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

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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

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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)

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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?

 

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