A Syros-ly good week of training – Tri Training Harder’s newest training camp

Emma Wardall joined us for our inaugural training camp in Greece last June. In this blog she discusses her training experiences, the difference to her previous experiences on our Portuguese training holidays and reflects openly on what was a pivotal point in her training for that season. She also fails to mention that she actually won the overall event (5.5km swim, Standard Distance triathlon and 10km run, coming second in the triathlon and 1st in the 10km!). Read below to hear all about her experience.

Not a bad view for an open water swim start

Not a bad view for an open water swim start

 

June 2017, the early days of the new triathlon season and the UK weather was proving to be as unpredictable and underwhelming as it so often is. The thought of another long and wet bike ride or worse the turbo trainer was uninspiring and leaving me cold (literally) so when I saw that Tri Training Harder was offering an opportunity to go and train in some Mediterranean heat, I was out the door before you could say Souvlaki Gyros.

Syros is one of the lesser known Greek Islands in the Cyclades surrounded by the very blue and inviting Aegean Sea. It is small, beautiful and I very quickly learnt a mini paradise for some serious triathlon training. Although small in size, do not be fooled, I learnt very quickly on day two that the island is not in any way flat and its terrain packs a punch.

The training week neatly coincides with the TRIMORE Syros Triathlon Festival. There are options for open water swim races ranging between 2.5-5km, sprint or standard distance triathlons and then 2.5-10km running races. The triathlon festival caters for everyone. Whether you're a strong beginner or an experienced Ironman athlete looking for some speed, this training week will suit you as well as the standard distance or 70.3 athlete looking to complete a big week of training.

This island is NOT flat!

This island is NOT flat!

 

Structured in a similar way to the fantastic Portugal, Algarve training packages that Tri Training Harder run the aim of this training week for athletes is to push their boundaries of what is comfortable. Not for the faint hearted, this training destination certainly delivered some brutal training sessions amongst the beautiful historic and cultural back drop of an Agean island! 

The personal aim for me was to get my mojo back. I had lost a little bit of love of training over the winter, fed up with unpredictable English weather patterns. I was not close enough to my ‘A race’ of the year to really have the fire to push myself as hard as I needed. The change of scenery and a hard, structured training plan was exactly what I needed. When surrounded by sunshine and natural beauty the suffering seems a little more bearable!

And so, the week began. The days run along the philosophy that ‘the early bird catches the worm.’ Early starts meant that by lunchtime most days the time was yours to enjoy the island or find a secluded beach to relax on. The structure was not so much one of long hours in the saddle but top end training, hard sessions that were focused on top end power and pushing your threshold in all three disciplines.

The island is perfectly set up for all three disciplines:

  • Swimming – an empty 50m outdoor pool and as much open water swimming in the crystal-clear sea as you want.
  • Biking  - a load of challenging hill climb routes and beautiful undulating coastal roads with very little traffic.
  • Running – again, plenty of challenging routes on near empty roads.

Each day was a differing combination of everything swim, bike, run. The sessions were challenging and not for the beginner. One day (and much to my disbelief) involved 10km of swimming both in the pool and the sea. Another day involved 3 hours of hill climbs on the bike, from sea to summit over and over again in the heat topped off by another 4km in the pool to finish it off. Every session was catered to work on my weaknesses and exploit my strengths. There was a clear purpose to every session and I continued to surprise myself with my performance and mind-set to do things that at the beginning of the week I would not have thought possible.

As already mentioned the week culminates in a Triathlon Festival on the Island run by TRIMORE events. The event attracts athletes from all around Europe and there is a good level of competition. There are a number of events running over the course of four days and if you are up to the challenge (or if your coach tells you to) you can combine all three into the aptly named ‘The Brave’ – a 5.5km OW swim, Olympic Triathlon and then a 10k city run over two days.

Swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Agean....wetsuits were optional.

Swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Agean....wetsuits were optional.

 

The open water swim took place on the Friday morning at the end of a week of training. The route is all along the southern coast of the island, hugging the shoreline with full support crew and boats along the way and with at least 200 competitors in the water plenty of people to draft or swim behind. Saturday morning saw the start of the Triathlons, Olympic or Sprint distance with the highlight being dropped off the back of a ferry to start the race. The bike was an out and back route with some good rolling hills before a two lap run to finish taking in the impressive marble sites of the beautiful city centre.

Although fatigued from a healthy 16-hour week of training, the racing itself was a huge highlight and offered the chance to race in near perfect conditions and really top off the week, ensuring you had earned a rest day for your travels home! The race organisation was fantastic, there were plenty of spectators and some very hefty goodie bags and medals.

Tri Training Harder have taken their winning formula of bespoke one to one coaching within a relaxed and fun training environment and applied it to a dream of a training location. The island of Syros was everything I wanted it to be: beautiful, hot and a diverse and challenging place to get some quality training in.

I will leave you with this. A direct copy and paste extract of my coaches notes from Training Peaks that I wrote at the end of the week:

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“I started off the week shattered and had a mostly negative wall up with training: the voices in my head would not switch off. However, the change of scenery, pace and inspiring settings saw me relax more and more as the week went on.  There was a dramatic mind set change on Thursday, the hilly run was a game -changer and I felt GOOD - for the first time in about 3 weeks. That feeling that I have been missing was great to have back again, I felt relaxed and more confident about my training and future racing for the season”.

See you in Syros in 2018.