So here's a little list of my favorite places to swim, bike, run, AND EAT! in Phuket, as well as the advantages of joining a training camp, for those of you considering coming out to train in beautiful Thailand.
Z-Coaching is run by a real life legend of the sport, Jurgen Zack, and is based in Bang Tao, Phuket, Thailand. The squad consists of athletes from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill levels - from athletes training for their first olympic distance race, to Kona-qualifying age groupers and professionals, such as Ironman athlete Dimity Lee-Duke, and Thailand's top male triathlete, Jaray Jearanai.
For myself personally, what makes Z-Coaching effective and different from other camps is the atmosphere that is fostered during (and outside of) training. As a coach, Jurgen has the unique ability to organize and structure workouts such that this big and varied group of athletes can train together smoothly, with each athlete being challenged according to his/her abilities, and at the same time just having a lot of fun.
He has a quick eye, and is able to assess an athlete's fitness and skill level within a few minutes of a warmup, and accurately place the athlete in the appropriate pace group. That being said, he also has a quick wit and is fast to make jokes, bets, and little challenges within a session, just to keep us on our toes. ;)
For details on participation, fees, and online coaching options, click here.
Despite the laid back vibe and the picture-perfect scenery, training with Z-Coaching is definitely NOT a honeymoon. Everyone is competitive, everyone pushes hard, everyone takes training seriously. The coolest common denominator among these athletes being everyone is laid back, friendly, and has a genuine concern for the performance and well-being of the group.
Pool swims are done at the 25-m covered Cherngtalay Pool, which is always at a perfect temp, especially during summer. I hate how the outdoor pools at home get so hot at this time, it's like swimming in sinigang soup.
On Wednesdays, the group goes to Bang Tao Beach in front of the Outrigger Resort. There is a section with ropes and buoys - perfect for beginners. On Saturdays, the swim is at Nai Thon Beach, where athletes have the choice of swimming out to two other beaches, depending on the distance you want to go.
Meeting point for the bike sessions is at Siam Bike Tours on Boat Avenue. Perfect spot to pick up some tubes, CO2, kits, and other items before heading out. They also offer bike rental services and tours.
Phuket has everything for riding - long, fast, flat highways; undulating climbs; steep hills; and narrow, technical roads. Riding with this squad will definitely improve your handling, climbing, TT skills, and group riding skills.
Most runs are done around the Laguna Resorts area. There is also the option of running a little trail loop near the beach road, and hill reps out at the beautiful Bangwad Dam, some 10km out from Laguna.
Now on to the most important part - my favorite EATS.
I love Thai food, and I try as much as possible to go where the locals go. Big thanks to Jaray and Smart for showing me the way. :) If you're not too fond of street food, I've got some foreigners' faves in here, too.
NIGHT MARKET FAVES
I live for Friday night market at Boat Avenue! Right after the evening long run, I rush to take a shower and head straight to the stalls, taking a lap around before I pick up two or three or five snack items while waiting for my pad thai to cook. Don't miss the best coconut ice cream in the world. Served in an actual coconut with free toppings of stuff that wouldn't normally count as dessert, but hey! It's absolutely delicious!
THAI FOOD RESTOS
Bang Tao is littered with small local restos and kiosks serving all sorts of dishes with rice, pad thai, noodle soups. I've never met a Thai food place I didn't like. Just make sure to ask if it's spicy or not. When the Thais say it's spicy - it really is!
I say when in Thailand, eat Thai food. It's always good, it's much cheaper, and you need to get used to the local bacteria so you don't get sick easily before race day. ;) That said, here are some of my non-Thai food faves.
Now it's 5:35 PM, I haven't packed a single thing, and I'm supposed to head out for my last dinner with the squad. Time to move my ass! I'll see you tomorrow, Vietnam!!!