SLSC 110 Lengths Challenge 2017

The 110 lengths challenge held this year on 30 September 2017 is the closing party for the summer swimming season, celebrating a great summer at the lido and another year in the lido’s history.   Tooting Bec lido opened in 1906 and in previous years the challenge has been to swim one length for every year the lido has been open.  This year, however, the organisers very sensibly decided to cap the swim at 110 lengths which is the equivalent of 10k.

We have previously swum the challenge as relay in 2014 (read our account here) and as solos in 2015 (read our account here).  Last year I (Katie) was away for the event so dragged a reluctant Brain to do the swim with me one morning.  This year, after some mixed training over the last month or so and with another baby on board, we decided to swim as a relay again.

Just before 1pm we rocked up to join 20 solo swimmers and 9 other relay teams attempting the challenge.  After a briefing the solo swimmers were off, including Emma Watson, who arrived just in time with a just out of the oven fruit cake in tow.

In 2014 when we had last swum as a relay team the format was very relaxed, we got in when we wanted, swum together and counted our own lengths.  We were unprepared therefore for a formal mass relay start and Manda didn’t even have her hat and goggles on.  This ended up with her starting two lengths behind me.  We had decided to swim at the same time rather than in a standard relay format, which would mean no delay in cake consumption.

I was unsure how I would feel on the day as I am still suffering quite badly with sickness and have not been doing much training so we had just agreed that I would swim as many lengths as I felt able to and Manda would swim the balance (I think she was scared that I would only manage 10).  On the day the water was a lovely 16 degrees and I just took it steady and plodded through the lengths.


Trying to keep track of how many lengths each other had swum so we finished after the requisite 110 lengths was challenging our mental arithmetic somewhat but we managed it with Manda stopping at the end of her 56 lengths when I was just starting my 54th.  Overall between us we completed the relay in 2 hours and 48 minutes.  This is slower than when we did the event as soloists even taking into account the additional length but I think that is mine and bump’s fault!


Once we were out it was time for some still warm cake – delicious – and to watch the soloists and other relays finish.  The team organised by Bronnie Gray including last minute addition Fiona Wiggins, who was sporting her Team Mermaids hat, did an amazing job with 10 people each swimming 11 lengths.


Well done to everyone who swam on the day.  Next year we are going to give the solo a crack again!


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.


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?’


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…


The next thing I remember is my feet hurting and then hurling myself on poolside in probably the most unlady like fashion ever.


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!


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.

Floating igloo on the lido

SLSC club races 2016

Since becoming SLSC members many years ago we have categorically failed to be real team members! We have rocked up to the occasional mile race and twice swum the anniversary challenge swim but turning up regularly for the Sunday morning swims has never happened.

This year I (Manda) declared, whilst recovering from the birth of my son, that I was going to try do more of the Sunday races this year.  In reality I have said this ever year but this year I meant it.  As well as me and Katie, Brian and Kate are also members so would try and come to some races.

In the summer the races start at 9am so the idea would be to do a training session and then time the session to finish when the race was starting.  The majority of the races are handicapped.  We have no idea how this is calculated and we think 99.9999999% SLSC members also have no clue how this dark art works. Despite this and with a hope that I would be improving as the season went on, I was optimistic that Team Mermaids would be able to secure one trophy!

With some help from Brian here is our account of the SLSC summer races:


1 mile (Brian)

The SLSC 1 mile race is the longest of the summer handicaps. 1 mile works out at 17 and a bit lengths of the lido, so the start line is part way down the pool (facing the deep end), and 17 full lengths after that. Manda, Katie and I (Brian) were all in attendance this year. Katie and I had been there since 7:30 and had done 44 lengths before the race, as we were in full preparation mode for the Henley Bridge to Bridge swim. The start was a bit unusual as we had to jump in at the deep end, and swim up to the start line, before turning around to start the swim proper. Katie and I swam together to finish in 27:15, and Manda finished in a very respectable 30:10 in her first race back since having a baby.

Manda has written about this in more detail here.

1000 yards (Manda)

With the others at the Thames Marathon I (Manda) headed down solo for a training session and then registered myself.  Like the new girl at school, I had no friends with me, so casually put myself in the middle of the pack and then chatted to anyone who would speak to me.  The race itself was a good bench mark to see if/how I was improving since giving birth to Miles. 17:05 signified a 1 minute improvement since my return to swimming – hoorah!

800 yards (Manda)

Katie and me headed down to the lido to do my longest swim post child arrival and then lined up ready for the swim. I was swimming in a line with 3 other members and had prior to the race decided to go ‘slow’ to give myself the best possible handicap so that next week I could reign victorious in the 200 yards! My competitive streak came out though and next thing I know I’m sprinting the last 2 lengths. I touched at the same time as the man (sorry I’m rubbish at remembering names!) I was ‘racing’, at which point Katie, who at finished in 11:30, got told she was banned for being too fast by him. 😜

200 yards (Katie)

In previous years we had only ever swum the 1 mile event at the SLSC races so we were excited to do more of a sprint. On signing up we were told that none of the fast people were here today so we could swim at the fast persons’ end of the pool.  Not sure whether to be offended or flattered we headed over to the start.

I (Katie) put my head down and swam. On the Thursday before we had been doing 200 yard reps in the SLSC training session so I felt I had some recent experience in terms of pacing.  I was aiming for hard on the way up before turning it up a bit on the way back.  This over excited tactic inevitably led to some dying on the way back but I managed to touch the wall first.  I guess all the really fast people were elsewhere!  The race was handicapped, however, so I didn’t pick up the overall trophy.

300 yards breaststroke (Brian)

This race was a “special edition” as it was on a Monday rather than a Sunday (the late august bank holiday). I had been in Ireland for the weekend, so was keen to cram as much swimming as possible into Monday. Accordingly, I met Katie at 7:30, and we did 41 lengths before the race (finishing at the far end, as that was the end the race started from). We were somewhat surprised to find that the race was three lengths of breaststroke (all the previous races I had been in were freestyle). We started off a bit tentatively, but I found myself beside some very fast people, so naturally started to race them! Katie finished second female, and I finished second male. My placing was uncontroversial (despite my best efforts I was at least 5m behind the winner), but Katie’s was a lot, lot closer. We then finished off with a swift 24 lengths back in our wetsuits (naturally!).

99 yards medley (Katie)

The 99 yards medley race is one of the few SLSC events of the year which is not handicapped. Manda and I (Katie) were therefore secretly hopeful that Team Mermaids might pick up their first SLSC trophy.  The race was a width of back, breast and then free.  I started cautiously on the backstroke – too many childhood incidents making me scared of hitting my head.  By the end of the breaststroke width Alina, who had touched me out on the 300 yards breaststroke race, was just ahead.  I sprinted the final free width.  It was all a bit chaotic at the end and not clear who had won.  When someone came looking for me in the changing room I hoped it was me and it was.  Now Team Mermaids have their own trophy – well to keep for a year at least!


We have voiced our intention to try continue to race on Sunday mornings but as the water temperature plummets I’m not sure how we are going to fare. Watch this space.

SLSC 110 length anniversary challenge

Each year SLSC hold the anniversary challenge to celebrate the lido’s history. Participants swim one length for every year the lido has been open.  The lido opened in 1906 so those who are good at maths will work out that this year this was 110 lengths. At 100 yards a length this is just over 10km of swimming.

In 2014 Manda and I participated in the 108 length challenge as a relay and last year we stepped up to compete in the 109 length challenge solo.

I really enjoyed the event last year so with Manda building up her distances following Miles’ arrival I persuaded Brian to (a) become a member of the lido and (b) enter the swim with me.

We were busy training away when I discovered a small diary ‘incident’ and realised that the weekend of the swim was the weekend that I was away in Berlin as Dennis was running the marathon. After a morning of tears at the thought I was missing the challenge I managed to persuade Brian to come and swim the distance a week early with me.  Poor Brian – the things we make him do!

We agreed to meet at the lido at 7.30am on Saturday morning (17 September) only to find out that there was actually an aquathlon on and the pool wasn’t open until 8.30am. Oh dear!  This kind of c&ap would never happen if Manda was in charge.

We went back to my place and then came back for 8.30am. We decided to split the swim up into 3 blocks: 40 lengths, 40 lengths and then 30 lengths.  We finished the first 40 lengths in just over 56 minutes and then had a toilet and gel break.  We then started again for another 40 lengths before stopping for another gel break.  We then set out for the final 30 lengths with me telling Brian it was just like a normal training session. He gave me one of those “I’m too tried to respond but I am unimpressed” looks.

We finished in around 2 hours 44 minutes of swimming time and about 2 hours 51 of total time. This was slower than last year (even taking into account the extra length) but I think the competition environment helped a lot last year.  I really enjoyed the swim.  We had the perfect weather in that it was overcast so the lido wasn’t too busy but the water was still lovely and warm.


Once wasn’t enough for Brian though and he was still planning on swimming in the official event the weekend after. Unfortunately though he forgot his wetsuit and managed 72 lengths’ skins before having to admit defeat from the cold.  Next year B!


Training for Coniston 2016

I (Manda) recently watched a mini documentary series about USA athlete Sarah Brown. Sarah got unexpectedly pregnant a year before the Olympics in Rio. She decided to continue training whilst pregnant to ensure she could give herself the best chance at the Olympic trials in July 2016. She gave birth early so ended up having 4 months to get ready for the trials. So much in this series hit a note with me. Ok Coniston ISN’T the Olympic trials but it is my A goal of my shortened season. I’m not looking to qualify or win or even get a time… I just want to start and a bonus will be to finish.

My baby was due 3rd June and arrived on 4th June. I was hoping to swim 5.25 miles end to end of Coniston on 3rd September. I got signed off for swimming on 14th July so had 7 weeks and 1 day (but who is counting!!) to get myself as ready as I could.

I am not out to damage or hurt myself and this is just a fun hobby so I had no plans on doing anything silly and my plan was run past both my GP and my midwife. Also, before I gave birth to my son I wrote a plan including several eventualities. I had to be realistic that he could be 2 weeks late and that my recovery could take longer than the generic 6 weeks. In any scenario there would be no benefit to panic training so the plans were set and I promised the post-partum me that I would be kind to myself no matter what.

Week 0

6 week checkup with medical practitioners. Given the go ahead with the caveat of ‘no swimming the Channel just yet’. Errrr ok! And another excuse never to have to swim the Channel conveniently gets logged in my head!

I text my husband with the casual request that we go to lido for a short dip once he gets home from work. His reply is ‘OK. I will go cycling on Sunday’. The childcare negotiations have started!

The swim was 1000yds of euphoria. Then the next day.. Boom..soar throat of doom. I am not sure whether it was to do with the swim but hey. I reasoned with myself that I was fortunate that my baby was on time (punctual as expected!) and that I was signed off after 6 weeks so could relax and better to get rid of it properly than return too soon and lose more time.

Week 1

Plan: Long swim: 2500 / Total distance: 5000
Actual: Long swim: 1400 / Total distance: 3600

After a week of soar throat I returned to the tropical climates of Tooting lido. Due to proximity to my house I did all my London training at the lido. It is a 20 minute walk or 5 minute drive away so this meant I would be able to maximise time in the water rather than travelling to/from further away pools. I was also training “skins”. Again time constraints meant that I would lose training time by having to put on a wetsuit, it was also + 20 degrees by the time I started training AND MY WETSUIT DIDN’T FIT!! I added 200 yards on to the 3 swims I did this week. I didn’t make my planned distances but I was calm about what lay ahead.

Week 2

Plan: Long swim: 3300 / Total distance: 6600
Actual: Long swim: 2800 / Total distance: 7800

Not only have I got the physical challenges up against me I also have the logistical issues. I can’t just go swimming when I please anymore. This week highlighted this when despite feeling better and capable I got kicked out the lido at 19:45 despite having only done 2800 yards of my planned 3400 yards. 2 things have to happen to allow me to leave for the lido: Husband needs to be home and baby needs to be fed. Either one of those not happening at the right time means time at the lido is compromised. Lessons were learnt and we were ready now for the weeks ahead.

Week 3

Plan: Long swim: 4400 / Total distance: 7700
Actual: Long swim: 4000 / Total distance: 10200

Week 3 and I was still to hit my long swim distance. I swam 4000 yards at the lido on the Sunday on my own and afterwards I was convinced I had bitten off more than I could chew. The only person I admitted this to was Josie. She was also training for Coniston and this was going to be her longest swim to date so unlike the usual gang she could sympathise with what I was going through. I decided to take it easy the following week and as much as it pained me I was at the lido again the next day but didn’t swim. Maybe I was learning or maybe I was just scared of the midwife?!?

Week 4

Plan: Long swim: 5500 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 5000 / Total distance: 9400

With my Guernsey trip coming up I wanted to get in a long swim the day I was flying off. This was a great plan until I was half way to Gatwick with a 2 month year old and I was exhausted from swimming 5000 yards, 800 yds of which was a SLSC race. With the 5000 yards banked I was quietly optimistic that Coniston was a quickly things had changed.

Week 5

Plan: Long swim: 4400 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 3000m / Total distance: 3800m

I went off to Guernsey this week and training was a bit of a farce. The local leisure centre and only place for public pool swimming was shut to be extended by half a centimetre and they instead had sessions (for 2 hours and 2 lanes!) every other day at a school. The first time I turned up my sister was driving my son around in the car whilst I swam and when I got onto pool side it was carnage. The limited time and space meant everyone on the island was in the pool! I managed 800m before I got out and my sister got me. I did make it back for another 3000m one day but the rest of the time, when the weather allowed, I swam on the beach but this was a no googles, no hat, no watch type affair… but I loved it.

Week 6

Plan: Long swim: 6600 / Total distance: 8800
Actual: Long swim: 6600 / Total distance: 13800

Hoorah.. With 1 week to go I hit my long swim target for the first time. I felt ok after the swim, so much so that I managed a full day of activities afterwards but then proceeded to crash and burn the next day.


Plan: Long swim: 3300 / Total distance: 5500
Actual: Long swim: 2200 / Total distance: 3600

Tapering consisted of some splashing around at the lido with Katie, Josie and Laura and some serious burger consumption to ensure optimal fuelling for what lay ahead. At this point I knew I had done all I could to get myself ready for the 5.25 mile swim and I would just have to see how things would go. It was too late to do anything else….

SLSC 1 mile race – July 2016

So something like this wouldn’t normally warrant a blog but sometimes the smallest achievements are worth the biggest noise. The SLSC 1 mile Sunday morning race! Every Sunday (even in winter), SLSC hold a Sunday morning race over a range of distances from 1 width to the longest race 1 mile. Team Mermaids try and attend the 1 mile race each year so not even having recently had a baby was going to put me off.

When I (Manda) plus my gang (husband and baby) arrived at the lido, Brian and Katie had already been there for an hour and half doing some last minute ‘cramming’ for this year’s Thames marathon next weekend. As I told them both this would never have happened on coach Manda’s watch!

After clearing the lido we all marched to the deep end of the lido and lined up in speed order for the 1 mile swim. I suggested that I would swim around 32 minutes on the basis of how I had been swimming the last couple of weeks since being signed off to swim, so ended up in the middle of the SLSC line up. There were notable absences due to Ride 100 and summer holidays but it was still a large crowd.

After swimming to the black marker on pool side for where the mile officially starts we were soon set off. Unfortunately for the man standing next to me waiting for the start, the black marker wasn’t sufficiently in the shallow end for me to stand flat footed, so I was on tip toes just to keep breathing.  Once we were set off there was nothing for me to push off to get going … Apart from the man’s belly. So after ‘go’ I spent the first 10 seconds apologising. Sorry Katie and Brian but team mermaids may never be welcome at a club race again!

After 17 and a bit lengths of, I can only assume, perfect pacing if not perfect speed I arrived home in a respectable 30:10. If only I hadn’t have kicked the man in the belly it could have been sub 30! I was really pleased considering I have only been back swimming for 2 weeks and have also had a throat infection to deal with in that time.


Katie and Brian naturally stormed home together in a time of 26:30. Katie was slightly (read very) mortified that she was beaten by an eleven year old!

Hopefully I will get a chance to race in the 1000yds race next Sunday whilst the rest of the team and friends tackle 15,310 yards at Thames Marathon. Good luck!

109 lengths at Tooting Bec Lido with SLSC 2015

Every year since the 100 year anniversary of Tooting Bec Lido, SLSC have held a club challenge to swim the age of the lido in lengths.  Now if the lido was 25m then this would be a fun swim, however, (un)fortunately for us the lido is 100yds (91m).

2015 is the 109th anniversary of the lido so that would be a whopping 10,900 yards (9,966m) of swimming.  Last year we did the 10,800 yards distance as a 2 person relay in 17 degrees, but this year we decided early on in the year that we would tackle the distance solo as a bit of end of season fun.

So September came around and with it came the british winter a few months early.  This meant that the temperature at the lido was slowly dropping through the teens 17…16…15…14.  Please no lower!!!  The weekend before the swim we managed a 2 hour swim in the lido at 14 degrees in the glorious sunshine, however, the Thursday before the swim, we did 45 minutes swim at 7am and come 10am a colleague asked me if I was ok as my lips were blue.  Panic set in!


The morning of the swim we were greeted with sunshine but 13 degree water. It was the best weather, if not water temperature, we could have asked for.  After arriving at the lido just after lunch, the SLSC captains set about getting us all ready.  There would be 9 of us doing the solo, of which 4 of us would be wearing wetsuits, therefore, 5 were doing it SKINS.  SKINS, my skin is tingling just typing this.

To start we walked to the deep end and entered the water there.  This threw me and Katie off as we are used to walking from the shallow end to acclimatize but couldn’t really raise an objection whilst covered in our luxury neoprene.

And we were off.  We had decided to have our first stop after 45 minutes, so after 33 lengths we stopped and I had a sip of luke warm tea and then the chat started:

Katie: How many have we done?

Me: 33 lengths

Katie screams loudly: IS THAT IT?

Now at this point Katie was about to offer to take the lead, however, she didn’t have a chance to offer as I rapidly set off again in fear of being shouted at for taking too long at feeds.

This meant there was no conversation about when to next feed.  I thought it would be good to do 42 lengths this time.  You would break the back of it by taking you to 75 and therefore, would leave only 34 to finish.  However, Katie was thinking I was going to do around 30 lengths so started worrying once we got higher than that, that I wasn’t going to let her stop again until the finish.

I did stop, which allowed for more, now cold, tea and allowed Katie to take the lead for the final 34.  By this point I couldn’t feel my feet properly, which makes for a bizarre sensation when pushing off the wall at a turn and I also realised that I had been so preoccupied about the cold in the build up I had forgotten about the distance actually being a challenge in itself and my arms started aching.


109 lengths later we were finished. 2 hours 39 minutes in the lido. It was a challenge for so many reasons but mainly, the cold and distance.  Others commented on the tedious nature of the lap swimming for that long, however, by swimming as a team it was like you always had company and I was never bored.  This was the first race since Max’s arrival that Katie and I swam together (it would have been bridge to bridge if it wasn’t for her seeing my warning signs!) so for me it was a definite season highlight.


Next year it is 110 lengths, so as an even number of lengths it might be back to a team mermaids relay instead.


Thanks to SLSC for a great event and special thanks to Nicola and Mandy for their organisation and support.

Reflecting on a fun summer of swimming

Now that the nights are drawing in and the weather (not to mention the lido) is getting colder we thought it was time to reflect on this summer’s outdoor swimming season.  Over the last few years we have been focused on one big summer swim (2012 Manhattan, 2013 Zurich and 2014 Windermere) but this summer, probably more through lack of organisation than design, we didn’t have anything planned.  To make up for this we have participated in quite a few shorter (though I wouldn’t say short!) races.

The season started off for Manda with a 10k in the jellyfish infested waters of Sa Dragonera in Mallorca.  My first open water race of the season was the Jubilee River 10k swim.  The relaxed atmosphere and beautiful weather made this the perfect season opener.  After Jubilee we went properly short with the 2.1k Henley Classic and a return, after a few years absence, to the Great London Swim 1 mile race.  The shortest race of the season was probably the RG Active relays.  This race is 6 laps of Ham Lake with Manda and I alternating each lap.  The whole race is 3.2km in total.  After victory in 2014 we were beaten into second place this year so will be returning for revenge in future years.

It was back to endurance swimming after the Great London swim with the iconic Brownsea Island 6.5km swim, the 14k Henley Bridge to Bridge and the Dark 10k.

Something we had done much more of this year and have really enjoyed is early morning training at Tooting Bec Lido.  Two or three times a week we would meet at 6am when the lido opened, swim our 30 length set (3,000 yards).  We always start with 10 length steady as warm-up!  It would then be off to work for Manda and back to baby duty for me.

Given how much we have enjoyed the Lido this summer it was fitting that the last ‘race’ of the season was the 109 lengths challenge.  Each year the lido hosts a race consisting of 1 length for every year of the lido has been opened.  Last year we had competed in the 108 length challenge as a relay.  Given that 109 lengths is nearly 10km of swimming with no river assistance this time we were probably a bit blaze in our approach, worrying more about the cold than the distance.  Luckily the sun was shining on us on the day though so we survived.

While we have not done any major swimming challenges this year Team Mermaids friends have done some fantastic swims.  In July Kate and Lisa swam the length of Lake Windermere.  Lisa also swam back again in preparation for her channel swim which she completed in August.  Lisa got stuck in a current with an injury just off the French coast and basically had to battle for five hours to make it.  We are awed by her determination.  In September, Brian & Hilary along with their four other team mates completed a relay Arch to Arc.  For those that don’t know this is where you run from Marble Arch to Dover, swim the channel and then cycle to the Arc de Triomphe – wow!  In September Uncle Davy also completed his one way Windermere swim in an amazing time of 4 hours 20 minutes.  While not strictly all swimming a special mention also goes to Dad Carr for coming 19th in his age group at the Triathlon World Championships in Chicago.

Favourite race of the season?

KATIE: My favourite race of the season has to be Henley Bridge to Bridge.  The gorgeous weather, lovely water temperature, nicely spaced feed stops and good company made the 14km fly by.  Definitely one to do again.

MANDA: I loved them all for different reasons.  It really was a year for the bucket list swims.  Dragonera for the sunshine, facing my fears (jellyfish) and hearing Amanda Read on local television.  Jubilee for having Katie back with us.  Great London Swim as it really made me think of how far we have come since our other Great Swims.  Brownsea was a long but awesome day out with my favourite people.  All being said, my favourite race was Bridge to Bridge.  Despite Dan’s encouraging pace, it was great fun from start to finish.

Well that is the end of the open water swimming season for us.  We are looking forward our new winter training challenge (more on that soon), having some time to try other sports and of course to the start of next season!