Saturday, 12 February 2011

Club La Santa, Lanzarote

We’re just flying home from 2 weeks training at Club La Santa where we had one great week of MTB’ing, including a two stage MTB race, and another week of excellent road riding (but on my MTB). This, in addition to our stay in Gran Canaria, has given me 6 weeks of winter base training - something that I have never had the luxury of experiencing before!

Dave's road bike meant that he could train with me :D

We had an amazing time riding in Gran Canaria (GC) and we were sad to leave. I have to admit that after looking at a map and checking out Lanzarote’s vital statistics I was initially a little tentative about the riding there. Lanzarote is much smaller than GC (60km from north to south and 25km from east to west) and the highest point is only 671metres.      

When we arrived at Club La Santa we were instantly surprised by the variety of sports people, ranging from professionals to beginners. It was really refreshing to be in an environment where sports are the norm rather than being in a hotel surrounded by people who want to be as inactive as possible and who consider athletic people weird! The facilities are truly impressive: there is an indoor and outdoor gym, Olympic pool and recreational pool, squash and badminton courts, boxing ring, windsurf and kayaking lagoon, athletic track, bike hire (MTB and road), and top level coaching. All of which is free! This is just a handful of activities, there was so much more!

Surf action at La Santa

We stayed half-board which included a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner. I’ve only ever stayed half-board at a hotel once before and thought I’d never do it again! Club La Santa was genuinely different. I’ve got a pretty hard-to-please diet but the variety of food on offer each day was impressive. In restaurants I often have to ask for extra portions because I eat so much, the nice thing about the buffet was that I could have two meals and I wasn’t the only one J There were lots of national teams training there, including the British Triathlon Team, and it was easy to see who’d been training hard by looking at the piles of food on their tables! There were always lots of carbs (rice, potatoes, pasta), fresh fruit and veg, fish, chicken and meat. And as well as ‘healthy’ food it was also nice to enjoy some ‘unhealthy’ stuff too!

The lovely Tabayesco 10km climb :)

During our first week I helped out with the Cape Epic Training Camp, which included the two-day stage race and 5 days of guided MTB riding. After training mainly on the road in Gran Canaria it was really nice to spend a week off-road. It was also nice to ride with other people and have a break from my structured training. There were a mix of technical abilities in the group but all of the riders were pretty strong so the pace was good and there wasn’t a lot of stopping. The MTB’ing in Lanzarote surprised me, although there are lots of wide dirt tracks there are also some fun singletracks, including narrow passes around the edge of volcanoes, raised rocky narrow trails dividing farmers crop fields, and off-piste ‘bike skiing’ down very steep, very loose volcanoes :D There are also some steep, narrow footpaths in the hilly north all of which are open to bikes. Some of the trails can be hard to find but it’s worth having a chat with Barry from the Green Team at Club La Santa or Steve at Pro Bike in La Santa who can point you in the right direction.

Fire Mountain - Timanfaya National Park

It was back to high mile structured training during our second week. This gave us the opportunity to explore the whole of the Island by road. As in Gran Canaria (GC), the roads are smooth and the drivers are courteous; however unlike GC it is possible to ride on reasonably flat roads. This meant that I was able to stay in a specific training zone for as long as I wanted. My winter base training rides involve riding consistently at a low intensity for 5 to 6 hours. This was difficult in GC because it is so mountainous; a three-hour climb would be followed by an hour-long descent – super fun but no aerobic benefit. Don’t get me wrong, GC is an amazing place to train and the mountains are beautiful, but Lanzarote provides a different, perhaps more efficient way of training.

The road to Famara. Just one of the many super smooth roads :)

In terms of landscape it’s pretty varied: from the volcanoes and vast lava fields of Timanfaya National Park which are really dramatic, to the rugged coastline around El Golfo, and to the greener more hilly north that provides switchbacks and big vistas. With 2551metres of climbing the 180km round-the-island Ironman route incorporated all of the above and became my favourite Lanzarote road ride :D In total we covered 750km in our last week, including two rest days by the pool. Lovely.

Club La Santa pool 

Lanzarote is a relatively small island and as an endurance rider looking to cover big miles there is less variety (a 5-6 hour ride will take you around the Island) than in GC, but there are several different 3-4 hour routes, particularly being based at La Santa where you can either head off south or north. Looking back, 3.5 weeks in GC and 2 weeks in Lanzarote were absolutely perfect and I would do it all exactly the same next year if I could J

Coffee time :D

So with 6 weeks of base training behind me it’s now time to think about starting interval training next week. I’m looking forward to beginning speed work because although I’ve got a strong endurance base at the moment I’m not fast! Ideally at this point in time I would like to have had more base training but a pre-patella bursitis throughout December meant that I missed 4 weeks. I’ll be in the UK now for the next two weeks (Brrrrr) before flying to Malaga for the Andalucia 6 stage Bike Race where I’m pairing up with Kristine Norgaard (Denmark). I’m really looking forward to the race and I’m especially excited about riding with Kristine! :D

Rain is forecast at home tomorrow. Looks like I’ll be getting wet!    

Sightseeing ride to the historic town of Teguise

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