Training Camp without the Kids! – by Tom Williams (TTT athlete)

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So for those of you who read my last blog (both of you) you will know that we discovered you can do a training camp with the kids. But this week it’s the real deal. Five friends heading for a weeks training in Lanzarote on the basis that it’s easier to ride a bike without 3 inches of snow on the ground.

Flying out on a Tuesday morning in term time means that as I board the plane I’m feeling very much the minority, lacking as I do a blue rinse, or arthritis. Mind you, if I keep doing all the running….

My heart sinks as as I fold myself into my seat alongside a very overweight couple, the lady looking distinctly twitchy. Apparently she’s very nervous. A well-meaning stewardess then displays Jeremy Clarkson-esque tact as she says, and I quote:

“Try not to worry about the noise, it just means the engines are still working!” The resulting full-blown panic attack results in me being asked to move seats, “to give her some space.” Genius.

The advantage of an early flight is that I get to the resort; bike built and am ready to go by lunchtime. The others had travelled on the Saturday. We head out for a couple of easy hours on the bike. It becomes very clear that there is no easy riding in Lanzarote. It’s not so much the hills as the relentless headwind. It feels like you’re riding around with your brakes on. At which point I realise what the noise is. After readjusting the pads slightly the riding gets a little easier.

We are staying at Sands Beach resort that is increasingly marketing itself as a triathlon base. As such it has a couple of resident professionals who live and train there.  One of these is the tall blond Dane, Helle Ericsson. As Chris and I were beginning a particularly evil swim session Miss Ericsson appeared in the lane next to us. Now on one level you would think having an attractive pro in the lane next door would be a good thing. Obviously because this would allow us to carefully study her, errr, technique. Ahem. She has the straightest arm recovery I’ve ever seen. On the downside, I’m now in a six-lane pool with Helle Ericsson and Chris Standidge. This is a bit like being on a formula one racetrack in an Austin Metro. Fast elegant shapes glide past you at regular intervals, shaking you in their wake, while you chug along hoping to reach the end without breaking down. I pass the time wondering which idiot came up with the idea of tying your ankles together while swimming. Chris finishes the session and very kindly waits for me. Although I’m not sure it’s me he’s watching. He was probably just critiquing that straight-arm recovery. I eventually finish the set. After over 4km of swimming I ask if that gets me a badge? Apparently not.

It’s on the second day that five of us head out together for a long ride with some big intervals in the middle. Chris and Tony select the perfect road to smash us all to pieces on, it being slightly uphill and straight into the wind. Sadists. The plan is very clear, the six intervals will start easy with each getting faster, up to threshold. Of course they will. Put five male triathletes on their bikes and say “go” and of course they’ll stick to the carefully orchestrated training plan. After five “no I wasn’t racing either” intervals, all pretence is ditched and the last run is full gas. Wattages fully compared (not a euphemism, but it may as well be) we head for some much needed coffee.

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Much to the consternation of my legs I head out for a run later in the day. I’m lucky to avoid the Saga Holidays rambling group, simply because they would probably have been moving faster than I was. I wouldn’t have been able to show my face on the flight home had I been outstripped along the coastal path by the blue rinsed arthritics.

The week continues in a similar way with a ride each day and 1 or 2 other sessions. Friday brings the big ride, essentially a 6hr loop of the island. Highlights include the stunning lava fields, the lunch (4 coffees, two sandwiches and three donuts between Chris and I -its all about the nutrition!) and the shout of surprise from a road cyclist we shot past on a climb away from the coast. Looking back it may well have been a shout of horror as he glanced at my gurning, sweating face as, after five hours of riding, I fought to stay on Chris’s wheel. I was hurting and I think it may have shown.

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Saturday finished the week with a three-session day including another 4km swim (still no badge) before writing this on the flight home. I seem to have reached a state of permanent hunger, much to the chagrin of the stewardesses whom I keep hassling for sandwiches.

As my first experience of a ‘proper’ training camp I realise there are many benefits. A dedicated block of training with friends ensures you push yourself well out of your comfort zone, especially with athletes the caliber of Chris and Tony. It has shown me not only how good they are, but also how hard they work to get there. Structuring the week was important to get the most out of each session and a dedicated week gives you time for proper recovery (although my legs may question this)!  But above all, as with all things triathlon, I enjoyed it and had a laugh.

My thanks to the guys for making it a great week, to my legs for holding up on me (just!) and most of all to my family for letting me go!!

Until the next time,

Tom

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