Outlaw Relay & Lowestoft Training Camp

The last few weeks have been filled with some great training, racing and fun.  2 weeks ago was the Outlaw triathlon, a 2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike – 26.2 mile run that has quickly become one of the most popular events over this distance in the UK.  As Compressport and ZEROD are sponsors of the event, we decided to enter the team relay.  With Mel Berry swimming, me cycling and Raph Deinhart of High 5 doing the run leg, we had a great team.  We all had a really fun day, cheering each other, as well as the other individual participants, on throughout the day.  Following Mel’s sub-hour swim, I didn’t have the best ride of my life, but it was a great reminder of the importance of nutrition and hydration (even if you don’t have the run to worry about).  The last 40km was tough – I was gone, totally blown… think mushroom cloud!  Raph ran well to get us 3rd place overall which we were all really pleased with.  It was great to cheer on lots of friends racing the distance for the first time, all of whom did really well!

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After a slightly easier day on Monday, I was back at it on Tuesday with a double run day totalling over 20 miles.  Later that evening I drove east to Lowestoft to stay with Joe Skipper, who’d organised a 5-day training camp with Rob Brundish, Sam Baxter and Lucy Gossage.  I’d really been looking forward to this, knowing that it was a great opportunity to train with other high class athletes and hopefully learn a few things.  Upon hearing Joe’s schedule for the week I wondered whether running so much earlier in the day was ideal preparation for coming days!  Joe’s parents have a great B&B right on the beachfront which was our new training base for the next 5 days.

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The first day was simple enough on paper – a 100 mile ride and a swim, but it’s what you do within the training sessions that count.  It wasn’t long before we were rotating at the front of the group, upping the intensity for 40 minutes followed by 20 minutes easy.  By hour 4, Joe and Sam were setting the pace and we were doing everything we could just to hang on their wheels!  This first session was exactly what I imagined we’d all be in store for – a hard week.  Some ran off the bike, but I chose to sit this session out, opting for extra rest and recovery.  After relaxing for a few hours we reluctantly suited up and walked across the road (literally) to the beach.  It’s probably fair to say that none of us were particularly geared up for this, but that’s the beauty of training with others – you push each other on.  After a short 35 minute swim the training was done, with the last session of the day being a well-earned BBQ!  Special thanks to Erdinger UK for sending us some post-training hydration.

Thursday started with another sea swim, this being a slightly longer session of 3.8km.  We broke the session up, changing up the pace between piers and practicing some short sprints.  Time seemed to fly by and we were soon jogging along the sea front for an easy 5 miles.  Getting back before midday, we had the whole afternoon to chill out before getting ready for the evening session, which was the local 10 mile time trial.

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That in itself would be a little easy, so to make it more interesting we cycled there, raced the TT, ran 4.5 miles off the bike and then cycled back.  This is training Skipper style!  The TT was great fun over a challenging rolling course on quiet country roads, unlike my only previous 10 mile race which was out and back along an A road.  I felt better than I expected given the last few days of training, and was pleased with the power numbers looking over the data afterwards. 

Friday started with another swim, this time at the local pool.  The pyramid set planned made the swim more interesting, although I still much prefer open water swimming given the choice.  5km and jelly arms later, it was time for more rest.   You may be noticing a trend appearing – train and rest, repeat.  That’s literally all we did - train, eat, rest and sleep.  The afternoons planned ride was a more sociable one with a promised coffee stop en route, something we were all looking forward to!  An easy ride wasn’t enough for Joe and Sam, so they made it a bit more interesting by sprinting for every village sign along the 60 mile ride.  After an hour we hit one of the highlights on the route – a ferry crossing!  This was a first… although the crossing couldn’t have been more than 50m and I probably could have swum across quicker!

Just over an hour later we reached the real highlight, Rosy Lee’s Tea Room!  We sat down to coffee, cakes and scones and enjoyed the sun, probably loitering for a little longer than planned.

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The final stretch back home was slow, which was actually quite nice!  As soon as we got back we got ready to run straight away, doing a nice 7.75 mile route.  Our ‘easier day’ had still totalled nearly 6 hours, but with a 100 mile time trial planned on Sunday morning, Saturday was our taper day.

Yeah right!  We jogged a few miles to a local park, did a few drills led by Lucy (which I think was just a ploy to make us look ridiculous in front of everyone!) and Joe talked us through the session.  We’d do 6x 1300m intervals over a rolling route, leaving on 6:30.  Sounds easy enough, but rolling route probably doesn’t do it justice.  The route is just plain hard, and with tired legs I wasn’t the only one feeling unsure about how this would go.  The first one was pretty bad, but it seemed to get better from there, upping the speed each time and improving on each rep.  It was a fun session and one that I actually really enjoyed, despite dreading it beforehand.  After a short and easy sea swim in the afternoon it was time for the world’s shortest taper – 12 hours!  Unfortunately Rob had to leave on Saturday afternoon and was going to miss out on the joys of riding 100 miles along a dual carriageway, but the rest of us were excited, despite Joe saying otherwise.

After an awful night’s sleep, the alarm went off at 4am, indicating it was time to eat a bowlful of porridge half asleep along with 3 others in a similar state.

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After signing in and picking up our starting numbers, the only thing to do was wait until our start times and relax.  With fog hanging around the start was delayed slightly, but we were soon off on the A11 which would be the setting for the next 100 miles.  After my nutritional mishap at the Outlaw, I was determined to right that wrong by focussing on executing a well-planned nutrition strategy.  3 bottles with 1100 calories – that should be enough to see me through close to 4 hours of racing.  I also paced the ride much more conservatively at the start, going at an easy effort for the first hour before settling in for the middle 2 hours of the ride.  In the final hour or so I was feeling great and increased the effort to the finish for a time of 3:47:16.  With this being my first 100 mile TT I have no benchmark for comparison, but this was obviously an extremely fast course.  Again, I was reasonably pleased with the numbers at the end of a hard week of training, but more pleased with the fact that I’d executed the race well.  Joe took the spoils in 3:43 and Lucy made the top-20 British female 100 mile times (of all time!) with a 4:05.  Was it a big deal to her?  I’ve never seen anyone so blasé about anything!

That rounded off the 5 day camp perfectly.  We’d all raced well and rewarded our hard work with a pub lunch.  After having a craving for scampi and chips for the last 6 months, I couldn’t have been happier to see it on the menu!  So that was it, 5 days of hard training and fun outside of training.  It was a reminder of the benefits of training with other people.  To be honest, it didn’t really feel like training at all.  It was like hanging out with friends, and you just so happen to be training, time seemed to go by so quickly.  There was zero mental energy expended over the course of the week – everything seemed to come so easily, even on the days where you were tired (which to be fair was everyday)! 

On the drive back to South Wales I stopped at Drag2Zero and Smart Aero Technology HQ in Brackley, Northampton.  It was great to spend the afternoon catching up and finding out about all the new aerodynamic products in development.  With everything from ENVE wheels and aerobars, bikes and frames, SMART skinsuits and overshoes, as well as some things in the prototype stage, it really is heaven for an aero weenie!