Even though ice on the running track meant our Wednesday meet had to switch to a seafront run; the very cold snap did not deter attendees at our Monday hill rep’s, Tuesday Zwift, Thursday swim and onto the weekend, Arundel run, Saturday swim and a few intrepid cyclists venturing out. If that doesn’t make readers feel cold – how about the quartet at the PHISH below !
Another year and yet again some regular attendees of Alice & Nikki Gatland, Susan Douglas & Andy Tester travelled to Parliament Hill Lido which is an unheated Lido in North London, lined with cool steel; a mecca for cold water swimmers to take part in the PHISH. The event is not for the faint hearted as strict rules clearly prohibit ‘excessive’ swim costumes, like jammers and no more than one swim cap!. Having subsequently warmed up, we have some great reports. Alice Gatland, first up, then Andy Tester and huge kudos to Susan Douglas who has swum at everyone of these events over the last ten years.
“On Saturday 13th January, Nikki and I met at Parliament Hill Lido in London for the 10th, and our 3rd, edition of PHISH – Parliament Hill Ice Swim Hootenanny. Always a fun, feel-good day out, I was delighted to be able to take part having spent the last few months healing a stress fracture. The event is a laugh, all about doing something a little bit ridiculous, with people who don’t take themselves seriously even though they are entitled to, a good proportion having swum the channel at least once or being members of the GB ice swimming squad. It’s also brilliantly organised, with an army of volunteers cheerfully running the show”.
“I arrived first and set up camp in our usual spot on the terrace, between the Lobster Squad gazebo and the giant hot tub. The atmosphere built as more people arrived; bobble hats, onesies and dry robes aplenty. In the week beforehand, months of mild weather had given way to zero degree temperatures, and the water had dropped to 4 degrees. But no fear, I came prepared, with folding chairs to keep us off the ground, 20 layers of clothes, a dry robe, flasks of hot water, and ready-prepared hot water bottles snuggled up in keep-it-cool bags repurposed to keep-it-warm. A little later Susan Douglas arrived, looking far too comfortable in just a jacket with a small rucksack”.
“Owing to a complete lack of acclimatisation or cold-water swimming credentials, I had entered the short events only. The jewel in the PHISH crown is the endurance race, consisting of 10 lengths + 1 length for each degree above zero, but I wasn’t going anywhere near that. In fact, I didn’t even think I’d manage 4 lengths, so stuck to the individual 2 lengths, the ‘Dread the Tread’ relay with Nikki, and the 4 man relay. Nikki entered the same. Susan, however, signed up for all the individual events, including the endurance. Standard”.
“Soon enough it was time to prepare for the individual event. Too soon, in fact, as Nikki and I were unaware that the running order had changed and we were to be in an earlier heat. Luckily enough, we had begun the pre-swim faff in plenty of time, and hot-footed it to the start. Well, more like cold-footed it. We were in adjacent lanes, which meant we could enjoy each other’s reactions as we plunged into the water. You know what, it wasn’t actually that bad! Seconds later, the beeper goes and we’re off.”
“Owing to the cold and the excitement of seeing Parliament Hill’s shiny bottom once again (it’s stainless steel lined), I went off far too hard, legs going like the clappers. Nikki’s the other side of the lane rope and isn’t pulling away from me. This is bad, I think to myself. I’ve not been doing much swimming because of the stress fracture, and I’m going to be in all sorts of bother on the second length. We turn, and I manage to keep up the pace. But then I start to feel just how long the pool is (61m), and the lactate kicks in. By the end, Nikki has assumed her usual position ahead of me, but I finish only 2 seconds behind. Well chuffed! Nikki later says she was wondering at the time what on earth I’d been up to at physio to be so speedy. I was surprised too!”
“Happy and exhilarated, we climb out and attempt to tell each other that we should head for the hot tub, which is difficult when your top lip and jaw are rendered motionless by cold. The hot tub is a happy smiley place, which facilitates speedy re-warming, once you’ve got through the eerie phase where your skin feels hot but someone’s stuck ice cubes just underneath it. Eventually the blood and the core warmed up, we got dry and dressed, and enjoyed watching the rest of the heats, listening to the amusing commentary, and applauding the half-time entertainment, a performance from ‘Almost Synchro,’ who were the real heroes of the day”.
“Our next event was Dread the Tread, a 2 x 2 length relay where the swimmer who’s not swimming treads water while the swimmer who is swimming swims. I swam first, setting off at a more steady pace this time, while Nikki treaded water with hands aloft, protecting them from the icy water. We found ourselves in a battle with our lane neighbours, but sure enough Nikki powered on and team Soggy Bottoms came home first in our heat”.
“Our final event was the 4 x 1 length relay, for which we were joined by one of Nikki’s colleagues and a man who advertised his services on Facebook. By which I mean he said he was available to swim in a relay if anyone needed him. I snapped him up – relay teams must be mixed, and finding a token man is no mean feat when PHISHy women outnumber men two to one (make of that what you will…)”
“The relay was over in flash, followed by more smiling faces, more hot tub, and more spectating. Andy Tester arrived unfashionably late but in time to take part in the endurance race, so we cheered him on along with Susan”.
“The final act of the day was the prizegiving. I was surprised and thrilled to find that I had made the podium alongside Nikki in the individual event, and together we’d come second in Dread the Tread. To have been healed enough to take part, swim normally, and push off the wall was joyful enough, so to win a couple of shiny swim hats with my sis was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake”.
“The only bad thing about this event is that there will be no more. After 10 editions, chief organiser Jez has decided to step back and reclaim his family time. But it was a fitting sign-off, ending on a high, and we will always have the memories. And the photos…”
“Now in its Tenth Year the Parliament Hill Ice Swimming Hootnanny (PHISH)seems to come round quicker every year, sadly though this could be its last. I had two races booked at the lido a 122m (2 x61m) and the Endurance. Unfortunately, I missed the 122m. On arriving I managed to watch the other races like Dread the tread, 4 x 61m relays, say hi to some familiar faces, Susan Douglas, the Gatland sisters and friends from previous events who were all wrapped up in lots of layers. The endurance race consists of 10 lengths of the 61-metre lido (610m), plus a length per degree water temperature above 0c (32F). The water temperature in the plant room measured 4c (39F) therefore an extra 4 lengths, 854 metres (My watch had the water at 3c,37F). The water felt great, Fresh and Icy in the aluminium lined pool. There were 6 swimmers in my lane and as we pushed off the chap in front, a hardened ice swimmer sped off into the lead. There was no catching him. I pushed through the first 2 lengths, heart rate up, brain screaming at me to get out, body telling me otherwise before settling into a comfy turn over. I finish 2nd in my lane and 5th in the men’s race. A good result considering I hadn’t acclimatised enough this winter. It’s a fantastic event with a wonderful atmosphere filled with lots of crazy swimmers who love the cold water. Let’s hope it continues. Long live the PHISH”.
“Well, it’s January so what else would you do but an outdoor swimming event in an unheated pool.
PHISH is a fabulous fun event which had been going for 10 years, but sadly the organisers were saying this was the last one, but we’ll see about that!
This year the water and air temperature were both 4c. I’d entered the 122m (2 lengths), 244m and the Endurance – 14 lengths (854m).
I’d gone with my troop from the pond, but was happy to see fellow Tuffs, the awesome Nicky & Alice Gatland (I’ll let them tell you how they got on!) and super speedster Andy Tester.
As everyone knows I’m not great at sprinting, so the 122m & 244m were just getting me “warmed up” for the endurance. Hanging about at the start is the worse thing, but although, of course, a bit chilly it’s okay once you get going. The lanes are wide, so plenty of room for every swimmer to have their own space. I was aware of a lady in the next lane matching me for speed, so I had no choice but to turn it on in the final length and just managed to beat her! Overall, I was 15th woman out of 29 which I’m happy with.
A great day out and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a Phish mug 2014-2024 as one of the few people that had attended the event every year”.
Click on the photo below for more illustration about the Ice Swim !
Where to start as there has been some fantastic parkrunning this week. You can’t get better for parkrun tourism than Australia, and we are pleased to have received notification from Claire Moyle during her trip ‘Down Under’. It was great to see Claire flying the Tuff flag (above) at Whitfords Nodes park run in Perth Australia with her son Elliot and his partner Hannah. Claire reports:-
“It was a well signpost route with a nasty little hidden incline in the middle, but despite that I came first in my age group. As you can see the sun was shining and 30 degrees at 8am. Hoping to be a tourist again next Saturday in Melbourne”
Keeping with the tourism theme Bushy parkrun is where it all began back on the 2nd October 2004. 2024 will see the event reach its one thousandth event later this year. From little beginnings…. there are now 1,873 parkruns worldwide with a further 417 junior parkruns with many more planned. At the beginning of December 11,000 new people obtained their barcode in just one week – amazing. Consequently Bushy has become a mecca for parkrun tourism from around the world and on Christmas Day last month the attendees numbered 2,447. This week there were 1,500 finishers and 68 volunteers. In amongst these were Andy Gomm, Tiff Orton, Glenn Parisi, Trevor Harvey, Clive Harvey & Jon Roper. This contingent helped swell the number of Tuffs who have run at the home of parkrun Bushy, past and present members up to 15 in total.
Closer to home, but still tourism – Uckfield parkrun saw both Sheila Bailey & Kate Evans run. This was Sheila’s 4th visit to Uckfield and Kate’s first as they ran around the course where the site stated the trails ‘may accumulate mud’ – oh yes, there was plenty of the muddy stuff.
Closer to home and phwoar! – some terrific times at Littlehampton parkrun. First Tuff home was Simon Grundy who was 9th overall in 19:47. Steve Fryer was next in 20:19 and to complete a terrific trio Fraser Kidd ran home in 21:19. The good news continued as Alistair Evans completed his 158th parkrun with Jenny Oliver close behind. To complete the Tuff six, that man Chris Evans was at it again – Chris secured his third consecutive PB shaving 1 minute 15 seconds off in three weeks.
Worthing parkrun also saw some great Tuff running. Our first Tuff home was Dave March in just 20:13. Not there to make up the numbers Ed Lay ran strongly and then it was the turn of Ness Green to finish; great to see Ness back on the parkrun trail again. Nina Tully also took part and then Elaine Rousseau completed her 167th run. To complete the Tuff six on the prom, Les Pearce was on the volunteer team.
Just one club member across at Bognor parkrun; well done to Claire Luckham who has now completed 39 parkruns.
Well done to all twenty two.