Mention the words ‘Training Camp’ and runners can often think that they are potentially signing up for part boot camp, part week of torture.
The reality is, a training camp is a holiday – a holiday doing what you love with like minded people. Yes, you will work hard, yes you will probably accumulate one of the biggest training weeks of your life ever and yes, you will get tired. But believe me, it’s a rewarding and life-changing experience.
I have just concluded a week long training camp in Lanzarote at the iconic sports resort of Club La Santa in Lanzarote. In brief, ‘CLS’ is a Mecca for sports and sports people. Think of a sport and it’s catered for here – kids football holidays contrast against the ‘Tigers’ professional rugby team. National triathlete squads contrast against the energy of a ‘ladies only’ training camp and in and amongst a plethora of sports and athletes we had 40 multi-sport/ ultra runners preparing, arguably, for one of the biggest goals and challenges of their lives – Marathon des Sables. The Coastal Challenge, Fire and Ice, Dragons Back Race and Everest Trail Race to name but a few, our 2017 multi-day training camp covered it all.
You may well be shaking your head and thinking, ‘Yes, but I wouldn’t fit in here, these are all fine tuned athletes with years of experience at the peak of their game!’
You couldn’t be farther from the truth.
We had walkers, run/ walkers, joggers, runners and yes, a few fine tuned and speedy runners up at the front. A good training camp, no, a great training camp caters for all. I’d like to think that is us! It’s difficult to manage the goals and expectations of 40-individuals. I have been told we did it and you can listen to the feedback here:
Elisabet Barnes, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies’ champion and 2016 Big Red Run champion was joined by Sondre Amdahl 9th at the 2016 Marathon des Sables and 6th at Oman Desert Marathon and along with Niandi Carmont, Marie-Paula Pierson and yes, yours truly, provided a camp that really was a ‘one-stop shop’ for multi-day racing.
Participants ran in paced groups lead by a coach over some of the most relevant and inspiring terrain. Daily average 25deg temperatures provided relevant heat adaptation, blue skies providing an amazing backdrop and of course the harsh volcanic terrain of Lanzarote contrasted against the rolling and moving sea. Sandy, rocky and technical trails simulated exactly what will lie ahead as the participants venture to a desert race. Many were signed up for Marathon des Sables in 2017 or 2018 and Lanzarote is a perfect training ground for this race!
Marie-Paule guided the walkers, Niandi Carmont guided the run/ walkers and Elisabet Barnes, along with Sondre Amdahl guided the faster runners. I filled the gaps, running between groups and ensuring all was ok, at all times in contact via ‘walkie-talkie.’
Niandi has been running marathon and ultras for over 20-years, she reflected on the 2017 camp:
“Certainly what made the camp a success was that everyone left happy. It is so rewarding to spend a week bringing together 40-people from different backgrounds and with different expectations and leave feeling a mission was accomplished. The group dynamics were absolutely great. Everyone got something out of the camp. What helped was the flexibility the different groups offered so participants could drop down to or move up to a group if they felt tired or needed to work on other techniques like walking or using poles or simply because they were recovering from an injury and didn’t want to increase their mileage suddenly. The talks were helpful too – it’s great to be able to give those little tips and have others benefit from your mistakes too. I loved the way people mixed with each other during training and after in a more relaxed context, bonding and sharing their experiences and preoccupations. Our clients learned as much from each other as from the coaches. And finally thanks to the attendees I got some great training done for Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge in great company!”
Taking place over 7-days, two sessions per day were interspersed with talks and lectures to provide all the relevant knowledge for a future race. A highlight of the week is a run with kit to an overnight bivouac, a sleep under the stars and then a run back to CLS – you can’t get more specific than that!
For many, a big week in training was 40-50 miles before coming to Lanzarote, after 7-days on the camp, nearly everyone had accumulated 100-miles or more. It was the biggest week of their training lives but it was done in a progressive and accumulative way, you see, a training camp allows greater rest, not just greater training time. Nothing is compulsory, runners can jump in and jump out of sessions as they wish.
January is the perfect time for a camp of this nature, you don’t even need to be running a multi-day race, as many said, this is just a great running camp! New friends, new bonds and as a full-on week came to an end, the thought of returning to America, Canada, France and the UK as temperatures dropped below zero was the first time we as organisers witnessed a lack of smiles. The realisation of home and reality dawned. I can’t tell you how many times we heard, ‘This has been the best week ever – I am coming back next year!’
The final night drinks, dinner and yes, nightclub session made Thursday’s homeward journey a tough one. But the memories will last and I am pleased to say, that our team of guides and coaches have provided a platform of training and knowledge that will allow all our participants to go forward and nail their chosen race. We witnessed confidence levels grow over 7-days, our youngest runner arrived injured and worried, he left enthused and focussed. Our oldest runner (65) who I must add was an inspiration to all, touched our hearts and minds.
It’s not all about winning, Elisabet knows this only too well and her thoughts reflect this:
“A multi-stage ultra is something that many people find daunting. The desire to take on the challenge may be a result of life changing events, a realisation that life is short, a thirst for adventure and a desire to learn more about oneself. This makes it incredibly interesting as you get to know people from all walks of life, all with their individuals reasons to be there and their unique stories to share. The training camp really reflected this diversity and everyone bonded around running or walking as the common interest. The attendees learnt not only from the coaches but also from each other, and as a coach it was a privilege to be able to play a part in helping our participants getting closer to achieving their goals. The training environment in Lanzarote is perfect and the mix of challenging as well as easier running sessions, information packed seminars, plus the social element made this a great week. It’s a friendly environment where you will get challenged, yet work to your own ability, and go back home with a big confidence boost. Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for a multi-stage ultra and the feedback confirms this.”
From first to last I reminded everyone that a mile is still a mile irrespective of pace. They will realise this in 2017 when they tick the miles off and achieve their goals.
Elisabet, Sondre, Niandi, Marie-Paule and myself take great pride and happiness, safe in the knowledge knowing that we have aided the journey of all.
Roll on 2018!
The 2018 multi-day training camp is now available to book.
Please go HERE.
Places are limited to 40-people and to confirm, Elisabet Barnes, Sondre Amdahl, Niandi Carmont, Ian Corless will be the coaches for the week. We are currently checking the availability of Marie-Paule Pierson for the 2018 dates.