Training with an elite athlete
by Paul Bowker
Training with Natalie
Picture the scene if you will. It’s closing time at the Criterium Cycles shop in Edinburgh. Natalie Milne, the Team GB and Team Scotland elite triathlete sponsored by Criterium Cycles gets wind that I may be about to have a day off. What came next was an invitation to join her on a recovery session before her next race in France due for the first weekend of September.
I recall my head saying no way, I’m going to feel bad and look even worse. My head said that it would hurt. A lot. But as is so often the case, though my head spoken with reason, my mouth said “Yes, why not!” So on Wednesday morning, I met up with Natalie for a 1h 30 min bike ride, followed by an 8km part road, part trail run.
The weather started dry, but very windy. The Met office was giving a steady 18mph with 30mph gusts and it turned out they were correct. The wind was brutal! However, we stayed chipper but I was concerned I might hold Natalie back. So I said “ride the pace you need to ride and I will try to hold on”. This turned out to be manageable thanks, I hope, to my reasonable bike fitness. The slightly depressing fact though was that whilst I was working at around 80%, it was clear that the smiling assassin was working way below that level. Let’s say the conversation was pretty one sided on the hills!!
Back from the bike and we got changed into our running gear, thanks to a short but heavy rain shower in the later stages of the ride. Because of the 7 minute or so recovery that getting changed had created, the run started better than I thought it was going to. This was the first bike to run transition I had done since London Duathlon in Sept 2014. My confidence took a bit of a knock though when I realised that Natalie would normally be starting her third section of a race at this point, with no time in transition and going flat out! Ouch.
The terrain got steeper very quickly when we hit the off road section off road, and, I won’t lie, things started to hurt. Back on the level, but still off road, I started to feel a little better and the breathing began to normalise. Then the trail started to get steep again! Half way up a long steep, draggy and horrible climb, Natalie announced that there was a cheeky wee hill in the next section. I was clearly elated by this news and explained just how elated to my clearly amused running partner.
With the next cheeky section dispensed with and the home run in sight, I managed to have a moment of reflection. As someone with a family and a full time job, I try hard to get out as much as I can to keep the weight off and maintain an average fitness. It is therefore a very humbling experience to be able to join an athlete of Natalie’s calibre on a training session. The time and commitment that she dedicates to her sport competing for team and country is pretty awe inspiring.
As I left the training session to go and rest my weary bones, Natalie was tucking into a nice heathy lunch, before heading off to the pool for her afternoon training swim. Incredible. Plus I can’t have done too badly, because she said that I could join her again. Once I had recovered of course.
I can’t wait.
Natalie rides a Trek Emonda SL8. Paul rides a Trek Domane SLR. Both wear Bontrager Velocis helmets.