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Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 10: Have a Tri!! by the Brownlee Sisters

Our last day thinking it was going to be an easy one before we head home tomorrow, but instead Jo & Sandra had different ideas for us!. After a restless night and still feeling tired, we met on the beach for T1 and T2 Transition training with Jo & Ted, a very informative & helpful session. Helene & Will showed everyone how to smoothly scoot & then mount & dismount off their bikes like real professionals. Lindsey, Barney, Maureen, Janet & Terry successfully followed as I watched in admiration & thought to myself ‘I’m not doing that’ and all I could think of was Breakfast. I think some practise before the next Triathlon and all the triathletes will be showing everyone how it’s done.

Immediately afterwards, we joined Sandra for a Core Conditioning session on the beautiful green grass overlooking the seas – once again a great session and after a week everyone has developed a six pack to show off when they get home -am not sure what’s happened to mine though!
Thanks to Sandra we have realised how important it is to work on having a strong core which helps to improve across all the disciplines.

At breakfast Jo nearly managed to burn down the restaurant by placing too thick a wedge of bread in the toaster – am so glad she didn’t as we still have one more breakfast to enjoy before going home. We then had the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon off before tackling our final

Have a Tri……..

Maureen puts everything on the bed as she has done all week & then I just copy her (don’t know what I would have done without her). Dressed with Tri suit and wet suit half on & helmet on our heads we take the bikes and head on out to meet the others. I feel a bit more anxious today because I know what to expect!
it takes Julie, Stefan and Sandra to zip me up in my wet suit, which still feels so tight I would have thought after this week of hard training it would be a little looser by now but No! Stefan tells me it’s all muscle that I’ve built up so I believe him, he knows best.
Everyone is keen to start, I have a head start as I only have to swim to and round the second buoy whilst everyone else swims a further 400m. I am the first to finish and get on my bike but soon, one by one, they all passed me. The wind was strong pushing my bike side to side but I made it on the red road & back to the finish line, all of 10 kms. Then for the run which was very difficult in the afternoon heat – Jo ran with me for the final 300m and encouraged me to push the pace to the finish line………..

And there it was, we finished a wonderful week of achieving the unimaginable.

Maureen & I would just like to say a big Thank you to our Coaches Jo, Sandra and Christine for all their help , advice & support they have given us during this week. Also thanks to Ted and Stefan for their invaluable support, really appreciated.

I never imagined three years ago that I would be Having a Try at a Triathlon, having started from a total unfit base, with not a clue about fitness.
I feel totally overwhelmed as I write this”.

Snita Sharma and Maureen Pedri
Brownlee Sisters

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 9 by Nigel

The alarm awakens me from my slumbers at 6:30 am.
I tiptoe tentatively to the window hoping against hope that windy Fuerteventura would come to my rescue, making it impossibly dangerous for our early sea swim session.
No such luck, peering out into the morning’s dawn it’s calm & tranquil, and even at this unearthly hour, the sea looks surprisingly inviting!
My only hope left is to check the Group WhatsApp just in case the Coaches have decided a last minute change of plan.
Again, no such luck, the message box is forlornly empty!

With all the enthusiasm of a grumpy old man, I start to oil and grease my reluctant lower body into my wet suit and at least looking the part of a proper triathlete (which counts for a lot in my book, not actually being the part) I set out towards the beach to meet the rest of our group.
Coach Sandra puts us through our paces with various drills to get used to starts and swimming alongside our fellow competitors, and we are actually encouraged to use sharp elbows to fight for our space in the water – brave chap that I am, I only manage to get punched by a couple of the girls whom I swear must have had outboard motors on their backs as I am swimming at about the speed of a sea snail!
Never mind, I persist and then discover the art of turning round a buoy backwards and then sighting Coach Sandra in the far distance, standing on the beach, both of which drills to my utter astonishment I manage to complete with half-decent competence, to which I receive the “thumbs-up”. Praise indeed, even from a Sunderland supporter to a Geordie Lad!

The day progresses after our usual, hearty and healthy breakfast to a 30-40k bike ride along the very peaceful roads of Fuerteventura which, from my perspective is a joy compared with the manic and frightening traffic I encounter in NW London which is terribly off-putting for this particular senior vet and “newbie” cyclist.
Coach Jo in her usual attentive manner explains the route out and how to practice our drafting skills and, little by little, I gain confidence to the extent that I start to become much more comfortable on the “drops” and Helena and I take it in turns to work together.
Then, after 20 kms, it’s time for a coffee break and the cameraderie of our group kicks in and although we are of varying standards I’m beginning to feel for the first time, not just looking the part but actually being the part of a proper cyclist.
However, I’m brought back swiftly back to earth as we set out on the second half of our ride, by Stefan, who very quietly and tactfully takes me to one side and explains that I’m wearing my cycling gloves inside out and also gently points out to ignorant Yours Truly what the purpose of the loops on the gloves were for. Who knew?

As the ride proceeds towards its conclusion I am determined to use the remaining time on the road to practice my endurance and (relative) speed in preparation for the forthcoming ITU qualifier at Eton Dorney in three weeks’ time and I set off in earnest pursuit of Coach Sandra and super-biker Terry who are leading the group home.
I grit my teeth and am prepared to give it my all and, despite the gusty conditions which are challenging to say the least, I manage to keep with them to the “finishing line”.

Every day at Tri 50 training camp has been a joy, I have learnt such a lot from both the superbly professional and caring coaches, but also from my fellow triathletes who continually look out for me as the senior Vet in the group.
We are indeed as Shakespeare would put it: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!”
I feel very privileged and blessed to have spent this week training in Fuerteventura and who knows, I may one day soon turn into a proper triathlete!

Nigel Levey
Maturest Tri50 Triathlete (72 years young!)

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 8 by Barney

After a late night of tapas, great company, wine and rum shots, our considerate Coaches, Jo and Sandra, gave everybody a well deserved rest and lie in! Although this wouldnt keep our Coaches down and, leading by example, they all took to the sea first thing. My spies tell me this was like an exhibition swimming event although some lessons on sighting maybe required, as a number of buoys were apparently missed!

So, back to the day. After another fine healthy breakfast we took to the pool for a coached swim session. Swimming isn’t my strongest discipline but I was crushed when after 1 years swimming I was told it would take me at least another 8 to actually learn to do it properly! That said, everyone swam really well and the coaching tips have already made a huge difference to all of us.
A quick T1 and everybody was on the bike – amazing effort by all. The crosswinds both up and downhill were slightly off putting but everyone pushed through and completed the ride.
Next the strangest thing happened, after a late start we were given 3 hours off – what should we do, decisions, decisions, for us it was an energetic afternoon consisting of lunch, sun-lounger and ice-cream. This was not for Terry though, and he pushed on through with an aqua-aerobics class – perhaps he has a future as the Tri 50 Mr Motivator, I wonder how he looks in leg warmers?

The day wrapped up with a gruelling run session in the afternoon heat, some stretching and Ted’s suggestion of African squats?

Bon voyage to the Triathlon Friday crew who are heading home, you will be missed – perhaps we will meet up next year, same time, same place ……………..

Barney Kelham

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 7 by Janet

Today started at 7.15 am with the aptly named ‘Have a Tri”. In my case it was my first Triathlon. I was placed under the expert tutelage of Janet Harper who showed me how to set my towel up like a prayer mat with all the essentials placed on it in order to save seconds. That was enough to get the adrenalin going! The sea conditions were perfect, so the 300m swim went well, my chain came off during the 10k cycle which gave me a chance to catch my breath while Dee and a charming German man helped to fix it. The 1.6k run was tough, but I huffed and puffed my way round to the end. Meanwhile, another group of super duper fit types completed a 69K ride to Ajuy on the other side of the island in strong winds.

A couple of hours later I found the energy to go for a gentle cycle to Grand Tarajal with Dee and was rewarded with an icecream. That felt like a short holiday before a busy afternoon.

We marked the Triathlon Trivia quizzes. Then there were talks on Nutrition and Heart Rate Monitors versus Rate of Perceived Exertion, all geared towards management of the mature endurance athlete. This was followed by a session on swiss ball and band exercises for mobilisers and stabilisers of abs, backs, and shoulders.  Dashed back to prepare for the group night out.

We had a wonderful evening eating tapas on the terrace of a restaurant in Las Playitas village. It started with a glass of fizz and a few words from Nigel, the maturest member of Tri50, at the tender age of 72 years, to toast the Coaches and Eva’s birthday ( his wife). It was a much later night than normal for this week, but it was good to let our hair down!

My week on Tri50’s Triathlon training week has come to an end. I came here to try to overcome my fear of open water swimming and improve my running for my 10k later in May. I had announced that I wasn’t going to get on a bike but somehow Jo persuaded me. I think she uses hypnotism!
Bit by bit I have had the corners knocked off me and can now apparently call myself a triathlete. I feel fitter and more energised than I did when I arrived. Thank you so much to all the Coaches and to everyone in the group for your kindness and support.

I still need to try cleats, but that will be for another time!

Janet Hopson

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 6 by Helene

For me, Thursday was day 6 out of 10 – and one of the toughest days so far! 

We started by meeting at 7:55 down by the Beach Bar, ready to tackle a pretty choppy sea swim. Normally we have been swimming early as the sea is calmer then, but the wind had really got up today. 

We practised our sighting, although the buoys here are quite small which makes it difficult. Thank goodness they are usually large in races! Most of us managed two laps, which are around 400 metres each. A few of the less confident open water swimmers were coached around a slightly smaller loop which they managed really well.

After coming out of the water, we were encouraged to run along the beach and back, pulling downthe tops of our wetsuits. We had been shown how to make this easier by pulling the necks of our wetsuits open to let water in just before exiting. 

After fully removing our wetsuits, we donned trainers and ran the marked loop of 1.6k round the resort. I had forgotten to bring any shorts down with me so had to run in a swimsuit, feeling like one of those elites in a skimpy trisuit!

Our next session was just late enough to ensure breakfast had been at least partially digested. Because of the wind, only the stronger cyclists were able to go out on the scheduled ride. I was very pleased to have avoided this as staying upright in the side winds was apparently very hard work! However, a coffee stop made a welcome break in the proceedings (see photo).

Led by Sandra, the rest of us walked and then jogged up to the lighthouse road (see yesterday’s blog) which presented a suitable steady uphill gradient. Sandra then explained that we would be doing six hill reps at around 8-9 RPE for those of us aiming for sprints and 7 RPE for those of us doing longer events. We were then to jog back down and past the start point to the end of the road and sprint back to the start flat out. This seemed a bit daunting, even though the hill wasn’t that long. And we were all completely out of breath by the end, willing ourselves to reach that last telegraph pole! Oddly enough, the reps seemed to get easier as they went on and my last one was actually my fastest! Feeling triumphant, we walked back to catch some well-earned lunch.

With just enough time for our food to go down, we met up at 4 pm for a pool swim coached by Jo and Sandra. I wasn’t sure I would have enough energy for this, but actually felt better and more energetic as the session went on!

Interestingly, the first 30 mins were done in wetsuits – a new experience in a pool for me! The drills included everyone in each lane (around 9-10) setting off together to simulate a standing mass start. There was lots of splashing both from your own lane and the adjacent ones – but also a good opportunity to practise drafting.

We were then allowed to take our wetsuits off and practised some skills-related drills, such as a combination of sculling numbers 1, 2 and 3, which I have only done individually before. This was really helpful in getting a good catch and encouraging an EVF (early vertical forearm) – a term I learned for the first time on this camp but which is now ingrained in my head! 

After an hour and a half of swimming we were ready for showers and food. But first, Jo handed us our special t-shirts and team photos were taken. Don’t we all look professional? 

Helene Hill

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 5 by Ted

There is a very fine poem by Rudyard Kipling called the Ballad of the King’s Jest which begins:

“when Springtime flushes the desert grass and our Khafillas wind through the Khyber Pass”

and follows with a wonderfully evocative description of the human activity that Spring brings with it………..

Reminds me of swimming in the sea, cycling up steep hills and the annual ’Triathlon Training Camp’ !!

This years ‘Tri50 Camp’ out here at Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands has also reminded me of my visits to my Granny on the South Coast who, at this time of year, emerged from her hibernation to resume swimming, although in her case this began in May. As a small boy, this was an important time, because it was now Summer and I would be expected to swim in the sea. In truth, this wasn’t much of a treat. Not only was there usually a gale blowing and the water freezing, but having lived through two World Wars, Granny was of a thrifty disposition and, as a special treat, had knitted me a pair of swimming trunks. These were the only ones I was allowed to wear as she had “made them specially”. And boy, were they special? Possessed of two unique properties; they were the itchiest and scratchiest pair of swimming trunks in the world, (like wearing barbed wire knickers) and they expanded when wet, so always fell off, leading to my routine humiliation as I raced shivering up the beach.

Nevertheless, I survived this ordeal ‘outside my comfort zone’ and it made me the person I am today!!

Even better was to witness all of the current Tri50 ‘Training Camp’ Peeps survive working outside their ‘Comfort Zones’ on the bike climb(s) up to the lighthouse today (some managed 4 x reps!). Fantastic. Brilliant. Well done. …..

‘Do not be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You cannot cross a chasm in two small jumps’

David Lloyd George.

P.S. Not forgetting the swallows we have spotted these past few days. They are ‘en route’ to our green and pleasant land.

Ted Hamilton

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 4 by Des

A 7.00am sea swim to start the day is always daunting especially when the sun doesn’t rise until 7.20am. It requires waking at 6.00am to force in some calories to an energy-depleted body hoping the food won’t return half-digested during the swim; pulling on a wetsuit still damp and cold from the previous day’s swim; jogging down to the beach and having to skip to get the body moving; and then a simulated race start – no warm up allowed nor getting used to the chilly water, just a group run into the waves and start swimming.

And once the initial panting and splashing subsides, the wonder kicks in. As we swim away from the beach, breathe to the left and see the red glow of the false dawn light up the sky beyond the hillside; look down and see the cobalt fish dart below; and enjoy the quiet just hearing only your hand drop into the water each stroke. On mornings like this all is good in the world.

A quick breakfast and it’s off for some bike drafting practice and then some interval training. Dee shows us how to build muscle by doing the first half with a brake block rubbing her wheel (probably the result of yesterday’s accident); Erica is going well and showing no signs of the rough night that led her to miss this morning’s swim; Nigel puts us to shame forging ahead in breakaways none can bring back; and no-one wants to draft behind Will and his mesh bib-shorts despite him being one of the stronger cyclists.

After coffee and a discussion on drafting tactics in GB Qualifier races, two groups ride back utilising our new drafting skills. Julie impresses by drafting “the boys” all the way back. Helene holds her own in the same bunch and Toni bridges across to catch the theoretically faster group before it reaches the hotel. It wasn’t a race but Andy was first back (with feet out of shoes ready for the run).

(Two videos of drafting – to follow)

Today we need some rest and have an almost free afternoon. Free to siesta, take a long lunch, visit the spa or shop, some still opt for another bike ride while others take advantage of the communal stretch class to try and get some length into those muscles.

We were also joined by some new arrivals. Those that got here early enough had their first session of the camp as Sandra took them through some run drills. Welcome.

Finally, it’s been a busy day so just time for one last thing before bed. Goodnight.

Des Byrne

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 3: Third day blues by Dee

A concept well known to every recreational skier: on the third day you are more tired as the demands of long days of exercise in a challenging environment take their toll – heat, dehydration, snatching the right food in between sessions,

Whether or not this applies to triathlon training, our Coaches, Jo and Christine, had planned an easier day for us, starting with a lie in. Nonetheless, four ladies joined the 8.00 am Sun Salutations (so nice to do this in the open air) A hike up the nearby hill was proposed after breakfast, but myself and another opted to try the “Mobility Flow” class, interesting, and not what we expected, but some useful stretches.

Those Triathletes who joined the Volcanic walk found themselves huffing and puffing somewhat as they meandered up to the top of the volcano to the right hand side of Las Playitas resort, where magnificent views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Las Playitas resort were admired/enjoyed/photographed, before a steady descent down a loose slate path was negotiated. Social interaction was enjoyed, allowing them all to get to know one another, rounded up with a cup of coffee to conclude the morning’s activities.

In the afternoon a sheduled discussion group was replaced by an open water swim. The timing was designed to expose us to a choppy sea, and the sea breeze cooperated providing a challenging degree of swell. For me this was back to novice OWS, but I managed two trips out and back. Many thanks to my buddy,Erica, and her amazing towing orange buoy.

Just enough time to rinse the seawater from our kit and our hair before we lined up for the last technical session of the day: Transition 2 mounting and dismounting. This is not a skill I had any desire to master; still less so now, as my efforts resulted in a fall, a gashed knee, and a buckled wheel. Bike is in the repair shop, I am on the couch with an ice pack. Still, not all bad, returning from the bike shop, retail therapy beckoned, and the bruises will be hidden under a natty pair of trousers, as photographed above! Whilst my bike was being repaired, the rest of the group applied their newfound skills in a multibrick session with a run around the resort, a 10k bike lap, and the choice of one or two further laps of the run. This was meant to be at an individual’s own pace, however, the boys took it upon themselves to race one another and a couple soon realised that their Transition skills still require a great deal of improvement as the 20 or so seconds they lost in Transition couldn’t be made up on the second run(s) – a huge learning curve! A fish Supper in the nearby village concluded what was a great Tri50 day’s training with newly made supportive and respectful friends.”

Dee Philpott

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 2: Sunrise, Puncture and Snoozing by Andy

After a full day on Saturday we all wake up well before sunrise and collect by the Beach Bar just before 7. Today is open water swimming day and, for many of us, our first sojourn into the deep blue sea this year. For one wary team member this would be her first ever! Not too worry though, Coach Jo would be there, together with support from the rest of the team. By now we were used to a bit of pre-exercise fun (I thought swimming was just getting into the water!). “Bring out the skipping ropes” was Jo’s call. On the back of some gentle skipping, Christine followed with another set of warm up exercises. After checking all the equipment, as well as running through the safety sessions, we all headed down to sea. A calm area of water, with a collection of intimidatingly distant buoys were waiting for us. Surprisingly the water wasn’t too cold and, before long ,we followed Ted to the closest buoy. It also came flooding back; long strokes, regular sighting and … cold water in our wetsuits. The next 40 minutes were spent swimming between those intimidating buoys, who slowly but surely became our best friends, a meeting point where we all congregated before the next challenge. The water was clear and while we swam we all watched the sea urchins and fish, unphased by the torpedoes swimming past on the surface. Finally, we had to leave our old ally and return to the beach where Coach Jo ‘suggested’ we have a quick run up and down the beach and then run a now familiar loop around the resort. We had been reacquainted with our lost friend, and remembered what fun times we had over past years. A big well done to Janet, who took on the Atlantic and won! She is now officially an open water swimmer. A big thank you to my wife, Derryn, who acted as the spotter for swimmers in trouble – a very quiet job today.

After a nutritious Breakfast we suddenly found ourselves by the Cycle store ready for bike2; our team increased by one, Will had arrived. After introductions all round, we regaled our previous day’s work and the mornings’ open water adventures. We were all a bit tired, apart from Will, but before long Jo and Christine had us fired up and we were ready to go. The boys, led by Ted, headed off for the same route as yesterday; Jo and Christine led the ladies off on ascending/descending technique session. Having had such a great time at the coffee shop yesterday, I decided to have a puncture 100m before the same coffee shop today – honestly! (I am not sure the ladies believed us). Des provided me with technical support, as well as ordering the coffee in in perfect Spanish again. Will acted as the photographer and Ted cheered us on. With a bit of help from the shop’s owner fitting the wheel onto the derailleur we were back on the road again, refreshed and raring to go. This time the wind was behind us and we flew back to Las Playitas as at an average speed of well over 30kph. Lunch was well deserved for everyone, followed by a hard-earned afternoon snoozing – something I am sure was taken seriously by everyone.

A pool swim at 5pm was our next gathering, together with all our toys. Jo had organised the two lanes closest to the side, a much-prized possession. A German group tried to commandeer them before we started but moved on graciously after a brief chat. “No fins today, your legs have worked enough”. So just swimming in a 50m pool, not a normal 25m one. It didn’t take long to get used to the extra 25m, the morning’s open water probably helped with that. There were a multitude of exercises, technique drills including lots of open water based ones. Probably the most fun was swimming 5 or 6 abreast up and down the two lanes. “It’s not a race” cried Jo, yeh right! Being a slow swimmer than Christine and being significantly smaller than Des reminded me of the open water starts – those who have done them will known what I mean. After 90 minutes of work we all got out of the water tired but with new drills and much improved techniques. The last chat was about Tuesday, the white tipped waves reminded Jo of an open water technique we needed to practice in an extra open water session tomorrow. She didn’t elaborate, every one looked at each other … very mysterious and slightly troubling.

After two swim sessions and a bike ride, we were ready for food in the evening. Good old Italian helped, after which we all headed home for bed. Day 2- a good day.

Andy Casson

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 1 by Erica

The sound of my alarm at 7am would have been rude on the first day but Fleetwood Mac’s “You make loving fun” has a way of gently easing my weary bod & mind into day mode. It took a while to unravel myself from twisted sheets and duvets after a rough night , but I saw sunshine and felt warmth…I was not dreaming, I was really here at Las Playitas! It’s taken me over three years to get to Tri50’s coached training camp…. but that’s another story :-)!

After a welcome talk at 8am where we introduced ourselves and we were given sensible housekeeping notes it was time to breakfast at the well stocked busy hotel buffet. After fuelling up, it was time to get body and mind in sync for what was to be a 40-50km “intro ” ride. I did nearly faint when I heard this mentioned casually at the briefing, as my bike and I had not parlayed for at least a month; even then I had only done 20ish km locally on my home turf , in the Chilterns. So, I applied my old logic that if I looked the part , maybe I could trick my body into thinking it could go the distance. I was working overtime with positive mantras so by the time I got to the meeting point, I had given myself such a talking too I actually felt relatively calm.

Thanks to the bike wizardry that Julie did putting her bike back together, I had no qualms on my bike’s performance; it was mine that faultered at the first hurdle- the yellow brick road (red actually) that leads from the camp into the wild yonder that is Fuerteventura. Holy handpaddles …. the cross winds were fierce!! I checked my watch , 5km.. what?? That’s just not possible , surely it was really 25km! Then,I suddenly got the fear; big open empty prairie like spaces were appearing in from of me, vast stretches of dry but rugged terrain, and I found myself pulling up the rear. It’s a mindset, and once I embraced the openness, & emptiness I found a rhythm. I was slow as my legs were still resisting the undulating windy roads but at every junction, the group reconvened (no one got left behind as the sweeping system worked perfectly). By then everyone had found their own pace and headed to the coffee stop. Some decided to do the longer route but by then, all I could think of was coffee, coffee, coffee…. i needed caffeine now!

A sweeping downhill landed us at a classic village cafe where we were greeted like long lost friends by the owner and duly lavished with coffees, bananas and on our departure menthol sweets. So, for a couple of euros, I was caffeined up and raring to go. To my horror we had to climb back up the sweeping hill we came in on but with the wind behind us and the cross winds manageable, as I hit the top of the ridge, I dropped onto my aero bars. Well, something bizarre happened… i suddenly turned into speedy Gonza;ez! I had a heady cocktail of joy that I could actually make it back without being stretchered in, adrenaline and two cafe con leche’s coursing through my veins, so… I just took off. I was on a mission. With just a few Kms to go, I suddenly saw Coach Jojo’s face and thought “rein it in Benzo” , it’s day 1, blowing up now would be so wrong. So Dee and I gently meandered the last couple of Km together. Total 43km. Boom! Mission accomplished.

After a super quick lunch it was out to do run drills with the lovely and talented Christine and a gentle run /walk (in my case) with Coach Jojo (always a joy, always encouraging) , followed by a stretch session, which totalled a very reasonable 5.5.km.

Then it was back to my room to wash kit, clean up, and head out to Triathlon Trivia Quiz night (super fun with much laughter) and a chat on nutrition, quickly followed by a scramble to get to local restaurants to serve us supper. After a futile attempt to get a grumpy waitress to serve us we headed back to the hotel to chow down at the local buffet. Finally, time for bed. Day one. Tick.

Erica Bensly