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!


10 signs that you 💜 Open water swimming too much

1. You think that wearing and applying copious amounts of lube in public is perfectly acceptable.
2. You happily know what the acronyms CSPF, OSS, DYST mean but have no clue when people use FOMO, FWIW and IRL.
3. You buy clothes based on a criteria of 1) Will it keep you warm 2) will it be easy to put on when wet.
4. You’ve started to think Crocs are ok.
5. You consider going back to bed after open water swimming without having a shower.
6. The smell of wetsuit reminds you of summer.
7. You have to continuously cut your nails short for fear of ripping your very expensive wetsuit.
8. You wouldn’t get up at 5.30am to go to work EVER but it seems like a normal time to get up on the weekend for swimming adventures.
9. You order bodyglide in bulk.
10. You start every sentence with ‘this one time down at the lake/lido/Dover…’.

Thanks to usual gang for their ideas!

Open water Swimming dictionary

This is a list of words/phrases that we use regularly when discussing swimming.  As you will see from the below it is probably not that useful!

Thanks to the usual Team Mermaids support crew for suggestions:  Brian, pivo, Hilary, Lisa, Suz and Kate.



Acclimatisation: The act of screaming/whinging upon entering freezing (see below explanation) water.  Also, the act of preparing your body and mind ready for the cold water.  This can involve such activities as cold showers, sleeping with just a sheet in winter and (the money saving) no heating for the winter.

Alpha males: males swimmers who can’t accept that a girl might be faster than them and therefore insist on pushing off the wall right in front of you.   This species is found a lot at Crystal Palace.

Bathers: Term for swimming costume when in the Channel Islands.

Bathophobia: Fear of a bath due to being confined to such a small swimming space that is generally too hot… Nah only kidding.  The fear of the deep.   You know that moment we all have where you can’t see the bottom.  It happens to us all where suddenly you are overcome with thoughts regarding what is down “there”.   It comes from the ancient Greek for “deep” – bathos.

Blowing-up: being unable to carry on swimming at a certain speed having set off too fast.  Ask Pivo about this.

Bonus rest: additional rest taken between sets when there is some particularly interesting gossip to discuss.

Buoy (pronounced: BOY in uk and BOO-EE in US):  Large plastic thing that NEVER appears and when it finally does often attacks you for swimming too close to it.

Cake:  The food of gods that helps you fuel and recover from long swims.

Channel rules: the rules governing an English Channel swim.  Hat, goggles & costume.  No touching the boat.  They (the CSPF and CSA) love a man in speedos.

Crocs: ghastly footwear that many a channel swimmer insists they NEED to wear. NO.YOU.DON’T.

Dip’n’Dine: a swim followed by food with friends.

Double Hatting: When the water is Freezing (see below) and you need to wear two hats to keep warm.

Drafting: You can’t escape it, even if you don’t want to do it, someone will do it to you.  Kick them in the face.. go on!*

Dry Robe: popular brand of post-swimming warmth.

DYST: ‘did you swim today’ Facebook group where the majority of the time people post interesting summaries/photos about what swimming they have done of note that day.

Feeding: another name for chucking a few jelly babies in the general direction of a swimmer.

Freezing: any water below 18C.

Jellyfish Soup – Miles and miles of jellyfish.   Large or small… stingers or non-stingers.  Jellyfish Soup causes you to curse and swear lots and seek immediate exit route from water.

(The) Jellyfish Crawl – the latest dance craze sweeping the world and also the slowed down swimming style that is adopted when swimming through Jellyfish Soup (see above).

Killer Whales: The “affectionate” term used by a core group of skin swimmers to refer to wetsuited swimmers.

Like a bath: any water above 18C.

Lube: normally in the form of Vaseline, bodyglide or channel grease.  Helps prevent chaffing and the resultant questions from work colleagues around how aggressive a kisser your husband is.

Marathon swim: Anything over and including 10km.

Oceans 7:  Not to be confused with Oceans 11, 12 and 13.  A wish list of the craziest long-distance sea swims that exist around the Globe.  For people who think swimming the English Channel is too easy.

Pool crawl: visiting a number of pools on the same day for swims.  This term originates from the phrase “pub crawl” only it is way cooler.

Pyramid of Pain: 1 minute hard swim, 1 minute rest, 2 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 3 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 4 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 5 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 6 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 5 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 4 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 3 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 2 minutes hard swim, 1 minute rest, 1 minute hard swim.  I don’t think I need to explain why it is called the pyramid of pain.  Renamed the “Christmas Tree of Pain” around Christmas.

Relay: A race where a team of people swim a certain distance each.  This used to mean a serious competition between teams but now is more likely to mean that we will be competing using flip flops as hand paddles.

Running: Like swimming but on land and not as fun and much harder.

Single Arm Drill: Where you have to swim free style with one arm with the other arm down by your side.  A drill so hard it makes grown men want to cry.

Swimmers Beach: the unofficial name of the beach in Dover harbour where most channel swimmers train during the summer.

T10: a 10 minute time trial where you have to swim as far as you can in 10 minutes.  Normally leaves everyone in pieces and shouting at Dan from SwimForTri.  Poor Dan.. (Note: Katie wrote that.. sod Dan (Manda)).


*please don’t really kick someone in the face!



Pool Crawl: South West London edition (January 2015)

Manda and I live in London. There are so many fantastic and historic pools all across the city, only a fraction of which we have ever swum in. To try and rectify this we decided, along with some of our swimming friend (Katie, Brian, Pivo and Lisa), to embark on the “Winter Pool Challenge 2014/15”. The rules are simple. You have to swim in as many pools in London between 1 October 2014 and 31 March 2015. You have to swim at least 1km in each pool and it has to be a pool which is open to the public – no gym pools allowed! For more details on the challenge see Manda’s previous entry

I am due to have my first baby on 27th January 2015 and therefore I decided I needed to get a bit ahead of the game before I am out of action for a bit. I therefore managed to persuade Manda to come of a “pool crawl” with me one Sunday. This is like the 30 somethings swimmers equivalent of what 20 somethings do on Saturday night. Who says swimmers aren’t super cool? Brian and Pivo were also up for the challenge.

Manda meticulously planned the route around South West London to ensure that we hit the pools during lane swimming time rather than during swim for all. We were allowing an hour for each pool. 20 minutes for swimming, 20 minutes for changing and 20 minutes for travelling in between.

Richmond Pools on the Park

We started the day at Richmond Pool on the Park. This is not a new pool for us but it is lovely. The site has an indoor 33.3m pool and an outdoor pool. The outdoor pool is heated but not open during the winter so it was the indoor pool for us. The pool was nice and quiet and as a special bonus we spotted James Cracknell, rowing legend, leaving the centre.

Despite Manda’s careful planning the day did not get off to an auspicious start when Pivo got on the wrong train and ended up in Staines! I didn’t mind so much as this gave me time for a bit of a head start. Being 38 weeks pregnant means I am sadly not as quick as I once was!

Pivo and Brian in the car
Pivo and Brian in the car

Putney Leisure Centre

Despite the delay we were back in the car by 2.10pm and on the way to Putney Leisure Centre. Putney holds a special place in my heart as it was the pool I did my first gala in and where I made my first final (66.6m breaststroke) aged 9. Manda and I also regularly swim in this pool with Swim For Tri.

On a Sunday afternoon though the pool is quite busy and I was glad we were only doing 1km.


After Putney it was time for a cake stop at the Wimbledon Windmill Tearooms ( – yay!

Morden Park Pools

After some refreshments (I mean cake) we were on the road again to Morden Leisure Centre. This is a new pool for me and I can’t say I would hurry back there! On the plus side it was quiet and we had a whole lane to ourselves.


Streatham Leisure Centre

The final pool stop of the day was the newly refurbished Streatham Leisure Centre. This pool is lovely with facilities for swimmers of all ages and abilities. We had managed to make for the adults only session but this did mean that the lanes were pretty busy.


The centre also has an ice ring (I was keener to go ice skating than swimming)!

After all the swimming we felt we deserved some pizza and pasta at a Term Mermaids favourite Bucci’s in Balham.

Pivo at Bucci's
Pivo at Bucci’s

Overall it was a great way to spend a Sunday. North / East London Pool Crawls are already in the planning!

Evidence of a hard days swimming
Evidence of a hard days swimming