It's Earth Day. As athletes we have a special connection to our planet - it's our playground. We love her when she plays along and we respect the sometimes frightening conditions she throws at us when she doesn't. The cycling community worships her peaks. Trail runners love the rocky sides of her canyons and the challenge of her deserts. Swimmers cherish her open waters, from the Norwegian fjords to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Plant Earth has something for everyone and therein lies her beauty.
Joe is lucky enough to have experienced altitudes camps. They are pretty intense things, but by definition (for UK-based athletes, at least) they involve quite a bit of travel, often to incredibly scenic locations. Odds are you've heard of the highly Instagram-able Flagstaff in the US and St Moritz in Switzerland, but Joe's heart lies in Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees.
"I love the rhythm of sleep at altitude," he explains. "You live and breathe running all day long. You sleep, eat, run, eat, sleep, run, repeat. It's great! But the best part of it all is that you get to do that in gorgeous scenery and fantastic company." Given the chance, Joe would whizz off back to Font and hit the trails in a heartbeat.
For Arne, the first place that comes to mind when he thinks of the most beautiful training spot isn't too far away. Having spent many family summer holidays in Malaucène in the French Vaucluse, he became intimately infatuated with the lavender fields, hilly terrain, vineyards and olive trees that surround Le géant de Provence - Mont Ventoux. The Tour turned the summit into legend, but for Arne the love started when he watched his parents conquer it every summer either on two wheels or on foot. Now, it's a family tradition. "There's just no other word for it: it's my happy place," he says.
The Belgian also loves where he lives, but it's a complete contrast to the south of France. Right on the North Eastern coast town of Saltburn, he is surrounded by forest, beach and faces only a 10min drive to the North Yorkshire Moors. "If you asked me about my most scenic racing experience, I'd have to tell you about the Castleton Show Run," he recounts. Surrounded by sheep, mist and heather on a cold September morning, Arne took the win at the "fell race on roads" and came home in awe of this unique landscape. The thing is, it's not foreign at all. It's home.
As an integral member of the F1 circuit, Sam has had the privilege of travelling all over the world. From Bahrain to Belgium, from Malaysia to Singapore, he's seen it all. "I would take my bike and train when I could and it was awesome," he recalls. "But there are only so many cityscapes you can run through before you start to appreciate the beauty of what's right on your doorstep." When in London, Sam can't get enough of Richmond Park - and that's coming from a man who's trained in Boulder, Colorado and raced in Hawaii! Battersea Park is another fan-favourite, and its beauty lies in convenient completeness.
They say opposites attract and if taste in training locations is anything to go by, that's true for Sam and Katie. Her heart lies far from London, in the African heights. Katie fell in love with Uganda a few years ago. The atmosphere of Kapchorwa, the beauty of the landscape so high up in the air, the heat, and of course, the massive avocados all form a part of Katie's happy place.
When the pair is in Bakewell, however, they're on the same page. There is such an abundance of trails and roads to choose from. The steep climbs and sharp drops sculpt an ideal scenery for cyclists and runners alike. No wonder the SUMMAT weekend rides and runs attract such a keen attendance! Even Beth Pascall herself says she can get all the training she needs done in the Peak District - hill training, flat intervals, alternating long runs, etc. It's got it all.
For triathlete Jess, exploring the world is a passion - and she loves doing it on two wheels more than anything. "I'm very fortunate to be able to travel the world with my family, friends and bike," she says. This year, she went on a family holiday to Barbados and took her bike along to explore the local roads. "It's just the best way to dip into the day-to-day culture and get a real feel for a place. Barbados is home to such friendly, smiley people!" Of course, those views didn't hurt either.
Her triathlon prowess and love for travelling combined in March to offer her a few firsts. Having secured a spot in the Ironman 70.3 Dubai, Jess headed out to the desert a week early to train, explore (and party) pre-race. This led to a ride around the famous Al Quadra bike track. "Seeing as I live in London it was such a weird experience riding around on a bike-only track in the middle of the desert. Pretty surreal! I will never forget that," she reminisces.
Professional triathlete Indie is lucky enough to have travelled the world for her training and racing too. From a training camp in Lanzarote to racing Challenge Mallorca; from riding the Surrey Hills on her bike to racing up a mountain in the Lake District; from the beaches of Florida to the French Riviera; sounds pretty glamorous, no? But as we established during our chat with Indie about her love for cross-country racing, it's the connection with nature that she appreciates above all else, wherever she is.
"I'm just constantly amazed at the variety of landscapes you can find within a pretty small radius. Lanzarote is basically a moonscape battered by the wind, but then you fly a relatively short distance to the Mediterranean coast of France and you're back in the greenery," she says. "It's great for training your body but it's especially great for the soul to be able to switch it up like that."
Embrace the Wild Frontier
Don't get us wrong. Sometimes a run just has to be done on the treadmill. Sometimes, the weather is just too dangerous to be out there on the bike. But more often than not, try to head out and explore what this planet has to offer - for better or for worse. There is beauty in rain and mud just like there is in blue skies and a summer breeze. As athletes, we should put it all in perspective and realise that we couldn't do what we do without nature being what it is. The very least we could do is appreciate her for it.