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I’ve always worked on the basis that when an opportunity presents itself – take it. So when my coach mentioned a training camp in the Swiss Alps at my friend and fellow athlete Eloise’s chalet, along with some other Intellitri athletes, it was a no brainer. After last year’s stint in Morzine I had decided I would definetely hit the Alps at some point this Summer anyway. So perfect.

Leading up to the trip I wasn’t in the best physical place. A cold virus which seemed to knock me back quite a bit, followed by my brother’s wedding, had rendered a few weeks of pretty inconsistent training. As a result, I had lost form – and probably a bit of fitness too. You know when every session just feels like a massive struggle? Yeah. That.

So I went out there with hope that I would recover some form and praying that I wouldn’t be utterly tragic as an athlete on a camp accompanied by pretty much all pros. I have to say, I was a bit nervous about that. There’s nothing cool about being the fat, slow one at the back!

I knew though that spending 10 days at over 2000m and with my coach Mark there to knock me back into shape, it would be a valuable trip. And it was.

As I often, in fact nearly always, train alone – it was a refreshing change to have such a lovely group of people around me – Kim, Vanessa, Eloise and Kirsty – top athletes and all round lovely people. We all got on like a house on fire, so both in and out of training it was a lot of fun. Probably more banter and laughs than I ever expected – no-one took themselves too seriously, which, for a bunch of Type-A competitive triathletes, was something of a miracle. I feel lucky to have shared the week with such great, inspiring, and fun people.

The first couple of days were relatively easy – at that height you can feel the effects of altitude almost immediately. In fact I have never trained or lived that high, so it was something of a new experience for me. My first pool swim confirmed that I was a bit (a lot) out of condition and we would need to work on a lot of tweaks to my technique to get me back to where I was pre-Vietnam. Suffice to say, pretty much the same story for the bike and run too!

My second full day involved a 4 hour ride with 7000ft of climbing. Nothing like getting chucked in at the deep end! I struggled – I mean, I am not great at hills at the best of times. And when I say not great, I’m really pretty rubbish. But add in loss of form and pretty impressive altitude, and you’re in for a slow day. The descent practice was fun though – at least I regain a little bit of dignity on being a fast (ish) descender! The long ride really took it out of me but I ploughed on and felt pretty happy that it was my longest ride by far since my race in Vietnam.

Team dinners every night meant that we were extremely well fed – surprisingly, amongst us time-constrained athletes, we all knocked up impressively tasty meals every night! And I ate more Swiss dark chocolate than I’ve ever eaten in my life. Antioxidants though, right?

Towards the end of the week we had a breakthrough in the pool. After working hard on drills and technique refinement, I was feeling much more like my old self and my swim was really coming back. So much so, in fact, that I got a new 100m and 400m PB. That just goes to show what having a technically-focused coach on the poolside most days for just a few days really does for you. Such a positive effect in such a small amount of time. I was elated!

A few steady runs (which seem unbearably slow at that kind of altitude) and then I was ready for the harder stuff. On my last full day, I had to do 21x 1 minute max efforts at 7500ft high. If you’ve ever tried that, you’ll know how I felt. If not, then I’m not sure how I can describe it – it’s like someone has scraped out the inside of your lungs and then run you over with a massive truck. It hurts – your lungs feel like they will burst (as they do on normal full max efforts), except this time, you can’t actually breathe. I was coughing a lot and genuinely thought I would pass out at one point. The dizziness is quite bad up there.

Just to add insult to injury (or in this case, hard altitrude session to hard altitude session), I had to do bike hill reps in the evening (swim in the middle too). The bike hill reps were 5 min hard efforts – again, my first hard bike session at altitude, and I was wheezing like a 50-a-day smoker. Everything feels so much harder.

As they say though, in clichéd terms, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What I gained from this camp is not only a great week of endurance training (26 plus hours) but also some very high quality work too. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

Aside from the excellent training, coaching, and altititude effects, all of which will hopefully have some positive benefits on my upcoming races, I had a really enjoyable time with some top company. It’s all very well training, but if you can enjoy it at the same time, you’re onto a winner.

Here are my top 5 favourite moments:

- Elo’s constant, multiple times a day ability to drop things, trip over things, knock things over and generally be the biggest klutz I’ve ever met. High amusement factor when you’ve had a hard day in the mountains.

- The night where only four of us smashed two big bars of Swiss dark chocolate in the space of about 5 minutes. Gannets.

- Actually HOW MUCH chamois crème you had to lather on every time you faced a bike day. We got through whole tubs of the stuff. Then the in-depth post-ride chats about groin-based saddle sores.

- Coach Mark having to listen to five girls talk about the best type of sports bras, saddle sores, needing mid-run emergency toilet stops, and checking out hot topless guys by the pool. Good job he’s tolerant!

- Wheezing, coughing, and blowing out my proverbial – some of that training was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but what scenery to look at. It was phenomenal, and made it all worth it (just).

I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing the training adaptations from this trip, and to maintain consistency and build intensity over the next few weeks towards my next couple of races. I am so happy that I feel like I have recovered my form and that the swim, bike and run are all coming back. I have restored a bit of confidence in myself after a little mid-season dip and it’s time to see what the second half of the racing season holds for me. Hopefully with a haematocrit boost, it will be looking bright as I head towards the World Championships in nine weeks’ time. Time will only tell.