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!
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.
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
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!
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…
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.
Since becoming SLSC members many years ago we have categorically failed to be real team members! We have rocked up to the occasional mile race and twice swum the anniversary challenge swim but turning up regularly for the Sunday morning swims has never happened.
This year I (Manda) declared, whilst recovering from the birth of my son, that I was going to try do more of the Sunday races this year. In reality I have said this ever year but this year I meant it. As well as me and Katie, Brian and Kate are also members so would try and come to some races.
In the summer the races start at 9am so the idea would be to do a training session and then time the session to finish when the race was starting. The majority of the races are handicapped. We have no idea how this is calculated and we think 99.9999999% SLSC members also have no clue how this dark art works. Despite this and with a hope that I would be improving as the season went on, I was optimistic that Team Mermaids would be able to secure one trophy!
With some help from Brian here is our account of the SLSC summer races:
1 mile (Brian)
The SLSC 1 mile race is the longest of the summer handicaps. 1 mile works out at 17 and a bit lengths of the lido, so the start line is part way down the pool (facing the deep end), and 17 full lengths after that. Manda, Katie and I (Brian) were all in attendance this year. Katie and I had been there since 7:30 and had done 44 lengths before the race, as we were in full preparation mode for the Henley Bridge to Bridge swim. The start was a bit unusual as we had to jump in at the deep end, and swim up to the start line, before turning around to start the swim proper. Katie and I swam together to finish in 27:15, and Manda finished in a very respectable 30:10 in her first race back since having a baby.
Manda has written about this in more detail here.
1000 yards (Manda)
With the others at the Thames Marathon I (Manda) headed down solo for a training session and then registered myself. Like the new girl at school, I had no friends with me, so casually put myself in the middle of the pack and then chatted to anyone who would speak to me. The race itself was a good bench mark to see if/how I was improving since giving birth to Miles. 17:05 signified a 1 minute improvement since my return to swimming – hoorah!
800 yards (Manda)
Katie and me headed down to the lido to do my longest swim post child arrival and then lined up ready for the swim. I was swimming in a line with 3 other members and had prior to the race decided to go ‘slow’ to give myself the best possible handicap so that next week I could reign victorious in the 200 yards! My competitive streak came out though and next thing I know I’m sprinting the last 2 lengths. I touched at the same time as the man (sorry I’m rubbish at remembering names!) I was ‘racing’, at which point Katie, who at finished in 11:30, got told she was banned for being too fast by him. 😜
200 yards (Katie)
In previous years we had only ever swum the 1 mile event at the SLSC races so we were excited to do more of a sprint. On signing up we were told that none of the fast people were here today so we could swim at the fast persons’ end of the pool. Not sure whether to be offended or flattered we headed over to the start.
I (Katie) put my head down and swam. On the Thursday before we had been doing 200 yard reps in the SLSC training session so I felt I had some recent experience in terms of pacing. I was aiming for hard on the way up before turning it up a bit on the way back. This over excited tactic inevitably led to some dying on the way back but I managed to touch the wall first. I guess all the really fast people were elsewhere! The race was handicapped, however, so I didn’t pick up the overall trophy.
300 yards breaststroke (Brian)
This race was a “special edition” as it was on a Monday rather than a Sunday (the late august bank holiday). I had been in Ireland for the weekend, so was keen to cram as much swimming as possible into Monday. Accordingly, I met Katie at 7:30, and we did 41 lengths before the race (finishing at the far end, as that was the end the race started from). We were somewhat surprised to find that the race was three lengths of breaststroke (all the previous races I had been in were freestyle). We started off a bit tentatively, but I found myself beside some very fast people, so naturally started to race them! Katie finished second female, and I finished second male. My placing was uncontroversial (despite my best efforts I was at least 5m behind the winner), but Katie’s was a lot, lot closer. We then finished off with a swift 24 lengths back in our wetsuits (naturally!).
99 yards medley (Katie)
The 99 yards medley race is one of the few SLSC events of the year which is not handicapped. Manda and I (Katie) were therefore secretly hopeful that Team Mermaids might pick up their first SLSC trophy. The race was a width of back, breast and then free. I started cautiously on the backstroke – too many childhood incidents making me scared of hitting my head. By the end of the breaststroke width Alina, who had touched me out on the 300 yards breaststroke race, was just ahead. I sprinted the final free width. It was all a bit chaotic at the end and not clear who had won. When someone came looking for me in the changing room I hoped it was me and it was. Now Team Mermaids have their own trophy – well to keep for a year at least!
We have voiced our intention to try continue to race on Sunday mornings but as the water temperature plummets I’m not sure how we are going to fare. Watch this space.
Sunday morning saw a gaggle of open water swimmers and a token triathlete head to the west reservoir at Stoke Newington for Capital Tri’s final ‘the splash’ of the season.
My day started at 6am when I took the Katie Kenny approach to nutrition and had a biscuit for my breakfast before driving to North London.
We arrived at the West Reservoir and quickly registered. The reservoir is a lovely venue – so lovely that you can even have your wedding reception there. I’ve never been to swim here before because the timings have never worked for a RG Active session and to do a “on your own” swim session you need an induction, which is a bit of a nuisance and they get booked up well in advance.
I was swimming the 3k at 7:25, whereas, most of the others were starting their 3km at 7:55. We had a briefing and then soon enough I was in the water. At this point with Brian, Dad Carr, David, Pivo and Josie being in a later wave and Katie being in Berlin, I decided to try make a friend with the nearest available man as I needed some clarification about how many laps I was meant to be swimming. Said man didn’t want to be my friend but I persisted until we set off. We were doing 4 laps of 750m (thanks ‘said man’ for clarifying this).
As seems to be the norm now I had to calm myself down over the first lap. There was a pack ahead, which I was never going to catch and then me and 2 other guys. I quickly pulled in front and with that accepted the possibility that they might draft off me the whole way.
After the first lap I reminded myself I wasn’t race fit and needed to relax the effort levels. Surprisingly this didn’t significantly impact my pace (see below) which should serve as a lesson.
As I ended lap 3 the lead swimmer from the later wave overtook me. Waaaaaah! And soon enough Uncle Davey, Brian and Dad Carr followed suit. I tried my best to hang on to Brian and Dad Carr but only lasted 100m.
I sprinted to the finish and exited in a time of 52 minutes. I was hoping for 50 minutes but general consensus in the post race debrief was that it was 3.2 km not 3 km so this was on target.
It was a great event and one I would definitely be keen to do again.