Sunday, August 31, 2014

Epic Camp Canada 2014: Epilogue

Today is the first day post-Epic Camp Canada 2014, so it's time to reflect on the past twelve days.  It's hard to believe it's all over.  I'm sure you won't find it hard to believe, but it was  kind of nice to wake up this morning and not have to swim 3k, run 10k, and bike 200k.  I thought I might join a few others for a light jog this morning, but my legs are still in a state of extreme shock.  It hurts to squat down, and I don't think that feeling will go away for at least a few more days.

As I fly home, I have a mixture of emotions right now, but most of all, I'm feeling relief.  Going into this camp, I had a ton of anxiety.  I think that's pretty normal though.  I haven't done a lot of international travel.  I was going to spend two weeks with people I've never met before.  I didn't even know if my body was going to be able to handle the extreme amount of punishment it was going to endure.  There was also the added stress to perform in the jersey competitions.  For all of these reasons, I don't think I had a single "good" night's sleep the entire trip.  I joked near the end of the camp that I'm going to go to sleep tonight (Sunday) and wake up for work on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday,) but given my current sleep debt, I don't know if that's a joke...

I still need to add up the numbers, but I did somewhere close to 80 hours of workouts in 12 days.  This included swimming over 3km per day, running over 6.2 miles per day, and biking over 1000 miles through the mountains (ie tons of climbing.)  At my peak, that amount of training took me over a month.  Squeezing that down to two weeks with the added intensity of races and other competitions meant that my body went through the beating of a lifetime. (To be updated with exact numbers.)

Coming into the camp, John Newsom said I would be one of the slower guys as well as one of the younger campers (Leah was the youngest at 28.)  For these reasons, I took things pretty slow at first.  I relied quite a bit on the group and on the veteran campers to help guide me in my approach.  Initially I was a bit trigger happy on the pulls and on the climbs.  I trained and tapered well, so the first few days I felt much better than expected.  I also knew my strengths (climbing and running,) so I strategically used those to my advantage.

The first week was great.  I was doing the camp minimums, and my perception was that I was handling things as well or better than most.  I was pretty lucky to only get one flat on the road, so for the most part, I was always keeping up with the lead pack.  The pace never felt unmanageable either.  My swimming was a solid 7th, but this was a pretty minor part of the camp.

Around the beginning of the second week, the fatigue started to set in.  I think it coincided with my first two hour run.  Due to my foot injury coming into camp, my run wasn't where it should have been, so the longer runs definitely had a major impact on performance.  There was also the incident with my bike towards the middle of the camp.  This killed me both mentally and physically.  Wildflower (my bike) and I were like one.  That bike was basically an extension of my body, so to lose something like that was difficult.  At the time, I was in a mild state of shock because I didn't know if I would be able to complete the camp, and I knew it was a multi-thousand dollar incident.  A tough pill to swallow for sure.  The new bike is nice though.  Dandelion (thanks Sam!) and I got to know each other pretty well, and by the end of the camp, we are on pretty solid terms.

The last half of the second week was very dark for me.  Right around day 9 is when things took a turn for the worst.  I was still able to move, but getting out of bed in the morning was difficult.  Biking became tougher and tougher, and I kept missing the main pack.  Occasionally there would be someone I could ride with, but pulling (riding in front) was out of the question.  My most sincere apologies to everyone for doing almost no work towards the end.  Physically, I just couldn't.  I hope you understand and don't hold too much of a grudge.

The KOM competition was something I was looking forward to, but Zach crushed that hard.  He went five for five on the KOMs which was untouchable.  Before the fatigue set in, I was close, but once I lost my bike and my legs, there was no coming back.  Well done Zach.  I hope I at least made you work for it.

The yellow jersey competition was something I had in the back of my mind for a while.  Realistically I never thought I had a chance especially with my foot and lack of running coming into camp.  After the KOM was lost, I noticed I was doing well in GC (yellow jersey) points purely based on performance in the races.  With just a little more effort to pick up a few "easy" points, I could be a contender.  So that's what I did.  By the last two days, I had a severe case of yellow fever.  I didn't quite realize what I was up against with Adam B, but I tried hard.  It took a bit of ingenuity to grab some points (convincing Scott to let me violate the 12-hour rule, downhill 7x1k, etc.) but for two days, I went for it.  The best I did was tie Adam B for one day, but after reading Molina's blog about the integrity of the yellow jersey and considering the shape that my legs were in, I decided to call it quits.  Adam B tacked on way more than I did, and he got up at 4:30am on the last day to put in some monster training.  Kudos dude.  You are a badass and earned the yellow.  But all things considered, I'm happy to have been a contender and to have had the opportunity to go for it.  I made you work for it, and likewise, you made me do work as well.

To John and the support crew, thanks for an amazing experience.  Logistically, everything was incredible.  Michelle made the most amazing food and gave a killer massage, Dave went out of his way for me so many times (almond milk smoothies) and had an incredible personality, and Mark saved me so many times with bike stuff.  You guys were like wizards with logistics.

Here are a few things that I learned that might make for a better experience next time:
- Bring a laptop.  Managing pictures and garmin issues would have been a lot better with a real computer.  There was a ton of extra room, so size wouldn't have been an issue.
- Bring warmer clothes.  Again, size and space weren't really issues, so there was room for bigger bags with more of the uncommon but greatly appreciated things like cold/wet weather gloves and full cycling booties.  Those two things alone would have been a game-changer during that one miserable day from Sunwapta to Lake Louise.
- Better run fitness would have helped a ton.  Going into camp, I was lacking some long run training.  You're never forced to run long, but that extra durability in my legs would have helped a lot.
- Pick your battles.  Halfway through the camp I flipped from going for the KOM to the yellow jersey.  In the future, if the yellow jersey is a realistic goal, go for it on day one.  Likewise, if you're going for the KOM, take it easy on the rest of the stuff.  Zach wasn't going for camp completion, so trying to split my effort in both competitions was difficult.
- Do the fast stuff EARLY, at sea level, and on FLAT ground.  Trying to do hard run sets when you're super tired, at 5000 feet, and in the mountains is a nightmare.
- Declare your tack-ons.  Being secret about your bonus points is not a good way to make friends.  It all gets revealed at the end anyway.
- Be a tourist every once in a while.  I missed out on a few opportunities to have some fun like the river adventure and the Lake Louise gondola because I was too busy training.  At the end of the day, the experience is a lot more valuable than a little more training.

I had a great time here at Epic Camp Canada.  I feel like I accomplished something huge and am a better person for it.  I also met some great people along the way and shared many epic moments with them.  I will almost certainly be back for the next one!

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