Date published: 12/05/2023
From complete novice to Ironman World Champion in under a decade, we spoke to Lucy Charles-Barclay to find out how Club La Santa has played a pivotal role in her incredible success!
Winning in Kona is a wonderful achievement after finishing second four times. How do you feel now and are you anywhere near getting back into training?
Sometimes when you achieve your biggest goal some people almost get a feeling of blues or don’t know what’s next. So many years have been spent working towards that goal, but I just feel so happy that I’ve achieved my dream and now I can actually go out and race just because I love racing.
I’m so excited for next year. The PTO have their races and I think it’s going to be a worldwide series with a world champion crowned at the end of the year, so that’s a big goal of mine. I also feel like because I suffered an injury during Kona, I have so much potential to maybe go even a bit faster!
Is it frustrating that it’s taken such a monumental achievement to breakthrough into the mainstream?
It definitely is, but I also think the story of having so many second-place finishes and just keeping on going to get the win has captured people’s imagination. They almost feel part of the journey and understand what it means to not give up. So yeah, I’m glad that that story is finally getting shared because I know it can inspire so many people in their own lives.
You narrowly missed out on qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics as a swimmer. How has Club La Santa played a part in your transition to triathlon?
Club La Santa was the first place I ever went to do any kind of triathlon training. It must have been in 2014 when I was training for my first ever Ironman. Back then I was an age-grouper and I instantly fell in love with the place. I was like, this is triathlon paradise!
The toughness of cycling around the island appealed to me instantly and I’ve been coming back throughout my career. It’s where I’ve gone at the start of the season to get fit again, or where I would go to lead into a major championship.
The first time I raced Kona as a professional, I did a six-week training block race and then had my breakthrough performance, and I would say I wouldn’t have achieved that without the block at Club La Santa.
In a normal season, how much time would you spend at Club La Santa?
I spend at least 12 weeks at Club La Santa, spread across the year, with one major training camp at the start of the season and one major training camp leading into a race like Kona.
What is about Club La Santa that maybe makes it such a great place to train?
Obviously the weather’s a great help, but I’ve done training camps all over the world and nothing comes close to Club La Santa. It’s just so easy – having three Olympic-sized swimming pools means there’s always lane space, which is impossible to find in the UK.
Having the running track too, having the gym, having so many people that just love triathlon makes for an incredibly positive atmosphere. And then the island is just amazing for cycling. It’s definitely taken me from a very novice cyclist to one of the best in the sport. There really is nowhere in the world that matches Club de Santa, which is why I keep coming back!
You’ve gone from novice to world champion in under ten years and you’ve trained at Club La Santa the whole time. It must be incredible for all the amateur triathletes on resort to see you training?
Yeah, it’s so cool. I guess our sport is all about community. We race alongside amateur athletes so for them to get a glimpse of what’s required to become a professional athlete is incredibly inspiring. And it’s not just myself there, you’ve obviously got Anne Haug and a load of male pros too.
As an amateur, I remember Jan Frodeno being there and I was like, oh my god, Jan Frodeno is here! I was desperate to get a glimpse of him swimming. So I can understand what it feels like because I’ve been on the other side. I’m always happy to give my time to anyone and make sure that they’re having the best time ever at an amazing place.
What advice would you give to someone who’s going on their first training camp? How would you make the most of a trip to Club La Santa?
So as a pro, I would fly my bike out to Lanzarote, but you don’t need to do that. Club La Santa has bikes that you can hire daily for free, or you can pay a bit more for a top-notch TT bike. You can even get a bike fit in the state-of-the-art bike centre – well worth doing if you’re training for your first Ironman.
There are so many other things to do too. If you’ve got kids, you can leave them with the Green Team Kids Club and go do a session. It’s kind of about balancing the training and recovery, which makes somewhere like the Wellness Centre so valuable. You can have a massage, chill out – it’s the perfect place. You can feel like you’re on a training camp, but also feel a little you’re on holiday.
Having access to the food there is incredible too. I often use the half board to make sure I’m fuelling enough. If you’re drastically upping your training for the week that you’re there, it’s essential. You’ve got everything you need to be a triathlete and it’s the perfect place to go with your friends, with your family or maybe with your tri club.
You can also go to Club La Santa to compete. Tell us about the Volcano Triathlon – one of your first ever triathlon events!
I’ve done the event quite a few times – it’s just an incredible race. It’s one of the oldest Olympic distance events, certainly in Spain, if not Europe and it feels like you’ve signed up to a major event. It’s obviously at Club La Santa, so everything’s on site. You’ve got the transition area in the heart of Club La Santa, swimming in the lagoon, and then the bike course is super cool – passing through local villages like Samara.
So when’s your next trip to Club La Santa?
I’ll be there in January for a good block. I’ve been trying to keep as fit as possible since Kona but it’s been very busy! I know in the back of my mind, it will be okay because I’m going to have a good January camp back at Club La Santa and it will be an opportunity to get back to the hard graft – doing what I do best!