Top 10 tips for Pool Crawling!

We love a Pool Crawl so we have done a few and therefore, have self appointed ourselves as Pool crawl Presidents!

So here is our Top 10 tips for Pool Crawling.  Thanks to our Pool crawling partners in crime Brian and Pivo for helping us with the below.

    1. Have a small purse/freezer bag with 20ps and a couple of £1 coins ready for lockers.
    2. Try have dry bathers for each pool and if possible make them your “bigger” bathers as easier to get on over damp skin.
    3. Wherever there is a costume spinner, make sure you spin all wet swimming costumes.  Also, maybe not approved use of spinner but a secret source says you can put your quick dry towels in the spinner as well!
    4. Have a plastic bag ready to keep wet stuff separate.
    5. Have spare goggles/caps, the tireder you get the more likely you are to start leaving things at pools.
    6. Only invite people who cope well when things don’t go to plan and are still happy(ish) when tired.
    7. Save a dry towel for the last pool.
    8. If you have long hair and there is a hair dryer at a pool, blitz the ends for 1 minute before leaving.  Saves you hair dripping all over you on way to next pool.  If you have short hair then go for a pre pool crawl trim.
    9. Check pool opening times against schedule day before event to reconfirm all ok. (Lesson Learnt!)
    10. Bring battery pack for on the go mobile phone charging.

Extra tip if you are pool crawling through London:

8/10 of the pools we went to were managed by Better (GLL) so we got day passes that cost £10.00.  This allowed us to do all our Better dips for £10.


OW Swimming’s super weekend?

If you are a keen open water swimmer then the weekend of 3rd / 4th September 2016 has riches in abundance to offer in the UK.

1. You could swim the 5.25 miles from one end of Lake Coniston to the other in the Lake District.  (Saturday)


2. Or you could swim 10k down the Dart River in Devon.  (Saturday and Sunday)


3. You might prefer to swim in a circle, in which case you could swim the 6.5km around Brownsea Island near Poole. (Sunday)


4. If it is a new event you are after then you could try the Dock2Dock swim in London which takes you from Royal Victoria Dock through Royal Albert Dock and finally into King George V Dock. (Sunday)


5. If you prefer a fast venue you can swim a range of distances between 750m and 10k at Dorney Lake near Eton. (Saturday)


6. If Dorney Lake is a bit boring for you, you could nip next door and swim between 2k and 10k at Bray Lake.  (Saturday)


**Note this has been moved to the 21/8 so we hope to be there**

7. If you fancy something shorter and more of a team event then RG Active will be hosting their annual 3.2km relay down at Ham Lake (there is normally cake!)


8. You could swim NEARLY the length of Windermere.  We would personally recommend doing this properly rather than doing this event but the swim is a challenge whether fully doing Windermere or nearly doing Windermere.  (Sunday)

While it is great that open water swimming is so popular that there is enough of a demand to fill so many events on the same weekend, it seems a shame that they are not more spaced out so keen swimmers could enjoy more than one in a season.

Some of these races are iconic events and a highlight of the open water calendar, therefore, wouldn’t it be better if organisers made sure they put their swims on different dates?  Coniston and Dart are always on the same weekend but Brownsea has moved to be this weekend in 2016 (which we can only assume is tide related) but Dock2Dock swim is a new event to the calendar so presumably could have been on a different weekend.


That being said there is a possibility for doubling up.  The double up of Coniston and Dart is probably unrealistic but you could definitely do a Dorney/Bray swim on the Saturday and then head to either Dock 2 Dock or RG Active on the Sunday.  Anyone?

Team Mermaids Plan

So where will we be this weekend?  Team Mermaids will be up in the Lake District swimming Coniston.  As for 2017 who knows?!

Swim Cake Studies

At Team Mermaids one of our favourite things is cake (hence the cupcake in our logo!). We think it has almost magical properties in helping prepare for and recover from swimming feats. In support of A Lotus Rises and her Swim Cake Studies project we thought we would let you know our top 10 places to get cake.

Number 10 – Flour Patisserie – London 

A family friend of mine (Manda) who studied Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu has set up her own company (no shop at the moment). I have been able to try Kirstie’s red velvet, which was absolutely scrumptious. Currently Katie and I are thinking of something to celebrate so we can justify a large cake… Katie’s suggestion was celebrating it is Tuesday. Sounds valid to me.

Number 9 – Crumbs and Dollies – London (Wandsworth, Soho and Kings Road)

We got recommended this bakery by a friend and soon realised that they are actually local to Wandsworth. So we are planning a testing session of the cupcakes from our SW London neighbours that include the Team Mermaids favourites of “Raspberry and Coconut” and “Lemon Mess”.

Number 8 – Fee and Brown 

Fee and Brown is a café that is just a short walk (albeit up a hill mountain) from our typical weekend hangout, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. It is very popular with cyclists as it is located within the 2 Cadence Cycling Performance Centre. We have sampled the orange and chocolate polenta loaf and the lemon and poppy seed loaf and both get the mermaid seal of approval and improved recovery post swim…we think 😉

Number 7 – Cakes by Robin

Cakes by Robin is based in Southfields and they do bespoke cakes for all occasions. We had a fun afternoon there shortly after getting back from swimming Lake Zurich doing wedding cake tasting!

Number 6 – Bibi’s Bakery in Edinburgh

Now we haven’t been to this place as it is in Edinburgh but the cakes sound absolutely amazing. Monthly specials include “The White Rabbit” carrot cake with a white chocolate ganache centre topped with orange flavoured cream cheese icing, “The Smasher” chocolate sponge with cream egg centre, chocolate icing and drizzled with cream egg fondant and Spring Fever lemon and lime sponge, with lemon curd centre and coconut and mascarpone icing. Maybe worth a special trip?!

Number 5 – Jack’s in Cirencester

Jack café in Cirencester do the most amazing cakes. The chocolate cake especially is divine. They also serve totally epic portions. My (Katie) friend Helen lives near there and I always make her take me when I go to stay with her. If you are ever in Cirencester we would very much recommend a visit.

Number 4 – Homemade

As Mary Berry says homemade is always the best. My (Katie) favourite things to bake at home are my coconut cupcakes. I scoop out the middle and fill it with vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam and ice it with fondant icing. I always make a batch of 24 of these before Christmas and they don’t last long!

I also love homemade Bakewell Tart. Manda doesn’t like Bakewell tart though – oh well all the more for me!

Number 3 – Konditor and Cook

Their central London locations mean that it is very easy to nip there on a Friday afternoon to ensure we have something tasty to snack on after a hard swimming session on a Saturday. It is hard to pick a favourite but the Lemon Chiffon and Curley Whirly cakes have to be up there.

Number 2 – Penelope’s in NYC

Now we know this is a long way for most of our readers to travel but the sheer amazingness of their red velvet cake means that they are a must for the list. We sampled plenty of it (including at 10 in the morning) before we did our round Manhattan Island Relay race in 2012.

Red velvet cake from Penelope’s in NCY

Number 1 – Hummingbird Bakery

The top of our list has to be Hummingbird Bakery if only for the sheer quantity of cakes we have consumed from their stores over the years. Hummingbird has been steadily expanding in London over the last few years and now has six bakeries including one in Richmond which means a trip after Parkrun is always needed. They also do deliveries which makes a great gift on any occasion.

Our favourite of the regular menu is the red velvet cupcakes and the lemon and raspberry cake but it is the monthly specials where Hummingbird really stands out. We are campaigning to have both the lemon curd special from a few years back and the recent Bounty special to be put on to the regular menu.

Manda and Dom’s wedding cake from hummingbird bakery

Enjoy your swim cake research everyone!

Kings Cross Pond Club

I (Manda) somehow managed to persuade/bully a few work colleagues and fellow merm Kate into meeting me at Kings Cross one Friday morning with a lovely invite that said something like ‘start the weekend early with a Friday pre work dip followed by coffee and pastries’. Ok, I didn’t mention to the colleagues the water wouldn’t be heated. I didn’t mention that the dip would be taking place in a pond. And I didn’t mention said pond was in a building site… So foolishly they agreed.


I’ve wanted to go up to Kings Cross Pond Club since I first heard about the idea and my desire was only increased after going to a talk with Kate at the British Library about the project.

Photo courtesy of Inti Ocean 😀

The pond is a very simple set up. There are several lockers, a few changing rooms and outdoor showers. Currently you need to book when the tickets become available, 2 weeks before session, as every session appears to be a sell-out. There are 4 sessions in a day, which allows only 163 swimmers to swim each day. A precise number is driven by a calculation to determine the number of swimmers that allow water quality to be maintained, therefore, showering pre pond paddle is essential.

The pond is 40m long but is split into a swimming area and a plant area. The swimming area is perfectly long enough for some up and down swimming, but isn’t long enough to train and the pond isn’t designed for this anyway. The sessions cover 2 hours but you are only going to stay in for on average 30 minutes, so that means that whilst we were there, there was only ever 3 more people in the pond with our little group.

We paddled and chatted for about 30 minutes and once the sun appeared over the one of the surrounding buildings we sat basking and laughing at Vlad’s frozen face, whilst builders casually ate their bacon butties the other side of the fence.


Afterwards, we headed for coffee and a pastry at Noble espresso at their pop up outside of Kings Cross station before being at our desks for 8am.


Perfect way to start the weekend 😀


Touch the Wall: a tale of two swimmers

At Team Mermaids we love swimming and we love the cinema so when Brian invited us to go and watch the first international screening of Touch the Wall we were there!

Touch the Wall tells the story of rising swimming star Missy Franklin and two time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce as they prepare for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Missy is just 15/16 at the start of the documentary training with the Colorado Stars. She is unproven but there are high expectations of success from the swimming community. Kara Lynn has already competed in two Olympics winning four silver medals in the freestyle and medley 4×100 relays at Athens and Beijing. Kara Lynn’s choice to move to train with the mainly teenage Colorado Stars raises eyebrows in some quarters but her and Missy quickly build a good relationship and benefit from training with each other. Ultimately Kara Lynn, however, decides that the Colorado Stars is not for her and moves to swim with a pro team with other swimmers in their early twenties.

The documentary is a fascinating look at swimming from opposite ends of the career spectrum. Missy can’t put a foot wrong, going from strength to strength, while Kara Lynn struggles, loses her funding and is disappointed with performances. Watching Kara Lynn struck a cord for me, whether you are swimming at elite level or amateur level giving it you all and everything not quite coming together is no fun.

At the Olympic trials Missy qualified to swim in four individual events in London. Kara Lynn puts in a fantastic performance to come second and qualify for the U.S. Olympic team for a third time in the 50m beating Team Mermaids new hero, Dara Torres to the spot.

In London Missy wins four gold medals in the 100 back, 200 back (in a new world record time), 4x200m free reply, 4x100m medley relay and a bronze in the 4×100 freestyle relay and catapults herself into world stardom. In the documentary Missy comes across as a genuinely lovely person. She swims for her high school team treating the meets as seriously as world champs. She turns down turning pro as it has always been her passion to swim at collage level (she goes on to swim at UC Berkeley for the Cal Bears).

I loved watching this documentary – it is funny and touching and for swimmers there is lots to identify with. The scene were Kara Lynn throws a strop at coach Todd over a set made us laugh as this is something Manda and I have done a ‘few’ times ourselves (poor Terry and Dan)! The scenes from London 2012 brought back all the good memories of the summer and the amazing job that London did hosting the games. Kara Lynn herself was at the screening to introduce the documentary along with her husband who she met during the filming.

I would thoroughly recommend this documentary about these two amazing ladies.

Winter Pool Challenge – the final results

Over the past six months Team Mermaids and friends have been taking part in the Winter Pool Challenge. The challenge was to swim in as many pools as possible before 30 April 2015.

The rules were:

1) The pool must be public so everyone can swim there
2) The pool must be heated – it is the winter pool challenge after all
3) The pool must be within the M25 to give everyone a reasonable chance of getting there
4) You have to swim at least 1k for the swim to count

The challenge has now finished and the final results are in! The table below shows the pools everyone has swum in and the totals. For details of all the pools and a map of their locations see our previous post.

In summary between us we have made 246 visits to a total of 65 pools spending c.£1,200 in pool entry fees! Manda is the victor having swum in a massive 54 pools. Katie came in second with 50 pools with Pivo third with 46 pools.

Overall the Winter Pool Challenge has been lots of fun – although I have to admit that driving 45 minutes to swim in pools when we have some lovely pools on our door step seemed slightly counter-intuitive.

I hadn’t realised how many pools there are in London – we have nearly 80 on the list and I’m sure there are many more. Generally I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of pools. There has been loads of investment over the last few years and it real shows.

We have asked all of the participants of the Winter Pool Challenge to tell us their favourite and worst pools and will be giving details in a blog post shortly.

London Pools

Here is the map and list from the winter pool challenge. We found this a great resource so hopefully you will do.  Let us know of any extra ones.










1(ish) month to go: winter pool challenge

The winter pool challenge is coming to an end in a month’s time. I’m (Manda) pleased we did it but I am not going to be sorry to see the back of it to be honest. Schlepping around pools has been mentally and physically exhausting and while we’ve discovered some amazing pools (Marshall St Baths), which we probably would never have gone to if we hadn’t started this challenge, we’ve also had the displeasure of swimming in some less than amazing pools.

The end of the winter pool challenge will also signify the return to open water. Woo h2ooooooooooo!

We are going to review the pools but in the meantime here are some of things I have learnt from this challenge:

Pool crawling is hard work.

We have discovered that pool binging, aka pool crawling, is harder than first imagined. Yes swimming multiple kms is hard work and tiring but the real challenges come out of the water. It takes a lot of preparation to juggle visits to coincide with ‘lane swimming’ sessions, sort out parking (where we travelled by car) and the hardest task of them all is ensuring you maintain nutrition, whilst adhering to Mama Foley’s and Mum Tannahill’s strict rule of no swimming for 1 hour after eating*.

I hate chlorine.

My skin hates me. It sees a pool and it starts flaking. If I have been for a swim pre work, had a shower, I will sit at work and all I can smell is chlorine. You might think it is a necessary evil but there are alternatives and if everyone wore a cap and showered before a swim we might need less.

I need light!

I have realised that what I like in a home and office, I like in a pool. I want light. As much as I possibly can. I want my swim to be saturated in day light, I want to see the colours of the water and most importantly I want to feel like a mermaid.

Every pool I visit in the darkness I decide I hate. A recent whatsapp to the group after visiting a pool in darkness was “well that was a skankfest”. Afterwards I felt I had judged the pool too quickly and I’m thinking of returning in day light as I am sure it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Although the ear buds mangled into the hair balls on the changing room floor will probably still be as skanky in day light!

Carry lots of 20ps

“What do the lockers take?” is the most overused phrase of the challenge. I spent 20 minutes begging people to change my £1 to 1 x 20p at Crystal Palace one weekend so as to avoid having to redress and go back to reception for change. Lesson learnt.

I like distance

I don’t want to stop and start. Turn and tumble. Flip and flop. I want to swim. Distance also means more time to overtake those people who probably shouldn’t be in the fast lane.

I don’t like pools with a tinge of yellow on the bottom

I mean who would?!?! Latchmere and Arches in Greenwich… Why?!?

A change is as good as a rest

Pool swimming can be monotonous, staring at the same tiles for length after length, especially if you are doing 2+ hour sets. We mix this up by doing various sets, but training in different pools has also brought a fresh lease of life to winter training. We tend to stick to doing our longer sets in 50m pools, specifically Crystal Palace, but next winter I will be more inclined to do some of these at London Fields or the Aquatic centre. Also it will encourage me to add more variety to my mid-week pool sessions when only a shorter session is needed.

Ultimately all the above does is summarise why I will always be an open water swimmer over a pool swimmer but to all those pool swimmers out there, thanks for letting us share your pools for this time and see you next winter… maybe.


*bananas don’t count

Lewis Pugh: 21 yaks and a speedo

I (Manda here… Katie was with me at the talk) have been aware of Lewis for some while. I mean you can’t really ignore a man who has swum at 90 degrees north aka the NORTH POLE, for no less than 1 kilometre and 18+ minutes and who decided it would be a great idea to climb up part of Mt Everest with a boat and then go for a dip at altitude before coming back down. So when the opportunity to hear the man speak came up it was a simple Yes. The talk took place at the National Geographic society, which Lewis, a former maritime lawyer, is a patron.

Yes Lewis’ talk was focused around his most memorable/challenging swims, which was shown by the number of swimmers in the audience, but ultimately these swims are just a platform to highlight the environmental campaigns he is raising awareness for and additionally, the life lessons he has learnt and is imparting onto the audience. I challenge any non-swimmer to go listen to the man and not be inspired.. maybe not inspired to throw yourself into water at -1.7 degrees, but be inspired to do something, anything to make a change. After the talk we got an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of his latest book, “21 yaks and a speedo”, which judging by the queue that promptly formed, 99% of the people at the talk decided to do!


Here is my review:

I was able to read and finish the book in a short period of time, namely traveling to/from Guernsey last weekend. There are no cliff hangers and it isn’t one continuous story to keep you reading, it was more just so enjoyable to read that I wanted to just keep reading. It often felt like you were reading a mate’s stories (probably because a lot of my friends are equally silly with their challenges!!). The book is split up into 21 chapters, aka Yaks and each one tells of a different adventure. Additionally, each chapter has a different quality associated with it, hope, blame, etc etc and any reader can take anyway some practical advice from the book.

The below are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

· Never plan for victory and defeat in your mind at the same time
· Don’t look for other people to validate your dreams. If it feels right, just go for it.
· Thoughts alone won’t make extraordinary things happen. But nothing ever happens if you don’t visualise it first.

I love reading these types of books but the difference between this and some other adventure writer books is that I actually liked Lewis at the end. There is an argument to say in order to succeed at these types of challenges you have to have qualities that make you seem like a “douche” but Lewis proves otherwise.

A sign of how good a book is can easily be judged by the amount of people you want to read it. I want EVERYONE to read it. I have already passed it on to a colleague at work and have been preaching the words of Lewis to another. Has it inspired me to do another big challenge?…not quite but I am tentatively swimming in that direction.

Great London Swim (aka “what on earth have I signed up for?”)

Joanne was somewhat cajoled into a swim by me (Manda) in 2011. Here is her account of how the Great London Swim was for her as a non goggle wearing pool swimmer, breast stroker and pretty much novice. Chapeau Joanne, Chapeau! 

So I have always been a bit of a water baby, in the sense that I have absolutely no fear of deep water and I love to swim, seriously just throw me off a boat in the middle of the ocean and I will just float straight back up to the top. But I will admit that when Manda and I started working together about 6 years ago, it had been quite a while since I had been in a pool. Manda, on the other hand, would regularly show up for work after her morning swim and listening to her talk about her training and open water events made me realise how much I had missed swimming. So she was the jump start I needed to get back into the pool and then in the summer of 2010 she suggested that I sign-up for the Great London Swim 2011. She made it sound so easy,” it’s just a mile” she said, “if you train properly you’ll be fine” she said, “it’s in July so it won’t be too cold” she said! It all sounded terribly feasible so with very little hesitation I signed up and then promptly forgot all about it until the following year, when it hit me “what on earth have I signed up for?!”

You see I am quite a strong swimmer but I swim breast stroke and my technique and breathing are not that efficient, and this is not ideal when attempting an open water swim; I mean I didn’t even own a pair of goggles. So I ordered my goggles and hit my local pool with a vengeance, I calculated that in order to swim 1 mile I had to complete 49 lengths and I had to do this without stopping or pushing off from the sides of the pool. I built up to it gradually, going to the pool about 3 times a week and after a while the distance became less daunting……although at this stage I still had not actually swum a full mile. I spoke to my coach, aka Manda, and asked for tips; she told me that for a start I would need a wetsuit and secondly I actually needed to get into the wetsuit and into some open water, I must have looked panicked because she found some local open water events that might work and also found a donated wetsuit (thank you Katie!) I was all set; so one cold and cloudy Sunday morning I headed over the lake at Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, joined a group of equally crazy people and embarked on my first open water swim. The things I took from the experience were as follows:

1. Flushing out your wetsuit is cold and hideous – there are no other words.

2. Most people at these events will be swimming front crawl so you better keep up. Unfortunately my front crawl is very poor and slow so I struggled to stay with my group and honestly, my left shoulder has never been quite right since.

3. Don’t think about what is brushing against your leg in the middle of a large lake and what you might be swallowing, it will only make you scream, cry or both.

4. The sense of achievement and adrenalin rush when you finish makes all of the above worthwhile.

I came away from the experience with my eyes wide open about what lay ahead and about just how difficult it is to swim breast stroke in a wetsuit. The buoyancy that works for anyone swimming front crawl, just makes you pop up to the surface like a wine cork; it was something I was going to have to work on adjusting to. So I got back in my local pool, hit my first mile and then went off to Fairlop Waters for my next open water training session, only to find the lake was shut indefinitely owing to an outbreak of blue algae. At this stage panic started to set-in; there were no other local events I could attend before the big day, I had set-up a Just giving website to raise money for Alzheimer’s research (a charity very close to my heart) and sponsorship was pouring in, I had to do this swim and I had to finish. Coach Manda stepped in and suggested I go down to Tooting Bec lido with her one Saturday morning and have another practice session in my wetsuit. Both Manda and Katie were very supportive and encouraging, although I’m sure they must have been horrified by my lack of finesse in the pool.

And then all too quickly the big day dawned, for once the British weather decided to behave and the forecast was for a warm and sunny day. My Mum and I took the train to the Royal Victoria Dock in London and stood by the finish line as earlier entrants were finishing; it was the first time I had seen the full distance completely laid out in front of me and it looked an awfully long way, and some of the people heading for the finish line were not looking good. I started to wonder if I could actually do this. The rest of “Team Joanne” arrived just after I had got into my wetsuit; my sister, her husband and their two young daughters. They wished me luck as I headed to the start line, telling them to grab a coffee as it would be at least an hour until I would come into view. Manda, being the amazing super mermaid that she is, was racing in an earlier “wave” of swimmers and was then going to run back to the start & re-swim it with me – a true coach and friend. I got to the start, flushed out my wetsuit (it was 17 degrees and not that unpleasant) and waited to start. To say I was scared was an understatement, although probably not as scared as my Mum who I later found out had said to my sister, after they all waved me off with big smiles, “I don’t think she’s going to be able to do this. Have you seen how far it is?” My sister’s response; “It’s Joanne, of course she will finish”.


Manda completed her first swim and joined me shortly before the start, I was so grateful to see her; words cannot describe the difference it made to have her with me. And then we were off and I immediately realised there was no way I was putting my face in that brown, disgusting water so I just swam breast stroke with my head up and my mouth shut, although as we started to hit the tide coming towards us it was impossible not to swallow some water. What do I remember about the experience? I remember there was an air show nearby and old fashioned war planes were flying overhead, I remember the halfway marker was a big pink inflatable bouy, I remember the tide being really strong and feeling like I wasn’t moving at one point, I remember my youngest niece screaming me on (I’m not sure she understood what cheering was), I remember Manda swimming to my left and guiding me around the halfway marker so I would not swim any further than I had to, I remember her telling me we were still on track to finish within an hour, which was my target, even when I thought we had lost too much time battling the tide. The screams and cheers of my family and Manda’s boyfriend grew louder and we even had time to chat to one of the guys in a kayak, and then the finish was in sight. I got cramp just a few metres from the finish and I remember Manda and my Mum yelling at me to keep going as I was finishing in just under an hour. I kicked on and finally felt ground beneath my feet, a few seconds later I was across the finish line; my time was 55 minutes and 19 seconds. I was elated!

My Great British Swim was an amazing experience and a real milestone in my life, plus I raised over £900 for charity which was the cherry on the top. Have I done anything else? No but coach Manda hasn’t given up “suggesting” other challenges. But to anyone thinking they are not a typical open water swimmer and that they could never do one, I am living proof that with sheer determination, practice and a donated wetsuit; anything is possible.