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Diary of a La Santa virgin: Part 1

by John Levison
Sunday 16th November 2008

Originally published on our sister triathlon site, www.tri247.com, in 2008 we sent John Levison off to Club La Santa to find out more about what this iconic training paradise in Lanzarote has to offer.

I've been competing in triathlons and multi-sport events for approaching 18 years now, and since a less than impressive start (263rd out of 266 finishers at the Telford Biathlon in 1990; nobody had coined the name Duathlon at that point...), I've been lucky enough to:

a) get better (not difficult after that start), and
b) race, train or coach in many overseas locations.

South Africa, Malta, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Bermuda had all seen the bike box put to good use on at least one occasion each, yet oddly I had never got round to visiting perhaps the best known training venue; Club La Santa in Lanzarote. So, it seemed like a good idea to report on a first-timers view of a week in 'Lanza'.

I visited in May this year, the week prior to Ironman Lanzarote (no, I wasn't racing!). While the Ironman event is organised by the Club La Santa team and registration takes place there, the event itself takes place on the other side of the island at Puerto Del Carmen. Still, there was a steady stream of hard-bodies wandering around as the race approached and the atmosphere grew. I was there with my partner Colette, and Jenny (a.k.a. the Jenster), from Hillingdon Triathletes. We didn't go on an organised camp, (of which there are several available all year round if that's what you are looking for), so to give you a flavour of the type of thing you can do off your own back and with a little planning, here's our diary.


Thursday was travel day. A fairly civilised 8.20am flight from Gatwick got us into Arrecife airport at around 12.30am. After collecting bags, clearing customs and sorting a taxi for the transfer, we checked in at around 3pm at Club La Santa. Taxi ride was approx 30/40 minutes and cost around 30 euro's.

After dropping off the bags and getting our bearings, we went over to the sports booking office to collect our tokens. These give you access to all of the sports facilities, including the (free) bike hire which we would be using every day. It's also where you register (again, free) for any of the events and races which take place every week. These include 5km, 10km and half marathon running races, and of more interest to us, aquathlon, duathlon and triathlon events. These run year-round, all chip timed and results produced by early afternoon on race day. Very impressive.

Our room was a pleasant surprise: I'd heard that the accommodation was fairly 'basic'. Colette had been out in La Santa last November (when Jenson Button was also training), and had compared the accommodation to her previous visit 15 years before - it hadn't changed much, although it was clean and does the job. So, my expectations were set fairly low. Granted, you don't really need or expect five-star luxury when you are going to spend most of your day eating, sleeping, training or lounging about knackered, but a few home comforts are nice... Fortunately, I think we must have either been upgraded or got lucky - our (booked) two-bed, one-bath apartment turned out to be a three-bed, two-bath: result! It was much bigger than I anticipated, very clean, with a large enclosed outdoor terrace (where we ate), dining table, lounge and plenty of space. Bathrooms were large wet-room style, with powerful showers (no bath). You can book rooms by 'colour', which determines the location on the site, and/or the facilities provided. For example, some apartments have televisions, washing machine etc. Club La Santa themselves describe their rooms as "basically and functionally furnished", which is very fair. All in all, very fit-for-purpose.

Our apartment was based right above the central 'Square', which which hosts entertainment most nights. This did mean it was quite loud in the evenings, however the entertainment doesn't finish too late, so it wasn't a huge problem to us, but worth bearing in mind if you like your peace and quiet. The late-night disco is based well away from all of the accommodation in a separate building.

We were stopping at La Santa on a self-catering basis, though there are options for half-board, plus a range of restaurants and shops on site. There is also an internet facility, if you need your fix of web activity.

After an early start and traveling, training was always going to be light today, so we just headed out for a short run of approx 6km, which took in 2 circuits of the La Santa complex around the lagoon.


First real training today, starting with a pre-breakfast run. 3 laps (9km) of the 3km lagoon loop, steady pace. Even at this time of the morning, it was shorts and t-shirt weather. Although the loop this loop is not specifically marked, it is quite straightforward and also follows the weekly aquathlon course. We found it easier to stick to 3km loops than work out alternative distances and routes, though you can join in with organised daily runs should you prefer.

After running and breakfast on the balcony, it was time to head out for some cycling. The sports booking office has a very useful cycling route book for a couple of euro's, which was to prove very useful during the week. I'd recommend you buy one. It includes rides and route profiles from 14km up to the full 180km Ironman route. We settled on a route of around 60km through the fire mountains (Timanfaya) which, as you soon have to get used to in Lanzarote included some reasonable climbs and consistent wind. Ever triathletes, we'd left our trainers at the Cycle Shed, conveniently based next to the 400m tartan track, and hoped off for a swift couple of laps of bike-to-run practice on our return.

For ease, we decided not to take our own bikes with us, and instead used the free hire machines. These were all Shimano Tiagra, 9-speed equipped Cannondale Synapse bikes; aluminum frames / carbon forks. We took our own pedals (though didn't actually need to, as they stock all the common brands), and they also have helmets available should you not take your own. Generally the bikes were fine; well used but not abused. Certainly a little heavier and less smooth than my own bike, but perfectly functional. If you fancy something a little more luxurious, carbon Six-13 models with Ultegra equipment are available for hire, for a fee.

After some food and a couple of hours relaxing, it was time for our first swim session of the week. The pool is a 50m, eight lane delight with slightly salty, rather than chlorinated water. While some lanes were booked out at certain times for swimming club camps, we never had a problem just turning up and getting pool access, and more often than not this would be a lane just for the three of us. You soon get used to the additional distance, which makes 25m pools back home seem very easy...

La Santa pool


Saturday followed a similar pattern to Friday, with a pre-breakfast run of 6km (quicker than prior days), then a longer ride of 75km on the 'Cesar Manrique loop', which included over 1100m of climbing. Again, we tagged on another transition run, this time four laps of the track which after 100m actually felt surprisingly good. Lunch at the Pool Bar, and another hour or so of relaxation (sleep!) preceded a late afternoon swim session, a basic endurance pyramid totaling around 3km. All in all, another solid day at around five hours training, finished off with a takeaway pizza in our apartment.


Now, initially we had planned to take a day off running today, as Monday would see two races (Duathlon & Aquathlon). Also, we wanted to fit in a longer ride on one day while here. However, plans went a little off track when we went to pick up some bikes in the morning, only to find they had all been booked due to a bike tour. To this point, we hadn't reserved bikes (which you can do the day before). Lesson learned, and after that we made sure we had booked each day. We could however come back just after 10am, and pick up any bikes that hadn't been taken.

So, change of plan and we headed out for a run instead. We did another three laps (9km) of the lagoon, and actually ended up running much faster and feeling a lot better than any of the previous days. Returning to the bike shed at 10am, luckily three bikes were available. With a late start, today's biking would be short and sharp since you can only book the freebie bikes for half-a-day at a time, and we did a swift 25km heading out through La Santa village to Tinajo, and back via Soo. Again, very windy and some hard tempo effort done, even downhill, into the wind.

Today's swim introduced a little bit of speed to keep us honest, and totalled 2.4km for me and 3.1km for Jenster. Colette by now wasn't able to swim due to a recurring shoulder injury, and she used her time for stretching and rehab exercises.

You can read part two of John's review HERE.


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