Piglets and a Robocop: Random learnings from training in Mallorca.

“The longest winter in 50 years “ the British press said in January.  By March all weather-related expletives had been exhausted and turned into mere disbelief as snow, gail force winds and sleet pounded the window panes.

Formentor Mallorca Tamsin Lewis

By March all weather-related expletives had been exhausted and turned into mere disbelief as snow, gail force winds and sleet pounded the window panes.

Its no secret, I don’t enjoy riding a bike in such conditions, and quite frankly I can’t risk another collar-bone break. As effective as wind trainer/turbo sessions on the bike are – they take the joy out of cycling.

I even invested in a bright green Kurt Kinetic Rock n'Roll trainer hoping to break the monotony - but as good as this trainer is - and it really does help engage thy core - the novelty wears off when doing 3-4sessions per week.

End of March saw me embark on my second training camp of the year.

Mallorca, Spain - a haven for early season training for pro cyclists. Heck, if TDF/Olympic Champ Brad Wiggins has a bought a property in Pollenca - it must be special.

The island is cosseted in nostalgia for me as it is where I first started to ‘ride’ a bike.

In 2001 I came to the island with my Dad, Colin Lewis when he was organising training camps.  Even 40miles then seemed a heck of a long way on a bike.. and that was before it was I chose to precede the bike by a swim and follow it with a run.

This Blog I'll mix it up a bit - less of the narrative and rather list the random things I have learnt this month – hopefully you can learn something from it too.


My new nickname is Robocop.

Thanks to a group of age-group athletes I was coaching in week 1 I was nicknamed Robocop which . Take from this what you will. I tell it how it is and take no prisoners. No one ever became a good athlete by taking 4 coffee stops in a 3hour ride on a ‘training camp’.




After 3 years of pretty much swimming the same pace in the pool and in races, I have finally made progress.
Not by spending much more time in the pool, but by changing my technique.

I have


from a

Flat fish

in the water, to a


This is a good thing.

 Shark’s intimidate.

Flat fish are slow and lurk at the back of packs.

Which would you rather be?

Which would you rather be?


I am swimming faster & stronger than ever before but its sure ain’t graceful.

I have two people to thank for this – Darren Smith @coachdaz – whom I was lucky enough to work with for a week in Hawaii – and my now coach – Tom Bennett of T2coaching who has worked with Darren previously on camps. They share similar thoughts on open water swimming.

Its punchy, high cadence – no glide – tight streamlined body position

(i try to keep over the blackline - hands either side when on own in lane) – improved hip rotation – and through practice, practice, practice I have switched from a 6 beat kicker to a 2 beat kick.

Darren had me watch Mary Beth Ellis in the pool and said – this is the stroke I want you to emulate. It is a good open water swim stroke. What looks good in the pool, does not necessarily work well for open water swimming. Mary Beth was one of the first swimmers out of the water in the World Ironman Champs in Hawaii in 2012.

Mary Beth Ellis triathlete ironman

I also met Gerry Rodrigues in Hawaii who talks a lot of sense about swimming.

Have a look at his blog on Do’s and Don’ts here:  
Gerry works closely with Matt Dixon of PurplePatch coaching and many remark on his proficiency as a swim coach especially triathlon-specific. Emma Kate Lidbury praised him on Twitter after her recent win at Ironman 70.3 Texas.  See here.

For more information... read THIS discussion on slow twitch by coach Darren Smith. 

Things I have done ALOT of in the water in the last 4 months:

1 – Paddles and short fins – working on high elbow catch and co-ordinated two beat kick with good hip rotation. (I use TYR yellow paddles) - see pic of Mary Beth.

2 – Used a large kickboard in place of a pull buoy – grooves in hip rotation. Tick Tock, Tick Tock.

3 – Worked on pace change. I was pretty good at swimming the same pace for a looong time. This isn’t going to help if the pack is swimming away from you... or if you need to jump onto another faster swimmers feet. This makes a big difference in OW swimming/triathlon.

4 – Gliding and low/slow arm turnover won’t make you a fast open water swimmer.

I think of hugging the water with my arms now.

Hand in – quick catch and arch over, hug, pull – move past.


 Bike position is vital.. especially as you ramp up the volume and/or power in your bike sessions. I have fiddled with my position - ALOT - and am very grateful to Stuart at Pearson Cycles for finally getting me comfortable and powerful.

I see many people far too stretched out on their bikes.  It has to be comfortable but also allow you to be aero and powerful, engaging the right muscles. I shortened the stem on one of our athletes, put her saddle up an inch and her back pain disappeared – bonus = could hold an aero position for longer.

I also now ride with Rotor rings and shorter cranks - 165mm as opposed to 170mm which i always used to ride. I feel this combination makes me pedal more efficiently and allows a higher cadence than I would otherwise ride. Lots has been written on this. Here is a taster of the lot.

Cleat position – I have had a number of issues with this.

Trying a more midfoot cleat position which then caused me a lateral knee problem. If you’re changing things – don’t make big changes all at once.

For Ironman there is some evidence that a more rear-ward cleat position better engages glutes and hamstrings, sparing calves and quads for the run. That said no two athletes are identical – it may help, it may not.

Experiment.. but not in the weeks leading up to a race.

Make small changes at a time, but push power through the pedals when you are adjusting as spinning just doesn't allow you to feel how it would in a race.


Many Age-group athletes train with insufficient intensity on the bike.

Riding easy for 4 hours – in my opinion – is a waste of time – if improvement in triathlon is your aim. Junk Miles.

Be specific.

Include blocks of 30-45minutes at goal race pace in your sessions in your TT bars, or whatever position you will race in.

I grew up amongst cyclists.

They rarely seem to do middle-ground ‘grey’ cycling.

 Its either hard, very hard (seeing stars) or easy. Emulate this.

Don’t be afraid to hurt on the bike.

Climbing makes you strong – but not if you spin up in the granny ring with a low heart rate. Emulate climbing at home by including big gear training intervals, cadence should be 60 or less. If you don’t feel your bum aching/burning – you’re not doing it right.

Male cyclists, especially those wearing Max Huerzler jerseys! – do not take kindly to being dropped by a woman on a bike.

In these weeks I have had men grunting, howling expletives and dripping sweat onto my rear wheel in forsaken attempt to preserve what they see as their male ego.

Enough already.


Often takes a back seat when on such a stunning cycling island such as Mallorca.

On training camp – frequent short runs off the bike are an effective way of grooving in the feeling you will have in the race.

We are what we repeatedly do – excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.


Run fun sportiedoc


Having had a stress fracture last year – every lower limb ‘niggle’ becomes a potential ‘stressy’ in my mind.

Thanks coach Tom, for dealing with my neuroticism and reassuring me that it is most likely soft tissue.

On this camp – new shoes – the uber stiff Bonts and a more fixed cleat position resulted in fibular strain (result of peroneals overworking) which then when I ran on it became full on inflammation of my lateral knee. Panic ensued as I could barely walk on it for 24hours. However, I was lucky in that my physio from London – Nicole from was on out on a weekend cycling so prompt diagnosis and treatment meant I my downtime was minimal.

Other Random Bits

In no particular order:

Piglets, Ponies, mountain goats, sheep, donkeys..

All appeal to my inner country girl turned Londoner.

Piglets Mallorca

* Lucy Gossage

Is world class Ironman athlete (sub 9 at Challenge Barcelona) yet she keeps it real by hanging a 10 year old decrepid saddle bag from her 10 thousand pound beautiful bike

 * Lauren Groves (Canadian Olympian) is a beautiful swimmer. I am far less shark-line when in her proximity.

* Bradley Wiggins has skinnier legs than me

He also flies in on a private jet to avoid immune system exposure to public bugs and has his bed sheets changed daily.

However, he still hangs out in the popular Tolos

bar in Pollenca Port downing endless café cortados.

I like a good Rioja to accompany my raw onion and garlic immune shot.

I walk very slowly in between training sessions, and often lose the ability to form full sentences.  Adjectives, become 'things'. 

I have a warped sense of what is


If I say a climb is steady, or undulating – it is very unlikely that this is actually the case.

Sa Colobra Mallorca Sportiedoc

And lastly....

We are ALL capable of more than we think we are.

But NOT everyday.

Next up - I return to the UK to collect my wonderful new Felt DA1 TT bike from Pearson Cycles and then a few weeks fine tuning with Tom and back out to Mallorca for the Ironman 70.3 race on May 11th.

Hasta Luego

Winter training.

Just a quick update from Sportiedoc world...

January and the first half of February saw me ased in the UK. Actually the longest amount of time I've stayed put in the same country for over a year. 

I started the year with a new coach - Tom Bennett of T2coaching and it was good to be seeing him a couple of times a week. Having been with a remote coach for 2 years, I had missed the personal interaction with a coach... I feel that it is invaluable to interact one to one from time to time... as so much can get missed behind email and skype text.

om has got to know me pretty well within a short space of time. I was very open with him.. warts and all. At first I thought he was somewhat overwhelmed with what he was taking on in me... but soon I began to see that he was relishing the challenge.

Sportiedoc winter run

My time course as a pro has been a fluctuating one. From the baptism of fire with Brett Sutton and Team TBB in 2010 to the positive coaching mantra of Cliff English, some months have been good, some not so good... That is the nature of the sport. Experience seems to suggest that it take years to build the base of strength endurance required to compete at the top level.  But dont underestimate the mental game. I believe this is one of the reasons Brett Sutton has so much success with some athletes... he trains mental toughness. You can question the physiological logic behind some of his mammoth sessions.. but it develops a psychological tenacity in those who survive it.  Brett and I are on good terms. I introduced a good friend Eimear Mullan to him last year and this year she is on the team, coached currently by Bella Bayliss who has more past ironman titles to her name that I have had haircuts. I am interested to see how Eimear does this year under the new coaching regimen. We are very different and I know she wouldn't mind me saying that she is more submissive in the coach-athlete dynamic that I could ever be. "just shut up and ride" never quite did it for me. 

After 6 weeks of indoor cycling due to the London freeze, I packed up and headed over to Lanzarote for 12 days solid training. Just being out on the bike is liberating... something that all cyclists/triathletes can relate to. The frequent wind trainer - turbo - sessions... do help build leg strength and fitness, but they do bugger all for mental stimulation.

Regular outdoor hill reps sessions in Richmond Park with T2 coaching - including Vanessa Raw - saw me working on my strength and technique. Technical excellence Tom calls it... whilst at the same time practising my poker face. Harder than it sounds... especially in 0degrees. 

Friends from Blackline London had signed up to Wokingham half marathon and I thought it would be some fun to have a go at a half marathon without the preceding bike and swim. It was a typically horrid British winter day.. cold, wind, rain, but I enjoyed the race... pacing was completely out as I got to 4 miles to go and felt I had left too much in the tank... then with 800m to go someone told me it was a mile, so again held back a bit. All in the memory back to add to that lengthy learning curve. Just missed out on a 1.22 but happy enough with the 1.23 given it is February and i'd only been back training a month. Best thing was, the technical side of things held strong to the end and recovery was quick.



I changed things up a bit this time in Lanza. I have been to the island around 8 times. My first ever training holiday was here with my first coach Richard Hobson back in 2008 so the island holds a special memory for me.  Previously I had stayed in Club La Santa or at TriSports Lanzarote, but this time I tried something new and headed to Costa Teguise and Sands Beach where Team TBB have set up their european contingent for the winter. Very impressed thus far.

I am a week through training here and all is going well. A small hiccup at the start, as I rode too long and with too much intensity. Waking heart rate had drifted up and Tom (coach) was on to me. For me if I am on the border of overcooking it, I would get a tickle in my throat at night with a dry cough and note that I sweat more in the night. My waking mood is a good indicator too as is resting heart rate drift over 3 days. I use the metrics section in TrainingPeaks o monitor training blocks.  For age-groupers with full time jobs, it can often be easy to tip the edge to over-reaching in training. Remember your body will often let you do it but you aren't sending the right stimulus. You may recover, but you won't recover and adapt which is when you make improvements. Constantly foregoing sleep will come back to bite you. Forego quantity for quality every time. 

The age-old mantra in Ironman that more is better is hard to let go of but it is more than often not true. Comparing yourself to others and their training is fruitless and is something which Tom pulls me up on. Some people repsond to long and slow, i know that i need less volume and more intensity to improve and that is what this year will see me do.  Training buddies are good, but physiological differences prevail. What works for one body type does not work for another. Accept differences and work out over time what works for you it may be totally different from that of your club mate or training buddy.  I feel like I am stating the obvious, but it is all too often that I hear age-groupers questioning themselves because they couldn't do the volume of training that their peers did. Confidence as an athlete takes time, and seeing is definitely believing. 

Next weekend has me signed up to The BallBuster renown for its tough course... how many times up Box Hill again?  Often accompanied by foul weather, I have signed up for it twice before, but never raced either due to injury or sickness. It will be an interesting test coming off a hard training block here, but hopefully some fun will be had along the way with many friends also toeing the line.

Then Sunday will see me head to the Triathlon Show (TCR) to catch up with sponsors and have a general chin way with all the tri-folk.  Do say hi if you are there!