A group of girls from my Triathlon Club (Leeds and Bradford) had booked up a week at Idle Breaks near Malaga in Spain. They were taking Frank and Alan, two coaches from our club along, but had a spare place. I spoke to Frank and although I was considerably more experienced and stronger than most of the girls he felt swimming and running would work fine and providing I was flexible the group cycling could be managed, so I was in. I had heard a lot of good reports about Andy's place, I can now confirm it totally lived up to it's reputation. Everything about the place is set up so you can live and behave like a professional athlete. Great food, van support on some of the best riding in Europe, sports massage, ice bath, 3 lane 25m pool, gym and core/stretching area, chill out area's and all beneath the Spanish sunshine surrounded by hills and olive groves. To say I was looking forward to a week away was an understatement!!
Sunday 28th March: The day started on not much sleep, courtesy of the clocks changing and a 4.30am taxi pick up. We soon arrived at Malaga and after a 40 minute drive we arrived at Andy's place. We assembled the bikes and then swam. Although the swimming pool is heated the weather was only just starting to change for the better and so on Andy's advice wetsuits were the order of the day (just) This was actually really good as it provided a great opportunity to practice swimming in a wetsuit, and the extra buoyancy a wetsuit provides allowed for a week of swimming really focusing on technique. We did a 45 minute session with the coaches observing and giving us plenty to work on.
Monday 29th March: My 35th Birthday!! A great way to spend my Birthday, doing all the things I like doing. Sarah and Ellie had organised a party lunch on Saturday with Pass the Parcel and cake so I guess this was Birthday number 2!! The day started with a 2hr steady ride with a special birthday climb just for me. The important thing when you plan to do an extended block of training is not to get carried away and nuke yourself in the first two days. I could have easily ridden a Birthday Century, but I wanted to feel good throughout the week, so settled for a steady start. We did a 15 minute run straight off the bikes. I ran with a girl called Jen. Jen finished 3rd in her age group 20 -24yrs at the World Sprint Triathlon Championships in Australia last year so I was hanging on as she cranked out a 6.30min/mile off the bike. We cruised the remaining mile back to the house. After lunch Frank had a running drills session and some 1k reps to find pace planned. We did 3 x 1k and I ran on 7min/mile pace. We ran back to the house set about on a 45 minute swim set focusing on technique. Total training Day one: 3 1/2hrs.
A really sensible start to the week and a great Birthday. The day finished off with an awesome Birthday cake and an Idle Breaks cycling jersey as a present from the group.
Tuesday 30th March: A longer ride was planned for today, including the Puerto del Sol 7km climb, which I intended to time trial up. A steady ride out to the bottom of the climb and away I went. A stiff headwind made for a tough ascent, but didn't stop me smacking it. I crossed the summit in 26:52 averaging 171bpm heart rate. I wasn't going to the top of the climb all time leader board but I felt strong, pleasing in the tough conditions. We rode home for a 3 3/4hr ride time. A swim session was planned for the afternoon, again focusing on technique. Frank wanted me to work on keeping a high elbow in the water allowing for a more efficient catch, and also a greater body roll. I finished the day with 4 1/4hrs training.
Wednesday 31st March: Frank and Alan had planned a steady day for the girls focusing on transitions. I decided to give this a miss and instead headed out on the bike with David and Anne. David is a triathlon coach who is working with Andy helping him lead rides and run Idle Breaks, he is also a strong cyclist and decent triathlete recently completing Clear Water 70.3 World Championships. I sort of know David through my best Buddy Ben. Anne is a Professional Ironman Athlete trained by David and now living in Spain also working with Andy. David had planned a 50 mile ultra hilly ride, the route didn't disappoint. I rode really strongly, riding tempo on the climbs and leaving David and Anne, one of those days when you feel great! The climbing was long and steady, the descents long, sweeping and fast and very little flat stuff between. We rode for 3 1/2hrs covered 50 miles and did 6400ft of climbing, a tough but great day in the saddle. After a very quick lunch, we headed down to the local lake for an open water swim. A couple of buoys were swam out and the we worked on our technique, drafting and sighting for 30 minutes. Another cracking day came to an end with a brilliant meal and a chat about training, a couple of beers and an early night.
Thursday 1st April: Today was scheduled to be the long ride. I led a group of 5 as we rode through some stunning scenery of Olive Groves and snaking roads, making our way over the hills to the top of the descent leading into Malaga. A real Alpine descent for 20 minutes brought us into Malaga, a quick energy gel, ditch some layers and turn around for a 10 mile climb back to the cafe at the top. I rode tempo for 56 minutes averaging 157bpm. What an amazing feeling to be climbing for that length of time. the gradients were comfortable but with 3 good days in my legs and no respite the back end of the climb was challenging. I was comfortable with a 39 x 26 gear set up, but if you wanted to relax more on the climbing, or were looking for longer days in the saddle a compact chainset would definatley be useful. At the top I turned round, span down until I reached some of our group coming up then turned and did another 3 miles of climbing, well it's not every day you get to play on an Alpine type Climb!!! The wind seemed to be plotting against us all week, and so it was on the return ride home. I finished with 72 miles in 5hrs. Food, ice bath, jacuzzi and chill was followed by a strong coffee and a 5 mile run up through the Olive groves. Total training for day four was 5 3/4 hrs.
Frank and Alan had planned a race situation for the final day. A beautiful morning down by the lake, we soon had an 800m open water swim race set up. There were some good swimmers amongst the girls. I worked hard to draft on some feet and came out just behind the lead swimmers, feeling good. A leisurely transition, in fact as the girls set off on the bike I went for a coffee with David and Andy, nice. I then had a steady 6km climb up from the lake and a further 16km of rolling roads to reach the vans and the run transition area. I absolutely nailed the bike, just to test the legs and see what was left in them. I rode 47 minutes. Predictably for the end of a long week I couldn't get my heart rate up to Time Trial levels but still rode as hard as I could. A steady transition and it was out onto the mile out and back run route. After an 8.47min/mile my running legs returned and I knocked out a further 5 miles in 7.39, 7.16, 7.14, 7.57 and 7.02. It was a joy to be running in my Asics DS Racers (like running in slippers) and just a pair of shorts, beneath the Spanish sun. My totals for the day were 1 3/4hrs. Most pleasing was after 4 solid training days I was able to stick in a high intensity session and run really well off a time trial type bike effort, happy days!!
The rest of day was spent in the ice bath, drinking a cheeky beer or two in the jacuzzi and then sleeping and bike packing.
The training camp wasn't Epic proportions in terms of training volume, (it didn't really need to be not training for an Ironman race this year). Instead the week contained plenty of intense climbing in between steady riding, 5 good swims focusing on technique and 4 good runs including some intensity. My totals for the 5 days; 5 rides, 15hrs, 215 miles, 4 runs, 2 1/2hrs and 4 swims 2 1/2hrs, plenty of stretching and a bit of core work for a total of 20hrs.
I had really great training week. The company was great, cheers Frank, Alan, Khara, Vicky, Lyndsey, Emma, Sarah, Jen, Sarah, Dena and Rachel, you guys put togther a great week of training. Andy Idle, his wife Tracy, David and Anne have a great set up at Idle Breaks, it is a perfect training location and the facilities are exactly what you need. I will definitely be returning for more of the same, and when the girls are a little older also for a family holiday, with a little riding and training! Finally sorry Ellie for not being here on my Birthday (she couldn't understand why I went away for it) and thank you Sarah for looking after the girls and letting me get away for a week to do what I like to do, love you darling.