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


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.


Lane buddies: SLSC members and a duck

Swim time: 3 minutes

Water Temp: 12

Hat Colour: Team Mermaids


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.


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)


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.


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!


Now what to do for 2018?



Pool crawl: central London edition 2016

When we were doing the Winter Pools Challenge last year we came up with the concept of a “pool crawl”. This is essentially trying to visit as many pools as possible in one day. Last year we did the South West London edition of the pool crawl (Richmond Pools in the Park, Putney, Morden Park Pools and Streatham) and the South East London (Peckham, Camberwell, Dulwich, Forest Hill, Crystal Palace) edition. We therefore thought it was time for a Central London pool crawl!

The Central London pool crawl took a lot of logistical planning making sure we hit swim fit hours rather than swim for all and that we could get between pools on the tube without wasting too much time. The tube strike nearly meant that the pool crawl was cancelled but thankfully the strike was called off. The crawl was designed to take in some of our favourite pools from the winter pool challenge.

Ironmonger Row Baths (Katie)

Ironmonger Row was a favourite for many last year. It was refurbished a few years ago so the facilities are all new and shiny and the pool is lovely. We were scheduled to meet at 11:45 to get in the pool for 11:55 but through some never before seen punctuality we were all there early so we were in and swimming by 11.45. This put us ahead of schedule for the day!

In my experience the pool is generally pretty quiet but not so today! The lane was chocker which made swimming quite difficult. We were glad that we were only there for 1km.

Alpha males encountered: too many to count
Locker: £1 refundable
Entry: £4.45


12 x 3L (15 SR between each 3L)

1) 3L steady
2) 2L steady, 1L hard
3) 1L steady, 1L hard, 1L steady
4) 1L hard, 2L steady

Repeat 3 times

Total: 1,098m

Pancras Leisure (Kate)

We were still ahead of schedule when we arrived at St Pancras pool, after a quick hop on the Northern line from Old Street to King’s Cross St Pancras. Luckily we managed to come out of the correct exit and avoided getting sucked into the never-ending tunnel aka the vortex of doom, which is normally what happens to me at King’s Cross.

Lisa had written this set for us and then cunningly avoided actually swimming it by being poorly (get well soon Lisa!) – the 200 metre “sprint” was a personal favourite.

It was a good swim and a nice pool but unfortunately we did have to put up with an Alpha male who insisted on repeatedly pushing off in front of us and then swimming incredibly slowly. I actually waited to let him go in front of me once as I had mistaken the amount of splash he was managing to create for speed. Error.

Alpha males encountered: 1
Locker: £1 refundable


10 seconds rest between each swim:

200m warm up
50m sprint
50m recovery
100m sprint
50m recovery
200m sprint
50m recovery
100m sprint
50m recovery
50m sprint
150m warm down

Total: 1050m

Marshall St Leisure Centre (Pivo)

So we were still well ahead of schedule as we started venturing to Marshall St. I always seemed to be very efficient in changing quickly, probably as had no one to chat to in the changing rooms, and was waiting in the foyer of St Pancras for the girls armed with Jaffa cakes in honour of Brian for the trip to Marshall St. Back down to Kings Cross tube and this time on the Victoria line, via the vortex of tunnels. We were starting to get a bit tired now, and were enjoying the brief sit down on the tube, but these journeys were going too quick.

Into the pool, and it was pleasantly quiet (in contrast to St Pancras and Ironmonger Row), with only one other swimmer in the fast lane who was quickly scared off by our presence. Marshall St is such a lovely pool, with marble floor and a half pipe shape in the deep end, but there is something about this pool for all of us, that calms us down and makes it an enjoyable swim. Manda even commented that maybe we should stay here rather than head to a possibly busy Oasis. It made many of the top pool lists from the London pool challenge. My set was a mini pyramid which went quite quickly. Manda and Katie wanted to tack on an extra 4 lengths to make up the distance for the week for the river challenge.


Alpha males encountered: 1
Alpha Females encountered: 3
Locker: £1 refundable


2 L warm up

The pyramid as follows always hard then easy 10 SR
1L – 1L
2L – 2L
3L – 3L
4L – 4L
3L – 3L
2L – 2L
1L -1L

Then an extra 4 at the end for good measure.

Total = 1,159m

Oasis Sports Centre (Manda)

By the time we got to Oasis there was a sense of calm as we were now under no time pressure as we knew Oasis would be open until half 5. We even managed 2 coffee stops on our 10 minute walk from Marshall St Baths to Oasis.


There was no question as to whether we were swimming in the indoor or outdoor pool, so we braved the blustery conditions and ran stylishly, as only swimmers in their bathers can do, to the pool. We were once again lucky that we were only ever sharing the lane with one other swimmer.

Alpha males encountered: 0
Locker: 20p non-refundable
Entry: £5.30


10L warm up
4*6L 15 SR
1) Odd lengths breathing to right. Even lengths breathing to left.
2) Odd lengths HARD. Even lengths EASY
3) Odd lengths breathing to right. Even lengths breathing to left.
4) Odd lengths HARD. Even lengths EASY

10L swim down (extra swim down to ensure Katie and I hit the weekly winter swim challenge target of 9641m)

Total: 1210m

And then we were done. After 4 pools we could finally wash our hair, spend more than 30 seconds in the shower and moisturise to our hearts content– hoorah! We headed to Shake Shack for some serious post swim nutrition of burgers, cheesy fries and milkshakes and talk of a possible East London edition before the summer season starts…