Torville & Dean, Lennon & McCartney, Chas & Dave. Just some of the great duos. Could Total Tri Training & Oxygen Addict be added to this distinguished list? 35 of us headed off on a joint training camp to the triathlon mecca of Playitas to find out.
Squeezing myself into my seat on the plane, I decide to play spot the triathlete. For some this is very obvious as they look they have just stepped out of an Ironman Expo January sale. Some are given away by a watch so big they are either visually impaired or require at least 4 different pieces of data while exercising, i.e. a triathlete. Then I realise I’m looking at this the wrong way around. This is a British holiday jet. The triathletes are simply the only people who aren’t on their fifth pint of lager despite it being 10am. Apparently some people go on holiday to relax. Weirdos.
Arriving in Playitas and Head TTT coach Chris is determined we’re going for an ‘easy’ run. A steady 40 minutes will get us back half an hour before the pre-arranged swim. Should be fine, as long as we don’t get lost. As we pass the hour mark and my heart rate passes the 180 mark, I have a feeling we may be lost. Nothing looks more pro than turning up for the first swim knackered, in a sweaty running vest, with a mild cramp. Still, it could be worse. Phil is with us and he’s coaching the session.
TTT and Oxygen Addict have four lanes of the olympic pool booked. We all blend seamlessly in with the tanned locals as 30-odd brits, who haven’t seen the sun since last July, peel down to their swimmers. Tinted goggles are a must. Nothing to do with the sun. Simply to reduce the glare from a set of bodies that make Dulux primer look mildly indistinct.
After the swim a rumor rapidly circulates that Richard has had his bike stolen. As it turns out, he had been for a ride and returned to the wrong room. When his key wouldn’t work in the (wrong) door, he went to reception to get it sorted. On returning to the correct room, his bike wasn’t there. Rapid dissemination that a bike thief was on the loose was rescinded equally as rapidly when it transpired that you could actually leave a £5K Cervelo lying around for a couple of hours without anyone touching it. That said, it is also possible that a potential thief tried to ride it away, but realised that the chain had a habit of falling off so returned it to the (wrong) room.
The next day is the first group ride. What I came to realise about an hour into this ‘steady’ ride is that training camps are in fact the World Championships. Make it to the actual World Championships and you’re simply racing a load of people you don’t know. But on camp, it’s your mates, your coaches, and a load of people you’ve never met before but are spending the week with so feel the need to impress. As such we spent the first two hours going at a similar pace to the business end of a Tour de France Stage.
As we reach the first proper climb our resident bantam weights, whom I shall call Tom and Jerry, hit the front. Tom and Jerry because one is actually called Tom, and the other nearly killed me on the run hill reps later in the week, so frankly is lucky I’m only calling him Jerry. They also have a combined weight similar to their cartoon namesakes. Their tempo at the front prompts a few training camp poker faces to appear: ‘Yes, I always climb comfortably at 350 watts while smiling and chatting….don’t you?’ Even the most convincing smiles are looking a little more like grimaces by the top.
As we descend the other side we pass the other groups riding up. They are clearly having a lot more fun smiling and chatting away (genuinely) as we chase Nick and Graham who are going downhill faster than Lance Armstrong’s career.
After the ‘steady’ ride we’re back in the pool. I’m not the only one feeling it today. Fredrick Van Lierde (former Ironman world champion) is in the lane next door. You can tell he’s impressed with the lily white brits, now with bright red forearms, flailing around with cramp.
The next morning is stage two in the Tour de Training Camp: cycling hill reps. We meet next to Playitas’ well positioned coffee bar and mainline espressos as the coaches debate which hill to use for today’s race. Sorry, training. At least the sun burnt forearms blend seamlessly with Oxygen Addict’s red kit. Zoe arrives having just come first lady (third overall) in the infamous Playitas lighthouse race. She’s not done though, and is planning an intensive day of 4 x 1hr intervals (on the sun lounger.)
Groups one and two were using the same hill for the 8-10 minute reps. This serves well to develop the group dynamic. It takes a special kind of person to use their hard earned holiday to ride up and down the same hill, in the midday heat, seven times. But here we all were, in it together. Some would call us brethren. Many would call us idiots.
The week continues in a similar manner with a long ride most days with a swim and/or run to follow. The evenings are spent carb loading in the finest possible manner. Like any Brit in an all you can eat buffet the meals become a true test of gastric endurance.
Coach Andy has brought his waterproof camera and is doing filming with some of the athletes during the swim sessions. Positioning himself in the bar in the evenings, for the price of just one beer he will provide a swim stroke analysis. Strange how comfortable Andy seemed being the centre of attention in a bar. Although given that a lot of us had the same swim hat I’m not sure how he could tell who was who in his footage. Apparently I need to sort my hand entry out. Having said that I don’t remember wearing a pink ladies swimming costume. At least not on this holiday.
The main run test of the week was the hill reps. 5 efforts of 8 minutes up an increasing gradient. Everyone is doing the session together, providing a real a sense of camaraderie. It’s all going well, (as well as running up hills in the heat can ever go) until Scott, aka Jerry, decides he’s going full gas on the last rep. Given his body fat is measured in micrograms I probably should have just let him go. But this is the World Championships after all. I manage to stay with him, albeit with a heart rate than in other circumstances would be considered a medical emergency.
Our last full day brings another big one. A 100 mile plus ride to the top of the island and back. The turns on the front seem to be getting more and more frequent as the group shrinks down. A tough week for all is taking its toll. A special mention should go to Arthur here. Many of us brought our tri bikes, spending the week chewing our stems in the most aerodynamic position we could manage. Arthur however, brought a behemoth of a road bike whose design seemed to be loosely based on a penny farthing. And yet, despite having the aerodynamic qualities of a barn door, he was to be found around the front of group one all week. Chapeau.
On this last day Rob, Hamish and Matt decided that 100 miles isn’t enough. They clock up a perineum-numbing 200km. None of them could sit down at dinner, but for 200km this was a sacrifice worth making.
The last night of the camp brings another hard session led by coach Andy:
Warm up: 4 x 1 lager
Main set: 2 x 1 Jager Bomb with 2 x 1 beer recovery
Cool down: 4 x 1 drink, choice
Repeat as time allows.
Funnily enough the swim session the next morning was quite quiet. A few made it out for a morning run.
On the plane home I no longer need to spot the triathletes as they are now all friends. It has been a great week. Great training, great place, great weather and most importantly great people. Same time next year anyone?
A huge thank you to Head Coaches Chris & Rob for organising such a superb camp, and to all the other coaches and athletes for making it such a fantastic week. TTT and Oxygen Addict as a duo? Definitely. Not quite Chas and Dave maybe, but definitely better than Torville & Dean. Or is that skating on thin ice?