Swim Serpentine 2017, the London Classics

I took part in the inaugural Swim Serpentine last September, swimming mostly a panicky breaststroke for the mile of open water, chatting to marshals as I went. I vowed to nail this open water thing and return this year to ‘swim it properly’. Of course, a year goes very quickly and this time various marathons and endurance events have got in the way, so there I was on Saturday, wetsuit on and feeling decidedly nervous. The weather last year was glorious, the hottest September ever (or something like that) and I remember being in a t-shirt and sandals. This year was a little bit more grey and almost scarf weather.

Grey and big

As I skirted the edge of the Serpentine, hot drink in hand, I observed the wave of swimmers who were just entering the water, looking closely at those at the back, ‘Ah, good, breaststrokers!’ I thought. To the changing tent I went, chatting nervously to fellow swimmers, ‘Is this your first time? Are you nervous (too)?’ and was delighted to feel a tap on my shoulder and see my parkrun friend Bonnie, who was swimming in the same wave as me. Hoorah! Squeezed into identical wetsuits and caps, we took some pre-race photos and pootled over to the start area. Now the water had been going up and down in temperature during the week and had politely settled at 15 degrees for us, thank you! Feeling brave, we ventured into the ‘dunking’ area to acclimatise (best way to do this is to lean forward, pull the front of your westuit down and let in some of the icy cold liquid, shaking it down your body with a shriek and a shiver). It really was chilly and I wished I had left my dip until nearer the start, as we stood around getting cold, listening to the pre-race briefing.

All waves at this event are special, with one mile swims and, for the first time this year, two mile and even a ‘Super Six’, giving those magical mermaid types the opportunity to swim six miles over the course of the day! Our wave was special for a different reason, the ‘London Classics’ was announced not long ago, for those people who have run the London Marathon and cycled Ride 100. By swimming the two mile Swim Serpentine, we would enter the Hall of Fame and earn a really rather smashing medal for completing all three disciplines. A quick round of questioning amongst us established that many of these people ‘are not swimmers’ (yeah, right) and were there for the massive medal!

Last year, as we entered the water at the start, I held right back, allowing everyone to go ahead of me. This time I decided to be bold and go for it, keeping to the left and jumping forward into the dark depths (my reasoning was simple, in a two lap race, I didn’t want the fasties to catch up too quickly, or for the next wave to be lapping me on the first mile). After all my sea bobbing in Cornwall in the summer and my self-pep-talks, I was still head-out, breath-short-panicking. The first stretch felt so cold, my face resisting the water and I looked to my left and the bank, seriously considering finding a spot to climb out. ‘Don’t be silly!’ I thought, ‘The medal! The supporters! Hector and Edward! The hot tubs! The medal!’ and I kept going. I reasoned that, if I could get to the purple turning buoys ahead, I would be facing the right way to complete the first lap, so on I went, counting in sets of twenty to keep my focus and not panic.

I did reach the turning buoys, I didn’t speak to the marshals, I continued on to the big yellow buoys and eventually to the bridge and the next turning buoys. I was doing this! At this turn I could see the finish area, how very cruel! To my left I sensed some swimmers in the same silver caps easing towards the finish, ‘they must have got confused’ I thought, but no, they were actually finishing, a whole lap ahead of me! Machines! And off I went again, one more mile to go. I started to feel a bit dizzy now, coldness taking grip and, as I neared the Serpentine Lido for the second time I was overwhelmed by a hideous stench, which made me feel nauseous. I turned my head to the other side, where the smell of petrol from the little safety boat hung in the air. Keep going, keep going, get away from the smells! Now the fast swimmers from the next wave caught up, splashing by, churning the water up and I felt that surge of excitement you only experience when the end is in sight (though I now felt as if I was swimming backwards and the finish wasn’t getting any closer!).

Embraced by the long orange edges of the finish funnel, I attempted to pick up the pace, but I was exhausted, hungry and cold. At the exit ramp, a kind volunteer took my hand and steadied me, helping me out of the water but, as I tried to walk, I discovered my toes were so numb, I could only hobble! I grabbed the side and paused, as a fellow swimmer asked if I was OK, at which point I also realised my mouth was so numb that I couldn’t speak either! Oh dear, what a sorry sight!

But I had done it!

Right now the hot tub was just what I needed, squashed in with a bunch of strangers who had most likely weed in their wetsuits along the way. I wasn’t moving though, until I could feel a tingle in my toes. On clambering out, I was asked for my name by a chap with a clipboard, ticking me off for having completed the London Classics, ‘Go over and collect your two medals’ he said. Two medals! One for Swim Serpentine and one very big one for the London Classics. I was over the moon!

Giddy kid

This medal meant so much to me. Each of those events had presented me with a real challenge, they didn’t come easily, two London Marathons (2009 and 2017), Ride 100 (2016) and Swim Serpentine. I’ll say it again, this time next year, I WILL conquer my swim panic and I will be back, stronger, faster and braver!

London Classics

Advertisements

Lidl Bananaman Triathlon Race Report

Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?

Happy cyclists!

Happy cyclists!

As we don’t have a car and I needed to transport my bike (and Hector was super keen to try out his new bike), we took all of our bikes on the train to Windsor and rode the two or so miles to Eton Dorney along the Thames Path. At the station we saw people dismantling their bikes to put into taxis…no need, just ride! And look at what greeted us on arrival!

The lake.

The lake.

I was a little taken aback at the vastness of the lake – with it being a purpose-built rowing lake, it’s loooooong. I took it all in, clocking the inflatable buoys and breaking it down into the little chunk that I would actually be tackling later on in the Lidl Bananaman Triathon. Phew. It is a stunning venue and the party was already in full swing, with little ones tearing around wearing medals picked up in the Scootathlon and older athletes already exiting the water for one of the earlier waves of the triathlon. Feeling relaxed and a little bit excited, I got myself a cuppa and headed over to registration where I was given everything I needed, promptly and with a big smile.

Registration

Registration

As the event was sponsored by Lidl, there were mountains of bananas, as much water/juice/crisps/cereal bars as you could ever need and a barbeque for competitiors and spectators, now how many events boast such hospitality?! With it being about 10.15, my support crew needed a pre-lunch lunch.

Hungry boys

Hungry boys

I paced up and down, checking out the swimmers, making sure the entry into the water wasn’t too scary and making sure I could see the bike out/run out points – not sure why, but the signs for these are often placed at ground level and, once transition is full of bikes and people darting about, it’s difficult to see where they are. Any chance these could be identified by a flag or something? After numerous nervous loo-visits (oh, how the tri-suit is the enemy of such pre-race nervousness!), I decided I should just get on with it and set up in transition. At this point I switched my Garmin on to get a signal and found that the battery was flat. After a minor hissy fit, I decided that it didn’t matter and I would embrace ‘going naked’, could be interesting!

Still relaxed!

Still relaxed!

Before long I was pulling on my wetsuit and heading to the water. Eek! Now, I’ve been very carefully preparing for my first open-water triathlon, with wetsuit-specific coached sessions and solo swims to build confidence, so I was totally thrown when given the option to go without a wetsuit – if the water reaches a certain temperature you have a choice. After much umming and ahhing I decided to stick with what I had planned – Edward pointed out that I had taken on this particular race as a practice/test event for future races and should use it to try out the wetsuit in the swim and transition. I’m so glad I did, the water didn’t feel that warm! I was in a women’s wave (complete with bright pink hats, oh yes) and we all bobbed about, acclimatising while the race organiser gave us a briefing then quickly sent us on our way with a loud parp of the horn. Cue lots of ‘Ooh, sorry!’ and ‘Oops!’ comments from my fellow swimmers, really! And I had heard horror stories about being kicked, ducked and having your goggles removed. How very civilised!

That's me, there!

That’s me, there!

Interestingly, I found this open-water swim easier in terms of managing panic than the pool tri in May, as there was nobody tapping at my heels, I could take some deep breaths, compose myself and do as much breast-stroke as I liked 🙂 And I did. Even after swimming front-crawl up and down the Serpentine Lido, I found myself bobbing along, head in the air. I did a few stretches of front-crawl as I grew more confident and off I went. I did it! I climbed up the ramp towards transition, whipped off my wetsuit like a pro and legged it to bike out. Yesssss!

The bike course was 21.2km, so four laps of a perfectly flat and lovely smooth road (it was pretty twisty and turny in places though and quite windy). The bike is always my favourite bit of a triathlon and I flew around, smiling all the way. Each time I reached the start area I was given a huge cheer by my crew and sent off into the next lap. After all my training sessions at the Olympic Velopark, I was swiftly pulling out my drinks bottle and taking a swig, unlike previous races where I’ve ended up dehydrated and turning green. Oh, what a difference a few swigs of electrolyte replacement makes.

Time to hang up my bike and pull on my running shoes, but not without banging my head on the bike rack first and shouting ‘B*ll*cks!’. Sorry. By this point it was hot and the run route was an out and back stretch fully exposed to the sun. I kept giving myself little pep talks: ‘Relax your shoulders. Light on your toes. Head tall. Arms lower.’ – this all really helped, especially at the point where I realised it wasn’t just an out and back, it was an out and back and out and back again. This is also where I appreciated my on-bike hydration and enjoyed a tri-run without crippling cramp. Carrying on the pep-talk, I soon turned to face the finish and picked up the pace towards the barbecue smoke and the giant Erdinger glass to give a little sprint through the arch and a very happy ending.

Thank you Hector for the photo!

Thank you Hector for the photo!

A few sweaty high-fives, a hug from a giant banana and I found myself holding a pint of ice-cold beer and a burger. Result! (I must point out that this was alcohol-free beer and bloody good it was too!). Hector punched in my race number to the machine that pumps out results and I could see how I had faired, competing somewhat blindly without the Garmin feedback…

The numbers

The numbers

I can’t really compare directly with my last triathlon because the swim distance is shorter and the bike slightly longer, but it’s a tri-PB for the bike and run (and check those transitions!), so I’m very pleased. Best of all was the fact that I could see that my training is paying off, I didn’t have cramp and I felt amazing afterwards as we cycled back towards Windsor. Thank you to Human Race for giving me a place – I’m already looking up future events at Eton Dorney and will be back next year to see if I can smash those times.

Juneathon, Week 1, A Round-up

Yay! Seven days done, it wasn’t that hard was it?!

My Juneathon week was a good old mix of activities:

Monday: A back-to-school run and a little swim
Tuesday: Tough track session with my running club
Wednesday: A late one! A quick swim before the pool closed…nice and quiet
Thursday: (my favourite) a swim in a pond then Assembly League race with my club
Friday: Seeing how far I could swim with one eye on Hector’s lesson (54 lengths, it turns out)
Saturday: A wheezy Hilly Fields parkrun
Sunday: Warming-up the little legs at junior parkrun then a 16km family bike ride

It’s been a wheezy sort of week. I have had asthma for years and it’s never really been a problem when I run, but recently it’s been stopping me in my tracks. After three visits to the GP, I have a pretty new purple/pink inhaler, but still find myself slowing down and sensing the heavy-legged feeling that comes with a lack of air. This spoilt all of my runs during the week and it’s getting me down. I’m hoping it’s down to this stuff, that is currently floating in the air where I live, a cotton-woolly substance scattered by the trees in the nearby park…

Fluff stuff

Fluff stuff

A highlight of my week was the swim on Thursday, a dip in the amazing King’s Cross Pond Club, a naturally filtered swimming pond just a short walk from the train stations. I also had a wonderful time yesterday with Edward and Hector when we set off on our bikes with the Thames Barrier as our goal. We weaved and pedalled our way along the Thames Path, pausing to enjoy the sights along the way and to eat our picnic at the Ecology Park, then we took a well-earned rest when we reached the Thames Barrier. This was Hector’s longest ride ever (16km) and he felt quite proud of himself after a slightly reluctant (and possibly intimidated?) start (all this after achieving a PB at the Hilly Fields junior parkrun in the morning 😉 ).

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Totals for Week 1

Running: 22.1km
Swimming: 4km 650m
Cycling: 16km (I do actually cycle every day, but don’t keep track of all the little to-and-fro rides, so this is the only ‘timed’ ride I did).

We made it!

We made it!

And the Whole30 challenge? Well, for lunch today I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress with cherry tomatoes…so let’s just say that’s going really well!

Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 5, King’s Cross Pond Club

Yesterday I had one of the most delightful mornings…riding the commuter train, reading my lovely book-of-the-moment (Caitlin Davies’ ‘Down Stream’) and alighting at King’s Cross Station to wander in the sunshine to the King’s Cross Pond Club. I had been hearing rumblings about this swimming pond opening in the heart of King’s Cross so had kept my ear firmly to the ground, feeding on little titbits of information on Twitter and the like. Opening just over a week ago, it couldn’t be better timed for me and my open-water swim challenges, so I was booked in by Fusion Lifestyle, who run the site, and hoped for a fine day (I really am lucky!). I felt a little rush of excitement as I departed the station and heavy-faced commuters and skipped my way up to the pond, big arrows pointing the way (it’s an interesting walk, with so much going on in the area, you could get distracted). As you approach, you pass a small park area and really wouldn’t know there was a pond nearby until you spot one of those tall lifeguard seats, cue jump for joy from me 🙂

Urban Oasis

Urban Oasis

The staff were super friendly, but I’m guessing it would be hard not to smile when everyone who wanders in is full of curiosity, enthusiasm and eager to dip their toes. I was given a padlock for one of the metal cage lockers and directed towards the changing cubicles (which are very seasidey) and informed I would need to shower before climbing in, this is to wash off body lotions and so on, so the plants can do their work and to prepare you for the water…the showers are cold!

All change

All change

The area around the pond is full of life, covered in beautiful wild flowers and concealing the treat ahead…

Colourful landscaping

Colourful landscaping

At this point I was a bit giddy and wanted to photograph everything, so got one of the lifeguards to take my photo before I locked my phone away…

I do have feet, somewhere.

I do have feet, somewhere.

As I had arrived quite early (you could arrive even earlier and take a dip before work or travel as the pond opens at 6.30am), I had the pond to myself briefly, which was bliss! Taking it slowly, I chatted to the lifeguard as I sat at the edge and dipped my toes. Yes, it’s cold.

Ah, there they are!

Ah, there they are!

I wanted to savour everything: the sounds of the building works going on around me, trains rumbling by, aeroplanes cutting across the bright blue sky, the subtle smells of grasses and colourful flowers…Eventually I decided to go for it and abandoned my towel on one of the pond-side sunbeds and gingerly descended the steps into the deeper end (it reaches a depth of 2.8m at one end). Pausing while my body adjusted to the cold, I looked around to see a crowd of suited people surveying the scene from the viewing platform. Oh dear, an audience! The lifeguard chuckled and said I couldn’t chicken out now, as if! So down I went with a gasp as the water reached my chest and shoulders. It felt amazing as I swam a wide-reaching breaststroke, hugging the water all to myself and taking in my surroundings. I had asked how long the pond was, and told it was around 20m, depending on whereabouts you swam, so I carved up and down, keeping warm and smiling as a couple more people gently brushed their fingers across the surface of the water, wondering if they had the nerve to dip fully. It took some time, but I worked slowly towards submerging my face and trying a ‘proper’ breaststroke, which allowed me to look under towards the clear bottom and to take in the plants that naturally filter the water so there’s no need for chlorine. At the shallow end there are wooden booms keeping swimmers away from the filtration area and these are perfect if you want to lean back and float, looking at the clouds and birds go by. A couple of women joined me on the shallow platform with a baby, who quietly expressed her distaste at the temperature and was quickly wrapped up in a towel. Children can swim here with an adult, but I’m guessing they would have to be hardy types!

A brisk 15.7 degrees

A brisk 15.7 degrees

I now tried some front crawl and was confronted with the fact that I am heavily dependent on the line at the bottom of the pool and have a *lot* to learn about sighting…I managed two zig-zaggy lengths before some more sky-gazing. As I floated, a fellow pond-goer chatted to me and I realised my chin and lower jaw were set hard and I had trouble speaking, maybe time to get out! The ground at the edge had been warmed up in the sunshine, so I sat, with towel wrapped around me and absorbed some of this heat. It wasn’t long though before I started to shiver and shake and knew this was definitely time to get my dry clothes on. I could really have done with a hot drink at this point and there are signs of a little cafe opening at the entrance, so this could be a possibility soon, until then I advise a flask of tea to hand when you get out! The whole feel of the Kings Cross Pond Club is very laid back and I handed back my padlock so I could sit on the grass and watch as other people repeated my process (one man told me he was in London from Leeds for a meeting and decided to pop in before catching a taxi). The pond is due to stay in place for two summers, but it would be incredible if the planners decide to keep it instead of flattening the area and covering it with grass as I heard when I mingled with the suits on the viewing platform later.

Overview

Overview

The thing that is really special about this project, and is quite understated on visiting, is that it’s an art project, commissioned as part of the ongoing King’s Cross Public Arts Programme. ‘Of Soil and Water’ is a collaboration between artist Marjetica Potrc and architects Ooze of which the artist says: “We have to rethink how we live with the city and with nature. Here, we are collaborating with nature, and the artwork encourages the viewer to participate in that experience. Water is a source of life but it is also a metaphor for regeneration. We want to understand people’s influence upon nature but also our balance with nature.” If you want to read more about the project and to book a slot (the number of swimmers each day is restricted, to allow the plants to work efficiently), visit the website here.

Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 3, Oasis, Covent Garden

I have compiled a list; I like compiling lists (I especially like ticking things off my lists). This is a list of lidos and open-water swimming areas in and around London. I sat and stared at Google Maps and did some TFL searching and found that lots of these pools/ponds are a bit of a trek and, as I want to swim when it’s quieter, I would prefer to fit it in to a school day. These limitations might mean some repeats and a bit of weekend early swimming. Last week I decided to visit somewhere I have heard about many times and have wanted to visit for ages, Oasis in Covent Garden. Now, in my head the pool is on a roof and I had visions of going up, up, up in a lift, stepping out and being greeted by an expanse of blue, over-looking the skyline of London. I was a tiny bit disappointed when I walked up the steps to the reception desk and there it was, ahead of me. It is still pretty special to have a public pool in the middle of a bustling shopping area, so I got over myself and headed down to the changing room (lockers 20p, not returned).

Oasis

Oasis

This pool is interesting because you have the option of heading outside to the heated lido, or staying inside and swimming in a parallel pool, under cover. I was straight outside of course! It’s a funny one, narrow, with just a few lanes, so I walked over to the fast lane and found that the steps were taped off because they were broken – I do like to enter a pool with some degree of elegance, I’m really not a jumper. This meant I sat demurely at the edge for a bit, dangling my toes in and taking a deep breath before immersing myself with far more suddenness than I would prefer. Of all the lidos I have visited so far, this is definitely the warmest, so it wasn’t such a shock to the system. In my lane were a few other swimmers, one in a tri-suit, I waited my turn and headed out into the traffic. I have noticed a subtle shift in the short space of time I’ve been swimming ‘outdoors’. On my first couple of visits I would gasp and pant for a while and certainly wouldn’t put my face in the water until I was well and truly acclimatised, but here I found myself confidently cutting through the water and breathing normally…

…until I reached half-way and the floor appeared to fall away from me. The deep end is incredibly deep! There is no gentle slope from mid-way to deep end, just a sudden drop and, if you are scared of heights, it creates a very odd feeling in your tummy! My head came out of the water for a bit while I got used to it, and I would feel the drop each length until I had been swimming for quite some time and began to almost enjoy the sensation. I swam what I assumed to be a mile, but checked the length of the pool with the life-guard, who informed me it’s 27.5 metres long and the deep end is 3.5 metres deep! So I had managed a little further than I’ve ever swum before 🙂

Like the other lidos, I could sense that a lot of the swimmers are regulars, and what a lovely place this would be to pop to on your lunch break! I warmed up with a cup of tea in the cafe that overlooks the pool (not as nice as the Lido Cafe at Brockwell…) and noticed the edges of the pool filling up now with men in tight speedos, everything was getting a bit posey and a bit cruisey…so, unless you enjoy being watched as you swim, then get here early!

From above

From above

(thank you to Edward for this lovely photo he took when he was at a talk in an adjacent building. He was a bit surprised to see a pool outside!)

 

Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 2: Brockwell Lido

On Thursday I decided I would head over to Herne Hill on Friday morning to get myself some laps at Brockwell Lido. When I woke on Friday it was slightly cooler and a little overcast, but I thought ‘Oooh, rain! Rain!’ imagining it might be fun swimming in an outdoor pool in the rain. As I made the journey after the school run, the clouds moved slowly away and the sun started to emerge. I stepped off the bus and was immediately stopped in my tracks by this beauty:

Stag

Stag

I then went up the steps to the promise of prosecco…

Nice signage

Nice lido signage

There’s a quite tantalising feeling as you approach the entrance and pass an old-fashioned turnstile exit, catching a glimpse of the bluey water. The chap on the desk was friendly and directed me to the indoor changing, where I found myself straight into conversation with a regular swimmer. I get the feeling there are lots of regulars here, with lots of camaraderie and jolly chatting going on. I talked about how I was embarking on a tour of London’s lidos, but had to cut short any detailed questioning by pointing out this was only number two! I did say that, although Charlton Lido is heated, it’s still pretty cold. A knowing look passed quickly across my fellow swimmer’s eyes as she relished the moment I stepped into ‘her’ pool…

The pool

The pool

I found the lockers at the edge of the pool (£1, returned) and sauntered slightly gingerly towards the steps. Up to my knees I went – gasp! – to my thighs – gasp! – to my waist – yelp! – and one, two, three, dunk! Well, it is most certainly colder than Charlton! This was, of course, the moment when my fellow swimmer chose to walk past, turning to me with a cheeky smile. Once I had bobbed about a bit and attempted to immerse my face, I noticed that everyone went through the same routine as they entered the water (this would make a lovely little film…). There were lanes marked out to one side, but these were being used by a club (I think it was the Windrush Triathlon Club, some wetsuit wearing going on), so the rest of us were resigned to a bit of lane-carving activity and much polite avoidance. I have noticed during my 50m pool swims that everything evens out a lot more easily over this longer distance, more time to move over and a generally more patient and respectful sort of environment. I did find the cold water quite a challenge, with my breath catching in my chest and shallow gulps stopping me putting my face in for a while, so a few breaststroke lengths before I could commit to full-face immersion.

When I did put my face in, I noticed the pool had a rough concrete surface, painted that lovely blue, with a brown line of dirt gathering along the edges and, as I approached the deep end, it suddenly came back to me that I once stood in the pool when it was empty! All those years ago, when I was an aspiring dancer at Laban, I joined a group of other dancers as we planned a performance in the then disused and run-down lido. How magical it was to climb down the steps and walk and move around in a space that had been invaded by buddleia and left forgotten and crumbling. And now here I was swimming in this space again. I carved my way through a mile of swimming, occasionally lifting my head to take in the clouds, the birds and passing planes.

The difference between water and air wasn’t as marked here as at Charlton, so I hung around a moment while two other swimmers finished in the two pool-side showers, oh the joyous feeling of warmth as the showers restore some colour to your limbs! Time for a brisk rub-down and a quick cossie-spin in the cool cossie-spin-dryer (I wish all pools had these, genius) and a saunter over to the cafe to try and reduce the blueness in my lips.

Cafe pom-poms

Cafe pom-poms

The cafe here is a bit swankier than over at Charlton, and can be accessed without a swim, so gets busy, meaning you are not always guaranteed a seat outside. This time I was actually happy to cosy up indoors and warm myself back up with some coffee and cake (I was shivering, really!).

Restorative

Restorative

And then to head home…but I can’t visit Herne Hill without popping in to the Oxfam Bookshop. Well, it is next to my bus-stop!

Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 1: Charlton Lido

During my slightly panic-stricken pool swim at my first triathlon a few weeks ago, I thought to myself: ‘Well, my idea of participating in an open-water triathlon was a bit ambitious!’ and put it right to the back of my mind. Of course, once I’d regained my nerve, climbed out of the pool and flown my way through the other two disciplines, smiling throughout, I had forgotten all about my pool-fear and was looking to the next event, open-water or not. Realistically though, I think I need to be feeling super-confident before I dip my toes, wet-suit clad, into a lake/pond/the sea, so have decided to embark on a series of open-water adventures over the next few months, taking on a different (hopefully) venue each week. To ease myself into this malarkey with at least some level of enjoyment, I will take ‘open-water’ to mean ‘without a roof’, so this will include the lidos of London.

We’re lucky in London, with many lidos having been either lovingly cared for or lovingly restored and, from where I live in South East London, I’m just a bus or bike-ride away from two. This morning I put a moistened finger in the air, felt the warm sun on my skin and decided to bus it over to Charlton Lido. I have been to Charlton Lido before, but that was last summer and was in the company of small children during the school holidays: it was busy, bustling and noisy, a very different experience to my calm and quiet swim today. Since my last visit, there has also been some extensive building work, and there is now an excellent gym, indoor changing facilities and even a lovely sun terrace and cafe to warm up in after your swim. I would recommend registering online so you can book in advance: this saves you money and – I’m guessing – time during busy periods. I paid just £4 for my lovely 50m pool-with-a-sky swim today 🙂 The new changing facilities are great, clean and unfussy, with the option of a pool-side cubicle if you prefer. There are lockers alongside the pool (these take 20p, which is not returned, so make sure you’ve got everything you need before closing), but I would say more lockers might be welcome as it gets busier.

The Pool

The Pool

(this photo makes it look a bit grey, but it was gloriously sunny!)

Charlton Lido is heated, but don’t expect it to feel like an indoor pool…ease yourself in gently, take a few deep breaths and keep moving! Once I’d followed those rules, I found myself doing something I don’t normally do: lying on my back, wiggling my hands and feet and sighing, I couldn’t resist looking up at the sky from the water, bliss! As you can see from the photo, there were lanes, but I decided to just swim outside the lane as it was quiet enough, and off I headed, pulling myself into the 50m expanse. This always feels slightly daunting, but I’m sure it makes for faster swimming, not turning every 25m. Something that added to my sense of joy at the experience was the sunlight pouring through the surface and creating beautiful shadows on the bottom of the pool. I was mesmerised by the ripples, the blurred shadows of other swimmers, the dancing bunting and the little concentric circles created by droplets from my finger tips. Not wanting this feeling to end, I pushed a little further until I had swum a mile.

Climbing out, I found that as soon as you exit the water, you need to jump into a hot shower or quickly wrap yourself in a towel before heading up to the cafe for a bit of post-swim warmth and refuel…

Toasted

Toasted

As I gathered my things and headed to the bus stop, I noticed that the pool had become busier, with bikini-clad young things sprawling out on beach towels, topping up their tans. On a hot day this really is Charlton-by Sea.