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Phil Graves tells us about how two weeks in the sun with the Brownlees was by no means a holiday.

Triathlon Blogs - Phil Graves

"It seems all the best and coolest athletes read history at uni”

It’s tough up north in the winter, so when it starts to get dark at 4pm and the snow settles on the ground it’s time to head off to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. I’m actually writing this month’s column in apartment 139A (just up the stairs from the supermarket for anyone that knows Club La Santa inside out).

This is my second trip here this winter but what I really want to talk you about is my previous two-week stay at the end of December with Alistair, Jonny and co.

Somehow or other Alistair Brownlee managed to persuade me that two weeks away before Christmas would be a great idea, just like old times at the great northern camps we went to when we were 14 and 15 – back in the days when triathlon was laughed at as a sport and people looked at you funny when you tried to explain exactly what a triathlon was.

After a very early start, a drive to Leeds Bradford Airport and a bit of snow (it seemed the perfect day to be going away) the northern crew – with a few extras, such is the pull of Yorkshire throughout the tri community at the moment – were off. I had a very nice flight sitting next to Jonny Brownlee.

He was playing Football Championship Manager on his laptop, trying to get Leeds United to win the Premiership.
It seemed to be utterly in vain as, over the next two weeks, the game would have him on a rollercoaster of emotion, from the highs of a 1-0 win over Chelsea to a string of player injuries. This led, I’m afraid to say, to a losing streak that hasn’t been seen at Leeds since the late 1990s when they got relegated.

After much football and history banter regarding Richard III (it seems all the best and coolest triathletes have studied history at university – Jonny, myself and Tom Bishop to name just three) we made it to the sun and what would become for me two weeks of utter torture!

Talk about a whipping boy: I just got thrashed every session. Personally I put it down to running more in those two weeks than I have ever done in my entire life, which made my swimming, and cycling utterly pathetic, although I think everyone suffered at least one day! We survived mostly on chocolate, Coke and the puddings from the Club la Santa buffet; every evening after five or six hours’ training we would go in to eat, and then all roll back out again looking like Smithy from Gavin and Stacy.

I’ll take you through some of the more depressing moments from my two weeks of being smashed. Top of the list has to be at the end of a track session having 100m taken out of me by Alistair on a 300m rep – that was a dark day. Another was being at the bottom of a climb, I was going to pace make for the first few kilometres so set off at a steady 500w only for Alistair to come past after about 500m and disappear up the road. That’s not to say I didn’t get my own back at every available sprinting opportunity, that’s when it wasn’t so dangerous I felt only a turn of the pedals away from a near certain death crash, but there isn’t much satisfaction to be had beating someone like Alistair in a sprint when my arms are bigger than his legs anyway.

So after counting down the last five days hour by hour until it was time to come home and I could finally have a sit down, that was that. I think my body had convinced itself it was going to be coming home in the bike box, not on the plane, but I survived – there were those who were less fortunate. Tom Bishop is still out there, somewhere on the island, cycling around lost and confused after he got dropped on a ride. He’s been riding around for months, so if you do find him please parcel him up and send him back to Leeds – thanks! And please take note, there has to be an equal proportion of training and banter, and up north we always manage to achieve that.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more blogs from the likes of Phil, Steve Trew and the Triathlon Plus team in’s blogs section