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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 7

I’m starting to show some cracks.  Today was pretty damn brutal.  We did three big climbs; the first and the third were for KOM points, and I got second on both of them.  It’s not the end of the world since I’m miles ahead on KOM points, but what hurt the most was that Newsom beat me on the last climb.  I was hoping to get a bit of a lead once the KOM points roll into the yellow jersey, but it doesn’t look like I’ll get as many as I thought.
We had a bit of a later start this morning rolling out around 8:15.  It’s weird; I’m starting to miss getting something out of the way at 6am.  Getting our daily run or swim over with before breakfast seems pretty nice.  However, when we have a huge day on the bike, it’s also nice to be a little fresher for that.  An easy 10k run puts a little fatigue in your legs that can be nice to have on a KOM climb.  Breakfast was amazing again.  We had our personal chef make us scrambled eggs with all of the other usual stuff.  Scrambled eggs have been rare enough this trip to still be considered pretty special.
Rolling out was also pretty casual.  We started with a 20k descent, so a lot of people started off early since they are slow descenders.  I always thouht climbs separated people, but on this camp, there seems to be a huge differential in descending speed as well.
The first climb was for KOM points, so we regrouped at the bottom.  As soon as we started, something was off.  Turns out my back tire was nearly flat, so I bouncing around a lot and hitting my rim on the cracks in the road.  Not good.  I contemplated just riding it the entire way since it wasn’t completely flat, but luckily Julie was right behind us with the van.  My tire was pretty bald, so we just swapped the wheel.  Unfortunately we swapped it to an 11 speed cassette (my bike was 10 speed.)  It worked, but the gears were jumping all over the place.  I was expecting to take this KOM pretty chill, but this flat set me back 7-8 minutes.  John stopped and waited for me up ahead, but everyone else took off.  I had to push harder than I have all camp in order to catch people.  I got everyone but Walter.  I was a little disappointed since I wanted to get every KOM, but this one was out of my control.
Descending the Cormet Du Roseline was absolutely frigid.  In hindsight, I should have put on another jacket.  It was beautiful though, but we were in the shadow of the mountain, and I turned to ice.  Once we got to the bottom, we regrouped at Ian’s van, fixed my bike, and warmed up.  The climb up Saisies wasn’t for KOM points, so we mostly climbed together and took it easy.  There was a really nice aid station at the top of Saisies, and most of the group was there.  Rarely does that happen.  We descended and regrouped at the bottom in anticipation for the last KOM.
The last KOM was probably my least favorite climb of the camp.  It was short, but the first part of the climb was a descent.  I couldn’t get away from Newsom, and as soon as the road pitched up again, he took off.  I think the main part of the climb was only about 8km long, but it was a mentally tough 8k.  Newsom was about 200m up the road, and Peter was about 150m behind me.  Newsom got neutralized by a stoplight with 2k to go, but I didn’t have to stop.  As soon as that happened, he had the win.  I wasn’t going to pass him, but I did sprint a few times to make him push.  The top of Aravis was pretty underwhelming, so we descended pretty quickly and made our way to the accommodation.
We still had to do our swim and run for the day.  We had the option of running into town to the pool or running back.  Newsom decided he was going to do his 7x1k reps after the swim, so we drove to the pool.  It was a relatively uneventful swim other than grabbing some low hanging fruit in terms of swim points.  I did the 200m butterfly that I missed the other day and the 12x(100m IM + 150m free) set.
I was dreading the 1k run reps after the swim.  My quads are trashed right now, so I was hoping to use exclusively my hamstrings on this run.  We found the flattest section of road that we could which happened to be about 1k from our chalet.  Before I knew it, we were done with the reps.  The first one was tough, but once I warmed up, they got a lot easier.  I was pretty happy about that.
The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful.  Dinner, internet, and blogging.  The wifi is good here.  For once.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 6

I lost yellow today.  I lost it because I couldn’t swim a 200m butterfly, but I’ll get it back.  This was just a minor setback.
Today started out really nicely though.  We met at 6:30am for an easy trail run.  Well, it was more of a trail walk since it was so damn steep, but at least I ran the way back.  I went past our turnaround point in Le Monal and headed towards the top of the mountain.  I followed the trails to Col Du Rocher Blanc.  I almost made it to the top, but I got to a trail intersection that said Rocher Blanc was two hours ahead, so I felt like that was a good point to turn around.  When I got back to the chalet, I was just short of 20k, so I did a little extra to get that point.
Breakfast today was amazing.  Since we’re all staying in the same place, the support crew was able to make a ton of great food.  We had oatmeal, scrambled eggs, cereal, yogurt, a nutella and jelly sandwich, and delicious coffee.  I obviously indulged in everything and ate as much food as I could fit in my belly.
The main workout today was a pool swim, and in order to get there, we biked 20km down the hill to get there.  It was just an easy downhill stroll, but we did get rained on again.
The pool swim today was pretty intense.  We had an hour, so the plan was to grab as many points as I could.  I decided to go with 10x200m@3:20/100m, 1km bands-only, and 200m butterfly.  I didn’t get the 200m butterfly.  My arms just didn’t want to work.  Newsom ended up doing 10x200m at 3min and did the 200 fly, so he got two points that I didn’t get.
Afterward, everyone was on their own to spin back up the mountain.  Lunch was at the top, so I went pretty quickly.  My stomach was screaming at me after that swim, so I was motivated.
This afternoon is open.  Some people are riding up the Col Du Sainte Bernard which takes you into Italy.  If I had my bike, I totall would have joined.  I feel bad because I would have loved to bike to Italy.  Oh well, instead I’ll rest up, get a massage, and relax in the hot tub in preparation for the KOM’s tomorrow (there are two.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Epic Camp France: Day 5

I’m currently writing this in a foggy haze.  Today was huge.  No, the other days were huge.  Today was off the charts.  It was set up to be our biggest day on the bike, so we got our run out of the way super early and very easy.  Our 10k minimum ended up taking almost an hour.
Back at the hotel, we did our usual morning shuffle.  Since we moved to a new place today, we packed our bags and stuffed down as much food as we could at breakfast.  At dinner tonight, I was asked what I had for breakfast, so I’ll recount it here as well:
2x bowls of cereal with dried apricots
3x cups of coffee
2x coirssants (sp?)
2x packages of yogurt
1x hardboiled egg
1x dollup of peanut butter
I don’t know how many calories that is, but it’s probably a lot.  And I burned every last one and much, much more on the ride today.
We left La Grave and headed towards the Galibier.  It was about 10k to the turn and another 7-8k to the top.  There was no KOM on the Galibier, so the group took it really, really slowly.  I was very happy about this, but eventually I settled into my casual pace which was a bit harder than the group wanted to go.  As a result, I had a great chat with Peter all the way until 1-2k from the top.  Then I got a little itchy and went for it.  I didn’t pick up the pace too much, but I wanted this for myself.  I took a ton of pictures on the way up, and I even got a little teary-eyed towards the top.  The views were so good that they were emotional.  I’ve been dreaming about these views forever.
After a short break at the top for warm gear, we headed off on the chilly descent.  It was long and fast and absolutely incredible.  There’s nothing I love more than a fast descent after a hard climb, and the Galibier definitely delivered.  There was some kind of event going on though because there were a million cyclists coming up while we were descending.
After a long descent and a few towns, the group caught back up with me, and we worked together for about 10k.  People must have been pretty shattered though because I ended up breaking away and riding solo for the majority of the rest of the ride.  There was a deccent amount of climbing on the way to Iseran, but there was nothing too crazy.
The leadup to Iseran was very pretty.  We were down in the valley, and you could see it looming in the distance.  The town just before the climb was extremely pretty.  They all had the same stone masonry and same stone roofing.  It was all so very French.  I loved it!
Iseran was a bit of a low point for me.  It was a 14k climb, and I had enough of a lead where I could take it at a pretty slow pace which meant that it was going to take a while.  I wanted to grab some chamois cream and my headphones at the last aid station, but I was too focused on a quick stop that I completely forgot.
The first few switchbacks of Iseran were extremely beautiful.  You could see the valley and the mountains off in the distance.  It honestly looked much like the other big climbs we’ve done, but that doesn’t mean you get sick of it!
The middle section got a little dark for me though.  You make a turn away from the valley, and you don’t really know where you’re going.  I could see trails or roads off in the distance that looked like it could be the way, but everything around was just so high that I wasn’t sure.  Mentally that’s tough.  If you can see the top, then you have something to look forward to, but if you can’t, then climbing seems endless.
The final section is where the wheels started coming off for me.  Even with 4km to go, I still wasn’t sure where the top was.  There was a section with one-way traffic, and I had to stop for over five minutes.  In a way, I was pretty happy about that.  It gave me some time to rest my legs, eat the only bar I had on me (an extremely melted snickers bar,) and drink the last bit of water in my only water bottle.  Starting back up after that stop was tough.  The legs were heavy, I was totally bushed, and it was starting to get cold.  We were almost at 9000 feet!
The summit was also a little underwhelming.  There isn’t much at the top.  No cool cafe or swag shop like the other cols.  Instead, I just put on two jackets, drank some coffee, ate three cookies, and was on my way.
The descent was prettty legendary.  Thank god we didn’t go up that side because it was absolutely endless.  It felt like I was descending forever.  There were a few cool tunnels along the way, but they were a little sketchy without lights.  However, in one tunnel, we got stopped at a light, and a Lamborghini pulls up next to me.  When he took off in the tunnel, the sound spoke to me.  It was SO loud.  I loved it!
I hit the intersection where we were supposed to turn towards our chalet, but I made the decision to tack on more.  Yes, I was aiming for 200k on our biggest day on the bike.  Yes, I am insane.  I didn’t think we’d have any more opportunities to hit 200k again for big points, so I went for it.  I had an hour and a half, and I figured I could make it pretty easy.
However, when I went past the turn to tack on, I just kept descending and descending and descending.  I kept going for over 10k before hitting the valley floor where it was reasonably flat.  I thought I was good on time, but with a 15k climb up to the chalet, things were looking tight.  I downed my last energy bar, my last sip of water, and went for it.
I ended up hitting 200k with an extra 1300 feet of climbing five minutes past the cutoff.  Newsom was a good sport about it, and he let the points count.  He said that if I wanted the points, I could have them.  And let me tell you, I worked damn hard for those points.  I could have tacked on during the flat section before Iseran or I could have turned around at any point and descended the remaining kilometer at any point to hit the cutoff, but I didn’t.  I decided to push harder than anyone on our biggest day to make it happen.  That definitely deserves yellow in my book.
The chalet we’re staying at is beautiful as well.  It’s big enough to fit everyone, and the dining area can sit everyone too.  We had a private chef cook us rice and curry, and afterward I sat in the hot tub with one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen.  How am I so lucky to be here??