Great Britain and HUUB triathlete Tom Bishop has been a consistent performer on the World Triathlon Series for several years. As he prepares for what could be the biggest season of his career, the 28-year-old takes us Down Under on British Triathlon's pre-season training camp on Australia's Gold Coast.
"We left the UK in the middle of a snowstorm and landed on the Gold Coast in 35-degree heat. Tell me which you'd prefer? Australia is familiar territory for me now. I've visited a fair few times during my career; to do some points chasing to get on to the World Triathlon Series (WTS) circuit, the top level of the sport; to race the 2016 Olympic selection event; and to compete in both the Commonwealth Games and World Series Grand Final in 2018. This time is different, though. This is all about laying the foundations for the year ahead.
The timing of this camp is slightly earlier than usual given that the first WTS race of the year was scheduled for Abu Dhabi in March [this has now been postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus]. The British team felt that it was a perfect opportunity to make the most of some hot weather and different training opportunities.
With the Tokyo Olympics looking like being a very hot and humid race, the Gold Coast is a good place for us to begin our heat prep early. I believe more regular exposure to hot and humid environments makes it easier to adapt on successive occasions – and it has been pretty challenging at times. Our support staff have done their best to monitor and keep us hydrated so we can get the best out of ourselves each day.
While the weather was a big factor in coming here, Queensland equally presents an opportunity to practice very race-specific swim and bike sessions and improve these critical skills. It's something our head coach Ben Bright has been keen on implementing.
Let's take the swim first. Our group joined in with the Miami Swim Club, an elite swim club on the Gold Coast, which definitely challenged our physiology and psychology. We've been taking part in 6-7km sessions, swimming some tough reps and completed the most pull-band work I've ever done! We've also enlisted the help of veteran Ironman world champion (the Australian surf lifesaving version not triathlon's M-Dot brand) Phil Clayton and his surf lifesavers to teach us how to really swim in open water.
This includes a range of challenges such as rough sea swims, tight buoy turning, mastering the draft, beach starts and navigating the break, as well as our favourite, a good body bash, also known as body surfing. It's been so much fun!
On to the bike and it has been the opportunity to race some cycling criteriums, or crits, as they are more commonly known, and we joined in with the last few races of the local crit series. Formerly known as 'Wednesday Worlds', they have now been dubbed 'The Ashes' due to our Pommy invasion. Few things beat a good bit of banter with the Aussies.
Training here has been different to what we're used to. Coming from a British winter to an Australian summer, we've replaced cross-country running with crits, short-course pool swimming with sea swimming, and running tights for shorts! It's been great, and it also takes only 5 minutes to get ready for cycling instead of 25min.
There are 14 of us out here including Vicky Holland, Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee, and most of us do like routine, so we try to keep our core sessions the same. Tuesday and Saturday run sessions, long rides two-to-three times a week and regular strength and conditioning.
What also doesn't change is that we're still damp. While winter at home is a battle from one wet, cold session to the next – I don't think my trainers are ever truly dry until late March – it's the same here, although without trying to sound too grim, it's the high sweat rates which cause the dampness Down Under!
We're trying to focus on the little things now, those small, achievable processes which will hopefully set us up for some consistent racing. The big picture of the Olympics is still far away, we want to be the best we can when heading to Japan, and I believe the best way to do that is to go session by session, day by day, with the occasional ice pop thrown in at the end. Glorious!