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16
September
2014

Club La Santa & Triliving: A Beginner's Diary

This is Lucy's great diary of her first warm weather training camp experience

Triathlon newcomer Lucy Fry (www.lucyfry.co.uk) has jumped into her new sport with some enthusiasm.

In order to get a "pre-season kick-start", Lucy signed up for a training camp at Club La Santa in Lanzarote, nine days of soild effort under the guidance of ex-professional Richard Hobson and his long-standing Volcano Triathlon Camp (www.triliving.co.uk). Not only that, the final effort of the camp after that training would be her first Olympic Distance Triathlon as Lucy was to race in the 30th Volcano Triathlon.


Tri Living Camp – Club La Santa, Lanzarote with Richard Hobson as Head Coach

May 2014

A Beginner's Diary by Lucy Fry

It's the worst kept secret amongst triathletes: warm weather training during winter and spring months really does give you the pre-season kick-start (or head start) that'll help you have a fantastic summer in triathlon. And nowhere is more popular, historically, than the volcanic island of Lanzarote, and, more specifically, sports mecca, Club La Santa (www.clublasanta.co.uk).

It being my first Triathlon season, I need all the help I can get. Back in January when I signed up for the 9-day Tri Living camp (www.triliving.co.uk), run by ex-professional triathlete, Richard Hobson, April seemed a long way away, and to offer plenty of time to ready myself. When it arrives of course, I'm hardly prepared, physically or mentally, for what will follow…

The Training

Day 1 – We kick off with an introduction to the various coaches and personalities that'll be involved in the camp, before hitting the pool, mid-morning, for the inaugural session of this year's camp and my debut here at Club La Santa. The session involves between 1.2-2.5km (depending on ability) total distance, including various technique drills, in one of two newly-built 50m pools, opened late March 2014 as part of an ongoing refurbishment project at the club. I stick in the ‘fast' group, since Richard jokes that there is only ‘fast' and ‘faster' and ‘we don't talk about slow here'. I'm definitely feeling better when I exit the pool, than when I got in.

New Club La Santa pool

The second session of the day is our cycle ride. Again, I keep things relaxed, opting to go with one of the bottom groups, and doing a 25k loop up to Soo and back, the conditions lovely at around 25 degrees, although I do catch a tiny taste of the infamous Lanzarote wind on the descent... Other than the taxi ride from the airport to Club La Santa, it's my first chance to see much of the volcanic island, beautiful in its plainness; its attractive white – almost Moorish – villages contrasting well with the surrounding hills and scree. My legs have warmed a little to riding, my mind become accustomed to this excellent Cannondale rental bike, and I'm starting to feel a little excited about tomorrow's longer expedition. But first, a third session of the day to go – a running, track-based set (with optional numbers of repetitions, so again I go for the ‘turn up but take it easy' approach, it being day one), followed by some stretching just before sundown.

Day 2: I give the early morning short jog a miss, my legs worryingly sore from yesterday's endeavours, and remain in bed for a while longer instead. Today's ride is 40 kilometres and includes some significant but not unmanageable hills, although of course there are longer, faster groups going out too, and is far enough for me to feel I've stretched both myself and my legs, but also not extended things too far for the second day. After an afternoon's rest, we dive back into the pool for an hour's swim, this time consisting of a longish warm up followed by 800 metes of work in total (split into increasingly long sets) at our 1500m race pace. By the time I get out, I'm absolutely buzzing. Now for a stretch class and a lecture on swim technique before a big re-feed in Club La Santa's pool bar.

Club La Santa pool bar

Day 3: Another day of waking to the distant sound of Louis Armstrong followed by the Chariots of Fire soundtrack; Club La Santa's breakfast music switches on around 8am every day for the purposes of the ‘Morning Gymnastics' class (one of many group classes taking place every day in the club, though we're all too busy with Richard's triathlon schedule to worry about them)! Today, the majority of the group head out early for the longest ride of the camp's duration – between 80-120km (again, depending on which group you're in), taking in the long switchbacks of Tabayesco, said to be around seven times the distance of Box Hill and similar in terms of incline and return about five hours later, smiling but exhausted. The afternoon's swim session is low-key to say the least…

Day 4: Suddenly, the days are slightly melding into one – each 24 hour period comprising of train, eat, drink, rest, repeat… at least two and sometimes three times. The group are beginning to gel – as demonstrated by the banter during tonight's Beach Volleyball game – and people are starting to find their groove (as well as their limits)… Today there's the option of a time trial session in the pool first thing (400m, 800m or 1500m), but I join part of a splinter group keen to test out their wetsuits in the lagoon before the wind surfers get involved. After drying off, we have breakfast and head up into La Santa village for a 10km cycle time trial. The 5km uphill proves tiring but not particularly problematic. The descent however, for a rookie cyclist like me, is far from easy… and made harder thanks to the side wind and sudden onset of transitory, but nonetheless driving, rain! One of the coaches, Ron, takes pity on me and promises to help me with some technique work on the bike soon… But not today, thankfully, as my calf muscles are now screaming. The temptation is too much now… the new ‘wellness' area in the club is calling me! Excellent value at 30 Euro for a week's pass, it's got single-sex saunas, a mixed steam bath and, also in the mixed area, a hot tub, tepid tub and, yes you guessed it, a freezing cold tub where the icy water goes up to your hips, providing the ultimate lactic acid removal strategy when alternated quickly with the hot tub.

Club La Santa bike ride

Day 5: Having missed a previous run purely because I was exhausted from other sessions, I was happy to kick-start today with an easy 8km -12km jog out and back along the beautiful, lunar coastline. After some downtime, we hit the pool for a pre-lunch technique session; lots of drills, short, sharp efforts followed by slow relaxed finishers. I find myself really beginning to feel comfortable in the water, and completely accustomed to the 50m long pool, as well as determined to avoid training in a shorter one wherever possible on my return! Today's cycle ride takes place in the afternoon, a relaxed, slow 25 kilometres. But it's funny – sometimes in life things get to you when you least expect – I'm exhausted afterwards. Perhaps the cumulative effect of all the training has finally unleashed itself! Perhaps it's nerves about Saturday, building. Both, I suspect. But I hit the hay very, very early tonight, not my most sociable evening…

Day 6: My nosedive in energy has meant that I duck out of the weekly Club La Santa ‘mini triathlon' this morning, opting instead to cheer from the sidelines during the 400m pool swim, 14.5k bike ride and 4.5k run. It's about as relaxed as a Tri can get though – many do it in teams, it starts a little late, there's no great stress anywhere – and is done and dusted by breakfast time. After this, we gather as a group to practice our transitions – getting on and off the bike, in and out of shoes, with the more advanced athletes (not me…) wondering about whether to leave shoes on or off the bike and use a pre-prepared elastic band to aid with the complex issue of getting one's foot inside the shoe whilst on the move... I find it all a bit baffling to be honest – and I'll be glad if I remember to put my helmet on the right way, and get my race belt sorted - but for some of our group, that crucial 30-40 seconds between a good and bad transition will make all the difference between a successful or mediocre race.

Late afternoon, after a lovely one-hour yoga session led by a member of our group, London based yoga instructor and bike racer, Sarah Odell (@SarahOdell), we hit the lagoon for a practice run of the 1500m course, coupled with some open water ‘sighting' drills (looking up every few strokes to check we're going in the right direction, rather than adding minutes to our swim by zig-zagging along), and an informal mass start so that some, like me, can experience the ‘washing machine' of energized bodies that open water races are so renowned for. It's new, certainly, and just a little bit anxiety-provoking too. My shoulders are sore. I'm exhausted. Nervous. And hungry.

Day 7: It's getting close now. I'm not sleeping well at all out here, but I'm confidently told that with such a high training load, and all the resulting adrenalin, it's to be expected; I will recover when I get home and, until then, just have to take rest and downtime at every possible opportunity in between sessions. In any case, the 30th Volcano Triathlon begins in 48 hours (so far around 350 people have signed up), and today we ride the 40km bike course in its entirety. Today, I experience for the first time since arriving just how strong the winds here can be (and are forecast to be on Saturday…). It's said that cycling a kilometre in Lanzarote is as hard as it feels to cycle a mile in most other places. After lunch, it's time to start winding down, just as the transition area begins popping up, along with the odd professional triathlete (they're beginning to trickle in now, and there's a sense of something exciting in the offing).

Club La Santa lagoon

Day 8: One last open water practice session – as short as any individual wants it to be… I swim around 400m only – and we are instructed just to rest as much as possible today. With the exception, of course, of a little race orientation session, just to get a heads up on the direction of the course, where to go in and out of the bike section and how the run course will look (that kind of thing), before eating, picking up race packs and eating a little more. Club La Santa is stuffed full of triathletes of all shapes and nationalities, including a two-time male Hawaii Ironman winner. Even the birds that fly on and off my balcony seem edgy and aware that something amazing is happening here tomorrow.

Race Day

Day 9: The 30th Volcano Triathlon is on. The first triathlon to take place, ever, in the Canary Islands (when, in 1984, there were just 34 entrants…), it's a favourite amongst both locals and visitors and remains the brainchild of its founder, Race Director, Kenneth, also responsible for bringing Ironman to Lanzarote (an event now renowned to be as close to Kona, in terms of difficulty, landscape and climate, as any other Ironman, says Kenneth).

We stand, in our hundreds, on the shores of the club's lagoon, awaiting the sound of a horn, whilst upbeat pop music resounds from nearby speakers. Between the long beeeeeeep of our starting ‘gun', and my crossing the finish line some three hours later, there's a whole lot of sweating, pushing and pain, finished off with a triumphant lap of the track before hurtling (no, ok… I'll admit it was ‘trotting' at best) towards completion. The hardest part? Everybody agrees, I think: it was a tough bike course, made far tougher by the characteristic island winds, around 22-24mph (and more when the gusts came), which turn every kilometre you cycle into the equivalent, in your legs, of a mile in more temperate climes (and climbs, in fact, as it's an ascent in every direction, from Club La Santa). And the tougher the cycle ride (this one adding around 15 minutes to most people's time, I was told), the tougher the transition to running, of course… As my leaden legs descended the small slope down into La Santa village, I wondered if 10km could ever finish fast enough. Two laps of an out-and-back, down-and-up run were not the easiest to tackle, mentally at least, but I did it… and the bliss that followed?

Now I understand why people do it. The mélange of sports… the challenges involved in putting three of them together. It merits the largest grin, and the biggest pizzas, immediately afterwards. And, for me, my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon completed, the season has officially begun.

 

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