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.



Midsummer Relay 2017

Every year SLSC put on public events over the summer at Tooting Bec Lido.  We have previously taken part in their aquathlon series but this year as I (Manda) am not fully back running yet, I thought it would be nice to take part in the Mid-Summer Relay.

The event takes place at 8pm on the Wednesday of the week of the summer solstice, so once the public have left the lido (which was a hard task on the hottest and sunniest day of the year) 40 teams get ready to battle.  There were teams there from all different swimming clubs and organisations including the Serpies, Spencer, and the MET police.

The format is 4 people who each swim 4*1 length and teams must have at least one male and one female so we roped Brian and Tricky into our team.

We listened to the briefing and I promised to try not to mess up (especially after my recent relay disasters at the Cold Water Championships and then more recently at a SLSC head up breaststroke relay where I pushed off under the water which was firmly against the rules!).

Ready, steady, go!

Katie was off on leg one and she had pretty much clear water for her first length.  That was where the clear water ended, as for the next 15 lengths you sprinted your way through the water hoping you weren’t about to be taken out by an oncoming swimmer, which I did witness a couple of times.

4*1L sounded easy, but actually sprinting 400 yards was proper hard work and we definitely earned our post-race pool-side included-in-the-price falafel and positively-tropical prosecco*.

It was lovely to see so many other swim clubs and swimmers taking part and enjoying the lido.

There was some controversy with the results as we were in the wrong age category and therefore missed out on our podium spot. However, we will be back next year to regain the third place that was rightfully ours (and drink more prosecco!).


* achieved by mixing warm prosecco and mango baby puree

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

The pregnancy swim diary

Being pregnant presented some interesting challenges to my (Manda) swimming training, however, I was able to continue to swim right until 40 weeks.  This was all made possible by lots of lovely people, mainly Katie, who continued to swim with me despite my speed and endurance not being what it once was.  It also helped that I had goals (swimathon/winter river challenge/staying fit for labour!) that kept me focused.

I honestly believe that swimming is the best sport for pregnancy.. You don’t need to do as much as me but it should be encouraged to swim throughout pregnancy.

Here is what I got up to swimming wise whilst pregnant.

Weeks 1-4
Most people don’t realise they are pregnant by this point so it is business as usual.

Weeks 5-8
I swam a 10k in the lido in 13 degrees at this point. 😉 so evidently still BAU!


I did struggle one week due to a feeling that I was ripping my stomach muscles every time I pushed off the wall. Not sure what it was but after 2500m I got out. I decided to get back in 2 days later and just be less aggressive on the turns and I was fine.

Week 8-12
I’m getting slower.. Well maybe not slower but I’m fatiguing a lot quicker and for a long distance swimmer being able to handle 200m easier than 1600m is a bitter pill to swallow. Apart from that I’m still thoroughly enjoying my swimming and being around friends.

Week 12-16
I had to go to Hong Kong for 1 of the weeks and only managed one short swim there and I decided to go to the pool when the entire over 65 population of Hong Kong seemed to be there! This meant avoiding breaststrokers who seemed to be hell bent on swimming in the middle of the lane and kicking me. After that there was no swimming for nearly 3 weeks due to a combination of jet lag and a cough. I couldn’t take anything for it so just had to wait it out. Sorry to anyone who had the pleasure of miserable Manda during the time. I made my return for the 12 days of Christmas set and managed the 4K fine apart from the joys of now needing a toilet break mid swim. I’m also having to be a bit more selective on what costume to wear.


Week 16-20
No Christmas sea dip for me. Brian tried to suggest the baby needs to get used to the cold water asap and I totally agree but it was more the risk of getting sick again that stopped me.

I am still doing the sets I write, I have just stopped trying to do anything that is over 80% effort and anything that involves less breathing than normal.. Maybe I should stop including anything over 80% in my sets but then how would I inflict pain on Katie and the others?! I am also finding that I am not fatiguing as I was at the beginning so maybe that was just a first trimester thing.

Week 20-24
Over half way and perfect timing for a 10 minute time trial with Swim for Tri to see how much speed I’ve lost. Admittedly there was some tactical drafting going on (thanks Simon and Katie in the later stages) but I did 700m and as I can’t swim at max effort I was pleasantly pleased with that. Previous best was 725m.

I am still doing 4km for my weekend swim. The idea is to keep up this distance on the weekends for as long as possible, especially as I need to swim 5k for the swimathon.

Week 24-28
I have admitted defeat and invested in some size 36”(which is 2 sizes up from my usual size) swimming costumes.  The maternity ones are just fugly and don’t look like they have been designed with swimmers who actually want to swim frontcrawl so my plan is 36” for now.

It is only one month to go until Swimathon so I am still doing a long swim of 4km or longer a week to ensure I can cope with the 5k distance.  We even managed a cheeky 50*100m down at Charlton one weekend in preparation for Katie and Brian doing 100*100m in April. I plan to go along but probably not do the full 100..although.. No I won’t..I promise!!!

I also managed to demonstrate in week 26 how 1) I had lost my sense of balance 2) I am not designed to be on land by falling off a pavement when 100m from the entrance to the swimming pool.  My knees took the brunt but a week later I was back in the water…just ALOT slower for the week off (or maybe it was all the food I ate in Italy whilst I wasn’t able to swim!)

Week 28 – 32
I have admitted defeat part II.  I have a 2 piece.  I’m baffling the swimmers of London.  Female, pregnant, 2 piece, fast lane -> SAY WHAT?!? Although after my week out of the water following “pavement gate”, I probably don’t belong in the fast lane anymore.  sob sob sob.

Swimathon! I did it.  5k in 1:25.  My hope was under 1:30 but that was including me taking rests as needed, so I was chuffed!  I only took one break for about 45 seconds at 3km.  I even managed to get a shout out from Duncan Goodhew on twitter.



Week 32-36
No swimathon to train for but still have 3 weeks of the Winter River Challenge to go so still trying to get the 9641m a week done which means a 4k swim once a week.  There were 2 weeks where I didn’t make the weekly goal distance because I had to get out the water at Charlton 1.5k into a 4k swim as I was suffering badly from acid…oh the joys of being pregnant.  The following week I missed the target due to a combination of taking it easy for once and our Tuesday night session being cancelled.

Week 36-40
The winter river challenge is over!  I am still swimming.  On my last day of work we went for a dip at Kings Cross Pond Club but my already taut skin couldn’t take the cold water and felt like it was on the verge of ripping.  So I got out pretty quickly… ok VERY quickly!!  Very bizarre sensation.  Hoping the lido warms up (and I find my lido pass!) so I can get back in.

Photo: @ledavies

I went for a swim at Hampton on my own, whilst the others were busy training for the jubilee 10k in the lido and was pleased to report that I was the fastest person in the pool (..just!).

Week 40+

This is where the diary ends… And after a few weeks ordered rest I will be back training for Coniston 2016, which could be my biggest challenge to date.  Watch this space.

Special thanks to Swim For Tri, RG Active and #thisgirlcan for keeping me swimming and Katie and Simon for not kicking me out of the fast lane!

Cross training for swimmers – the benefits of Pilates

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, in 30 you’ll have a whole new body” Joseph Pilates

As mermaids get let’s say slightly older they are less able to swim every day and cross training – building fitness in different ways – becomes even more important.

One of our favourite forms of training outside the pool is Pilates.  The concept of Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany in the early 20th century.   Pilates is based on six principles: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.  Classes generally include a series of stretching and strengthening exercises focusing on developing the deep core muscles.  This strengthens the whole body and helps to prevent injuries – essential for making it though the long open water swimming season.

“In swimming, speed comes directly from the core,” says Dana Torres, “so Pilates helps immensely!”

Apart from the core strength you get that helps the swimming it also helps you understands minute movements of your body and how great an impact they have and how you can control them.  This sounds familiar because in swimming, where technique is so important and you can find yourself debating the positioning of the thumb on entry into the water, it is paramount to make tiny adjustments to your stroke that will have a significant impact, so understanding this out of the water can only aid these adjustments in the water.

Whereas at Team mermaids we TRY to breathe bilaterally as much as we can, we often resort to one sided breathing.  This can lead to misalignment and a strong and weak side, which in turn can and has led to issues for us.  Pilates helps ensure that you are giving time and strength to your weak side.  Additionally, we know how much the body loves to resort to the easy option and use 1 muscle instead multiple (specifically of concern for swimming with the complex shoulder taking so much of a battering), pilates allows you the time to build those muscles that have “switched off”

There are two main types of Pilates classes; reformer and mat.  Reformer Pilates involves undertaking the exercise on a bed type machine, which increases the resistance and stretching elements of the exercise.

Our favourite place for reformer classes is Frame in Shoreditch.  Classes are good value (£16) whereas classes at other studios can be £20 – £25.

We have both done reformer Pilates from about three years now and when I was going to at least one class a week I really noticed the different in terms of my core strength which in turn helped my swimming.

My (Katie) favourite teacher is Rhos.  He really really pushes you in classes and his no nonsense attitude is always amusing.  Manda loves Sara whose classes are often more rehab focused and great if you are recovering from an injury.  Maisie is also great for pregnancy Pilates classes.  Our friend Kimberly was doing her classes up until about 6 weeks before she popped.

Frame have just opened a new studio in Kings Cross which we are going to have to check out.

We are both more experienced at reformer Pilates but while I have been off on maternity leave I have been doing mum and baby mat Pilates classes with Katie Francesca in Balham.

Not only does she have a fantastic name but she runs great classes.  The classes are really challenging and you always feel like you have had a great workout.  Katie explains different levels for the exercise though so you can exercise at the right level for you.  Katie always has a fun 80s playlist as well!

I have really enjoyed the classes and they have been great for building up my core strength again after having had the baby.  They are going to be the thing is miss most about maternity leave!

If you are looking for something to do outside of the pool then we would definitely recommend giving Pilates a try.


Update 2017

I (Manda) continued using Pilates pre and post natal to complement my swimming and ensure I stayed fit and strong for carrying a growing baby bump, giving birth and for all the challenges post birth.  I actually did a class the Wednesday before giving birth on the Saturday and I had been booked in to do the Saturday class but I was somewhat busy giving birth so had to miss it!

Pre Natal

Whilst pregnant I did a physio (Madia) led pilates class at ReCentre in Balham.  The class was a slow class with only a few people so that you could ensure you were doing all the mat based moves correctly.

I enjoyed the small class nature and it was on a Saturday morning so could fit in pre swimming.

To complement the above class I did a class once a week with Katie from Katie’s pilates (see above).  I got so much satisfaction from this class as it was HARD and would often end up in a proper sweat.  The 2 classes whereas, both are pilates, they were so different and I really liked how they balanced each other out.

I also did Yoga at Yogahaven on a Sunday morning led by Toni.  It was a great class and I always left feeling mentally better about the challenges ahead than when I arrived.

Post Natal

ReCentre do a post natal class on Sunday but I was busy at the lido on Sunday’s over the summer.

Instead I attended Katie’s both buggylates and mum and pilates.  Being outside doing buggylates was amazing for someone who prefers to be outside and seeing weekly improvements made the classes all the more sweeter.

Now I am back at work I don’t have a chance to do pilates and boy does my body know it – I hope to find a Katie’s class than works with my family’s schedule as like we said above you need to compliment the swimming with the strength work.

Why we love parkrun

Now Team Mermaids are swimmers which means that we are pretty rubbish at running but we do absolutely love parkrun. Parkrun is an organisation which operates 5km runs usually at 9am on Saturday in parks and commons literally ALL OVER THE WORLD. What’s more the runs are FREE to enter!

All you have to do is sign up on the parkrun website and you get issued a bar code. At the end of the run you are given a token which lets the organisers know what place you came and the timers know what time is associated with that place. You then have your token and barcode scanned and your individual time is logged.

Parkrun relies on volunteers on the day – our favourite job is doing the bar code and token scanning.

There are awards for parkrun milestones. You get a free t-shirt when you have run at 50, 100 and 250 (!) events. We have currently done 10 but we have ambitions of getting to 50 in the next 10 years!

The atmosphere at parkrun is always fantastic and so relaxed – everyone chats to each other brought together by a shared love of running.

One of the things that I think is amazing about parkrun is how many off them operate. There are 359 parkrun locations around the world and over 800,000 registered runners – wow!

To give you a bit of a flavour of the events we are going to write reviews of the different courses we have run at below. We will add to this as we run at more events.

Tooting Common

30 January 2016 was a momentous day – Tooting Common held its first parkrun!  Campaigning to bring parkrun to Tooting Common has been going on for years but Wandsworth Council kept refusing permission for the event to take place.  We were pretty excited therefore to finally be getting our very own local parkrun.  Parkrun organizers tried to keep it on the ‘downlow’ so as not to have too many people at the first event but despite the lack of publicity 200 people turned up and ran.  We were clearly therefore not the only people who were happy to see parkrun come to Tooting Common.  The event was even covered by the Wandsworth Guardian.  The article included pictures of Max and I (Katie) and some quotes – we are famous!

The course is a three lap loop, most of which on is on concrete paths but with a small section on a track.  It was a nice course with some interesting twist and turns.

Post run refreshments from the nearby Tooting Bec Common Café.  There is no inside space which makes it a bit of a chilly stop in winter but perfect for summer.  There are also loads of brunch places in Tooting and Balham.  We headed to Mud after the run which was yummy.

Post run swim at Tooting Bec Lido of course (temperature dependent)!

Buggy running suitable – The parkrun website says that the course isn’t suitable for buggies but there was no way I was missing out so ignored that advice.  While it probably is not the easiest course for a buggy as there are some narrow gaps to squeeze through overall I didn’t have a problem.  We have a BOB utility stroller but I imagine if your running buggy is wider or not as sturdy it would be trickier.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park was the first parkrun we both ran at. Richmond Park itself is gorgeous and the perfect place for a parkrun. We are so lucky to have a park like this within a shortish drive of us. The course itself starts off going downhill and along a trail before veering on to the grass and up what I can only describe as a mountain! At least it is just one loop so you only have to climb the mountain once.

Our friend Karen (@runwithkaren) is a regular run director at Richmond.

In 2013 I (Katie) did the Christmas Day parkrun event. It was so much fun and had a lovely Christmassy community spirit.

Post run refreshments from the café at Pembroke lodge (also nearest car park) or otherwise head down to Richmond town centre for tea and cake from hummingbird or coffee and breakfast from Butter Beans.

Post run swim at Pools in the Park. Heated outdoor and indoor pools. (Note: this pool is closer to old deer park parkrun)

Buggy running suitable – TBC

Bushy Park

The original and some might say the best. This is where I (Manda) logged my fastest time thanks to the favourable flat course. It has been known to have +1000 runners on a Saturday morning and is really a sight to be seen. Like Richmond park it isn’t unusual to be running past a deer/stag, which should be done with caution!

Post run refreshments from mobile café at car park where run finishes.

Post run swim at Hampton Pool. Outdoor, heated and 36m. They also have a small but lovely café on site with a terrace in case it is sunny.

Buggy running suitable – Yes – not from Katie’s experience but confirmed due to number seen there!

Brockwell Park

This is a deceptive 2 lap course that seems to cover all the mountains in London in one go but it is a cracker. If the race director is Andy you have GUARANTEED sunshine for the run… he can’t guarantee anything post run though. You also can’t fail to smile and have the cockles of your heart melted when the volunteer high fives you after your first lap with a foam hand. He is my hero every time. It has become our regular parkrun due to proximity and post run refreshments and swim options.

Post run refreshments from the lido café. This is one of our favourite places for brunch in London.

Post run swim at Brockwell lido… although in the winter we have to relocate to Crystal Palace.


Buggy running suitable – YES… as long as you don’t mind pushing a buggy and baby up a MOUNTAIN or 2

Wimbledon Common

Guaranteed mud no matter what time of year. It is a flat course but the mud does make it a challenge but I (Manda) love it for a bit of “trail” running. 2 lap course but not one for a PB. We need to get Katie some trail shoes and she will have to get over her sever aversion to mud. I blame it on her growing up in the city.

Post run refreshments from the windmill café right by the start/finish and car park.

Post run swim at Putney (if you can be bothered to deal with the traffic!)

Buggy running suitable – Not really due to mud and challenging terrain

Longrun Meadow

Dennis, Max and I were away for the weekend in Somerset and I (Katie) thought this was the perfect opportunity to try out a parkrun in a new location. We therefore went to Longrun Meadow parkrun in Taunton only a 10 min drive from where we were staying. We happened to turn up at the event’s second birthday which meant that lots of people were in fancy dress. Everyone was so welcoming and we had a chat with the run director prior to the event who told us that he wanted to break the record for the number of runners that day. I’m not sure if they did or not.


The course itself was lovely and flat and comprised of two loops.

Post run refreshments at a lovely mobile coffee van there especially for the occasion. Dennis wanted to have a bacon sandwich but I wouldn’t let him as we were heading home for breakfast after the run.

Post run swim – we had a pool at our cottage so we headed back to that. It wasn’t really long enough for laps but Max had a little dip.

Buggy running suitable – The course was very flat which is great for buggy running but the paths were quite narrow which did make passing people pretty challenging – you had to veer onto the grass and sprint! There was a lovely lady there also pushing a buggy who I had a chat with most of the way around.

Old Deer Park

Old deer park is a smaller parkrun to its big neighbours of Richmond and Bushy. I (Manda) visited during the rugby world cup where old deer park hosted a fan zone, this meant running on their B course.  The course is flat but 3 laps.  I thought I wouldn’t like it but it actually made the run go quicker if not faster.  Due to its small nature I banked a position of 36th… unheard of!

Post run refreshments – nothing of note but there is a cafe in pools in the park.

Post run swim at pools in the park.  Luckily for me the outdoor pool was open – such a treat on a winter’s day.

Buggy running suitable – TBC

Dulwich Park

We went to Dulwich parkrun on October 31 aka Halloween and were promptly greeted by various spooky creatures.  After a Halloween pun filled briefing we were soon off.  Like Old Deer park this is a 3 lap course of the flat (hoorah!) tarmac carriage way in Dulwich park.  The 3 lap format meant I (Manda) got overtaken by a few of the leading runners when I was just settling in to my 2nd lap  – their speed is amazing!  Our friend Claire also came along and finished 300th.  They had never had this many runners before so only had tokens up to 299, so Claire didn’t get a finishing token but did become a record breaker!

Post run refreshments – we headed down to Gail’s for some tea, brunch and cake.

Post run swim –  You have a choice as you are between Brockwell lido, Dulwich leisure centre and Forest Hill pool.  Personally if it is warm enough for you then head to Brockwell every time.

Buggy running suitable – yes! The wide tarmac paths make it perfect for a buggy run and the paths are nice and wide so easy to overtake / be overtaken!

For New Year’s Eve 2015 my husband, baby and I (Katie) took a trip to Ilkley to spend the evening with some of my university friends. The way Christmas and New Year fell this year meant that you could run on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the 2nd of January. So after running at Richmond and Dulwich on Christmas and Boxing Days respectively we were determined to therefore find a nearby run so we could ‘complete the set’. After somewhat of a late night we therefore dragged ourselves out of bed to head to Skipton parkrun 20 mins drive away.

After a very mild winter the weather had taken a dip and it was 0.5 degrees when we arrived. I was not properly equipped at all and had very cold hands for most of the run.

The course was a four lap loop which meant that I was lapped by the fastest runners on my second lap and on the final lap I was even lapped by a seven year old (oh the shame). I know people have mixed views on several lap courses but I don’t mind them at all as I like to know how far I have still to go. There were a couple of inclines but generally it was an enjoyable course.

Post run refreshments – as it was New Year’s Day the café wasn’t open but I think on regular days there is a standing invite for post run coffees.

Post run swim – There was a pool right next to the start of the course (Craven Swimming Pool). I didn’t have a dip but my friend who I was staying with says the pool is really nice and modern.

Buggy running suitable – Most of the course was on tarmac which made pushing the buggy quite easy but for parts of the course the path was quite narrow which meant that overtaking was quite difficult which slowed my progress (well that is my excuse anyway)!


I (Manda) was staying in Hastings for new years and after missing the opportunity to do an official parkrun in Guernsey over Christmas (Guernsey!) I was looking forward to racking up 2 parkruns, however, Hastings decided to give themselves New Years Day off so I headed down for the 2nd January run.

The course is an straight out there (to Hastings pier) and back (towards st Leonards) run along the sea front.  The only deviation to the normal course was we were sticking to the promenade as there was too much shingle on the beach side path from a storm. As expected a sea front run is beautiful, however, we had gale force winds and this is the excuse I am using for the personal worst parkrun time I have ever logged… oh and that my husband was slowing me down (Fortunately for me he doesn’t read the blog!).

Post run refreshments – not close but highly recommend The Red Pig food van down at pett level for some lovely food and drink.

Post run swim – the sea!! Not always suitable though.

Buggy running suitable – straight route and wide tarmac paths are perfect for this.

Peckham Rye

For the first ‘normal’ parkrun of 2016, Dennis, Max and I (Katie) headed to Peckham Rye parkrun. This is one of the smaller parkruns in the local area with around 100 runners normally.  New Year’s Resolutions were in full force with a massive 186 runners on the day.

The course is a three lap run meandering through the park and common – lovely, if slightly ‘undulating’!  There is a car park not too far from the start which makes the logistics of getting there quite easy.

I’ve not been to Peckham Rye before but it is really lovely.  It is a mix between a common with wide open spaces and a more manicured park including a Japanese Garden!

Post run refreshments the parkrun team go for a coffee at Cafe on the Rye each week and all runners are welcome to join them.  I’ve not been to the café but it looks pretty nice from the website.

Post run swim Dulwich Leisure Centre is not too far away and the newly refurbished Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Centre is just around the corner.  Both are run by Fusion Leisure.

Buggy running suitable: The course is on tarmac which makes it good for running with the buggy. The paths are also relatively wide which makes running alongside others quite easy.  There are some tight turns which can be a bit more difficult to manoeuvre but all in all a pretty good course for buggy running.


Dennis (Katie’s husband) and their friends Ali and Dawson have been having a competition to see who could be the first to run 1,000 miles. Dawson, who lives in Chicago, trained for and ran the Chicago marathon in 2015 so was well ahead of the other two.

Dawson was over in the UK for a wedding in April and as all the gang was together, I (Katie) managed to persuade them to put their hangover aside and go to parkrun on Saturday morning.
The wedding was near Sandhurst and due to a lack of childcare I had to travel back to London on the Friday evening. Max was up bright and early on the Saturday, however, so despite only having about 4.5 hours sleep, I jumped in the car to meet the guys at Rushmoor park run.

The run starts on the edge of a field which you run across. You then run by the road for a bit before dropping down to the river to run along the bank which was lovely. I felt like I had been running for miles so it came as an unpleasant surprise to find out as we left the river that it was a two lap course and I needed to do the whole thing again.

Overall a lovely course and I would recommend a visit if you are in the area. Out of the boys Ali speeded to victory in 21:37. Dennis and Dawson ran together for 24.30ish.

Post run refreshments we went back to have brunch at the Aviator hotel which was very nice. The official post run coffee is at Daisy’s café in Queens Road, North Camp.

Post run swim we didn’t go for a swim post run but google reliably informs me that there is a 50m pool at the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre nearby.

Buggy running suitable there are some tricky bits running across the grass and some sharp turns coming down onto the river but generally it was a good course for the buggy.

Thanks to Kimberly for the below reviews:

Highbury Fields

The course is a five lap loop all on is on concrete paths around the edge of the park which is on a hill so you go up and down five times and finish going uphill.

It’s a good run but a bit soul destroying to see the short-shorts runners finishing when you’re only on lap 3!

Post run refreshments from The White Swan, which is the local Wetherspoons so I decided to give that a miss…  There are a few nice cafes nearby, I went to the fairly new Nanna’s for an excellent latte.

Post run swim There is a 25m pool in Highbury Fields or Cally Pool is only 25mins walk away too.

Buggy running suitable – Yes, although it was horizontal rain that day so not much fun for a child! My buggy is not running appropriate so I left it and the baby at home.

Finsbury Park

I haven’t ever been to Finsbury Park and it turns out that it is beautiful, bonus! It is a deceptively hilly course, two laps takes you up a long drag of a hill, then it’s flat and down through the trees before you head up a very steep climb, however you are rewarded with a lake-side path and a finish through some flower gardens which makes you feel like a proper winner!

Post run refreshments from the cafe in the park, which is nice but will be really lovely in the summer as it’s right in the centre of the park with loads of outdoor seating. We walked down to Green Lanes for a Turkish breakfast, delicious.

Post run swim: Clissold Park is the nearest.

Buggy running suitable: Yes, it’s all on proper paths. There was one kid shouting ‘faster daddy! as they hit the hill, poor man.


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.

SLSC Tooting Bec Lido 1 mile race

In 2011 Katie and I participated in the SLSC 1 mile race where we got beaten badly. Our egos were so badly bruised we haven’t made it back to an SLSC race since, despite me claiming that I will do the weekly Sunday races every year but never have. This year the 1 mile race was being held on a Friday and both Katie and I were available and headed on down.

They held a kids’ race and then a half mile race prior to the 1 mile. One of the kids was a child after our own hearts as she did our favourite stroke, the not yet officially recognised, “kick-on-the-back”. Note: WHEN this becomes an Olympic sport me and Katie have got the 1, 2 locked down.

The mile race starts half way down the pool and then once you get to the other end it is 17 lengths from there as the lido is 100 yards long. Katie got in and immediately declared “ooh this is cold without my wetsuit”. Now if there was a top 10 of things you shouldn’t say around people who swim in skins all year round in a non-heated lido, then that must be in the top 3. The only thing she might have said that would have been worse is “just going to have a little wee to warm this water up for you all”.


Off we swam. Despite the back and forth nature, no collisions were experienced and everyone looked out for each other. I managed a respectful 24:50, which is actually a 40 second improvement since 2011 and Katie came in shortly after me. The ladies winner was the lady who beat us last time, whilst then heavily pregnant! Well done Nancy.

I had a celebratory cupcake (thanks Katie) and headed to bed for an early night as we were back at the lido for 6am the next morning for a 7000 yd swim.

Top 10 most memorable swims…so far!

This blog summarises our top 10 most memorable swims. We have excluded the ‘big’ races e.g. New York, Zurich etc. as while very memorable we have already covered these in other entries. We decided on what swims we were going to cover together but we as we often have very different perspectives on the swim we have written separate accounts.

No. 10 – VOtwo Endurance Day 3.8k

MANDA: Before this race I was ambivalent about the whole thing as I had lost my “mojo” after winning Zurich with Katie. This caused much chuckles, concern and confusion when I said it would be like an athlete being bothered about a diamond meet after winning Olympic gold. Deluded … yes I am! Ha! So I got in and set about getting the 3.8k done. There was a tight pack of us from the start, which included Katie, Brian and another friend of ours Dave, who had travelled down from up North for this. Dorney is an “easy“ course due to the lane ropes at bottom and perfectly rectangular course so I just sat with everyone putting in a bit of effort but not too much. On the last lap the argy bargy around the buoys got a bit much, which normally I wouldn’t be shy in dealing with but in this case I thought I can’t be bothered with it so sat back and drafted off Katie and another girl who were leading. With approx. 500 metres to go, due to drafting and general ambivalence I had energy left so I decided to make a move. The idea was to swing around the other girl and Katie and then position myself in front of Katie so she could draft off me for a bit. That’s what I did. This move involves no hesitation so full throttle off I went. I turn backed at one point and didn’t see Katie or anyone else for that matter so appeared I had dropped them all. I exited the water and realised Dave was right behind me and was obviously hiding well. Next followed Katie, Brian and the other girl in the pack. Top 5 out within 20 seconds of each other!

KATIE: I do love a race at Dorney Lake as it saves all that bother of doing that pesky sighting. We had a big crowd down for this race as our friends Brian and Dave joined Manda and I and our friends David and Tom were competing in the 10km. Manda and I were swimming along nicely together up until the final buoy when another girl managed to get in between us. The girl then proceeded to push and shove me for the final 400m, pulling my arm under so I couldn’t catch back up to Manda. Now I am normally quite mild mannered during a swim but this girl got under my skin especially when she tried to push me over on the run up to the finishing line so I tried to push her back! The race commentator even shouted at us to stop pushing each other.

No. 9 – Tooting Bec Lido – Members race 1 mile – May 2011

MANDA: This was somewhat of an accidental race. Every week SLSC hold a race at the lido on a Sunday morning. Despite being members for 4 years we have never done one. This Sunday we turned up and were training when we got asked to vacate the pool for the weekly race. The race can vary from 100 yds to 1 mile, this day it was 1 mile so we would need to be out of the pool for a while. If can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So we took off our wetsuits and joined in. You were asked to line up in speed order and we cautiously put ourselves in the top 10, which drew some looks but we had faith/delusion on our side. Needless to say we were beaten by some awesome swimmers, including a pregnant lady!

KATIE: Manda and I are members of SLSC so we can swim all year round (for us this means a bit in May and October but never in the cold months). One of the other ‘perks’ of membership is that you can compete in the weekly races. We had turned up for a swim one Sunday morning at the same time the race was about to start so we thought we would join in only to totally embarrass ourselves by being soundly beaten by a very pregnant lady and a gentleman who must have been 60+. We haven’t been back.


No. 8 – SwimFesT 3.8k / 5k – July 2012

KATIE: I love the Swim for Tri SwimFesT course. I always say to Dan it feels very intrepid as it is not just a boring circular course. For the last straight you have to swim across the lake and swim under a bridge tapping the timing mat like a proper Olympic swimmer. As part of our New York training we decided to do a double race weekend (see no.4) with SwimFesT on the Sunday. The day was lovely and sunny and the water was not too chilly even though we were swimming skins. After battling in the river at Marlow the day before 5k felt like quite a long way. I guess that is why Manda decided 3.8k was a better option!

MANDA: Yes it was me that only did the 3.8km. You can always rely on Katie to make you feel inferior! But in my defence it was the morning after No.4 swim at Marlow. It is always a really nice event down at Lakeside for SwimFesT and the course is really nice. Unfortunately they aren’t doing them this year but if they do again be sure to get yourself down there.

Katie coming into the finish at SwimFesT
Katie coming into the finish at SwimFesT

No. 7 – XT Swim 1.5k – September 2010

KATIE: This race was back when we were novices on the open water scene. I think we have been very spoiled as the other races we had done before were at Dorney or Bray lake which are nice and clear with lovely changing rooms and warm showers. This race was a bit ‘different’. It was on an army barracks covered in mud. The water was peaty black and FREEZING. Changing rooms and showers were a distant dream. We didn’t even have our swimming costumes on when we arrived and had to change in the car. #rookieerror!

MANDA: I think this was the 2nd race I did with Katie. Maybe it was inexperience but this race felt really really cold and I also recall seeing a sign saying if you got flu symptoms afterwards to head straight to the doctors as could be weil’s disease… arggh. It was also the first time I met Kate. On the way back to London the 2 of them were discussing this girl called Suz they knew from Uni who had done Swimtreks… little did I know that in a year’s time I would be going on my first Swimtrek with the 4 of them.

No. 6 – Human Race, Dorney Lake 1.5k / 3k – May 2011

MANDA: A year later we would be doing the 10k but I felt like the 3k was a massive step up after having only competed in max mile swims. I really enjoyed it, despite the shock that we weren’t swimming in the main lake with the lane ropes at the bottom, but the side lake. Later in the year we did a 3.8km swim, which again felt like the longest swim in the world… if only I knew what was coming!

KATIE: This time it was my turn to wimp out. 3k just sounded so far (little did I know what Manda had in store for me for 2012!) so I opted for the 1.5k alternative.

No. 5 – Great London Swim 1 mile – July 2011

KATIE: Racing at the Great London Swim is always great to remind yourself about how popular open water swimming has become and how anyone can enjoy the sport. Thousands compete in event. For some this is the first (and maybe last!) open water swim and some people have completed in hundreds of races. Times range from an elite 18mins to 1 hour plus. All you need is a love of open water swimming.

MANDA: This was an exhausting event for me despite the 1 mile distance. I got in and did my 1 mile but after that I had to run back to the start to swim again with my friend Joanne. I had bullied her into swimming the mile but had promised to swim it alongside her… what I didn’t know was she was planning to swim breaststroke. It was exhausting. 1 hour of breast stroke was harder than the 24 minutes front crawl. Chapeau to those swimming breastroke.

DSC00974 DSC00978

No. 4 – F3 Marlow 3k – July 2012

MANDA: This swim was the afternoon before we did SwimFesT (No. 8) and we were swimming it skins in preparation for NYC (that turned out to be warmer than the local leisure centre!). We set off against the current and would turn at a buoy for a swim with the current and repeat once more through for the 3km distance. With Thames swims, sometimes the current can be strong and sometimes it can be weak. Due to heavy rain it was very strong. A lot of people were trying to swim against the bank so as to avoid the strong current working against them. I tried this but still didn’t seem to be progressing, then I turned at the buoy and in what only felt like seconds I was back at the bottom for another go at battling against the current. When I got to the buoy to turn for the return leg, I didn’t realise that the buoy had come loose with the strong current and was drifting, albeit it slowly due to a kayaker trying to hold it in place, downstream. I furiously chased after it until a kayaker told me to stop. I think he had been trying to tell me to stop for a while but obviously I couldn’t hear him and it was only after we had clashed that I took note. I drifted to the finish line, where Katie has been waiting in the cold and no wetsuit for some time.. Sorry!

KATIE: This race is one of my favourite racing memories just because of the total chaos that ensued. Highlights are the buoy becoming detached from its moorings and floating downstream. I was swimming towards it at the time and saw this unfold which was lucky or else I think I would have been very confused. My other highlight was desperately trying to remember from GCSE geography about river flows to work out were the river is flowing fastest and slowest to take best advantage swimming up-stream and downstream. I’m not sure I remembered correctly!

No. 4 Marlow
No. 4 Marlow

No. 3 – Human Race – Festival of Sport

MANDA: What a sh$t show. The 10k swimmers were meant to be starting first but due to delays and tides not slowing when people aren’t on schedule, the shorter distance swimmers arrived to the start area to find the 10k swimmers still there and with the tides still continuing to come in, the event organisers decided to set us all off at the same time. Now my swimming friends, if there is one piece of advice I can give Event organisers, this will be it: DO NOT GIVE SWIMMERS THE SAME COLOURED HATS AS THE BUOYS. We set off and no one had a clue where they were going and often I thought I was sighting a buoy (that were way too far apart) but really it was just another swimmer. In the end I did the ultimate sin and just followed another swimmer. When I got out, Simon Griffiths, Editor of H2Open Magazine, who was also swimming, was there and I told him my thoughts re buoy colours etc and some other swimmers who came in earlier thought they might have missed a buoy. I then got changed and waited for Katie, who was doing the 10k. After waiting for her for an unusual amount of time, we saw this very forlorn looking Katie emerge. She looked emotionally and physically ruined. Fortunately Kate was on hand to be her “babushka” and normal Katie service was resumed.

KATIE: Despite all the above this was still one of my favourite races. I had never been to Cornwall before and I loved it. Having the festival around the sport was a great idea as it meant you go to sample some famous Cornish Rattler cider in the evenings and listen to live music. It is a shame they haven’t repeated the event. On the train traveling down to Cornwall there was a whole load of hip and trendy people on the train talking about the ‘festival’. We thought they looked way too cool to be coming to the Festival of Sport with us and we were right as it turned out they were going to a festival called ‘Bangface’ in Newquay. Anyway about the swim! I decided to do 10k as it seemed a waste to travel all the way to Cornwall without making the most of it. I ended up swimming 11.25k as the course was quite confusing and it was very difficult to see the buoys as they were spread quite far apart. You had to pretty much hope you were heading in the right direction. It was gorgeous (if slightly chilly) swimming in the clear sea and I don’t regret swimming the longer distance despite the fact that the 1k back into shore was probably the most mentally taxing swim I have ever done. I was crying into my goggles! My highlight was swimming round the beautiful St. Michael’s mount at the start of the swim.

Mermaid hug
Katie before the swim
The beautiful St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall
The beautiful St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall
Katie exiting the water looking forlorn at the Festival of Sport
Katie exiting the water looking forlorn at the Festival of Sport
Manda's route round St. Michael's Mount
Manda’s route round St. Michael’s Mount

No. 2 – 10k ‘Relay’ Bray Lake – September 2011

KATIE: This race had been advertised as including a relay category but I think we were the only one entered so we had kind of been forgotten which meant we could make up our own rules. The course was 1k long so Manda, Kate, Suz and I all did 2 laps each and then Manda and I did another lap at the end each. I did the final lap and after I got out a man came up to me and said I saw you sprint past me and it looked like you had only just got in. I reassured him that was because I only just had! As we came 1st out of 1 we demanded a prize! Afterwards we went to lunch in Maidenhead and got to see David Walliams swim part of his amazing Thames challenge. What a hero.

MANDA: What I remember most about this race was the realisation of what kind of team member Suz was going to be for NYC. This was our first team race after having signed up for NYC and Suz proceeded to nap through the rest of us swimming. Welcome to the team Snoozy Suzy. Oh and we came 1st out 1.

Phone 209 Phone 211

No. 1 – Henley Swim Classic [2.25k] – June 2011

MANDA: Whose idea was it to start a race at 4am?!? We stayed in reading at Kate’s parents’ house the night before and then when they were off to the pub we set about going to bed in order to get some sleep before our 3am alarm. Whilst driving to the swim we drove past people who were still walking home from their nights out. Things just kept getting more surreal. We registered in the dark and then put the wetsuits on ready for our swim. The swim was relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that as the men are set off first, the faster woman had to plough through the slower men. Once we got to the finish we walked back to the club house and had some breakfast then headed back to London. We got back to London at 9AM… YES 9AM. I went to go back to bed but there was a street party on my road with a brass band so couldn’t. I remember the Monday at work me feeling worse than I did the Tuesday morning after Glastonbury. .. That’s how rock and roll outdoor swimming is.

KATIE: Watching the midsummer sun rise while swimming down the Henley regatta rowing course (almost) makes up for having to get up at 3am to swim!

Summer 2014 Tooting Bec Lido

Every time I head to my local lido I have a completely different experience. There are so many variables; who you are with, weather, water temperature, skin v suit, open to public, personal mood etc. I can’t handle the cold (I’m getting better… Slowly!) so whereas I have my South London SC Lido membership for year round use (it is open 365!) I normally start swimming there end of April/beginning of May.

I spend my winters moaning to Katie that I can’t wait to get back outside and then I spend my summers hoping for bad weather so the lido isn’t over run with joe public. However, I always remember without these glorious days, where the queue trails to the car park, the bouncers (yes they have bouncers.. We are still in toots!) earn their wage and sun tan lotion clouds the water, SLSC members wouldn’t be able to swim there whenever we please.

Tooting Bec Lido Summer 2014

Nothing beats that early May swim when the water burns your face and you feel like you are part of the most exclusive club in the world.


Then comes the public, who are foolishly optimistic about the temperature. A hot June day results in crowds, who often don’t realise that a 25 air temperature doesn’t mean equal water temperature. The below was Katie (spot her if you can) swimming in the lido all on her own on a glorious sunny evening, whilst me and Brian shivered (water temperature was only 14) on the side lines and drank tea (actually B only drinks hot Ribena) and listened to 3 regulars playing guitars and singing. Glorious.

image image

Come August the water temperature is up (currently at 21, which is still the coolest in London) and the people of SW17 love it. A sunny weekend summer day means avoiding the lido until the kids are worn out and have eaten too much ice cream and the water is similar to a glass of warm milk. Heading down at around 5/6 still gives you a couple of hours of swimming and is the perfect way to delay the Sunday night ‘Monday is coming’ blues. Try it…you won’t regret it.


September… How we love you, how we hate you. That time of year where the imminent end of the ‘open water season’ makes you want to cram in as any many long al fresco swims as possible, as soon in order to get any distance in you’ll be confined to the chlorine cage. However, it is like SLSC knows this is coming and eases the pain with members only session 5pm until dusk every day in September. Peaceful, chilly, friendly… I love it.