As I contemplated my 2017 Tri season, a friend from medical school and seasoned triathlete suggested attending a triathlon training camp. An athletic club in the Bay Area, Pac West Athletics, had been hosting camps for several years rotating the location every few years. Previous camps had been held in Scottsdale and Palm Desert. For the second consecutive year, the camp would be in San Luis Obispo March 8-12. I thought the idea of “training like the pros” would be a cool way to jumpstart my training for the six months leading up to my “A” race in Rotterdam at ITU AG Worlds.
After signing up, I was sent a questionnaire to outline my goals for the season including race schedule and current level of fitness. I would then be given a personalized training plan for the four day camp. My coach was Jason Campbell, who is the current assistant women’s Tri coach at Cal Berkeley. Seeing that my cycling base currently was rather low, he put a major focus on riding volume. I’d be slotted into the ITU Long group (the longest of the three riding groups) which would entail riding nearly 200 miles over 3 days along with brick runs, a track workout, 2 swim workouts, and racing an Olympic triathlon to end the camp. When I received my training plan the week leading up to the camp detailing the swim sets and intervals as well as the riding profiles and the goals for the brick runs, I was beginning to think that I’d made a huge mistake given my current fitness level. I just had to remember SB Tri Club legend Fred Maggiore’s advice: “Pace yourself, my friend.”
There were 26 triathletes in the camp. Most from the Bay Area with an average age of 45. Most were racing 70.3 to Ironman. Some had raced for years and had attended several prior camps. One would be racing her first tri at the end of the camp. We all were staying at the Embassy Suites which would include daily breakfast followed by a brief meeting to go over the day’s schedule and logistics. All rides would be fully SAG (supply and gear) supported and led by one the coaches.
Day 1, Thursday “The Fun Begins”
- Swim: 4500m (including video stroke analysis)
Warm-up 200 swim, 200 pull, 200 kick
Main set: 8x50 descend, 4x100, 2x200 pull,1x400, 2x200 pull, 4x100, 8x50 ascend,10x100 descend
Most of my swims typically range around 3k so I could feel the extra distance on the shoulders after finishing. The stroke analysis showed what I’ve been told again and again by swim coaches: I need to work on my left arm entry.
- Ride: 55 miles. 3000’ climbing. Out to Lake Lopez riding a lot of the MTS Olympic course with plenty of rollers and one climb ending at the Oly turnaround. Our training plans detailed when to maintain aero position and what power zones to maintain .The weather was perfect although as anyone who has ridden in SLO county knows, there can be lots of wind and that held true.
- Run: 40-45 min. Unfortunately I didn’t do a great job with nutrition and hydration on the bike and cramped up on the run. Kept it in zone 2-3. Was supposed to build to 10k race pace but that wasn’t going to happen. I was determined to do a better job the following day.
Day 2, Friday “Shut Up Legs”
- Swim: 4200m Warm-up same as day 1
Main set “Clock Chaser” 100, 200, 300, 400 pull, 500, 400 pull, 300, 200,100 descending intervals.
Challenge set: 5x200, odds pull and descend, evens smooth tempo swim
100 cool down
- Ride: 69.2 miles 3800’ climbing. Riding through beautiful wine country into the Huasna Valley Lots of fast riding and breakaways on the flats. Right from the start I was eating and drinking and felt stronger as the day went on.
After an hour or so to recover, it was off to the track for a run analysis and workout.
- Track: 45 min. (including video run analysis) I went into this workout less than excited about the prospect of fast running on tired legs.Thankfully because we were starting later than planned, the volume would be less.
Workout: 10 min ez run
5 min drills/strides
Main set: 5 min aerobic, 3 min 10k pace, 1 min vo2, 1 min ez x3
I did about ½ of the workout due to the run analysis which was quite helpful. Biggest tips: keep my feet under me (avoid overextending), land midfoot (not on the ball) and more arm movement (thumbs rubbing the hip bones for emphasis)
Day 3, Saturday “It’s Just A Hill...Get Over It”
My legs really were barking when I got up and felt the fatigue setting in.
Thankfully no swim today.
- Ride: 70.2 miles. 4100’ climbing. See Canyon Rd and in Montana De Oro. Lots of zone 4 and 5 work. Beyond dead legs at the start of the ride, my undercarriage wasn’t too happy. I wasn’t sure if I would end up in the SAG wagon at some point. At the end of the first climb, I was speaking in tongues (cursing) as Coach Jason was waiting for me at the top smiling. I still had 50 more miles to go and the doubt was really creeping in. I just kept trying to stay in the present and not worry about what lied ahead. Thankfully, the reward for all the climbing hell included fun easy descents to hydrate and refuel. Next came some long stretches to get aero and fight the headwinds heading towards Montana De Oro. Coach Jason did most of the work. He’s an uber cyclist who easily goes under an hour on the bike of an Olympic distance Tri. Montana De Oro was beautiful and despite the climb, enjoyed the cool coastal breezes. The remainder of the ride included portions that would be in the tri the next day including stretches to get aero on Hwy 1 out to Cuesta College.
- Run: 6 miles around Laguna Lake starting ez and descending to 10k race pace. I was good for 3 miles of endurance pace as my legs had nothing left in the tank.
Day 4, Sunday Race Day “It’s Dig Deep Time”
Morro Bay Triathlon
My last Olympic triathlon was AG Nationals in Milwaukee in 2014. I didn’t race in 2015 and only raced sprints last year so the idea of “racing” an Olympic after three brutal days of training had me wondering how I’d hold up. My goal was to have fun and not worry about any mistakes I’d make because I know there’d be plenty.
The day was perfect for racing with clear blue sky and calm water in the bay. Unfortunately I missed the meeting the previous night going over the course due to work related stuff but knew to watch for the markers and had ridden lots of the course the day prior. What could go wrong?
The swim was 2 loops running around a buoy on shore between each lap (like Ventura tri). The water temp was 55 degrees which felt like a slap to the face when diving in. I hadn’t been in the ocean in 6 months and felt rusty but sighting was easy and swimming in the bay made things fairly easy.
After getting on the bike, my legs were screaming and my undercarriage wanted off ASAP and I had to do 40k! I kept telling myself how much shorter this ride would be compared to the previous three days of riding. After a few wrong turns (this is what can go wrong) along the course and lots of repositioning on the bike, I got through things ok and was on to the run.
My goal for the run was to hold things in the endurance zone which itself became quite a challenge as the heat and fatigue really hit and I had to stop and walk a few times on the 3 mile out portion. After hitting the turnaround and eating a gel and drinking some water, I was able to pick up the pace and head home. I had survived training camp!
So was it worth all of the pain and suffering? Absolutely. I’d always wanted to experience the idea of dedicating myself to living and breathing triathlon with a group equally, if not more dedicated than myself. The coaching was great and I met some really fine people who share the love of this lifestyle. I know I came out stronger on the bike. This camp certainly won’t be my last although I don’t think I’d go so long on the bike on all three days and I’d use more chamois butt’r. Let the 2017 Tri season begin!
Thansk to Bruce at Hazards for overnighting my wetsuit.