Friday, August 17, 2018

Deposit in for Epic Camp France 2019!

Yesterday I submitted my deposit for Epic Camp France 2019:

I could not be more excited about this! After Kona in 2016, I took some time off triathlon to enjoy other aspects of life a little more. Since then, I think I've swam maybe four times, run a bunch, and biked some. Suffice to say, I've got a lot of work to do before I'm ready for ECF2019.

My goals will be a little different this time. In previous years, I went deep trying to win the yellow jersey, and honestly, I think it made the camp less fun than it could have been. Don't get me wrong, it was fantastic going deeper into the fitness well than I ever thought possible, but I was also pushing to get to Kona and EC was a means to an end.

This year, I have no ironman races planned. I will still go to the camp as fit as humanly possible, but I was it seems fun, take pictures of the beautiful views, and drink a touch more French wine. I want to get to know the campers a little bit more. I also want to "pass the torch" and cheer on the next yellow jersey winner.

I also want to post a list of things I've learned from previous camps that will help me prepare for next summer:

1.) Be a fit as humanly possible and taper like it's your A-race. Epic Camp is no joke. For the entire duration of the camp, you'll be expected to work out 8-10 hours a week including high intensity sessions. Few people have ever gone this big. Treat it with the respect it deserves.

2.) Don't blow your load on Day 1. ECF2019 will be 11 days long. You need to strategically exert your effort. Go easy when you have the opportunity to go easy. Go hard-ish in the few situations where it's appropriate to go hard.

3.) Bring a large duffle with wheels. The camp support crew will love you for this.

4.) Bring slippers that you can comfortably wear *with socks on* in your day pack. We will take several breaks during the bike rides, and it's nice to take your cycling shoes off for a few minutes. Bringing traditional flip flops doesn't work well. Something like Crocs would make the most sense.

5.) Arrive healthy to the camp. There's nothing worse than missing out on events because you're injured.

6.) Arrive EARLY! Last time my bike didn't arrive until day 10 of the camp. I had to rent a bike I wasn't used to for the first part of the camp, and I didn't have my wetsuit. This killed me. It also made earning yellow extremely difficult as it put me way behind.

7.) Bring the right phone charger!

8.) Bring any expected medications! Last time I got a pretty nasty fungal infection during the camp.

9.) Bring 2.5% Hydrocortisone cream. VERY IMPORTANT. Saddle sores will absolutely rip you apart. The stronger 2.5% Hydrocortisone cream makes this tolerable. But be careful: Using this cream too often is not good for your skin. It thins the skin and can do more harm in the long run with prolonged use.

10.) Train on hills as much as you can. Train on mountains. Be a GREAT climber on the bike. ECF2019 will have an enormous amount of climbing. I also want some challengers for the Polkadot Jersey. :-)

More tips to be added as I think about them...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ironman World Championship 2016

Ironman World Championship 2016

Swim 01:00:36
Bike 05:27:54
Run 04:43:25
Overall 11:20:30

Kona was an incredible experience, and here’s how it went down.  The plan was to spend the first few days at the Mauna Lani resort and later move to a condo on Ali'i Dr., so after landing at the Kona airport, we made a quick stop in Kona for lunch and drove to the Mauna Lani.  It was hard to contain my excitement when I started seeing all of the athletes riding on the Queen K highway.

The Mauna Lani is about 45 minutes north of Kona.  It is an incredibly beautiful resort, and I was in heaven as soon as we got there.  The hotel is extremely open and exposed with its own private beach.  Our room wasn't ready when we got there, so we went for a casual walk around the property.  There are so many tide pools and tropical fish - so beautiful!!

Some of the highlights while staying at the Mauna Lani included: Dinner at the Canoe House, driving up to the visitors center on Mauna Kea, Waipio Valley, Hilo, and dinner at the Hilton where we had to take a boat to the Boat Landing Cantina.  I really wish we had more time to explore the island, but we’d have to leave that for another time. The goal of this trip was KONA!

On Wednesday we moved to condo at Sea Village on Ali'i.  This was such a great decision because we were able to relax for a while before we immersed ourselves in all things Ironman.

The energy in town was overwhelming.  Everywhere you looked there were super fit people running, biking, and swimming.  Sponsors and pros were everywhere.  I bought everything I could from the Ironman store, and sponsors were giving out so much free swag.  I felt like a rockstar!

Thursday morning we participated in the Underpants Run.  Everyone was totally into it and having a great time.  Afterward I went for a short swim out to the coffee boat.  This probably wasn't such a great idea since I was in my underwear and didn't have goggles, but I made it out there anyway.

The main event on Friday was bike dropoff.  My dropoff time was 2:30pm, and the line was insane as soon as we got there.  The feeling continued to be electric.  As we were checking in, each of the bike sponsors were giving people swag that had their respective bikes.  Sadly, Specialized wasn't there, but it didn't really take away from the experience.  There were tons of media people looking at the bikes and checking what kind of equipment everyone was using.  And I even had my own volunteer to help me and walk me through transition.  SUCH a cool experience.  We finished the night with a pasta party at the condo.  Brigitte was incredible and made this huge dinner for our friends and family.

Saturday was RACE DAY.  We woke up at 4:30, but of course I barely slept.  My parents drove us to the start, and Brigitte waited with me as long as she could before I had to disappear to get my numbers and set things up in transition.  I had a few minutes to chill before the gun went off at 6:55am.  It was a deep water start, so we all filed into the water and waited.

The cannon went off exactly on time, and immediately things got pretty rough.  Since this was a world championship, I expected the swim to be pretty physical, and it was.  For the first several hundred meters, I tried to stay out of trouble, avoid getting kicked in the face, and find some feet to follow.  I couldn't see anything with all of the flailing going on, so I just followed the crowd and hoped for the best.  Eventually I found some feet and followed them all the way to the turnaround.  People tried to steal my feet, so at times I had to defend my position.  I didn't want to throw elbows or kick extra hard, but I did what I needed to defend my position.

My watch buzzed at 30 minutes just after the turnaround, so I knew I was right where I wanted to be.  The way home was much less aggressive, and I was actually able to do some of my own sighting.  As we approached the pier, I knew I was close to 60 minutes.  I was feeling good since I was drafting the entire time, so I picked it up and passed a few people.  I reached the steps just after 60min.  I was aiming for a sub-60 swim, but given how things went, I was perfectly happy.

T1 was a breeze.  I stripped off my incredible swim speedo, and the volunteer helped me put on my race kit.  It was a little challenging being all wet, but we eventually got it on.  I grabbed my bike shoes and ran full-stride towards my bike.  Running with bike shoes on is a pain, so I always just carry them with me until the last minute.  I got to my bike and out of transition, and it was game-on!

The crowd was electric coming out of T1.  I immediately saw my family and Brigitte and gave them a huge smile!  The first seven miles were around town.  There were so many people that it was hard not to have fun.  The roads were pretty narrow, so it was hard not to draft.  And after a short out-and-back, we were up Palani and out on the Queen K.

Things changed quickly though.  It was already getting pretty warm, and the winds were picking up as well.  I was hoping for some kind of tailwind, but as best as I can remember, that never happened.  For the first 25 miles or so out on the Queen K, it was pretty stiff crosswinds.  I was trying to race conservatively since I knew it would be a long day, and because of this choice, it seemed like everyone was flying past me.  However, even in the first 25 miles, “conservative” didn’t really feel as easy as it should have.

Ten miles out from Kawaihae, we hit a stiff headwind.  And it was BRUTAL.  You know it’s tough when you’re pushing hard and barely hitting 10mph.  I was so happy to make that left turn and hit a little downhill for a break.

The climb up to Hawi wasn’t bad.  Or rather, it wouldn’t have been bad on any other day, but today it was definitely not pleasant.  It’s tough to know exactly where the climb starts since you just sort of drift upward from the ocean.  The views on this part of the island were gorgeous.  The best part about this section of the race was getting to see the pros zoom by.  You never really have any idea of how they’re doing except when you pass them on the out-and-backs.  It is definitely a treat to be racing on the same course as them!

After the turn-around was when I noticed exactly how hot it was.  Just before returning to Kawaihae, I got a gust of that hot air.  You know the feeling - when the breeze actually feels like it’s heating you up rather than cooling you down.  It was at this point that I realized my day was going to be a lot harder than I wanted.  I was sweating like crazy and had salt everywhere.  I also realized that I probably wasn’t keeping up with my nutrition plan which meant bonking and dehydration were inevitable.  Man that wind, heat, and humidity is deceiving!

The last bit of the bike was a huge drag.  I had ridden or driven it a bunch of times, but it just seemed to never end.  The last part of an ironman bike leg is never pleasant, but for obvious reasons this was so much worse.  I can’t even begin to describe how good it felt to get off that bike.

T2 was way more chill than T1.  I could tell that I was bushed, so I took my time just to get a break from the heat.  I specifically remember putting a cold towel over my head in and using part of it to wipe the salt out of my eyes.

I wanted to walk out of T2, but WTF, this is Kona!?!  I put on a good show for about a mile before walking.  I can’t tell you how embarrassing this was.  I tried to run with my friend Dave for a bit, but I just didn’t have it.  Realizing just how long this day was going to be was so tough mentally.  Five hours maybe?  Six hours?  I had no idea, but I knew that I would finish no matter how long it took.

I did the run/walk thing as best I could, and I made a friend who essentially carried me through the first 10 miles.  The climb up Palani was terrible.  I walked the entire thing, and seeing my friends and family made it worse.  It couldn’t have been fun watching me slowly pass by suffering like that.  I still had 15 or so miles left at this point.

The Queen K was more of the same.  Run->walk.  Mostly walk.  So many people had passed by this point that I wasn’t sure there were any people left!  I slowly descended into the Natural Energy Lab and made the final turn-around.  The sun was setting, and it was actually starting to cool off!!  I was basically broken at this point but still moving forward.

I finally made it back to town.  I knew I just had a little downhill down Palani and a few turns left before I was home.  I desperately wanted to run the last mile, but I couldn’t.  I walked part of it.  I think I even managed to over exert myself and get a slight side stitch while trying to run.  It was completely dark at this point, but I made that finally right turn down Ali’i Drive.

When people say there’s no finish line experience like Kona, I’m pretty sure they’re right.  It was the most incredible that I’ve ever seen.  So many lights and people.  Everyone is cheering and screaming.  The flags of every nation line the chute.  Somehow I managed to spot Brigitte to give her a quick kiss before slowly jogging the last little bit down the carpet.  It was magical.

I didn’t really hang around in the after party area.  Instead I wanted to change out of my race kit and race shoes.  My feet were hurting so badly from absorbing too much water that was pooling in my shoes.  We missed the dinner reservation because I finished too slowly, but we just headed back to our favorite spot, Lava Java, for some food.  Interestingly enough, Sebastian Kienle was eating dinner at the table next to us after getting 2nd that day.

So now six months later, I have a ton of feelings about the race.  I don’t know why it took so long to write this, but part of me just wasn’t happy with how it turned out.  Embarrassing myself out on the run course did not feel good.  I know that I didn’t train hard enough to earn a rockstar performance, but I did put in enough work in order to finish well.  I also think part of it was the fact that my heart wasn’t quite in it that day.  After qualifying in July, it was tough to motivate myself for training and for another race just a few months later. Kona was the victory lap, so expectations were low.  However, despite being low, I kind of feel like I exceeded my expectations, but in the opposite direction.

And with that, I’m done with Ironman (for now.)  It’s been a fun five year journey, but I want my life back.  Getting to Kona consumes every aspect of your life, and I want to feel what it’s like to be normal for a while.  I want to focus on doing one sport well.  I want to put the same amount of energy into my career as I did for Kona.  I will always ride my bike, but I don’t think I’ll be racing it again anytime soon.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ironman Vineman 2016 - Kona bound!

The day started at 5am with my usual breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries, coffee, and a banana.  I also added in a bagel with peanut butter on it since I knew it was going to be a long day.  Around 5:45am, we started making our way down to transition.  Thankfully my parents rented a place that was less than a 5min walk to the beach.  This made everything super low stress, and I could just focus on relaxing.
Transition closed right at 6:15, and I was lucky to pump my tires and get my nutrition all set up.  I put two iced oatmeal z-bars, an Em’s power cookie bar, and a Spring Sports Nutrition gel in my fuelsalage on my bike.  I also taped down my BTA water bottle since I didn’t want that thing rattling for 112 miles.

The wetsuit went on really quickly, and I got into the start corral around 6:20am.  This was by far the earliest I’ve ever gotten to the start, and I couldn’t believe I had to wait around for 25 minutes!  I don’t like waiting because all of the thoughts about the day just sit there and stew and make my stomach hurt.  I generally prefer to be rushed and almost miss the start.  No time to worry that way!  Waiting wasn’t all bad though.  I was able to kiss Brigitte before the start and relax.

The swim start was about as low stress as you can imagine.  We went into the water single file, and it felt like there were maybe 10 people around me.  I wasn’t super motivated at the start, so I let most of the faster guys go without much of a fight from me.  I was actually expecting to slowly wade into the water, but most of the people around me ran and dove in.  I knew I wasn’t going to win the race in the swim, so I chose to not burn any matches and take things at my own pace.

The swim itself was extremely mellow.  The river winds back and forth a little bit.  There’s also some light fog and cloudy conditions, so visibility wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping.  At times I had to look up three or four times before I saw the buoy.  They always had a smaller buoy between the bigger ones, and I think that messed me up.  Yellow was blending in with the yellow kayaks.  I could tell that I wasn’t swimming a very straight swim because there were a few times when bodies were criss-crossing.  I would catch a buoy off in the distance, but the guy swimming next to me would be 45 degrees off course.  Instead of chasing a draft, I chose to swim my own line and mostly ignore what others were doing.

But overall the swim wasn’t bad.  I never pushed at all.  Maybe it’s because I felt a little sluggish, but I also just planned to cruise it.  I was expecting to have a slower swim, so I was pretty happy when I came out of the water at 58min.  No one wins an Ironman in the swim, so drama-free and mostly relaxed is about the best you can ask for.

T1 was a breeze.  The wetsuit strippers were great, and I grabbed my bag and was off.  All I had in my transition bag was my shoes and helmet.  Compared to previous races, this seemed like nothing, so I did a double take to mentally make sure I didn’t forget anything.  I put my helmet on and ran out of the changing tent carrying my bike shoes.  This is really the key to a fast ironman transition. The transition areas are so huge that running with bike shoes will take you all day.  Run barefoot and don’t put your shoes on until the last minute.  Luckily my bike was all the way at the end of the rack too.  That certainly helps.

The day was projected to be in the mid 80’s, but out on the bike at 7:45am, it was pretty damn cold.  Mid-50’s might not seem “cold,” but it’s pretty chilling when you’re wet and wearing a razor thin singlet.  Most of me was ok with that though.  I race well in the cold because you don’t sweat as much which means hydration isn’t as critical.  The only parts of me that didn’t like the cold were my hands and feet that went numb.  The trade-off for not needing as much hydration is that I couldn’t get to my bottles if I wanted to.  My hands just weren’t functional for the first few hours.

Unlike the swim, the race really begins on the bike.  I had a goal to push 240-250w based on some performance testing that I did at Breakaway Performance in San Francisco.  Almost immediately I was sitting at 248w.  I told myself a million times that I was going to be smart throughout the entire race, so I internally kudos’ed myself on that.  I was right where I wanted to be, and I was passing people like crazy.  I didn’t know my place, but I figured I was probably in the top 20 as far as amateurs.  Only one dude passed me: A guy from the EMJ team who was built like a brickhouse.  There’s no way I would be able to keep up with him, so I reconciled that by hoping I would catch him on the run.  “Swim, over-bike, walk,” is what I kept telling myself.

Eventually things thinned out and got pretty boring like I expected them to.  To help with that, I focused diligently on nutrition.  That was part of my whole “being smart” plan.  The goal was to drink a bottle of gatorade per hour to help with hydration and electrolyte needs and consume ~300cal/hr to help with energy.  Gatorade offset that a little bit, so I was supplementing with Clif gu shots every aid station.  I only had three bars on my bike, so I had to use those somewhat sparingly.

And apparently my aid station strategy was impressive (according to Brigitte.)  For most aid stations, I would start off by throwing out my empty bottles, grabbing a gatorade and putting it in my rear cage, grab a clif shot and eat it immediately, and grab water to wash things down.  All within the span of about 30 yards.  Again, doing things smartly, I was willing to sacrifice a little speed to get what I needed.  I knew it would pay dividends later in the race.

By halfway, things were starting to get a little interesting.  My crotch was starting to chafe, and my lower back was getting a little tight.  The back thing was fine, but the chafing I knew would be a problem.  It wasn’t until the northern-most part of the loop that I got some relief.  I don’t know why, but peeing on that descent helped a ton.  Either the pee or the water I washed it off with calmed things down.  Very thankful for that.

The last 30 miles of the ride were mostly a cooldown for me.  I consciously backed off on the wattage.  My average dropped from 248w down to ~230w.  That’s a pretty big drop, but I didn’t want to regret over biking.  I was excited to get out on that run.  I have been dreaming about feeling good starting the marathon, and this was the way to make it happen.  However, even with backing off in a pretty big way at the end of the bike, I could tell that my legs were still pretty crushed.  The 4000 feet of climbing ate into my muscles in a big way.  Run goals would have to be adjusted appropriately.

Coming into T2, I was with one pro and two other amateurs.  All along the bike, the pro that I was with kept saying that we were in the top five amateurs.  That felt really incredible.  I figured I was doing well, but I didn’t know I was doing THAT well.  I didn’t let it get to my head and just continued on with the plan.  As a result, the changing tent was entirely empty.  I’ll take the first chair on the right, thank you!

T2 was a little longer as there was a little bit more to do.  Socks are necessary for a marathon, so I needed to put those on.  Hat, run belt, and shoes too.  It turns out this run belt would be the key to my success.

I came out of T2 running with one of the other amateurs.  Thankfully he wasn’t in my age group.  Ironman marathons are not fast, so I started talking to him.  I didn’t catch his name, but he used to be a pro, and he was hoping to KQ.  I told him that was my goal too.  I told him that I don’t know if I can hold the current pace for the rest of the race, and he gave me the most valuable piece of advice.  He said, “All you have to do is believe.”

I ran with this guy for a little bit, but I lost him when I went to the porta-potty at mile 2.  I eventually caught up again and passed him since we had different race strategies.  Leading up to the race, I was terrified of having a meltdown from the heat on the run.  From almost the first one, I started walking the aid stations.  I saw Jan Frodeno do this in Kona, so I knew it could work.  The goal was to get what you needed and keep running.  Missing ice or water or gatorade early would kill you in the end, so again, doing things smart, I started to bank calories and heat management early.  I was pouring ice down my back and shorts and drinking gatorade and splashing water all over me.

Quick aside: I started working with a company called Spring Sports Nutrition which developed energy gels made from natural materials.  The owner and I bonded pretty quickly, and I immediately picked up on his brilliance.  He has a PhD in Human Nutrition, and he has done more research on sports nutrition than just about anyone on the planet.  Anyway, he sold me on trying his gels in my training to see how they worked for me.  Long story short, they were incredible.  It was like my stomach disappeared.  Never once did I feel low on energy, and I never had any GI distress.  That’s a huge win in my book since my stomach basically shut down in all previous ironman races.

And this brings me to my nutrition strategy for the run: One Spring energy gel (peanut butter) every 30 minutes.  And to prevent cramps, two salt tabs every hour.  Realistically I would get a few more calories since I was supplementing with gatorade and eventually coke.  AND IT WORKED.  My stomach was always in a good place, and I never felt low on energy.  I did eventually up the salt tab intake since I felt some cramping in my forearms (precursor to cramping in other places.)  The biggest issue was the extreme muscle fatigue.  Nothing except biking easier could fix that.

The run was a pretty slow grind though.  At any given time, I was running at a pace that I felt I could sustain for 26 miles.  Initially this was ~7:15 pace, but that slowed down considerably to just under 8min pace by the end.  Walking the aid stations and hill after hill after hill on the run eventually wore me down.  I did get passed by someone in my age group, but I also ended up passing that brickhouse that got me on the bike.  I wanted to say, “At least you had a good bike split,” when I passed, but I had more tact than that.  So, Reid Foster, if you’re reading this, at least you had a good bike split. ;-)

The run got darker and darker though.  For me, mile 10 was a huge mental wall.  That is where I’ve died in all of my previous ironmans.  But as I was approaching mile 10, I just kept reminding myself to believe.  I would think some negative thoughts, and then I would immediately remind myself what that guy said: Believe.  Nothing was hurting so bad that I couldn’t keep running forward.  So I did.  I thought that I would eventually cramp up and be reduced to a walk, but then I would believe that I could run until the end.  And so I did.  The miles kept ticking up slowly one by one.

Eventually I made it to the turn-around on the third and final lap, 4.5 miles to go.  I was counting down the minutes until I could stop.  I had just over 30 minutes left of running, and I just took my final Spring gel.  I figured that I had run all the way until that point, so I knew I could hobble along just a few more miles without walking.  I made that left turn to go up that massive hill, and the only thing that got me up it was knowing that it was the highest point on the course.  “It was all downhill from there.”

Somehow I got a second (or tenth) wind running that 26th mile.  I picked it up through all of the spectators and even managed a decent stride coming down the chute.  I kept checking back to see if there was anyone on my heels, but thankfully I was clear.  There actually wasn’t anyone in sight, so I had it all to myself.  That is a very cool feeling.  For a brief moment the pain went away.

I finished third in my age group and (at the time) 4th age grouper (later to bumped to 5th as soon as Kevin Coady finished.)  Based on previous races, I wasn’t sure how many Kona slots my age group would get.  I saw some races that gave us two, but with ~10% representation, I was hoping for three.

I went to bed not knowing if I had made it or not, and honestly I didn’t care.  I just had the race of my life.  I had the smartest and most patient race I could have hoped for.  My execution was perfect.  If the numbers dictated that I wouldn’t go to Kona, then at least I went out with the best possible performance that I could have hoped for.

Thankfully that wasn’t the case. :)  Turns out my age group received three slots.  I nearly pulled a muscle in my face from smiling so hard.  No asterisks attached to this.  I got a legit slot, no rolldown, in the toughest age group.  Booyah!

Now that Facebook and Instagram notifications have died down, things are a little weird.  Kona was a five year goal for me.  It seems a little weird to be able to check that box, and now I’m filled with all of those, “What now?” thoughts.  I know what now though.  Now I have to plan a trip to Kona that’s only a few months away.  Now I’m going to focus on my startup that’s going to explode (once we get funding!!)

I was talking to Brigitte, and I told her that, in a weird way, the race itself was a little lackluster.  Except for struggling on the run a little, it was a pretty relaxed race.  I’m sitting here three days later, and I feel almost fully recovered.  But then she made me realize that qualifying for Kona didn’t just happen on Saturday.  It happened every time I woke up and made the decision to train my ass off over the past five years.  It happened when I woke up at 5am to make the 5:20am masters swim workout (once.)  It happened when I biked up Mount Diablo four times.  It happened when I bonked so hard on Tunitas Creek that I almost had to crawl home.  It happened when I would crush every single track Tuesday workout.  And it happened when I went so insanely deep at Epic Camp and swam 100x100m on the tenth day of camp and won the triathlon on the eleventh.  When you add it all up, the race itself really is the easy part. :)

And like any good race report, I would like to thank some people:

  1. My parents: My #1 fans who drove 2500 miles across the country to see my race A FOURTH TIME.  Four years in a row they did this.  They put up with my pre-race shit without even blinking an eye.  Logistics are always taken care of, and when I drop F-bombs the morning of the race, it’s immediately forgotten.  And if you thought I was happy about qualifying for Kona, you should have seen my mom who has been dreaming about Hawaii for 35 YEARS!  This one is for you, mom.  Congrats on your Hawaii vacation.
  2. Brigitte: Tied for #1 fan!  Thank you so much for being there day after day after day.  I can’t tell you how many plans we’ve had to change to work around training.  It means so much to me to have you by my side supporting me.  I cannot wait to return the favor for all of your goals!
  3. My cheer squad: Brigitte, Michelle, Mike, Wilder, Sarah, Astan, Alex, Amy, Nick, Appleby, and everyone else who was following at home.  I looked forward to every lap because I knew exactly where my cheer squad would be.  And without fail, it picked me up every single time.  It’s impossible to walk when people are cheering for you!  Thank you for making the 2+ hour drive both ways!
  4. David Roche: Thank you for coaching me through the good times and bad.  There were a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but you gave me some tough advice when I needed it.
  5. Rafal from Spring Sports Nutrition.  Your gels were absolutely ESSENTIAL to my success.  GI issues have killed me race after race, and this time I finally felt what it was like to run without worrying about my stomach.
  6. John Newsom and the entire Epic Camp France crew.  Epic Camp France was an opportunity to go as deep as I wanted, and I was very thankful for that experience.  John Newsom set up a wonderful camp.  Everything was organized incredibly well, and the support crew was top notch.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Epic Camp France Day 11

Today was a day filled with internal turmoil.  John said that he would not be tacking on today, and I was just over two points away from yellow.  If I tacked on, then it would come down to whoever won the triathlon race today.  Tacking on after the race is a little unsportsmanlike, but it’s technically within the rules.

I decided to tack on in the morning before the race.  I wanted to do an easy 30k ride just to close the points gap a little.  Closing the gap a little would give me a wider buffer for the triathlon race.  I’ve been getting up really early this entire camp, so getting up early to ride at 6:30am was no big deal.  I just headed towards Thonos again since it’s a reasonably easy downhill on the way out and an easy spin on the way back.

I was back by 7:45 for breakfast and had a lot of time to mentally prepare for the race.  We rolled out at 9am and spun up the hill to the lake.  We set up our transitions and got a ride to the far end of the lake to do the swim.

The swim was a long “drag race” from one end to the other.  I FINALLY was able to swim in my wetsuit, and it felt fantastic.  The freezing cold water didn’t seem so bad.  Actually, it was quite nice and refreshing.  I stayed within sight of John for most of the swim, but towards the end he got away from me.  I wasn’t sure just how far, but I imagine he had three or four minutes on me.

I got out on my bike quickly, but as soon as the climb started, I dropped my chain.  It got jammed between the crank and the frame, so I had to muscle it out and sliced my thumb in the process.  It was bleeding a lot, but with the adrenaline, I couldn’t feel a thing.  Given that I didn’t know how far ahead John and Shannon were, I dug super deep and biked as hard as I could.  I knew there was a big descent that I could recover on, so I wouldn’t give up much going hard.  About halfway up, I caught Shannon, and I could see John with 1km to go to the summit.

I am a pretty good descender, so I figured I could probably catch John on the way down.  I wasn’t suicidal on the descent, but I was definitely a bit reckless.  It paid off though; I caught John just before the bottom of the descent before town.  We still had a short 2km climb back to the lake, so there was still a bit of riding left to do.

John got to T2 just as I was leaving, so I stepped on the gas.  I didn’t feel like I was running all that fast, but it was enough to hold John off.  At each turn around the lake, I looked back and saw him slowly fading.  I was still expecting him to surge, so I kept the pace as high as I could for all three laps.  I crossed first and heard that John had fallen back quite a bit.  I finished right at 38min 10k pace for 9km.  Given that this was the last day of camp, I’m pretty blown away by that.  We all hung around until everyone finished.  It was the activity of the camp for most, so it was pretty emotional.  Some smiled, some laughed, and some cried.

Now this is where the internal turmoil starts for me.  Given that I won the race, I was less than a point behind yellow.  I could tack on and take yellow, or I could let John have it.  He said he wouldn’t tack on, so it was essentiall my call.

I decided to do it.  I tacked on a 30k bike for that last point that I needed.  A lot of people are going to make me feel bad about this, but I don’t feel bad for a second.  There are a lot of reasons why I did it too.  I was handicapped this entire camp.  In case you didn’t know, I got my bike and wetsuit at night on day 9 which meant for nine days I was fighting and uphill battle.  On day one, I missed a competition that would have netted me three points which meant I would have had a solid lead for yellow for the entire camp.  For that reason, I needed to make up points whenever I had the opportunity, and it just so happened that that opportunity was on the very last day.

And that’s a wrap.  Another Epic Camp in the books.  I look forward to enjoying future camps and not chasing any jerseys.  I’m done with the points competition.  Future camps will be all about drinking beer, eating ice cream, and enjoying being on my bike with cool people.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Epic Camp France Day 10

For anyone reading this, I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures over the past few days.  I will add them as soon as I get back home, but right now I need to prioritize sleep for the last day.

Going into camp, I was legitimately scared of day 10.  This was one of the few days that I legitimately didn’t think I could finish.  Day 10 is 100x100m in the pool in Morzine.  I’ve never swam that before, and swimming definitely isn’t my strength.  Due to the route, this was also the day that John and I needed to do our fast 10k run, so that happened too.
The day started early.  John wanted to drive up to the lake at 6:30am to do the fast 10k while it was cool out.  We started with an easy warmup, but I started first since John had to find the bathroom.  I ran the path before, and it was a really shitty run.  The trail is very rocky, and every step is an opportunity to roll your ankle.  This would make it very challenging to run quickly.
I started off pretty quickly, but I felt like it was a sustainable pace.  I didn’t knew ahead of time that I needed to run 3:48/km pace, but I made a point to not look at my average pace at all during the run.  The first time I looked at my watch was after one lap: 3km in 10:45.  I had no idea what the pace was, but if I maintained, I could do 9km in just under 33min.  Knowing that, I just focused on placing every step perfectly and maintaining the current pace.  I finally had my fast running shoes, and running in them felt great.  Laps two and three passed reasonably quickly, but the final 1km was tough.  I ended up finishing in 36:40.  I was VERY pleased with that.  It was 10 seconds faster than Newsom, and it was nearly a PR for me.  And on day 10 of Epic Camp!
The next few hours were relaxing as I mentally prepared for the big 100x100’s.  Newsom went for an easy ride, but given that I was already scared, I took it easy.
Going to the pool was nerve-wracking.  I think everyone was nervous.  It helped that we were all doingo this swim set together, but it was still tough.  I went out very, very conservatively at 2:00/100m pace.  It turns out this was way too easy.  I was consistently coming in on 1:26, so I had over 30sec rest.  I was also starting to get really cold.  Eventually I started going on 1:45, and I was able to maintain it relatively easily.  Every 20th 100 we were allowed to take it easy and rest.  I skipped the first two, but at 6000m, I started eating food.  I didn’t need it, but I know my body could use it.
Eventually the swim set ended, and high fives were had all around.  There were still some people swimming though, so we had to wait quite a while for everyone to finish.  This was a bit of a mistake on my part.  I should have immediately ordered food at the pool.  Instead I decided to wait.
We didn’t end up eating lunch until 3pm - a good two hours after finishing the swim.  This was bad for recovery, but it was also bad because I kind of wanted to get some riding done.  Missed opportunity.  We rushed back to start a long run by 4pm.  If I wasn’t going to ride, I definitely couldn’t miss doing my last two hour run.
The lunch mistake came back to bite me hard.  I felt like complete shit for the first hour of the run.  Both my stomach was a mess, and I had to pee every five minutes.  On top of that, my body was aching like you wouldn’t believe.  I was barely moving.  This was probably the slowest two hour run of my life.  I ran up the river trail to the waterfall and back down the other side until the trail ended.  I made it 21k in just over two hours.
The end of that run marked the end of the training window too.  We had a nice dinner, and after John’s monster day, he finished two points ahead and back into yellow.  Waiting for people for lunch and missing the opportunity to bike and feeling like shit on the run were unfortunate mistakes.  Oh well, there’s still one last day.  I don’t want to be an asshole and tack on after the triathlon race, but I might.  It depends how badly I want yellow...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Epic Camp France Day 9

Day 9 was by far my lowest point in this camp.  It was the most mentally challenging day that I’ve had in a long time.
The day started off pretty well.  We had a relatively late breakfast and started rolling at 8:30.  It was an easy 5k descent into town before hitting the first KOM of the day.  I started off pretty strong, but Newsom, Shannon, and JB were on my wheel.  We were all pushing fairly hard, but halfway up the climb the three of them took off.  It was very disheartening to see them all slowly pull away.  With about 5k to go, I saw JB struggling a little bit.  He was falling off of Shannon’s wheel, and I felt like I could catch him.  This gave me a second wind, and I caught him with two km’s to go.  With 500m to go, I looked back, and he was too far behind to sprint which meant I could soft pedal to the top.  I later found out that Shannon out  sprinted Newsom.  This was BIG news because it meant that I was solidly in the lead.  I was already ahead, but only losing one place to Newsom meant that the KOM jersey was safe.  We quickly descended and regrouped at the right turn at the bottom to make sure everyone made it.
The next climb was not a KOM, so we took it slowly together.  And then disaster struck.  The road was entirely gravel, and a pebble jumped up into my rear derailleur.  As a result, my derailleur ripped off and got stuck in my wheel.  DAMMIT.  Not again!  This is exactly what happened in Canada.  Everyone else went on, and I waited for Ian to save the day.  Only he couldn’t.  He had three spare derailleur hangers, but none of them fit my bike.  I was destined to finish the ride in the van.
The ride in the van was demoralizing.  I saw my fellow campers out there crushing themselves, and all I could do is sit and watch.  Even though it was totally out of my control, I felt disgraceful wearing the yellow jersey.  Oli and I supported everyone for a bit, but we eventually drove on to the accommodation in Montriond.
Once we got here, I immediately grabbed my run and swim stuff and headed to the lake.  It was a 2.5km run uphill to the lake which I was not happy about.  I ran slowly, and once I got to the lake, I ran even slower around it until I hit 8km.  The trail around the lake is total crap.  The rocks are way too big, and I felt like I was going to roll my anlke with every step.
Once I hit 8km, I put on my sleeveless wetsuit and got into the water.  Holy shit was it cold!  I swam as long as I could, but I could barely manage 1700m before my body was ready to shut down.  I got out and shivered for about 10 minutes before I could even think about taking off the wetsuit.
The one saving grace as that my bike was scheduled to arrive in Morzine today.  We hired a taxi to drive my bike from La Grave to Morzine.  We agreed to pay 400 euros, but when the guy got closer, he told us that the price went up to 450.  And when he finally got here, he demanded 512!!  This was insane, and both Ian and I were fuming.  There was a minor confontation, but the guy eventually let me have my bike.  The three of us were shaking as we walked back to the chalet.
I was reinvigorated as I put together my bike.  It went together smoothly, and as soon as it was ready, I headed out towards Lake Geneva.  I rode an extra 66km to make up the distance that I missed earlier.  This meant that I wouldn’t miss out on any points from the day.
When I got back, everyone was just finishing up dinner.  John rolled the KOM points into the yellow jersey points, and I was about three points ahead in yellow.  This felt fantastic.  I beasted through dinner and showered and went straight to bed.  Tomorrow would be a huge day, and it starts with a fast 10k at 6:30am.  I need to be ready for that.
Thanks to Brigitte and Sam for keeping my spirits high despite my incredible low today.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Epic Camp France Day 8

Day 8 of Epic Camp is in the books.  It wasn’t a particularly challenging day, but I’m bushed nonetheless.  I managed to work my way back into yellow by a narrow margin.
The plan for today was to have a friendly triathlon race.  The warmup was biking 30km DOWN to Lake Annecy.  I say down because it was literally 1700 feet down which meant we had to bike back up that during the race.
The swim was wonderful though.  It was pretty close to a 1km swim.  John B let me borrow his extra wetsuit, so I was actually able to swim this time.  I came out of the water 3rd after towing a few people behind me.  It felt like Ben was tapping my feet quite a bit during the swim, but apparently he only tapped 3-4 times according to him.  Sighting was a bit of a challenge at times.  A bunch of red sailboats were chilling at the last buoy, and I don’t think they realized it, but triathletes don’t have x-ray vision.
I got out on the bike pretty quickly.  Shannon was just barely ahead of me and John was long gone.  There’s a traffic light for construction a few KM’s into the ride, and I ended up getting stuck for three and a half minutes.  Thankfully John said we can deduct that from our time, so I wasn’t worried that he was miles up the road.
Once we were able to go again, we got a pretty nice pelaton going.  The traffic light bunched everyone up, so me, JB, Phil, and Shannon were all trading off at the front.  A few people took wrong turns, and eventually JB and I were alone for probably half of the ride.  I felt like I was pushing, but I couldn’t drop him on the climbs.  JB and I rolled into T2 together.
The run was pretty uneventful.  John was over a kilometer up the road, and I had enough of a lead where no one was going to pass.  My biggest concern was how big John’s lead was.  I was praying for less than three and a half minutes, but he ended up winning by almost seven minutes.  He crushed it.  Post-race, we found a cool stream and chilled out (literally) for about ten minutes in ice cold water.  That felt incredible.
After lunch and a solid nap, I decided to do a few tack-ons for points.  I did a 10k run into town, swam 3k, got ice cream, got a haircut, and ran 10k back home.  Only the runs and swim were for extra points though, but damn it felt good to get a haircut.
John took it easy this afternoon, so I nabbed yellow by a little bit.  It’s pretty clear that I can’t beat him at a race, so I’ll have to do a ton of tack-ons if I want yellow.  Luckly I want it pretty badly, so these next three days might be tough.