I don’t want anyone to run off with the idea that each time I have a tough block of training coming up, I head off to a Greek island to do it but…..I had a tough block of training coming up and I headed of to a Greek island again. Not Camp Corfu this time, but Lemnos in the Aegean.
Actually it was our summer holiday which we took at the Mark Warner resort in Lemnos, which for anyone not familiar with the concept is like going to an open prison for people obsessed with water sports and keeping fit. Whatever happened to the idea of “Brits abroad”.
There was a time when 200 English holidaymakers on one Greek Island would mean only one thing – a fortnight of finding different ways to get hopelessly drunk and disgrace themselves before sleeping it off until mid-afternoon. Then a brief appearance on the beach – long enough to get painfully sun burned before cracking open a beer and repeating the cycle fourteen times.
The Mark Warner class of ’13 have found a new way to enjoy themselves – outdoor activity. Rather then appear bleary eyed on the beach at 4.00pm in last night’s clothes with a tongue like sandpaper, these guys assemble at 8.00am in various shades of Lycra, without a hangover in sight, for a run before breakfast.
It gets worse! Instead of drinking and driving quad bikes around the island at high-speed terrorising the local population wearing nothing more than a pair of Speedos, we were following Chadders, our guide, as he led us on daily mountain bike rides. These weren’t gentle sightseeing tours – think 1,000ft of unbroken ascent over 4km up to a radio mast at the highest point on the island and you will get some idea of the pain Chadders inflicted on us.
And if you thought the azure blue Aegean Sea was somewhere for a splash about with the kids and a beach ball, guess again – not in Lemnos. Here it was the scene of almost daily sea swims that would make your eyes water. On the second to last day we swam 3.5km around our bay because no-one in the group had the courage to be first to say that 3.5km was too far! As a result most of us lost the use of our arms for the next hour which made lunch interesting.
For the few who weren’t attracted to any of the swim, bike, run activity there was a full menu of water sports with each day topped off with a dinghy race. You know when someone describes a race as “just a bit of fun” that it is going to be viciously cut-throat. The husband and wife who raced each other for the lead every day, briefly turned from a polite suburban couple into something that resembled a fire-breathing monster with a swearing disorder.
I can’t distance myself from this too much because I was at it too. In between the three full meals a day, some power sun bathing and the occasional refreshing beer, I managed 18 training sessions in 14 days. In particular I feel like I made real progress in the water.
Now safely back in the UK, I am just four weeks away from the first of my two half-iron distance races – The Monster Middle. This is a middle distance triathlon on a pan-flat course held in and around Ely in Cambridgeshire. I am using it as a confidence builder in the lead up to my “A” race, Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote, which has a different profile altogether. As my friend Keith Hatter said, when you describe the Lanzarote event you can take the words “pan-flat” out of your vocabulary!
Sadly that looks like the end of the warm weather training for me, unless the UK’s recent heatwave returns. But even if it does, I can’t imagine any warm-weather training I do at home being quite the same as being surrounded by the keep fit inmates of The Lemnos Village Resort. I have to keep pinching myself to be certain that the last two weeks really happened and that the almost obsessive keep fit fanatics I spent my time with, who went on holiday to do anything but relax, weren’t just some kind of strange dream!!!