Phil Graves gives his tips on how to survive a camp with triathlon’s most famous siblings – the Brownlees
What’s the best way to get fit? Race yourself fit? Hammer yourself in training? Spend two weeks with Alistair and Jonny Brownlee getting your bum kicked around Spain? Well, that’s what I have just done and thankfully I’m still in once piece. It’s rare you can go into a training camp after being injured for seven weeks and come out two weeks later uninjured, but I somehow managed that too!
So how do you get through a fortnight of being dragged up every hill in Spain at 400 watts? There are several different tactics you can employ. First, take the psychological approach and go for the sign sprints. As long as it’s a flat or downhill sprint I know I can have either Brownlee in a sign sprint nine times out of 10, so it’s easy to destroy their psyche as I sprint past them and celebrate the sign victory like I’ve just won the Olympics.
After a few days of doing this I have the upper hand so I can just ride easy at the front, making sure we don’t ride anything too hard. The other option is simply to nail it downhill; the fastest I went was 95kph, and it means you can have a nice rest at the bottom when you’re 5kg heavier than either of them. Short, fat Yorkshiremen descend faster than tall, thin Yorkshiremen.
Second, diet is very important. And I’m not talking salads and carrots. I’m talking pizzas, crisps, enough bread to warrant buying our own mill and LOTS of Diet Coke. Five of us managed to get through 48 cans of Diet Coke in the space of 36 hours! There is one thing that will get you through any training camp though: PowerBar Ride Shots. Those little jelly sweets of heaven have saved my soul so many times, combined with a healthy amount of Nutella – I’m sure that is what cured my knee problem, all that chocolatey goodness lubricating my knee joint!
Third, you need to rest and what could be better than watching The Tudors on DVD? Myself and Jonny both have history degrees, so if you are on a training camp my advice would be to find a mutual hobby with someone; it takes your mind off training because when you are away I don’t think anyone can live triathlon 24/7. I lost count of the number of times I fell asleep watching Henry VIII talk about his foreign policy. Six hours of training a day will do that to you!
Fourth, a key ingredient for any camp has to be lots of banter, and that is one thing we do in Yorkshire very well. I have never laughed so much in two weeks. It doesn’t matter about your athletic ability as long as you can laugh, then in the end things will all be OK, even if you have been dropped for 10 minutes.
The other essential is WiFi. We didn’t have internet where we were staying so it was a trek down a huge hill to the pub to get on the internet and stay in contact with the outside world. That definitely cost me a few watts every ride.
Finally, don’t try running a track session with the Brownlees – just sit on the side and watch; it’s truly an inspirational thing. We did a motor pacing brick session which was brutally hard – over 45km on the bike in an hour with 450m of climbing which ended at the running track. I was determined to stay with Alistair for as long as possible off the bike… I lasted 200m before I got shelled out the back. My chubby little cycling legs won’t go round that fast for long – only need to crack the other 9.8km and I’m there!
So there we are, five days’ rest and I have to do it all over again up in St Moritz, then after that I should be flying. Happy training everyone and I hope your seasons are going well.
Phil Graves – Winner Ironman 70.3 UK (2012), winner TriStar 111 Estonia (2010), winner Ironman 70.3 UK (2009), winner Ironman UK (2009), winner National Age Group Triathlon Championships (2009), selected for Great Britain triathlon team (2009)