So after a hectic Christmas/New Year which involved me travelling around most of the country, I left the day job behind for a couple of weeks and jetted off to Alicante airport to try and turn myself into an athlete. At the airport I met up with Nat Banard and we undertook the first challenge of training camp – trying to find the hire car! After much wandering around we eventually found a pick-up place, got away without paying the young driver excess and luckily managed to get both bike boxes and suitcases in the little Polo, even if I did have to take half of my stuff out and cram it into the gaps in the boot.
The adventures continued on the journey down as well; after an easy couple of hours heading down the motorway with the most challenging part being trying not to throw up thanks to travel sickness from the flight, we arrived in Cuevas del Almanzora, the location of Kinetic PB and came a little unstuck. With a dodgy map and directions, it was up to Nat to use her pidgeon Spanish (and rather amusing rowing impressions!) to find the way. Finally, the huge painting of the Indalo on the dam came into sight and we had found it.
The Lodge is the main building of the Kinetic PB resort, built next to a purpose-built rowing lake, which for some unbelievable reason was only built 1k long. Utterly useless for rowing, perfect for open water swimming! The lodge itself consists of a number of dorms which is great for sharing with mates and builds up a great spirit. There is a big bike room, big kitchen, nice balcony overlooking the lake and a massive living area with the obligatory flat screen for watching films when recovering.
After a day of getting over the travelling, the next day was a ride down to Aguilas for some swim practice in the sea. By this point, a lot of the camp had already been out for a week so were feeling the effects, and I got a little overexcited pushing the pace, but riding in shorts and t-shirt, in brilliant sunshine on great roads was too good to miss. After a little cafe stop (where everything is ridiculously cheap!) it was time to test out my new Helix in the sea.
Although it took an age to get on, once it was on it felt amazing compared to my old suit. We swam across the bay, and despite the lack of swimming over the festive period thanks to all the closed pools, I felt pretty good. After getting out and stripping the wetsuit off, I was told that we would be doing some relay races… and there was no way in hell I was getting on a wet wetsuit, so it was skins in the water! Hopefully I didn’t scare too many locals….
On the ride back, we found out about the winds along the coast…made for pretty tough riding! However, I got a run in once home, and add that to 85k on the bike and a sea swim, and Day 1 of training was off to a good start. I kept up the mileage on the bike as the week progressed, though avoiding any mega rides whilst I was still getting fit again. The riding is absolutely incredible, it rarely rains, the roads are good quality and there is a lot of respect from drivers! The locals also are intrigued by cyclists, including one cafe stop where I was mobbed by about 10 locals checking my bike out and asking me countless questions, which put my Spanish to the limit. The views are also just stunning, whether you are riding down the coast with the amazingly clear sea, or in the mountains with perfect, quiet roads and incredible scenery.
As the camp progressed, I began to bring up the intensity and duration of my rides. After a week I ventured out with Joe and Paul on a ‘5 hour’ ride with them to Uleila and around the mountains there. It was tough going and hilly from the off, and after 50k I was dropped for good and had 100k riding solo round the mountains, which was incredible. A ‘rest day’ the day after was supposed to involve a couple of hours easy, but having been joined by Lee, Nat’s boyfriend, on the camp, and me with my riding mojo back, we did get a little excited in parts, especially when we were joined by a couple of local Spanish guys which tempted us to turn the screw and put the hammer down. I was feeling pretty good, and climbing well and we promptly dropped the Spanish pair. However, in our excitement, we also dropped everyone else in the pack, and were faced with some stern words from Nat!
The following day Joe and I headed out with some of the guys from the BTF development squad, who were also staying at Kinetic, for a TT effort. After an easy ride out, the aim was to ride for 25 minutes out, 15 minutes back and then easy back to the start. As soon as we set off it was tough going, straight up a hill and into a massive headwind. Joe, who had kindly given me a 30s headstart soon caught me as I struggled up the hill and it was a long slog of 25 minutes. However as soon as I turned around, I was flying! So quick in fact that I hit the start point again during my effort, despite going for slightly longer to turn around at a roundabout. Average speed out – 25kph, average speed back – 50kph, including some nice sections ticking along nicely at 65k!
The final big day of riding (which was the next day…) was the Uleila ride again, and despite being completely trashed from the start and having many thoughts about turning around, I manned up (our motto of the camp!) and rode all 155k and didn’t feel too bad, I could certainly hold on with everyone on the climbs if I had to. At least I managed to have an easier hour on my final full day there.
Around all this cycling we had to fit some swimming and running in! Initially the plan was to swim mornings, but as the camp progressed and we wanted more sleep, it got pushed back to the afternoons. With a lake to swim in (though admittedly a little chilly at this time of year!), a pool in the town with exclusive use during the day and the sea down the road, you are spoilt for choice. The aim of the camp was to pick my swimming back up to a decent level, and I certainly think I have achieved it. Lots of technique work, and a concerted effort to sort my bilateral breathing and tumble turning out have paid of masively, and I am almost back to swimming near my best. Once I get around to joining a swim club, I have high hopes of smashing some PBs this season.
With all the cycling and swimming, running can take a hit, but it is really not difficult to motivate yourself out there. There is a track around the lake, which is perfect for interval sets, or you can run futher down the river bed to a couple of smaller running tracks to train on, whilst the river bed gives you a nice place to run down for an easy run or some strides. However it is the surrounding area where the real running is at, and it is an awesome place to get strong, because it is really not flat! Just behind the dam by the lake is the beautiful national park, and a favourite run of ours was a 4k climb up the national park and loop back round through a small village and orange groves for a perfect 10k loop. You can also run up to the mast by the top of the dam, a brutal 10k climb, but with stunning views once you get up there (though I must admit I am told this, my legs were too trashed from all the riding to be running that hilly for that long). The other amazing run to do is the Caveman run, which takes you past the amazing ancient caves, through a river bed and over the hills to yet more amazing views. It is a proper off-road run, climbing up rocks as big as you, running down hills so steep you can’t stop and taking your pick of the paths through the overgrowth. Stunning.
The final highlight of the camp was Rob’s birthday, midway through my time there. The day started with a 4k sea swim out to an island and back, though mine got slightly cut short because as I was nearing the island I met Rob and Vicky coming the other way, trying to avoid a school of jellyfish… I went back with Vicky as she was suffering from mild hypothermia, to be caught up by Rob again minutes later as he was forced to turn around again due to all the jellies! The afternoon was a series of mini-triathlons, involving a kayak, hill-climb or lap around the lake on the bike and a hill-run or out and back down the lake. Oh, and it was old-school kit, so speedos only! Apologies to the locals that went past me on the bike, they looked slightly shocked! Despite my best efforts to ruin the race for my team with my utterly shocking kayak skills (seriously, I was paddling one way, and going the other, rumour is that Oli has a video of this… I’ll stick to the day sport!), I pulled it out of the bag in the reverse triathlon to secure the win. I almost managed to get away without getting chucked in the lake after everyone threw Rob in, but to no avail, at least it was just about warmer than I was expecting!
Apologies for the length but there was too much to write about! A big thanks to Oli for letting us stay, it is a fantastic facility and its popularity will only snowball. I left the UK as an overweight, pale office worker and returned as a skinny(ish!), tanned athelte, finally feeling fit again and with my motivation back.
2012 should be a good year.