Monday, 6 January 2014

Guest blog 6: Sam Laidlow from Font Romeu

In our latest guest blog, 15 year old triathlete Sam Laidlow shares his experiences of living and training in Font Romeu.  If you have an altitude-training experience that you would like to share, please get in touch.
My name is Sam Laidlow and I am a 15 year old triathlete.  Having trained and competed in triathlon from the age of 4, in 2012 I made it into the “Lycée Climatique et Sportif Pierre de Coubertin”, which is based within the French National Altitude Training center in Font Romeu. This allows young athletes from 12 to 18 to train for their selected sport, whilst studying and living at altitude.
In September 2012 I was accepted into the triathlon section, but there are also many other sections (swimming, wrestling, cross country skiing, pentathlon and speed skating to name just a few). I am always surrounded by National and World class level athletes (Mo Farah, Camille Lacourt, Paula Radcliffe, Frederik Van Lierde...) and that is what makes training in this place such a privilege.
Sam training high in the mountains around Font Romeu
Last year in the triathlon section we were 6 in the squad with one triathlon coach (just for us six). In addition to the 30 hours of school per week, every section gets timetabled slots to train with their own coach. This is a great asset as it means we can get up to 16 hours of specialist training in a week (and even more for other sections). The environment is very conducive to training.
To be able to train and live at this intermediate altitude (1800m) is great! I can feel that It is very beneficial for my training, preparing for a race or any physical event. The first week of training back after the holidays (low altitude for me) is always noticeably harder and more tiring, because my body needs to adapt to the relative lack of oxygen and acclimatise to the altitude by producing more red blood cells (and/or altering muscle metabolism). Although each time I do this I feel my speed of adaption is quicker.
Preparing for a certain race is great when at altitude, as although your times in training will be a lot slower than your PB's, when you do get back down to sea level you feel great, and racing just feels that bit easier.

Last year being in this triathlon section contributed significantly to two of us making it to a national podium level in triathlon. In the space of only a year, myself and Paul Etaix went from being in the top 40 in France to both coming 2nd at the French Triathlon Champs! Training and being in Font Romeu is such a privilege for all these reasons and training at altitude has definitely helped me progress in a relatively short space of time.