The following story is re-printed with the permission of Triathlon Digest where ist appeared on March 4th.Lisa Bentley -- How She Trained:
Tri Digest received a "Postcard from Gold Coast" from Ironman New Zealand winner Lisa Bentley (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) last week, leading up to her race. Here's how, and where, she prepared for the win:
Late in 1999, Canadian coach Lance Watson began to plant the seed about holding a training camp for his athletes in Australia from January to April 2000. One of Lance's athletes, 1996 world duathlon champion Andrew Noble, lives on the Gold Coast and so that seemed like an ideal spot to base the squad. And so the planning began and here I am now, in mid-February, training with some of the Canada's most talented athletes.
It is a diverse group. On one end of the spectrum, there is Simon Whitfield, competing in the super-sprint, multi-race Formula 1 Series and, with Sharon Donnelly and Lach Vollmerhause, is preparing for the Olympics. Then, there are a whole bunch of fast guys, like junior standout Brent MacMahon, getting ready for the Worlds in Perth. Then, there are the slower twitch folks like myself, who are preparing for Ironman New Zealand on March 4th. So, we all saved our Canadian pennies, asked Mom, Dad and significant others for support, and we embarked on our journey of excellence.
For me, the training camp was more than just training with a world-class coach like Lance or training with the world-class athletes that he coaches. It was about escaping the Canadian winter to an environment that would help me to improve my racing. You see, at the moment that I write this, it is about -20 degrees Celsius where I live, with a windchill of about -40 degrees. Here, at Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast, it is about 30 degrees Celsius. That is difference of about 60 to 70 degrees.
Last year, I raced at Ironman New Zealand and prepared for the race by riding endless hours on my windtrainer and running outside in multi-layered gear or on the treadmill. I'll never forget one session where I rode on my windtrainer for 4 hours tempo and then ran on a treadmill for 2 hours at 7-minute miles. So, with some encouragement from Lance and some major support from my husband, I decided to come to the Gold Coast to do some of that Ironman mileage on a road free from snowbanks and wind-chill!
I'd say that there are about 25 Canadian athletes here training and about 15 of those athletes are working with Lance. Of course, we each have our own unique swim-bike-run schedules depending on our goals and upcoming events, but swim practice draws us together as a big group. At 7:30 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we meet at the 50m outdoor pool at Bond University and tackle the 5000-6000m swim workout. I must say that it is quite a thrill swimming with "fish" such as Lee Dryden, brother of Canadian swim sensation and Olympic athlete Nikki Dryden. There is nothing quite like feeling the powerful stream of water passing by when I'm getting lapped by someone like Jamie Cleveland during a swim set! Naturally, I'm always trying to check out his swim stroke and trying to figure out just how he can swim four minutes faster than I do for 1500m! We look like we have the same stroke, don't we? But, just as it is a thrill to watch all of the speedsters, it is just as thrilling to watch guys like Mike Neill and Jeff Beech improve every single day!
Hey, didn't I get out of the swim in Hawaii with Mike Neill last year? It looks as if he'll be getting a head start on me on the bike this year in New Zealand because his swimming is really at a new level after just six weeks here. It is fascinating to see such excellence. I'm sure that I am improving my swimming as well. That's what Lance tells me anyway. It's just that I'm usually too out of breath to look at the pace clock to see the improvement. It is hard work swimming fast, checking out everyone's smooth strokes and making notes about everyone's improvements all at the same time!
Cycling here on the Gold Coast offers some nice variety. For flatter rides, most athletes ride along the coast. That route is a bit too busy for me since I'm use to sharing the roads in northern Toronto with farmers, not sun-seekers! The beaches are pretty busy here during January and on the weekends, so that can make riding along the coast a bit interesting. But, the speed limit there is 40 km/h, so at least there is a nice pace of traffic passing you.
And, of course, it is just beautiful riding along and seeing the ocean and checking out where the surfing competition is being held on that day. For climbing, all you have to do is point your bike inland! There are three significant climbs, which I have done - Springbrook, Beechmont and Tomewin. Each climb lasts anywhere from 7 to 10 km. Sometimes, if we are lucky, Lance lets us do the climbs more than once in a single ride. Those are my favourite days, of course!!
Personally, I have spent a lot of time cycling since I have been preparing for Ironman New Zealand and I'd say that the variety of terrain here has definitely prepared me to race. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have the company of some of the amazing riders we have in our group. Kelly Guest, an up-and-coming elite triathlete, has the smoothest, most powerful pedal stroke outside of the Tour de France! It is awe-inspiring to watch him climb, descend and just plain spin! The fast-twitch triathletes meet a few times a week for intervals, shorter tempos and hill sprints. Us slow-twitch Ironman athletes lead the lonely life and do countless miles in smaller settings of one or two athletes. But, now that I've hit the "few weeks to go" until Ironman, I've been lucky enough to join the speedsters for a few sessions and I love sharing in the lactic acid.
Running here in Australia is dependent on the weather. It can get very hot during the day, so we either run at 6 a.m. or in the early evening. Running intervals and tempos are a key component of our training and quality workouts are done in a group. There is a local park with an all-grass, six-lane track, which is perfect for the grass runners. There is also a 2-kilometre loop around the park with road and grass combined to satisfy the land runners, like myself.
Previous speedy track runners, like Cheryl Murphy, love these workouts because we get to do form drills and other "track-type" stuff, which tracksters have perfected over the years. The rest of us just look like a bunch of dancers trying to be sporty! There is also a weekly 5-km run held near a restaurant called "The Hogsbreath Cafe". The fast twitchers run there occasionally. A few weeks ago, Lach won the men's and, the other night, Jeff Beech won the men's and Sharon Donnelly won the women's. All the other guys -- Brent MacMahon, Stefan Timms, Kelly Guest, Mike Greenberg and Lee Dryden -- all ran personal bests. Meanwhile, Lucy Smith, one of the fastest 10 km runners in Canada, ran a personal best for a six-months pregnant woman. She is taking a bit of a "siesta" from serious training to have her baby, so she didn't run her usual 15:30 pace! Instead, she ran sub - 20 minutes and kept her heart rate below 150 beats. I think the smile on her face from ear-to-ear is what makes her heart rate jump from her usual 130's.
Despite the fact that I am leaving Australia to race at Ironman New Zealand, the training camp will continue until the speedy fast twitchers race at the Worlds in Perth in April. This has been such a terrific training environment with coach Lance and this amazing group of some of Canada's best athletes. For now, the wind-chill and the snowbanks of Canada are a distant memory ... at least until I arrive home on March 6th!