Top Ironman 70.3 pro, Emma-Kate Lidbury, on crossing the Atlantic to rekindle her love of swim, bike and run.
Shivering, I peel off my clothes and leave them in an unruly heap on the floor. In swimsuit, hat and goggles I make an undignified dash across the pool deck and dive in.
It’s 5:45am, I’m in Santa Monica, California, and this is my new life, my new home. The process described – derobing in the dark at the chilly outdoor 25-yard pool – is probably the toughest part of “winter” training here. There are no bib tights, skull caps, booties or frozen noses. Granted, it can sometimes be as cool as 5 degrees C first thing in the morning, but within a few hours the sun is usually shining, the skies blue and the palm trees – for me, at least – never get boring. The mercury tends to hit at least 20C by late morning and all of a sudden you’re California dreamin’.
I’ve been here since mid-January and it’s highly likely I will be calling Santa Monica home from now on. My being here is the result of a ‘seed’ planted while in the US last summer.
To give you some background, I have been training and racing full-time for a couple of seasons now and have almost exclusively been based in the UK. Last year, especially, I began to find it quite lonely training solo a large amount of the time: I think there are only so many miles you can swim, ride and run alone before it begins to drain your energy and motivation, particularly when the weather is bad (and we all know how often that is in good old Blighty). I knew I would benefit hugely from being part of a training group and being surrounded by like-minded, positive people, but finding one – and the right one – wasn’t easy.
I’ve been working with Matt Dixon of purplepatch since Christmas 2011 and last spring we could both see the same problem: I needed training buddies and I needed to be closer to him and his San Francisco base. I agreed to head to the States for his training camp north of LA in July. In a bid to mitigate the effects of jetlag we decided I would stay in Santa Monica for a few days beforehand and train with some of the other purplepatch pros who are based there.
Less than 12 hours after getting off the plane from Heathrow last July, I found myself, as a few weeks ago, at the same pool for my first session with Gerry Rodrigues’ Tower 26 swim squad. Gerry is a distinguished swimmer and coach who is one of the best open water swim experts in the world. Despite the early hour, poolside banter was already being genially exchanged, warm-up instructions were being given and there was a buzz that I’d not experienced for a long time. This was training with other real live human beings, not mindlessly following the black line for 5km six times a week and wondering – no, hoping – if the lifeguard might care to join me for my next set of 10 x 200m. I dived in and instantly I felt it. I just felt at home.
In the months that followed I toyed with all sorts of plans, schedules and options to try to set me up for success in 2013, but this was the path I really wanted to follow. This was definitely what my heart told me was the right path to follow.
And there you have it – the whys and wherefores of my being Stateside and, hopefully, my platform for success and happiness in 2013 and beyond. I have a great schedule of races lined up for the year ahead and am excited about what the future holds.
One thing’s for sure, I know my immediate future is going to involve a LOT of hard graft. I’m currently in Hawaii on a 10-day purplepatch training camp in Kona with fellow pros Meredith Kessler, Jesse Thomas and Sarah Piampiano, among others. Matt’s camps are notoriously tough and he really gets the most from us when we’re right there, beasting out sessions beside him.
Suddenly, the girl who never had enough training buddies is now spoilt for choice and is “winter” training on triathlon’s most hallowed ground. When people say “Oh, that’s the life”, I think, “Yes, it is. I’ve made it that way and I very much plan to enjoy it.”
Next up: More from me next month when I’ll have (hopefully!) survived the sharks and freezing water temperatures at my first race of the season, Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco. There’s an LA-San Fran road trip with my mum on the cards too, so it’s shaping up to be a fun few weeks.
Emma-Kate Lidbury is a journalist turned professional triathlete with four Ironman 70.3 titles and two top-10 70.3 World Championship finishes to her name. She is sponsored by Morris Owen Accountants and Virtua. To find out more about her visit www.eklidbury.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @eklidbury
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