Back in 2016, 4 of us from Berkshire Tri Squad ventured to Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote on a make-shift tri camp. 3 of us were in training for a half iron distance (my first), so we put a solid 20 hour week in which culminated in a split 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run on the last day. Paul and I enjoyed it there so much that we decided this year to make a return. With no takers from BTS, and a coincidental organised tri camp being hosted around the time we were planning to go, we jumped on the Total Tri Training/Race Force band-wagon in March to escape #snowmageddon back in the UK.
Upon arrival at Arrecife airport we were greeted by the very smiley Mike (the bike mechanic) from Race Force, handed a lovely Bonk Athletic/Race Force hoodie and driven to Sands Beach in time for some lunch. Day 1 was fairly standard: after a trip to the local supermarket for snacks and supplies (the 3 main food groups – dairy-free milk, a truckload of chocolate [funny how lactose in chocolate doesn’t seem to affect me… :p] and vodka) followed the requisite bike building and subsequent short ride up to the white arch to check the bikes didn’t fall apart – all good 🙂 A plentiful buffet dinner (with beers for those among us who were taking electrolyte replacement seriously) preceded the welcome information session where we were introduced to the coaching team from Total Tri Training and briefed with an outline of the week to come: essentially a pre-breakfast swim or run each morning, followed by a ride of varying length/intensity, and then some sort of run in the late afternoon. Not knowing what to expect before we arrived, I have to admit Paul and I were a little apprehensive about whether we were going to be getting enough hours in, but their reasoning for keeping training to under 20 hours was not to make too big a jump up from normal training and not to burn us out too early on, so that we could arrive back in the UK the following week with a solid base behind us to build on, rather than leaving us fatigued and taking a step backwards. Fair enough!
Day 2 comprised a 2.8km pool swim, 34km steady bike and a 1 hour progressive run before dinner. Not knowing anyone from the camp (most people were known to the coaches already), and not wanting to get in a situation where I was out of my depth and either holding others up or making a t*t of myself, I was put into the middle lane of the intermediate swimmers and the 2B bike group along with the majority of the rest of the girls. With some incredibly strong swimmers in the camp (1:10/100m anyone?!) I can completely see why I was put in the intermediate swim group. However it quickly became obvious (to me at least) that that I was in the wrong lane – I felt bad for repeatedly (accidentally I might add!) crashing into the feet of the slower swimmers in my lane, and to be fair they were probably getting pretty cheesed off by my doing so. The result was that I was having to chop almost all of my sets short, or hold up others at the lane ends so that I could pass. In the end, after I bottled out of saying anything or just self-promoting to the top lane (the Brit in me doesn’t like to make a fuss…), Paul had a word on the quiet and I was bumped up to the slow lane Advanced swimmers. As much as I was embarrassed by the intervention, it was definitely a good call and saved my sanity (and other people’s toes) for the rest of the week. Similarly, having initially avoided the 1 and 2A bike groups for fear of not keeping up with all the testosterone flying about (there was a lot of it in group 1 – regulation TT bikes, deep section wheels and a veto on any significant coffee stops), I had less shyness in bumping myself up to join Paul in 2A with the very animated coach Hammo by ride number 2 in order to push myself to my full potential. I wasn’t blessed with these sturdy thighs for nothing! The highlight of the cycling week had to be going slightly “off-piste” on a crappily tarmacked 1.7km/6% hill climb… not so bad on our lightweight road bikes and honed CX skillz (thank you, CCXL); hats off the the lads on TT bikes who had to smash their way up behind!!
The rest of the week followed a similar pattern, and I felt that I was making reasonable gains without being too fatigued. Double run days made me a bit nervous about my foot: back at home I’ve been pretty careful about avoiding consecutive run days or more than 1 or 2 hard sessions a week, and off the back of that I’ve built up to 17km pain free at a reasonable steady pace. Happily, it seemed to hold up well without any niggles, and coach Clare was a godsend in keeping me going during some of the harder efforts! We also did one open water sea swim session on the penultimate day, which was coooooooold, but good to get it out of the way… Bray lake at home in March would be a no go even if it was open! #fairweathertriathlete
The final day, and Paul and I had both signed up to the Costa Teguise Tri 122 sprint distance. With no real expectations other than an early season practice run for openwater swimming, transitions and a race pace foot tester, I enjoyed lining up on the front row and waving to our fellow camp attendee and new mate Colin (total legend) as he took some snaps. The swim was mediocre at best for me – I struggled to get my shoulders going in the cold and and one point was heading inland way too early. Sighting wasn’t great either – partly due to a relative lack of visible buoys, but mostly due to a winter of pool swimming – so I probably wasn’t the most efficient in my choice of route! After exiting the water in 4th, I came away with the fastest bike split by nearly 30 seconds (despite pulling a “Kate” and getting a wee bit lost at a junction – I could sense the impending facepalm from Paul almost immediately 🙂 ). Off the bike and the legs felt pretty shocking, never mind the foot! At this point I had no idea where I was in the ranking… all I could do was hang on to sub 5min/km pace for dear life and employ some damage limitation strategies. The last 2-3km hurt like stink and
the game face definitely made an appearance (along with some top notch gurning!!!) but eventually the finish line appeared and I managed to cross it in a semi-dignified manner and take 3rd lady. Good job really, as Paul clapped me in accompanied by our local half iron pro Alice Hector… obviously I did my best to put my “out jogging” face on whilst attempting to suppress the wheezing/rising bile/beetroot face and attempt some sort of chat. Still, a podium is a podium, whether you look pretty doing it or not 🙂
A well-deserved pizza and one or two (ahem) bevvies to celebrate the end of camp and St Paddy’s Day, time to relect on the week. All in all, the camp did what it said on the tin… lay a solid base of training to build upon, without too much fatigue burden. We were in the minority who were relaxed enough about things to enjoy a beer every day as per Velobants protocol (um, we were on holiday?!), and I think we would probably have done more swimming and cycling on our own, but we met a bunch of like-minded individuals of varying abilities and levels of “seriousness”, and I’m sure we both came away having learnt a few things we otherwise may not have. Sands Beach once again didn’t fail to exceed expectations, and I wouldn’t hesitate in going back there for future training weeks. Especially as this year we got to meet Will Clarke and the founders of Tri 247! Costa Teguise Tri 122 was a challenging sprint plus distance race (900m, 19km, 6km) which was a great season-opener, though could have benefited from more course markings on the swim and bike for navigationally-challenged numpties like me, and some sort of dedicated tarmac on the run (literally people-dodging the *entire* seafront walkway!). But the trophies are made of lava in the shape of Lanzarote, so I’ll let those minor points slide 🙂