With no races to really focus on at present, many athletes are looking for new goals to build towards. Blackzone Coaching athlete Holly Nairn was previously in the throws of Ironman Copenhagen training when the pandemic hit, and like many others was left without any race targets firmed up in the diary. Always one for a challenge, Holly decided to switch focus towards a long distance attempt at Lands End to John O’Groats this August, somewhat a last minute decision. We caught up with Holly ahead of the ride to find out more.

When did you decide to tackle LEJOG?

I decided to tackle the adventure as the coronavirus pandemic was easing and lockdown was beginning to loosen in the UK, but when it was clear that no other races were going to go ahead. I am a teacher and so I like to use my time during the August summer holiday as much as possible and see it as wasted if I don’t do anything that takes me out of my comfort zone.

LEJOG has been on my bucket list for years however I have always been so busy with triathlons in the summer that the time has never been right. Strangely, I was emailed details about this trip through a cycling company and the dates exactly matched up with when I would have been due to fly out and back from Copenhagen for my first Ironman race which I was preparing for before lockdown. In a way I felt like this was fate telling me to do something else.

Have you had time to adapt to any new training?

I haven’t really! It was such short notice as Scotland has only just opened up hotels – this was VERY spur of the moment. Kevin must have been tearing his hair out trying to work out what I was doing! I hope that my running and cycling will have built a good base fitness and my mental stamina doesn’t give in during the last few days of the ride. I am also secretly hoping there might be some other last moment participants on the trip who may not have done quite enough specific training either and I will cycle with them. I definitely think this will be more of a mental than a physical challenge. Kevin has given me excellent turbo/cycling and running workouts and this will help me so much. I am the fittest I have ever been on two wheels so I think it’s now or never.

What are your expectations for the ride itself?

I want to strip back my attitude to cycling, forget about watts and time, and just enjoy the view and what must be THE ultimate UK staycation. I am particularly looking forward to seeing Cornwall and Scotland, I have taken running holidays in both years ago and the scenery is just stunning. My friend Helen gave me some good advice – all she said was ‘Remember to look UP!’ and I will try to remember that on the 15% gradients!

How are you changing your equipment for the ride?

I have very much gone back to basics with my kit. I’ve dusted off my old road bike, added some nicer wheels from my TT bike and my TT saddle which I am used to. I’ve been told, the more basic your bike, the easier it is to fix. I will take a selection of padded shorts, rainwear and loads of spares! Loads of snacks and jelly babies to eat along the way and my camera. I am just so looking forward to an adventure, the four walls of my house have become so much of my world that I need to break free a little bit now. I am just praying and hoping that coronavirus cases continue to fall so the people of the UK and beyond can begin to heal, whatever and wherever your experiences have been.

Head Coach Kevin Henderson – how have you gone about building a training plan for LEJOG?

This was decided at short notice so we have just used the fitness gained from Holly’s Ironman preparation and made it more cycling specific while reducing her run volume for now.

What other factors do you need to consider when building this plan with Holly?

It’s a bit like training a cyclist to do a stage race, incorporating some big back-to-back training days on the bike. The key was to get her used to riding long while being fatigued from the previous day’s riding And dealing with the emotional effect that can have on an athlete.

How long do you expect an athlete like Holly to recover from such an event?

We will take a week to ten days of rest and easy recovery rides, and then see how she is. We aim to build some light structure into her training again after this period. This is important as I find post event euphoria can seriously mask fatigue and athletes want to rush back too soon. This is particularly common in cycling events where the lower impact has less stress on the body structurally. Let’s not forget the stress on the central nervous system the LEJOG will have and also the muscles and joints.

Holly sets out on her adventure on 15th August from Land’s End before riding nearly 1,000 miles north before arriving in John O’Groats nine days later. We wish Holly the best of luck for the ride itself.

If you’re interested in help with your training to be able to tackle an event like LEJOG, then get in touch today.