Issue ID: June 2012
Riding away from the pack in Salinas, Ecuador, on 3 March with fellow GB athlete Abbie Thorrington, Lucy Hall claimed her first senior international win. It was perhaps the best way for Lucy to put “the dog incident” behind her once and for all.
The infamous canine catastrophe happened last September during the bike leg of the World Junior Champs in Beijing, when she was riding off the front of the pack into the lead with
realistic dreams of winning her first world title. A stray mutt then wandered into her path, ending her race and title hopes in a flash of spokes and fur, as she unavoidably crashed out onto the Beijing streets.
This was hard to take both physically and mentally, especially as it was her last shot at the junior title before joining the U23 ranks. But with no such hindrance in Ecuador in March, Lucy was able to stamp her authority on the bike leg again, making it to T2 safely and running away from Thorrington to take the spoils.
Bagging a win at the Pan-American ITU race as a 20-year-old fresh out of the junior ranks has caused a few to sit up and take notice of young Miss Hall. After all, Helen Jenkins was 23 before she made a similar breakthrough and she’s now a two-time world champ.
I had a chat with her as she recovered from her South American travels and was getting back into a routine of training at home in Loughborough. I wanted to ask her in particular about her bike training, to uncover the secrets of her ability to fly off the front of the pack during the ride. And also, how her tri career began?
“My Dad was a keen Ironman competitor and I did my first tri when I was eight years old,” she explains. “I then swam and ran for Leicestershire at county level throughout my early teens, before getting on a bike properly when I was 15.”
The current GB men’s team coach, Ben Bright, coaching at Loughborough, saw Lucy’s potential and started encouraging her to ride with him on
a Sunday morning.
“I hated it at first, to be honest,” she says now of those early morning sessions. “But it has definitely paid off!”
ONE OF THE BOYS
Back then, Lucy’s parents were driving her to and from Loughborough for training, but now she’s based there full-time studying sports science and management, as well as packing in
20-plus hours of training under the watchful eye of coach, Mark Pearce.
“Mark is great and really into things like training with power, which has helped me a lot,” says Lucy. “We do lab testing at the start of the winter so we know what training zones to work in, and have access to amazing facilities at Loughborough, so I’m very lucky.”
A typical week for Lucy involves two or three core swim, bike or run training sessions each day; Pilates; prehab work to avoid injury; and strength training in the gym. It’s full-on. Much of her bike training is done either in the form of individualised intervals to power, or group riding with the rest of the tri squad, which is mostly guys.
“Training with the lads on the bike has definitely pushed me on,” Lucy’s quick to point out. “Even a steady ride for them can be quite hard for me. We often do through-and-off work on a circuit called Coates Loop, so my bike handling is really coming on.” Each week when she’s not racing, Lucy follows two solo biking sessions to a set power output. She monitors her wattage using a power meter on her bike, linked up to a Garmin watch.
“I’ve learnt to use the power meter but not be obsessed by it,” she explains, displaying a lot of self confidence and maturity for a young athlete. “It’s very easy to get too into the numbers and worry if you’re not getting to where you want to be. So some sessions, Mark just looks at it afterwards.”
PUSH TO PROGRESS
I ask her about the exact content of her key bike sets and she reveals that her Monday session is often based on longer intervals of up to 15mins. She aims to hold about 215-230 watts for these efforts, similar to the average power figures that she sees from race data downloaded after her competitive outings. This session can be done either indoors or out, and afterwards
a run off the bike for 10-15mins iscalled for to keep the legs used to the changeover. Her Thursday session is done inside on the treadmill with harder but shorter intervals holding up to 260 watts – “I always feel knackered after that one!”
Most of Lucy’s other riding is done with the rest of the Loughborough squad, and she has the option of mixing it up at the front when she’s fresher and sitting in when she’s tired.
“I only started doing two sessions on a Saturday quite recently [an hour of running before a long endurance ride] and that’s actually pretty tough,” she admits. “It’s taken a lot of getting used to, but I know it’s pushing myself that will keep me progressing.”