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Diary of a La Santa virgin: Part 2

by John Levison
Sunday 16th November 2008

Originally published on our sister site www.tri247.com, this is part two of our review of the iconic Canary Island training venue of Club La Santa, Lanzarote. You can read part one HERE.


Monday was the first of the race days. Every Monday morning in Club La Santa they host the mini-duathlon over (advertised) distances of 2.5km / 14.4km / 2.5km (though my Garmin suggests the runs are around 250m longer). The run starts with just under one circuit of the athletics track, then out onto the road to a turnaround point, before re-tracing your steps, back around the track and to your bike. The bike course is very simple: 7km almost all uphill to the roundabout in Tinajo, and then 7km back down...before the final run, which is exactly the same as the first.

After a quick briefing and handing us the timing chips we were good to go, and around 20 people lined up, mostly Danish or Brits including a few relay teams. I finished 8th overall, Jenny was the leading lady (3rd overall) and I'd been given a good kicking on the bike! Still, on the positive side, a consistent winter of turbo/run sessions was clearly working, as I actually went quicker on the second run, something nobody else managed.

Given we had the bikes for the race, we went straight out afterwards to top up the training, repeating Sunday's 25km loop in reverse, managing to hold a decent pace too. Colette, who came out to Lanza with very little preparation due to University exams, was clearly getting stronger every day, and reaping the benefits of training without distractions.

After a bit of lunch and a rest, it was time for race two of the day: aquathlon. This is a 200m (pool) swim / 3km run. While I'm not much of a swimmer, strangely I've always enjoyed aquathlons! Jenny hammered the swim as fast as she could to try and get away from two speedy swimmers, and did manage to leave the pool first. She then recorded the fastest run too, to win overall. I was out of the pool fourth, and remained there, but had enjoyed myself. While we were racing, Colette was topping up her running miles in the opposite direction, meaning we had some support out on the course too.

The evening entertainment was the 'Green Team Show'. The Green Team are all of the staff who run the activities are La Santa, and they put on (against their wishes in some cases, and fuelled by a little dutch courage I suspect...!) a cabaret show every week. High-brow theatrical performance it isn't, but a bit of fun nonetheless.


With no racing today, and having missed out on a planned ride on Sunday, it was our last chance for a longer cycle. For reasons that seemed a good idea at the time, I also figured we should go and do at least one of the big climbs of the island of the Ironman course. None of us are training for anything longer than standard distance for 2008, so extreme miles weren't needed, so we settled on a route out to the top of 'Tabeyesco'. One of the things you soon get to learn about the wind in Lanzarote is that:

  • even a mild day, is still 'windy' by most standards
  • the wind generally blows in one direction across the island

On this day it was certainly windy even by Lanza standards, and our route was headed straight into it up one of the biggest climbs on the Island. Oh how we laughed. Not. I've often said things like "they aren't hills, they are merely opportunities to gain leg strength". Well, it sure felt like a hill...and that head wind into Teguise was starting to get just a tad annoying! Still, despite a few 'sense of humour failure' moments, we all made the top, to find that most favourite site of cyclists, a cafe. For a while, we almost made a huge error in continuing on, as we weren't sure if we'd made 'the top' yet, despite everything around us seemingly being 'below' us. Fortunately, a German Ironman competitor assured us, in perfect English of course, that we had indeed made the top. It would be nice to report that the cakes in the cafe were worth the effort, but alas they were more like cardboard!

Thankfully, what goes up must come down, and the ride home was much more fun, and an awful lot faster.

In the afternoon, Jenny and I did another swim set, while Colette opted for a 9km run.


Wednesday is mini-triathlon morning: 400m pool swim / 14.8km / 4.4km. The bike course is as per the mini-duathlon (starting from the pool), and the run is the same too, just with the turnaround point further up the road. This time there were around 40 entrants. Again, Jenny left me well behind, finishing as leading lady (2nd overall), while tiredness seemed to be catching up with me, a long way back in 11th overall. Once again the event was well organised and simple, with full results available later that morning.

Being the last full day, there was still more biking to be done, so after breakfast we headed out on a 40km circuit via Famara, which is one of the few sections of flat(ish) road. Once again, Colette was riding stronger by the day and I was struggling to hold on! The best part of the ride though was probably the very tasty toastie we stopped for in La Santa village.

Feeling pretty tired, Jenny and I struggled to pull together the energy to swim, but finally relented to hit the pool for a short session. Because of a continuing shoulder problem, Colette opted to run, which little did we know what damage that was to cause...

At the start of our ride earlier, Colette had hit her shin hard on a pedal when getting on the bike, as it wasn't in gear correctly. This hurt (obviously), had caused bruising, but what we didn't know at the time had severed a vein in her leg. After running, Colette looked down in some pain, and a huge lump had appeared on her shin - this was a massive haematoma (pooling of blood), causing a cricket ball sizes growth on her leg. I saw this when we returned from swimming, and was straight off to the on-site doctor...

As it turned out, it would result in withdrawal from Vancouver, even to the extent of not being able to fly and support. Really not what we wanted on our last full day, but between us we've got used to setbacks like this over the past five years, though it is starting to get a little annoying.


Home today, so final morning. With Colette out of action, it was left to Jenny and I to repeat our initial benchmark session from last week. While we couldn't match the times, dropping only one second per 100 metre rep was pretty pleasing, and proves you can train pretty hard, without destroying your speed.


I was pleasantly surprised how compact the La Santa complex is. I had visions of the various facilities being a long way between each other, but they really are all very close. Sports wise, there is pretty much anything you might want. The on-site supermarket is well stocked, and has most of the provisions you would want, though we did find it to be quite expensive. In part, this is probably due to the crashing of sterling against the euro in recent months, but it's well worth packing a few basic provisions in your luggage. Alternatively, there are alternatives in La Santa village (approx. one mile away), if you are on a budget.


Would I go again - absolutely
Will I go again - absolutely!

Possibly the biggest benefit to training is the lack of distraction. Unlike say a hotel in a 'cycle-friendly' area, in some ways staying within Club La Santa is like bing in your own little world. Almost everyone there, is there to train. It may not be anything to do with triathlon, but, there's a common bond. The lack of distraction from TV, internet and 'normal' life means that you can focus, yet in a relaxed manner. We logged something in the order of 25 hours training for the week. Much more than any of us would do at home, but certainly not excessive, and much of that due to the time created by removing yourself from your normal environment. With such great facilities and consistent weather, don't think you 'need' to be on a formal camp either - a little planning and you can readily produce your own schedule, do some of the events, go on some of the organised runs and rides...so many options.

Why not give it a try?


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