 107k swum, which makes him just 55k short of having swum the River Nene on his own. Katie is in second place having swum 103k.

So far we have swum the length of the River Nene and River Spey and are half way along the River Clyde.


So what are our plans to speed progress along?!

  • Eat more cake so we feel guilted into swimming more (although this has not been that successful in the past)
  • Tell Brian that Manda and I are beating him – he will then increase his swimming
  • The Team Mermaids pool crawl is making a return on 7th February – so we can make sure the others do more swimming!
  • We are attending the SwimForTri training weekend in April – that should be a few ks in the bag!
  • Swimathon – Kate, Manda and I are all booked in to do the Swimathon on 18th March.

Oh dear! I am thinking this might become with Winter Challenge 2016/17 as well!

Introducing the Winter Challenge 2015/16

Last year during the winter (i.e. indoor) swimming season Team Mermaids and friends challenged ourselves to swim in as many pools in London as possible.  You can read about the challenge and our favourite pools here.

Given how fun last year’s challenge was we have been racking our brains for a challenge for this year and we have finally decided that the 2015/16 Winter Challenge is …..(drum roll)….Swim the Rivers!


Between 1 October 2015 and 30 April 2016, Team Mermaids and friends are going to aim to swim in the pool the length of the 10 longest rivers in Britain.  Why did we pick this challenge?  Well this year we wanted to do something more focused on achieving a distance rather than capering all over London visiting pools.  Over the summer we have also done quite a few longer distance river swims (Jubilee, Bridge to Bridge and Dart) and have really enjoyed them so we wanted to re-create that indoors over the winter.  Shame we don’t get the benefit of the current in the pool.

The 10 longest rivers and their distances are as follows:

Rank River Length (km)
1 River Severn 354
2 River Thames 346
3 River Trent 297
4 River Great Ouse 230
5 River Wye 215
6 River Ure/River Ouse, Yorkshire 208
7 River Tay 188
8 River Clyde 176
9 River Spey 172
10 River Nene 161

The total length of these rivers is 2,347km.  With 7 people and 7 months this equates to each of us swimming 48km a month – eeeeek.

We will be providing regular updates on the blog to let you know how we are getting on – wish us luck!