There is currently no guidance yet for a return to outdoor racing for professional triathletes so a growing number have gravitated over to virtual platforms.
With the exception of Lionel Sanders, perhaps no one has fully embraced the virtual racing community as much as Lucy Charles-Barclay and her husband Reece.
Back in January, Lucy introduced herself on the Reader Forum and shared the start of their YouTube Channel. She's continued to pop in from time to time with updates from her Z Pro Series races.
We focused this conversation with the 3-time Kona runner-up and defending Challenge Roth winner on how she meticulously prepares for her indoor sessions, how she recovers from the tough ones, and what her equipment set up looks like.
Slowtwitch: Tuesday’s are busy days for Team Charles-Barclay. Can you tell us about the virtual ride and runs you are leading on Zwift?
Lucy Charles-Barclay: We tried to set the bike session (TCB Social Ride every Tuesday 11:30am CST) up in a format that allows for everyone to get something out of it either as a hard session or a social ride. To do this we aim for a flattish group start which can be used as a warm-up, social ride with us and other friends or hitting it hard from the start. Your choice. Later on in the session we try to make sure there is a KOM option or at least a hard segment where people can push on and we can test ourselves as well.
Our track session (TCB Track Club Tuesday’s 9am CST) is just one of our standard weekly speed sessions which we would normally do outside, but we have adapted it to a treadmill workout and really enjoy sharing it with the Zwift run community. Somehow suffering together seems easier than going at it alone.
Slowtwitch: Can you tell us about the pain cave you’ve created?
Lucy: Well, we have tried to re-create Club La Santa to be honest as I think it’s the best training venue in the world. We are fortunate enough to have an Endless Pool full of all the Roka swim tools you could think of. We have bike options from Specialized and the new Wahoo Kickr bike which I use for all my Zwift sessions, and two treadmills so we can both do any run or brick sessions together. This makes training a lot more social. We also have a large strength and conditioning area with weights, plyometrics and flexibility equipment. These are all vital to us but it’s the little things that make the difference for the motivation levels. We have the best lighting system from Moonlight Designs, which really enhances the images of us competing, races and digging deep which are on every wall. Our nutrition is stored in my personalised Red Bull fridge and the sound system goes up to max when it gets really hard.
Slowtwitch: You’ve been an animator and have tasted success in Zwift’s newly launched Z Pro Tri Series. Is training and racing on Zwift opening up a new fan base for you?
Lucy: I think with people spending much more time on Zwift and watching virtual racing it has brought new interest to this scene and the support I have been getting is great. It's quite different spending so much of my time training publicly but I think people like the distraction in this tough time so hopefully I can provide some entertainment.
Slowtwitch: Can you give us some perspective of how the intensity and exertion levels racing indoors compares to outdoors?
Lucy: I guess the main difference for me is that there is no swim first, bike after or racing for more than two hours. So for these reasons the intensity is a lot higher. But, it is as hard as you make it ultimately, so it's important not to throw too many hard races or hard efforts into one week or one block of training. It’s really easy to get carried away and want to race everybody all the time but maybe that is just me as I love racing.
Slowtwitch: Can you walk us through what the hour before clipping in for the start of a Z Pro race looks like for you?
Lucy: Getting my set-up prepared usually starts with a final course check and setting up my nutrition for the race. Check my Kickr bike over to make sure everything is clean and ready to go. A quick warm up with my Theragun which I find useful for activating my glutes and quads and also lets me identify if anything is really sore or stiff so I can do some extra stretching if needed. Then it's time to apply a layer of Amp Human's PR Lotion. These races are really tough and Amp makes a big difference not just in the race to buffer lactate build up but also a massive help for recovery because I know I will be back on the start line in the TTT racing for The Choppers the next day. While the AMP is soaking in it’s time to do all the calibration checks and my official weigh in. Kit on and start my warm-up is next. I aim for 20-30 minutes with a Kickr calibration after 10 mins. Drink a can of Red Bull, set up the webcam, last minute advice from Reece and I am ready to go.
Slowtwitch: How do you go about recovering after these races and intense indoor sessions?
Lucy: I aim to stay on the bike for a 15-20 min cool down ride which really helps clear some lactate and I start on the post race nutrition whilst still on the bike. Once I get off I hit another Amp session and make sure I don’t get cold whilst I stretch a bit in our boxing ring. Shower, another Theragun session and then eat everything I can get my hands on usually whilst cheering Reece on at the end of his race. Wednesdays are definitely a lot more busy and fun then they used to be!
Slowtwitch: Any tips or suggestions you can give to Slowtwitchers looking to take their Zwift racing or group riding to the next level? Any suggestions for simply wanting to engage as spectators?
Lucy: I love the Discord app. It’s a team radio app which lets groups of people talk easily during ride sessions and it makes you feel like a real pro. It's great to hear other people pushing hard during their sessions or get advice from others watching on. Watching the pro races on Zwift is not just great fun but through the commentators knowledge you can learn loads of top tips which can help you in your sessions. That’s where I learned about the super tuck which is a lifesaver at times.
Slowtwitch: Are you finding any way to stay in shape for swimming with pools closed down?
Lucy: We are lucky enough to have an Endless Pool so I can still regularly swim but to be honest having spent so many years swimming every day it is not something I miss. We do a lot of swim strength work to keep us in shape which doesn’t need water at all so if you are struggling then head over to our YouTube Channel to see how you can stay in swim shape.
Photos #1 and #6 by @createdbyaaronp
Photos #2, #3, #4, #5 by @hollycharlesphotography_