For triathletes, the training camp conjures images of swimming, biking and running in sun-soaked lands with a like-minded group of people. People who would spend their holidays punishing themselves, rather than lying on a beach with a book and a cold beer. For many an age-grouper this leaves a conundrum; what about the family? Try the line:
“Yes dear, I know it’s half term, but I’m off for a winter training camp,” and you are likely to find the locks changed on your return. Particularly as my long suffering wife Helen is a keen triathlete herself. Being a tight Yorkshireman, I didn’t fancy shelling out for an expensive locksmith. So I thought we would give something a try and answer a crucial question for triathletes the world over: can you combine a family holiday and a training camp?
The first question is where to go? There are several legendary sports resorts, but Playitas in Fuerteventura seemed a good bet. Advertising itself as a ‘sports active family resort,’ it sounded ideal. Plenty of flight options and resort prices that don’t triple in the English school holidays are an added bonus, especially for the tight Yorkshireman. Get the bike and children packed up (not in the same box) and off we go.
After an early morning start, navigating the airport queues with two children (three if you include the bike) and enough luggage to emigrate, it is with relief that I fold myself into my seat on the plane. It is about this time that I realise the worst thing about flying Ryanair. It’s not the leg room (singular, as you can only really get one leg in), stag do’s or the threat of being charged to use the toilet. It’s the fact that every seat and locker is bright yellow. Think; 1980s leg warmers yellow. After five minutes in my seat I have a headache. Rayban apparently invented their iconic Aviator shades for pilots flying in the sun above the clouds. In reality they were produced as the only way of coping with Ryanair’s internal decor.
Now I have heard it argued that man’s greatest inventions are the wheel, penicillin and of course the bicycle. I would put forward a strong argument for the iPad. If for no other reason than on a four hour flight you can plug the kids into one and relax with your coffee. At the other end, the look on the taxi man’s face is a picture as we hove into view looking like we’ve just robbed a Samsonite outlet. He pops back into the office then leads us to a 52 seater coach, just for us!
For those of you have not been to Playitas, it’s a triathletes dream. 50m Olympic pool, running trails, cycle centre and smooth tarmac roads all over the island. Its well organised and there are plenty of other sports on offer too, all in a very well kept setting. With kids pools, play areas, a long beach and an active kids club, there is plenty for the whole family. It was obviously important for me to check the flume was suitable for the kids. Twice. Ok, three times.
Our days rapidly fit into a pattern. Helen and I would both get out for an hour each early to swim or run. The other would get the boys ready. This is a bit like herding cats, with the added complication of applying suncream. I have never tried applying suncream to a cat, but it can’t be any harder than getting it on two active and reluctant boys. We would then all hit the beach or pool together. After lunch the boys would have some downtime and I’d get out for another session, with Helen doing something towards the end of the day. This way we were both getting 2-3 hours training in per day with little impact on the family time.
So far so good, but there are a couple of issues. When the pros talk about the importance of recovery I’m not sure they mean being used as a surf board by a fairly chunky three year old. Or playing football, digging sandcastles or generally trying to tire out the children (or should that be the other way around?!). That said being buried up to your neck in cool sand probably does count. You could probably find a spa somewhere offering this as an expensive treatment. The cycle centre also hire kids bikes. Taking our six year old for a leisurely 8 mile ride was very good active recovery. With the added bonus of tiring him out.
Now I cant imagine the Team Sky training camps include spending the evening watching an overly enthusiastic, traditionally dressed German doing the Hokey Cokey. Although they are probably all the poorer for it. Other evening activities included stroking a chameleon (seriously not a euphenism) or watching a parrot riding a bike. This is not a sleight on Helen’s pedalling technique, but one of the shows put on for kids.
Training wise the week worked well. I racked up 22 hours of training, and all it really lacked was some longer hours on the bike (one four hour ride, the others all two hours). But with the right levels of intensity programmed in by my coach (Chris@TotalTriTraining) my body is telling me its had a hard week. Helen did 14 hours put together by her coach Beth. Both of us more than doubling our usual volume.
So in conclusion it can be done. A good weeks training and a family holiday can be combined albeit with a few differences from the traditional training camp model. We have all had a fantastic time. The kids cant wait to go back. There were tears when we left, and that was just me! As I sit writing this on the plane home, I can’t decide what I’m looking forward to less; work tomorrow, or the turbo in the evening!
Massive thanks to Playitas, Chris and Beth at TotalTriTraining for putting the program’s together, Keith@Eurekacyclesports for his ongoing support, and of course and the family for making this such a great week.