As mentioned in previous posts, this year was a trial of a new format for a camp following seven years of a very successful high-volume swim/bike/run format, but with what we felt was a diminishing “completition” rate. Thinking that the change in format might make these camps more accessible to atheletes with less endurance history or a cycle only focus, we are also concious that the compulsary daily swims and runs may be a deterrant for athletes carrying injuries that prevent running …..so it was time to change it a little both in format, and also the location.
The new Relaxia Playalanza location was great. We were still close enough that we could simply walk across the street in our wetsuits to the sea for swimming each morning, close to a great choice of bars, cafes, shops and a supermarket – but in a larger and more upmarket hotel. Boasting a large restaurant which was able to offer not just great quality but also a wider vareity ( and greater quantity!) of food at each mealtime, that aspect was certainly a great success. The large and comfortable reception/lounge area worked really well for our evening briefings, which rather than being a rushed gathering aroudn a table at the end of dinner as we’d had to do before, became more relaxed with everyone congregating and exchanging stories over a beer or coffee even before the schedued breifing times, which made it easy for the coahces to catch up with people that we’d not ridden with that day, and for Steven to collect everyone’s traing data too.
With the removal of the compulsory daily swimming and running components, and no penalties for opting to reduce the daily ride once the time trials had been done, we expected this to be a much easier camp to complete – but on reflection perhaps we underestimated how hard it would be to do a flat out TT each day! We always felt that it was up to each athlete how hard they went but as soon as you make it a race, with results recorded and scores kept it becomes very difficult for most people to not put in a full effort – coaches and ride leaders included!! If we’re honest we love to see this. We’ve never intended to have an easy camp – as far as we are concerned we’re here to challenge people to get the most out of themselves and go beyond what they thought they could achieve in the week, by providing the best environment (including a big dose of peer pressure) to support that.
We knew that there would be far less swimming and running done on this camp, and expected more cycling as a result. We’ve analysed the training data that we collected and compared it to our previous Lanzarote Endurance camps below…..
Total Hours of Training and Camp Completion
Far from being easy, we found that this camp is at the lower end of our % completion range – with only last year fairing worse. In fairness, this may have been due to a reasonable amount of illness on camp with a couple of the campers arriving to camp carrying bad colds and – although they both got through the whole week themselves three of the four non-completions were due to people havin to take days off training due to illness.
We were pleased to see that the average hours required to complete the camp still (just) broke the 30 hours mark – our benchmark for a high-volume week, which is what these camps were origionally designed to provide. However if you look at the maximum hours of training done by a single camper this year, it was actully only around about the average amount of total training that would have been done by each Camp Completor in most of our previous camps. It’s clear that by reducing the requirements for “completion” to the daily cycling events, not only were the hours of training needed to achieve this reduced, but the campers’ inclination to add in extra sessions of their own accord was also lower.
Over the years you can see the amount of swimming by camp completers has reduced. One small contribution to this trend is that in 2016 we halved the distance of the aquathlon swim ( from ~1200m to ~600m). This year however the amount of swimming was far less, and we didnt have a single occaision when all campers came out to swim. In fact we had three people complete the camp with less than 1km of swimming done through the week! This average is low, even despite the fact we had a lot more swims outside of our pre-breakfast organised sessions, with a few of our channel swimming campers heading down to the beach to swim without wetsuits in the aftrenoons.
We don’t see as much of a difference here as compared to our other camps. The average is still at the bottom end of the range though, with only our first year (2011) being less. So the lack of required swimming and running did not result on more biking. This is almost certainly due to the hard efforts that people were putting into the TT in every ride. The additional time that regrouping, starting the group on handicap, and convening as a group in a cafe after each climb took out of each ride would be a factor in this to some extent also. These TTs were the only requirement for completion, so the option to ride straight back from the race was there – and was taken up by more of the campers than we anticipated on most days.
This is the most marked place where the lack of a completion requirement reduced the running. I think all triathletes know how difficult it can be to motivate oneself to go out and do a run after a hard ride, as well as the significant additional fatigue that results from running (compared to swimming or cycling)….and so many decided to play it safe and skip the run pn most days. The average distance run amongst the group is markedly lower than any other year rpeviously – as was the maximum amount of run distance put in by any one camper. This average would have been even lower if we’d not incentivised most to do the aquathlon on Tuedays ( day 3) morning – and Steven’s encouragement to help him raise the Eddington Number to 22km! Without the 4.2km in the aquathlon the average would have been less than 10k…which for a triathlon training camp is a little pathetic, so we think we will need to encourage more running in future camps!!
When we first asked campers if they’d like to do an aquathlon there were only about 2 that put their hands up. This was much to our disappointment as we’ve actully done this race them on every camp that we have ever worked on between us in Lanzarote, and they are always great fun. With so many returners we really thought we’d get a good take-up as so many knew how much fun it was. So, we said that people could race in pairs as a relay, and on the spur of the moment we offered 7 Bonus points for participating – and suddenly we had all but three take part. The feedback was that everyone really enjoyed it. Clearly we’re doing campers a favour by almost forcing them to do this!
Handicap Points System
We originally used this system when we ran a single day King Of The Mountains competition for Tri London. As Steven had to recalculate handicaps on the road he had to take a short cut for adjusting handicaps which made it not work as well as he’d hoped. Realising it could work very well with a day to recalculate we used this system with great success on our Pyrenees camps. These camps were with far fewer people, so this time we would see how it could work with a much bigger number of participants.
The overall aim of a handicapping sysytem is to make it possible for anyone to win the competition regardless of their actual outright speed, thus ensuring that everyone is equally motivated and not just the speedy athletes and nifty climbers. Our top three at the end was made up of one person that rode only in the fast group, one person that only rode in the slow group and one that mostly rode in the medium group and sometimes helping out in the slow group. To us that means we achieved that overall aim and demonstrating that he main quality needed to win is coping well with the week (ie performing just as well, or better, at the end of the camp as they did in the early rides). Despite lots of discussion on the camp of how to “game” the system, with our expanding points tarif, it proved very hard to do that and it ultimately worked well.
Unfortunately since some people didn’t really appreciate how much the standings could change on a daily basis, it seemed that they perhaps gave up a little after the early races if they found themselves at the bottom of the table. Here is how the positions changed through the races (note that first is “1” at the bottom and last is “18” at the top)
If you look at the first few races you can see how much changing in position there was! By about race 4 things seem to start settling down. In fact from Race 3 onwards you will see that no one in the top half dropped out of it (and hence no one in the bottom half moved up). This is a little skewed since once someone misses a climb they are automatically ranked below anyone thats done them all. From race 3 we had people out of the competition and hence stuck in the bottom half. By the end of camp there were 5 people that had not done all climbs.
Overall it worked well, but looking at the above we would suggest that the handicap was pretty well established after 4 races with no dramatic changes in position made after that. The most dramatic shift from race 4 to 5 was due to the athlete getting ill and dropping out of the competition at that point. Feedback from the campers was that racing that hard on the bike everyday was very tough – certainly within the middle of a 100mile ride with strong winds (!!) – and this analysis suggests that the competion could be run on fewer climbs: perhaps adding a point score to swims and runs completed, and making the aquathlon part of the competition too.
This is Steven’s favourite part of the camp (yes, really!) and normally provides a little amusement and some motivation during camp week. This time it was the fact that the Run KM Eddington number was only 3 runs of 21k (or more) to take it up to 21k. Half-Marathon distance is a nice arbitrary milestone and Steven was very pleased when three campers intentionally did 21+k runs just to please him. That contributes 5-6k to the completion average!
The “Eddingtons” that are now getting interesting are the bike ones, with both Miles and KM approaching Ironman Distance. In Miles this should be achieved next year. For KM it will take a few more years…after which point it will probably not grow, since we our longest scheduled ride is the Ironman Plus route (190-200km) and usually there are only 4-6 riders in that group. After that Bike Ascent will be interesting with 1,000m of ascent in a ride being achievable in a few years.
Right from the start we felt we’d keep track of all race results from camp. Now, with so many campers having done our camps, getting in to the all time top 10 in one of our races is quite an achievement. On Tabayesco, for example, we’ve now had 150 people racing up it on camp. This year only the fastest rider on the day made it into the top 10 with James now in 9th spot – you’d now have to go under 33 minutes to make top 10, which is a pretty high standard and fairly dependant on favourable conditions too.
In the aquathlon we had two make the top 10 – James 4th (2nd excluding relays) and Linda 10th (8th excluding relays) and 3rd lady, It should be noted that we did reduce the length of the swim here in March 2016, Steven managed to maintain the heavy swim element for the first 5 years. Matthew produced the 5th fastest ever run split this year.
There were several new races this year giving easy access to the top 10. The only other races this year we’d done before were the short TTs:
Castle Climb – James (3rd), Mel (7th) and Matthew (10th) all broke in to the overall to 10.
Degallado Climb – Jo (4th) and Mel (7th) broke in to the top 10.
Some thoughts on potential changes for next year
- Remove the race on the final day. Instead, the provisonal camp winner is decided on day 5 – and only then requires completion of at least the Ironman route to complete camp.
- The handicap system worked pretty much as we’d hoped but it was too complicated for most people to really understand so people seemd to lose a bit of motvation fpor it as they became tired. We need to try and make it more accessible.
- Mix up the bike time trials. Not all hills and perhaps re-incorporate the El Golfo 10 miler
- Provide encouragement to do swims and runs – whilst still providing a camp that can be competed and enjoyed by a pure cyclist. This could be by offering points for swims, runs and extra biking (a bit like we had in Epic Camp). This appears to be far more important for running since without the encouragement to do the Aquathlon and the 4 people chasing an Eddington number, the average running per camper would have been < 5k !
- Re-instate the “wild card” system. This had been fun for us until now we’d not appreciated how much people liked it. It did what we’d hoped – it helped bond the camp by allowing a certain level of assisting one another by doing extra bit of “this”, in exchange for being able to skip a bit of “that”.
- Make the aquathlon compulsory for camp completion
Provisional dates, and prices, for next year will be announced soon. For enquires relating to attending camp, drop us a line