Finally the time has come to switch continents & begin the final phase of our year long pilgrimage to Kona. Before we get there however we have one last important stop off in California for an Altitude Top-up in Big Bear Lake, a couple of hours south east of Los Angeles. While I'm extremely excited to finally be getting closer to the showdown at the World Championships both geographically & also by the colander! I'm also leaving Europe behind with a little sadness as I've had the most incredible Euro 2018 i could have ever dreamed off.
When Fallon & I arrived in Europe it took us a little time to finally get settled. First we tried living in Nice but logistically it just wasn't quite easy enough for me to get the work done training there that i felt i needed. We decided to move onto Andorra and quickly fell in love with the little principality ultimately settling in a cosy little apartment at Anyos Park, right next door to the training facility I Swim and Gym at. Basically its turned into an oasis for all of us as Fallon loves the mountains & Olive (the Golden Doodle) loves everything Fallon loves! Olive also does swimming lessons twice a week so its by far the most settled we've been in our few years traversing the globe together.
For me and my training its simply everything i could ever wish for. I have about 5 swimming pools to choose from, endless trail running options, a track, and off course some of the best rd riding you'll find anywhere in the world. The gym also has a state of the art recovery centre with ice baths and anything and everything else you could imagine so being fortunate enough to find a home literally 50m from the centre was an absolute stroke of luck. Through in the fact the people in the Catalan region of Spain are some of the nicest you'll meet anywhere in the world and its really ticks every single box we could think off that needed to be ticked.
The Reason I'm in Europe in the first place is really for one simple reason, my coach Tim Kerrison. Tim is head of performance at Team Sky & I'm his little side project experiment if you like as the man seems to just love endurance sports. Tim was national Rowing team coach way back when i was on the national team and coached the world championship Winning U23 Lightweight Quad in 2002. In 2004 he was a physiologist with the Australian swimming team before performing the same role with the British Olympic team in 2008. Following that he was recruited by Dave Brailsford to be head of performance at Team Sky obviously signifying there intentions to do things differently than had been done historically in cycling and the rest they say is History. 7 years down the line and 6 Le Tour De France titles down the line with 3 different athletes, a giro and Vuelta title thrown to ensure he's athletes have claimed the whole set, he's obviously one of the most successful cycling coaches ever. And now he's graciously decided to apply that knowledge to the sport of Ironman Triathlon with me as the test pilot. Yes I'm extremely fortunate to be in the position i find myself in.
So back to why we choose Europe as our home these days when not in Australia. Again because of Tim. Obviously for Tim to be able to apply time to me i need to be heavily integrated with the Boys at Team Sky as i spend many many many many days with them at team camps all over the world really. In the past 18 months I've been at camps in Australia, LA, Monaco, Tenerife, Chatel, Isola 2000 and each spot on more than 1 occasion. Basically during the season which for me spans January to October there are not too many months we are not at a camp checking to see where things are at. Now the other unquantifiable advantage of me being in Europe is that the standard of not only world cycling but also world triathlon is based in Europe. Simply put all the best guys setting the standard in the sport are there so its an extremely motivating environment to be in and certainly ensures you never ever rest on your laurels. For example Jan Frodeno lives just 90 minutes from me in Girona Spain, a place made famous by Sir Lancelot Armstrong. When i go to races i can line up against the likes of Sebastian Kenle and Frederic Van Lierde for example so a reality check of exactly where your are at compared to the best is never more than a short drive away. Being someone that gets distracted easily the constant reminder that I've got lots of improvement to do has really kept me on the straightened arrow this year.
Back to Tim and how all that works. Ove the past 18 months my Time around Tim and the team has definitely become more and more structured and specific to my goals in Kona on October 13. Initially i was simply tagging along to there team camps and squeezing in the odd swim and run where it fitted. I had 3 years away from top level sport people have to remember and lived like a normal person and certainly to the fullest!! It's taken 12 months just to get myself back to I'd say a semi elite level of fitness and the Team Sky training camps where the perfect way to get me back into shape. At the same time the fact i was available to be at the camps often meant Froomie and G had someone to train with which i feel like hasn't hindered them in anyway as they've both had a rather successful couple of seasons since my first Team camp with Chris back in January 2017. So last year i was most definitely tagging along as i very very rarely swam or ran at the team camps which my give a good indication why i was able to ride rather well in Kona last year but swim and run extremely poorly. Still there was no option as i was so out of shape 18months ago it took time to build the body back up.
In January this year Tim really started to ramp my training up while i was with G in LA. There was the first time my swimming and running was really structured into the daily routine aswell as i actually started misusing rides to do hard swims and track sessions instead. This at first upset me as i loved doing all the rides with the guys. Yeah its awesome having the opportunity to ride with the best guys in the world but also we just really have a great atmosphere in our groups when on these camps. After a few days of missing out on the harder ride days and seeing some instant improvements in my running i was reminded Tim knew exactly what he was doing and it was all part of an evolution to the level at which I'm able to train at today. The next camp in Tenerife was more off the same where I spent lots more time in the pool than on the bike and finished rides early to go for runs but again with my weaker legs improving i embraced the process all be it with some slight trepidation that I'd lose some of my edge on the bike. Sure enough this never happened and by Challenge Salou i was able to win my first half Ironman and run 1:18 off a 360watt average 90km bike ride which was absolutely full gas for me. This race was the first indication to me that if i can continue on this path ill be capable of attaining my goal of riding as hard as i possibly can and then running as hard as I possibly can and was interesting to see the correlation between the way I'd worked at the training camps and then performed in the races.
Fats forward to august and the team camp in Chatel and yet another evolution in my tagging along at Team Sky training camps. Tim obviously has friends in the swimming world all over the world and organised for Team GB open water swim maestro coach Sean Kelly (not the cycling legend version!!) to join us at the team camp. This camp also Tim kicked things up a gear in my training and also added running in daily. So for the first time ever I'd go to the pool each morning with Sean, saddle up on the bike with Kwiatkowski, Puccio, and Sivakov, and then run in the afternoons where we Tim introduced me to sprint sessions for the first time!!!! Was by far the most productive 10 days of training I've ever done in my life and certainly the most food I've ever eaten in a 10 day period in my life! All my data is on Strava pretty much so easier for you to check it out there than me explain here what i did. Obviously training in the company that i do everyone wants to know what we do. Honestly i have no idea. I'm absolutely focused on survival pretty much every single day of training that i just focus on each and every interval and move on. I'm hoping myself that one day i can go back through my own strava files and figure out what i did! So August really kicked off with a bang but there was more to come.
Fallon, Olive (yes we also take the dog to the team camps) and I shot back to Andorra for 5 days to recharge before jetting off again to Monaco for my final camp with the guys ahead of kona. Here again Sean was present so got us access o the Olympic pool on the Monaco Port each day for 90minutes before they opened the doors to the public. Can't thank the Monaco swim team enough for along me to steal one of there lanes and get another couple of weeks of consistent swimming in with one of the best swimming coaches in the world watching over me. Not only the pool but we where also able to utilise the Mediterranean for open water sessions which as you can imagine is a pretty enjoyable spot to be swimming! From the pool it was a quick change and up to the team house to meet the boys for the days ride where Tim showed zero mercy on the fact I'd been swimming that morning. Once the ride was done I'd shoot home and pull on the running kit for the final session of the day and they ended up being the biggest runs I'd ever done. I did two back to back weeks of 100km of running which i did in 4 runs a week, one of 20km's, another of 30km. Pretty easy to rack up 40+hr training weeks when your training like that.
We decided to through in challenge Almere at the end of the block to test some things ahead of kona on an equipment front and also see where my running is really at as with me we really don't know unless i run the full distance. Sure enough Tim the genius had got my running legs moving finally over the marathon distance just in time for kona where i was able to run a 2:52 marathon off a very hard bike ride. I honestly couldn't believe my watch when i went through halfway in 1:21 and got very scared about damaging my legs ahead of kona so did my best to just enjoy the sights for the back half of the marathon, running on grass where possible and looking after my body with nutrition and hydration. I don't know what surprised me the most, running a 6 minute PB or doing it on the back of the training camps I'd just endured without any rest. I'm just so excited about how I'm feeling running at the moment i honestly cannot wait to get out on that run course in kona on October 13 when it really matters!
Following Almere our techniqual partners organised a wind tunnel day for me at the Boeing facility in Germany. We had the opportunity to make some final examinations of equipment we'll use in kona and off course get some data on how well my Rower/Cycling/Wannabe Triathlete body moves through the air. While i wont reveal what we've got install for kona as really all i can tell you is nobody outside that tunnel has seen what we'll use.... I can reveal i have a CDA value of 0.214 or whatever that means. I believe it good but again don't really know what good means but i guess i have to hope that being comparatively weaker than my rivals might keep me closer if I'm more aero?? Anyways it was a really interesting day spent with some incredibly intelligent people where i learnt a hell of a lot including how planes get off the ground, stay in the air, and come down to land! I guess if your ever going to learn about that the airbus factory would be the place to do it!
Finally back to Tim and the evolution of the Team Camp. Following Almere and the wind tunnel adventure i had one final 3 day training block in Monaco. Again i started in the pool before it opens to the public!! Made me feel so special, then rode one day with Kenny and the Next with wout before my afternoon Runs. On the final day however Tim through a curve ball in that not even I expected, Geraint Thomas got added to our Ironman Training group chat! Sure enough i was asked to bring along some swim trunks and googles for the Tour de France champ and pool buoy and band! He turned up full of beans which is very unusual for G at 9am in the morning and was in his new trunks and chasing after me up and down the beach. I have to say when i turned around at the end of the 200m stretch of water we use at Larvotto Beach for our supervised open water sessions I couldn't believe how close he was. He can definitely swim!!! He made it very clear he'd like to transition to Ironman in the next 3-5 years and like the champion he is he's laying the foundations.
And as if that wasn't a surprise enough for one morning!! Following the swim he pulled his running shoes on with me for some speed work where he seemed at ease rolling along at 3:40km/pace, absolutely blew me away. In fact he'd only swam around 500m before announcing he'd like to race a half IM before the end of the year to get his feet wet so to speak!! How cool would that be!! But honestly how cool that a guy like that you'd expect to be wrapped up in Cotten wool looking foil something to entertain himself with for the off season, just an absolute class act he is, an absolute class act. Ill also add this for free, don't rule Froomie out from a similar off season approach. He's been running this week aswell and i gave him a new swimming wetsuit on Thursday, wouldn't surprise me in slightest if he utilised those things and climbed aboard his bolide for a race himself!! Watch this space!!
So as I set sail to America for the another milestone in the journey that began on the Gold Coast last January its been nice to reflect on the evolution of where I started out with these guys and where I'm at not. Certainly the "Team Camp" transformation is one I didn't see coming from me tagging along, to adding in some swimming and running, to a swimming coach at the camp, to one of there Tour de France champs joining me for swimming and running sessions!! Holly guacamole to me it just highlights what a unique enigma Tim Kerrison is in the world of endurance sports coaching and just how so dam fortunate i am that he's allowed me to Tag along.
Sent from my iPad