Thursday, June 30, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 4

Today was the first day that we didn’t have to move our overnight bags.  At Epic Camp, it’s always a nice little gift to stay in a place for more than one night because it’s a hassle to pack everything up all the time.  La Grave was an amazing place to spend two nights too.  That view at dinner…
Today was a special day.  We were going to bike up the famous Aple D’Huez climb.  It’s an 8.5 mile climb with an average grade of about 7.9%.  The plan was a super easy ride down the mountain to the base of the climb.  Most people took off at their own pace since everyone descends at different speeds, but once I got down to the bottom, I accidentally started the climb.  It’s weird to accidentally start something like this, but there was no one waiting at the vans, and Charles started the climb ahead of the group.  I followed not giving it much thought, but once I noticed that the climb wasn’t ending, I quickly realized that I wasn’t where I should have been and turned around.  Thankfully I made it just in time as to not get disqualified for our group time trial.  We all started the climb together, and I made it to the top in a time of 56 minutes.  Shannon was on my wheel for the first 10 or 11 switchbacks, and I was worried that she was going to take it.  But once it started pouring rain on us, I felt right at home and Shannon dropped back a little.  The climb itself was insanely beautiful.  The switchbacks were legendary, and the views were beyond epic.  Our KOM ended at the start of the village, but I continued through town to the official Tour de France finish.
Once everyone got to the top, we went over to the pool to do our timed 1.5k swim.  The swim itself was uneventful.  I did it in 22:57 (1:32/100m) which I think was good enough for third.  The real entertainment came from the pool nazi that was yelling at everyone.  Apparently ONLY speedos were allowed (not even jammers,) and there were no socks or shoes on the “beach” (the deck surrounding the pool.)  You also MUST shower before getting in the water and couldn’t wear pants outside of the pool.  You also couldn’t leave anything out to dry (such as wet jerseys or shorts) out to dry unless they were in the designated area.  It was absurd.  Apparently the French are huge assholes when it comes to this kind of stuff, and today definitely highlighted that.
Next up was our timed 10k run.  We started at the edge of town, ran out on some trail that met up with a road behind the airport, did an out and back, and then made our way home.  Two 5k loops.  I went out pretty hard on the first lap, but once we got to the downhill to finish up the lap, I took it pretty easy.  Rob (SoCal dude) caught and passed me on the downhill.  I wasn’t worried though since he didn’t have a spectacular climb up ADH, so rather than burying myself to catch him, I just took it easy and enjoyed the run.  At one point (actually two points,) Rob went off course, and despite him being in the lead, I yelled to make sure he didn’t lose any time.  I got scolded for poor sportsmanship in the past, so hopefully this makes up for it.
The combined totals for the three disciplines put me in the lead for our major competition, so I was pretty happy about that.  The part that I wasn’t happy about was that Newsom was second which means I only gained 0.3 points on him.
After the run, we sat down for a quick lunch before heading home.  Some people decided to go down the back side of ADH, and I joined them.  The views were absolutely unreal.  100% worth the tiny  bit of extra climbing.  Just before the bottom of the descent, it started raining cats and dogs.  Or rather, sheep and marmots.  It was pouring buckets down on us, but if there’s one thing I learned from Epic Camp Canda, it’s that a proper rain jacket is worth 100x it’s weight in gold.  I put mine on, and I was nice and toasty.  This was easily my best purchase leading up to camp.
Besides the rain, the rest of the ride back to La Grave was pretty uneventful.  I rode solo the entire way and did a short tackon to make it 90k of biking for the day.  There was a little time to chill before dinner which I took advantage of, and dinner was delicious as always.  Tonight I had duck.  It was awesome.  Tomorrow is a gigantic day on the bike, so we have a pretty early wakeup.  Good night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 3

I was pretty excited about day 3 at Epic Camp, but mostly because on paper, it seemed like a shorter today.  And while still incredibly epic, it was much shorter than previous days.  We started off with a little bit of an aquathon down by the lake in Embrun.  The distances would be a little modified which didn’t quite suit my strengths, but it wasn’t a significant change.  The plan was: 1.5mi warmup run around the lake, 1300m swim + 3mi run (two laps around the lake.)
I still don’t have my wetsuit or bike, so I had to do the aquathon in a speedo.  Thankfully the water wasn’t too bad again, even at 7am.  The swim portion of the race wasn’t too bad.  I am not a fast swimmer, but I found some feet that I could hang with.  Walter and Murray are definitely good feet to follow.  They did a great job of going straight (not my strength,) so it worked out well for me.  I got out of the water with the chase group about three minutes down from the leaders.  Up the road was Lou, Newsom, Rob, and Shannon.
Immediately out on the run, I caught Rob.  Lou took most of the first lap to catch, and Newsom and Shannon were completely out of sight.  I was running pretty strongly at 6min pace, and I think if I had more time, I probably could have caught them.  Instead I had to settle for third.  Another year, another loss to Newsom in the aquathon.

Breakfast was a lot more chill this morning.  The ride today wasn’t suppose to be super long, so we took things slightly more chill.  There was another KOM today up the Col Du Izoard at 55km, and the race started as soon as we got out of town.  Thankfully the group was sensible and took things slowly for the first 40k.  However, out on this narrow road besides the river, the group got a little split.  Peter and I got separated ahead of the group, and we chose to just go ahead.  It might have been poor sportsmanship to not wait, but Phil was already up the road, so Peter and I decided to take things a little slowly and hope the group caught back up.
However, they never did.  We made it to the aid station at 40km and decided to just go on anyway.  Sadly, there wasn’t much competition for this one, so I mostly just stayed relaxed for the entire climb up Izoard.  I was soaking in the spectacular view every time there was a break in the trees.  It was AMAZING.  This was the highest peak we’ll do at the camp, and it was right around 7500ft.  It was so satisfying to make it to the top.  The descent was equally as amazing.  20km of beautifully winding turns down the other side of the mountain was pure joy.
Next we made our way through Briancon and started up the Col Du Lauteret.  This climb was much more gradual, but the views were equally as stunning as Izoard.  I was starting to get pretty tired and pretty sick of climbing though, and I was a little worried about water.  With only one bottle and the temperature heating up, I wasn’t sure if I would make it.  Thankfully there are life-saving fountains in many of the small towns here in France.  The support crew had their hands full with the group being so spread out, but after that fountain, everything was good.
Summiting the Laurteret was felt so good.  The view at the very top wasn’t so great (unless you count the view of the glacier,) but the last few kilometers was unreal.  The Alps are my heaven.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 2

Day 2 of Epic Camp France started off pretty chill.  Everyone was pretty smashed after climbing Mont Ventoux yesterday, so considering breakfast wouldn’t be ready until “later” (7am vs 6:15,) John decided to change things up a bit and do a pre-breakfast easy group run.  People mostly stayed together and ran at a very chill pace.  This ended up being really nice since the weather at Vaison was reatively warm.  And in typical Epic Camp fashion, we rushed through breakfast and were out on our bikes asap.
The bike ride today was planned to be 171k with no KOM which meant that my plan was to sandbag as much as possible.  I did a little bit of work at the front, but for the most part, I didn’t do much pulling.  We made our way along through many small French villages, and there was an absolutely beautiful section along a river that blew me away.  It was everything you image when you think about French cycling: Tunnels, a steep mountain gorge, and cutout in the mountain to make way for the road.  SO beautiful.  As far as river valleys go, I think this was the best one.  The rest of the ride was beautiful as well.  We could slowly see the big mountains in the Alps getting closer and closer.  Around 140k, there was a turnoff onto a country road that brought us up a lot higher.  From there we could see the lakes near Embrun, and the view was absolutely stunning.  The lakes were a deep tourquiose that reminded me of tha lakes in Canada.

Since the ride was already 171k, I convinced Murray, who is currently in the red jersey, to push a little farther to make it to 200k for extra points.  Initially John, who is currently in the yellow jersey, wasn’t interested, so we set off on our own.  Once we got to the turnaround point, Murray turned back, but I went a little farther to push to 210k for one extra point (on top of the two bonus points for 200k.)  But on the way back, I saw Phil, Newsom, and Rob heading out.  VERY sneaky!  That was probably a good call by Newsom though, because if he didn’t match, then he would have lost yellow.  I respect that, but it’s also going to make it tough to beat him.  Clearly he’s motivated.
After the ride we still needed to do our daily swim.  I headed down to the lake with the intention of swimming with everyone else despite not having a wetsuit.  If the water was too cold, I was prepared to run.  Luckily the water was great, and I was able to swim.  This was probably a good call since I feel like running another 10k would have eaten into my legs quite a bit.  I like double runs, but when I need to be ready for KOM’s, I don’t really want to be running 12 miles per day.

Post swim was good.  I took the first shuttle back and was ready for dinner well before 7:30.  We had a fancy four course meal consisting of things I’ve never seen before and wouldn’t dream of pronouncing.  The best part was that quite a few people left before dessert, so I had exactly 2.5 desserts.  That was a win for sure.
And today I was lucky enough to get a massage after dinner.  Last camp I don’t think I hit my three massage cap, so this time around I wanted to make sure I got it done early.  We had two pretty monster days, so I think I was ready.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 1

Today got off to a bit of rocky start.  Traveling is always a nightmare, and this time was no different.  Somehow my bike never made it to Paris, so I had to ride a rental today.  The rental is actually quite nice though.  It’s a Rose bike, and I’ve always liked German engineering.

Due to traveling issues, I didn’t get to Marseille until midnight last night, and with a 5am wakeup, things were going to be a little challenging.  I think I got about 20 minutes of sleep last night, and since I was already awake before the alarm, getting up wasn’t too difficult.
We started the day with a bit of a swim competition.  Sadly, since I packed my wetsuit with my bike, I had to try and swim in just a speedo today.  I took three strokes in the Medditerranean and said there’s no way.  The water was way too cold.  Instead I went for an easy run and took some nice pictures.

The bike ride for today was promised to be huge.  And it delivered. :)  After riding for 70 miles, we found ourselves at the base of Mont Vonteux.  This is an absolutely gigantic mountain: The route we would take to the top would cover 13 miles and ascend 5000+ feet.  That is massive!
About 25 minutes into the climb, John Newsom passed me for the lead.  This sucked.  Physically I couldn’t push much harder with the last of climbing gears, and mentally I didn’t think I could catch up with Newsom.
And then a miracle happened.  Somewhere before the 6k to go mark, Newsom exploded and left a massive crater on the ground.  There was support stationed at 6k to go, and Newsom pulled off to drink some coke.  When I saw that, I was almost furious.  How could he do this now?  He was winning by  a considerable margin, and then he stops?  What the heck??  Apparently later I found out that he could barely push 200w, so it sounds like he was not in good shape.  I pushed for the summit and made it in 1:38.  I missed my goal by eight minutes, but it doesn’t matter that much.  I gave it my all (which arguably wasn’t much,) and ended with the King of the Mountains jersey.

Due to missing the swim this morning, I’m a little behind on yellow.  Three points exactly.  That can be made up pretty quickly.