SLSC Mile race 2017

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.

Nancy Shaw – SLSC’s best Mermaid for several years


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.



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!

Holy Mama yoga retreat – Ibiza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artistic ice cream from Ibiza Town

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

The view of our courtyard and pool

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

Me a bit sceptical about green juice

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

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

100 x 100m – 2016 edition

This Sunday (5 February 2017) Team Mermaids and friends are going to attempt the legendary 100x100m set. I (Katie) have been reminiscing therefore about the last time we did this set at the preparation.

50 x 100m at Charlton Lido

On 20th February 2016 Manda and I went down to Charlton for a warm up 50 x 100m session.  We swam off the following intervals for anyone thinking of doing the set.

Reps Distance Goal time Rest Total
10 100m 1.40 10 secs 1000m
10 100m 1.36 15 secs 1000m
10 100m 1.33 20 secs 1000m
10 100m 1.30 25 secs 1000m
10 100m 1.33 – 1.40 Off 1.50 1000m
Total 5000m

64 x c.110m at Oasis outdoor pool

Given that I was almost about to collapse after 50 x 100m I thought it would be advisable to maybe try and build up gradually rather that jumping straight in to an additional 50 reps. I therefore managed to persuade Brian to do 70 x 100m with me a few weeks later.  Due to it being Swimathon weekend pool times were somewhat restricted so we swam in the outdoor pool at Oasis.  This pool is 30 yards long so we ended up actually swimming 64 x c.110m for 7,022m.  Those additional 10m feel loooong I tell you.

I think Brian was smoking something he shouldn’t have been with the first intervals he suggested but I managed to talk some sense into him and we swam off the following times.

Count Distance What 110m pace equiv 100m pace Recovery Total
10 110 Warmup 01:46 01:37 10 secs 1100
10 110 Easy 01:43 01:34 10 secs 1100
10 110 Moderate 01:39 01:31 10 secs 1100
4 110 Hard 01:36 01:29 10 secs 440
Toilet break
10 110 Hard 01:39 01:31 10 secs 1100
10 110 Moderate 01:43 01:34 10 secs 1100
10 110 Easy 01:46 01:37 10 secs 1100
Total 7040

We made it through although I was pretty tired by the end!

100 x 100m at Charlton Lido

On 16th April 2016 it was finally time for the big one – 100 x 100m.  We headed back to Charlton Lido as what better place to swim that an outdoor headed 50m pool.

We swam off 1 minute 50 reps aiming for the following times:

Block Target time
1 1m 40s
2 1m 37s
3 1m 35s
4 1m 31s
5 1m 28s
6 1m 40s
7 1m 37s
8 1m 35s
9 1m 33s
10 1m 40s

As ever the set was a massive challenge but also lots of fun.

Wish us luck for the weekend! If anyone is keen to come and join us we will be therefore from 9am.  Check out the blog shortly for 100x 100m the 2017 edition!

Cash for Gold

When I am not being a mermaid my (Katie) day job is being an executive compensation consultant.  I recently wrote this article for our newsletter about the incentives in sport and I thought you guys might enjoy it.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games saw Michael Phelps win his 23rd Gold and his 28th Olympic medal.  Phelps was already the most decorated Olympian by quite some margin but his victories in Rio further cemented his place in history.

Before the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps’ sponsors, Speedo offered him a $1m bonus if he equalled fellow swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven Goals in a single Olympic Games.

This raises an interesting question about the role of incentives in sport. Did Phelps need this monetary incentive to motivate him to win gold?  Is this what drove him to get up at 5am every day and push his body to the maximum?  The answer is almost certainly not.  Phelps is more than likely driven to win for the reward of winning itself.  He swam length after length day after day because he wanted to be the greatest Olympian of all time – not because of the $1m bonus.

At the 2008 Beijing Games Phelps won a total of 8 Gold medals surpassing Spitz’s achievement and donated his $1m bonus to charity helping promote water safety and encourage youth swimming.

Incentives in sport are not as uncommon as you might think. While not typically publically disclosed it is widely acknowledged that Premier League clubs pay bonuses to players for things such as scoring goals and improved league places.  The press was filled with pictures of dozens of identical BMWs for the Leicester City players as a thank you from the chairman for their surprise win of the Premier League.

In the other kind of football, American football, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos met in the 2016 Super Bowl. Reportedly each of the victorious Broncos team took home a bonus of around $100,000 with the Panthers team members getting around $50,000 each.  This money comes direct from the NFL and is on top of any payments agreed between players and their team directly.  It was rumoured that Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, may have earned up to $4m for leading his team to victory.

Again, on the whole, players are probably not primarily motivated by these monetary carrots. The accolade of winning is motivation enough.  What these payments do do, however, is provide a reward for a job well done and allow clubs to share the team’s success with the players.

In some ways, CEOs are the quarterbacks of the corporate world leading their teams to victory or failure.  Like their on the field counterparts many are motivated not just by the monetary rewards but by achieving success and a job well done.

A recent study by Alexander Pepper[1] claims that executives care more about how they are paid relative to others than they do about the absolute amount they are paid.  Michael Phelps may not have been motivated to win because of his $1m bonus but would he have been happy if rival Ian Thorpe had been offered $5m for achieving the same outcome?  Perhaps executives see how much they are paid relative to their peers as their badge of success, their own version of a Gold medal round their neck and perhaps this is the problem.

[1] Pepper’s studies, conducted with the University of Bath’s Julie Gore, are described in his book The Economic Psychology of Incentives: New Design Principles for Executive Pay (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Winter Challenge 2016/17


So it’s the 30/9 and that means tomorrow is the start of the Team Mermaids’ winter challenge. After last year‘s distance extravaganza we are going a little bit more fun but there are still some distance challenges involved.

So we will have until April 30th to get as many points as possible by doing the below tasks.  Photographic evidence is strongly encouraged so look out for our photos over the coming months.

From previous experience we know that certain team members like using a technicality or two to win so none that jiggery pokery will be allowed and committee’s say is final. We will happily Dq people or have points penalties for any such activities. The challenge is there for us to have fun as a team so anything going against the spirit of the challenge will be penalised accordingly!

Feel free to join us by seeing how much points you can collect or just try and tick off as many of the challenges as possible.


Essential open water kit

These are the bits of kit we always have in our bags over the summer.


We have long been fans of the zoggs predator flexes and have multiple pairs each depending on the weather conditions we are swimming in.  As previously mentioned we keep some for racing best to ensure they aren’t going to be subject to fogging up.  This being said you should avoid trying anything new for race day so always practice in them beforehand even if just the once.

Hiz-viz cap

For open water swimming you need to be seen for safety reasons.  Even if at the lido it is worth wearing a bright cap to avoid some head on collisions (we’ve had a few of those!).


We’ve had some nasty chaffing over the years so this is a must have in our kit bag.  Word on the river is that vaseline can damage your wetsuit so we have always used this brand to avoid any potential damage to expensive wetsuits.

GPS watch

We both have the now ‘vintage’ Garmin 320XT, whereas Brian and Kate have the newer version: 920XT.  They are both multiple sport watches but the main difference for swimmers between the 320XT and 920XT is the indoor swimming lap counting on the 920XT. As fans of the slimline garmin swim there is no need to upgrade.. Well there  wasn’t until I (Manda) saw the 735XT.  It is smaller than the other 2 and comes in a nice celeste green to match my barely used Bianchi. It will defo be on my Christmas list!


Ok so you don’t NEED a wetsuit for open water session and sometimes it is nice to swim without the wetsuit even if it is just to save the hassle of having to put it on.  Trust me those extra 5 minutes in bed at 5:50 before a 6am lido session are welcomed but a lot of the races we do make wetsuits compulsory.  Plus they make you quicker..woop! and warmer.. Double woop!

Our current favourites are:

Blueseventy Helix  – this suit is super flexible around the shoulders so for us swimmers who can suffer with shoulder niggles this is a must.

Huub sleeveless – Katie has taken the shoulder flexibility one step further and just removed the sleeves.

Wetsuit tips:

Sizing guides on sites can be misleading! I should be a medium according to most sites / brands. So don’t be afraid to go a size smaller. Go and try it on at a testing centre.  If you can’t make sure you check return policy and wear gloves so you don’t mark suit when trying on at home.

Never zip up your wetsuit yourself.  I know it’s a bit cringey asking a stranger to zip up your wetsuit but hey it’s time to make friends! And they might be needing your help as well.

Spend time putting your wetsuit on.  You’ve finished work and rushed to the pool or its first thing in the morning and you want those extra 5 minutes in bed (see above) but it is worth investing that time ensuring that the wetsuit is on properly on the bottom half before even contemplating starting the top.  For Katie this means having the legs practically pulled up to her knees.  Doing it properly will mean when it comes to race day it is second nature to know what feels right and what will allow you to get optimal performance and comfort from the suit.

Warm hat

We like a ‘Pivo Hat’ but other options are available!  The woollier the better.

Other potential items depending on where you are swimming:

Tow float

If you are going for a longer swim or an unsupervised swim these are a great idea.  Alot of races are making these compulsory for end to end or sea swims so worth getting used to wearing one.. or you can wing it on the day like I did!

Snacks and flask

Always good to take snacks with you for after a long open water swim.  Jaffas are a fave at Team Mermaids HQ.  A flask with hot tea is also a treat if you can get up early enough to make it!

Sun tan lotion

You are outside.  You are in water.  Both make for a dodgy combination when it comes to catching the sun.  No one needs a criss crossed back for summer so whack on some factor 50.  Just don’t forget you front and face as if lido swimming you catch it off the reflection as well as on your back.



10 weeks to go: Winter river challenge

Katie gave an update at the end of year on how our Winter River Challenge was going (here is a 2 word summary for if you haven’t read it..NOT GREAT) and with 10 weeks to go I (Manda) thought it was time for another short update and some stats.

You can see from the below we have now swum 5 of the top rivers (HOORAH). Unfortunately for us they are the 5 shortest rivers (BOO). The Nene (161km) is less than half the length of the longest river we still have to swim, the Severn (354KM). We have only swum 40% of the total over 21/31 weeks.

On an individual level Katie has swum 171k, so pretty much the River Spey on her own. Brian is at 159km and I am at 155km, so combined we have swum the length of the Trent (297km).

Since the new year Katie and I have managed to average 9.8km a week. Each person needed to swim 9.641km a week from the start for us to have finished all the rivers by the end of April, so we are ticking off over this number weekly now. We now have an obsession with the number, which has resulted in us staying in pools and calculating if we have done enough that week to get out and just doing a couple lengths extra to make sure (one week I missed out by 5m – still crying!). You would think this is simple maths but when fatigued and with London pools that have lengths of 25, 27.5, 30, 30.5, 26, 50… THE MATHS IS HARD.

In order for us to get all the rivers ticked off in the next 10 weeks we need to swim 1382km. Divide that by 10 weeks and 8 people, you come to the conclusion that each person needs to swim 17km a week to get there. It isn’t going to happen but we aren’t giving up.

What is the plan for the last 10 weeks:

· We still have the swimathon on March 18th and some of the team have the swim for tri camp in April.
· Katie is now ahead of Brian so I am anticipating an uptick in Brian’s swim distances (you wouldn’t think it when you speak to him but he is SERIOUSLY competitive).
· There are races started to be booked in for 2016 (more on that to come), which suddenly makes people realise they need to train.
· In March Brian and Katie are planning a 100x100m set and some of the others might join them.
· Lisa is also planning on swimming the Gibraltar straights in April. A little extreme just to log an extra few metres but we need all the help we can!
· I will be slowing down (due to the human in my belly), but still plan to attempt to tick off my 9,641m each week for as long as I can.

So watch this water.  We might not get all ten done, but we will try and get as far as we can!