The Ideal Family Holiday for a Triathlete? – by athlete Tom Williams

photoOctober is a difficult month for the UK triathlete. As training re-commences our motivation has to overcome that extra barrier; the weather. It’s never ideal when it takes longer to get dressed to go for a ride, that the ride itself. Pockets overflowing with extra layers, mudguards designed to protect you but cover the person behind. Funny how less wheel-sucking goes on in winter.

The solution to the problem; a holiday to warmer shores. Now as I’ve mentioned before, disappearing off by yourself on a training camp during half term is likely to end badly. It would be embarrassing explaining to your tri pals that your debilitating injury didn’t come about as part of your rigorous training camp, but was in fact inflicted upon your return. This is even more likely if your wife is a keen triathlete herself and has had seven days trying to amuse two children who make the Duracell bunny look like a fat waster. Far better then, that we all go.

So where to go? As the seasoned family age-grouper will know, passes out come a lot easier if the kids are amused. And so Team Williams head off to Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote. With 5 kids pools, private lagoon and beach there is plenty for the kids. A training pool, bike hire and run trails for the big kids.

As we arrive I notice a poster advertising training with Bella Bayliss for guests at the resort. An amazing opportunity to train with one of the legends of our sport. So the next morning I tip up at the pool and meet a very friendly Bella. We warm up:

Bella: Tom you have a very pretty stroke

Tom: Thank you!

Bella: I don’t like pretty strokes.

Tom: Oh.

Bella: You don’t want slow periods in your stroke. You need to improve your cadence and strengthen the pull.

It’s taken her all of 5 minutes to identify what I need to do to get faster. I get an immediate chance to practice during some sprint work and gain some confidence hanging onto the coat tails of some pure swimmers (“hanging onto the budgie smugglers” just sounds wrong). This rapidly evaporates as I lose my grip on the budgie smugglers (sounds even worse) during a 1km hard effort.


The following day is a ride with both Bella and Stephen Bayliss with some of the locals from their very friendly TriActiv club. As we turn at a roundabout the instruction is those who want to can go a bit harder. What follows is the cycling equivalent of a wacky-races style crit with tri bikes and road bikes all attacking each other, and even occasionally attacking themselves. We arrive red-faced and wheezing (some of us more than others!) at the next village and stop at an entrepreneurial supermarket who cater for cyclists with a coffee machine behind the till and a display of gels in front of it. After a brief break Bella suggests its getting cold (She’s clearly been away from Aberdeenshire for too long) and we should get going. As we cruise back to Sands Beach I chat away easily to Stephen about bikes, triathlon, training and bikes again. Here are two of the top British pros, with 20 iron-distance wins between them, both friendly, genuinely nice people, happy to have amateurs such as myself along for the ride.


It also worth mentioning at this point that Stephen has one of the most handsome bikes I’ve ever seen. A steel TT bike, hand built by Rob English. I won’t say any more but bike geeks click here:

Now you can’t open a triathlon or cycling magazine at the moment without finding an article on the importance of recovery. I’m slightly sceptical on the weight this is given; I’ve tried sitting on the sofa all day and I didn’t get any fitter. Numerous studies have been done comparing nutrition, hydration, physio etc. However, for the average age-grouper some far more useful studies on recovery would be:

  1. A water pistol fight vs being used as a human paddle board for recovery? 
  2. What is the ideal position to sit and build a sandcastle in after a hard ride?

Get this wrong and standing up becomes a bit of an issue. Trust me, I know.

  1. Which ice cream contains the right carbohydrate/protein mix?

I can hear the nutritionists gnashing their teeth.

So after a few days with a bit of training and the far more tiring job of entertaining the Duracell bunnies, Helen and I decide to get a massage. I am promptly informed that it’s like massaging Robocop. I’d like to take this as a compliment, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant as one.

There is a session with the Bayliss’s everyday and I’m very kindly invited to one or two others. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from the pros and a real feather in the cap for Sands Beach Resort. If I achieve nothing else next season I’ll just reflect on being able to run shoulder to shoulder with Stephen during the off road hill reps. The Saturday brings a 5km swim set. By the end my arms are going round but I’m going nowhere. I’m sure when people talk about bonking in a swimming pool this isn’t what they mean. Actually, what am I talking about? With most triathletes this is probably exactly what they mean!


The last day brings a final ride with a difference; it’s Bella’s birthday and James arrives at the coffee stop with a massive birthday cake! It’s very tasty, which is good as I’m also tasting it for most of the next climb. Today’s recovery; a game of tag. I suppose technically that’s a brick session?!

So it’s been a great 10 days at Sands Beach. The boys apparently particularly enjoyed shooting Daddy with their super-soakers (daddy being a bit too tired to run away very quickly) and Helen and I both got some good training in. For myself it was both an honour and a pleasure to be able to train with Bella, Stephen and their Tri-Activ club. Two inspirational professionals who are incredibly friendly, down to earth and keen to help others. A huge thank you to them and to all the Tri-Activ members for making me so welcome. It’s not a case of if we come back to Sands Beach, it’s a question of when.




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