It’s the day after the end of the camp with only Jo and I left in the hotel . After such an amazing week it feels very lonely here without everyone around. If a camp is judged by the party on the final night then this was clearly a good one. Drinks started by the pool as people cooled off after a big day in the saddle. Then there was the BBQ followed by heading out on the town. I found myself out with the hardcore who were clearly determined to out-last me. They did, when I pulled the pin at 3:50am. The following morning the banter was great and it was quite surprising how much Simon didn’t remember!
Over the years both of us have had numerous training ‘holidays’, either on our own or with one or two other people where we’ve just taken time off work and gone somewhere to run everyday or, since taking up triathlon, ride and run every day. Epic Camp just took that idea to another level, with it being a large group of athletes of a certain standard and a competition encouraging participants not only to push their training volume, but race hard at times when fatigued. Jo and I have both stretched ourselves on the 3 Epic Camps that we have attended, learned a lot from the other athletes and coaches we met whilst on camp and enjoyed them thoroughly. Since starting up EverydayTraining we’ve talked often about doing something similar – combining our own budget DIY training holidays with the Epic Camp ethos. Getting a motivated group of mostly long distance athletes together and providing an environment where the focus is on training every day; filling most days with training; doing more than you perhaps think possible, but to also make it accessible – both in terms of cost and ability.
We were very lucky with this first camp in the group of people that came along. Everyone got on great and really threw themselves in to it. We did not set the camp up so someone could pick and chose what they did from a list of optional sessions – the idea was if you signed up you did everything. This was partially due to the limited resources we have, but we also felt that if people had thought they could just pick what to do, then there certainly would have been less commitment to each early morning swim or late afternoon run and it would have lessened the experience for everyone. As it was – everyone was in the ‘same boat’ and the group quickly bonded around this common goal of ‘completing’ a pretty daunting week schedule. Our impression was that most rather surprised themselves with what they can do when surrounded with like-minded individuals who are doing the same and offering support. Having catering provided buffet style on site, a cool pool to relax around with cold beers certainly helped. Another essential camp element was the massage service – this is an idea that we’ve taken from Epic camp, having really felt the benefits of the muscular care combined with half an hour of peaceful time in the hands of a sympathetic therapist. And it’s not just massage therapy – and aside form a great masseuse, Sarah turned out to be the hub of all camp gossip! Ali Mills came along in a support role for the physical therapy side of the camp, and really proved invaluable bringing with her physio expertise to the aid of a couple of people who’d shown up with injuries – and many more as they began to fall part under the grueling load .By day 5 I think that 80% of the camp had Kinesio tape holding bits of them together, and a few even let her poke acupuncture needles into them. Aside from these ‘fixes’ people really did value her advice and certainly one or two will see long term benefits as a result of what they have learned from her.
The “Wild Card” process was put in place to try and encourage campers helping each other out to get through the camp. It certainly needs refining but I feel it caused enough excitement to warrant sticking with and trying to get it spot on. I found it rather amusing how people got excited to receive their playing card “wild card” even though there often wasn’t a realistic way to use it. It did prove it’s worth later in the week allowing many campers to really think through the last few days and do extra swim, bike and runs to allow an easier day before the final day and to avoid swimming on the last day.
Having spent so much time thinking about the schedule and sorting out the routes it was very pleasing to see that it all blended together better than we could have hoped. A couple of bike route changes were made for days 4 and 5 which I think will have to stay. Getting everyone climbing Femes was a highlight and managing to pace the groups so we did it together is something to attempt to repeat. Two races on the Tuesday is something I will certainly think over – that was one tough day after Monday with it’s very hard ride. Through the week, the rides formed a natural split into three paced groups – broadly: a small group of very fast riders who wanted to hammer around for 3-4hrs, the largest group of steady paced riders looking for a big mileage week with people of similar strength, or greater to help them along, and a slower group of riders who were being cautious with their pacing as daily long distance riding was new territory for them – often joined by members of the ‘steady group’ looking for a more social and lower intensity day. I spent a lot of time with the ‘fast group’ whilst between them Jo and Emma organised the other two. Emma’s riding strength and experience in group organisation, motivation and advice on cycling technique proved invaluable here, and enabled us to cater for the full range of cyclist that we had on the camp. We certainly would have been over-stretched without her help and seeing her strength on the bike ,especially up hills, was an inspiration for everyone too. We are extremely grateful for her giving up her time and joining us for the week.
We’d wanted all competitions for prizes to be attainable by all the athlete’s. With an inevitable range of ability, we needed to handicap the races. As it was the first ever camp, no one knew that the early races were used to handicap the later ones. This may not work so well in future camps but one way round it is to just do all races without revealing which is the handicapping race ,and which will be handicapped for the prizes. This rather takes the fun out of it and certainly won’t be as satisfying so maybe we’ll come up with an altogether new way of awarding prizes next time.
As for what the campers achieved I am really impressed. Everyone, bar two, did over 30 hours. The two were, me, who did a low level of running and Jon who did do everything, but very fast. We both still did over 28 hours training in the 6 days. The average training hours for the camp was 33 hours with Simon doing a staggering 37.4 hours. Roz managed the best part of 30 hours riding alone (Stats on the camp HERE.) Most people appeared strong on the last day finding that even a day of just a little less (not rest!) was enough to recharge them. The riding on the final day really made me proud of everyone and very happy. My group was thundering along and every summit we passed without seeing the others made me smile. It was also a great opportunity for Jo and I to spend some training time with some of the athletes that we coach. First refusal on places was offered to EDT athletes, as it will be on future camps, and it has been en excellent way of developing a better coaching relationship with those came along.
If we have our count correct, of the 13 campers and 5 staff we have 13 are racing Ironman Lanzarote and 1 Ironman Texas (on the same day) and I can’t wait to see how they all perform. With sufficient recovery from this camp they should have a great base of fitness to really go well. I’ll be on the sidelines cheering at Lanzarote which will be amazing given the number of these guys doing it. Fingers crossed for loads of great races so we can have a little reunion on Ali’i Drive.