The weekend of March 15 – 17 the 2013 Georgia Ironteam went to Clermont, FL for a triathlon training camp.
I have been to two training camps before: the first for the inaugural Ironteam for Ironman Arizona in Blowing Rock, NC, and a second as part of a private group, also in Blowing Rock. I knew what to expect. And was excited to go.
This time was a little different as I worked with my nutritionist, Marni Sumbal, before I went. We had talked and based on our discussion, I had written out a nutrition plan for the trip. It was flexible and accommodating to the situation (eating out, social activities, no kitchen but we do have a hotel breakfast buffet, and a refrigerator and microwave in each room). I didn’t know this at the time, but it was SO easy having written out what I was eating, and the timing. I didn’t have to think, just refer to my spread sheet. Even when choosing at a restaurant I was ready.
It was also different as we went from the Appalachian Mountains in Blowing Rock, NC to Florida. Clermont is not the stereotypical Florida flat. There were several hills (including the infamous Sugarloaf Mountain). – most are short and “punchy”. And being as this is Florida, there is also wind. So there were distinct challenges to be offered. It would not be a flat cruise on our bike for 85+ miles.
We drove down on Thursday. I carpooled with my teammate, Susan, and coach, Mary. Susan drove her car. I thought my Outback had a lot of room and love it, but having taken it on two training camps, I knew that, although it fits everything for 2-3 people, it fills fast with tri equipment for a long training weekend. So I packed economically knowing we had equipment for three to fit. Susan and Mary showed up and I loaded my things with theirs. OK – the equipment for all three of us didn’t even fill ½ of the back! I love my Outback but was impressed with the space in Susan’s Toyota Sequoia. Wow! I could have run back in the house and grabbed some more stuff….but resisted. I had everything I needed.
In a little over 6 hours we were in Clermont, FL checking in to our hotel and getting set for the next three days. Susan and I were also roommates. We are both morning people so it works out very well. Susan is also very organized and really prepared. Although I am task oriented, I am not the most organized of people; often getting by with a helping hand from friends (it’s a really good thing I have terrific friends). Susan and I knew that in the event I needed something (extra baggies, an extra snack, or I couldn’t find something of mine), Susan would be prepared. And I would “pay her back” as possible. In short, we get along together really well.
Susan and I lucked out – we were on the ground floor! Away from the breakfast area, not near an elevator or an entrance. Seriously….it couldn’t have been a better room. Easy access with the bike and no students would be running around our floor. We were both SO excited with this!
I got to sleep in until 5:30 before our ride on Friday. Woo hoo! I got dressed, gathered my breakfast items not found on the hotel breakfast bar (Blue Bonnet Plain Whey powder and chia seeds) and Susan and I headed out for my coffee, banana and oatmeal….and chat time with my teammates! We were in the early group there. Like I said, we are morning people. Plus, I want to eat a breakfast and let it digest before riding.
Soon we were gathering in front of the lobby. It was in the low 40’s – chilly to start the day, but it felt OK near the hotel. The start of the ride was on a path, so we road as a team for the first 6 miles or so…mostly downhill. At some point along the way we hit a zone where the temperature dropped. And it dropped each day we were there at the same spot! It was a big temperature difference, and went from comfortable to “brrr” every time.
Looking at the cue sheet, there were a lot of turns. This kind of annoyed me as it meant a lot of stopping and starting to get turns. I can’t memorize more than 1-2 turns max. Lucky for me at about mile 9 I got on to John Dapper’s wheel and….I pretty much decided I was going to stay with him for as long as I could. People started spacing out, and groups forming. A group of about 8 other teammates was with us. There were times we were lost in the fog and not able to see far ahead. This made me a bit wary as if I can’t see my teammates, neither can cars, but I proceeded with caution and listened hard when in the fog for vehicles.
I was leading the train down a semi-busy road when I looked back and asked John if he knew where the next turn was. His reply was “No.” I thought “Awesome. We are hosed.” We reached a light, checked the cue sheet, and decided we were supposed to turn left here on to Highway 19. The word “highway” should clue you in that we were on the wrong path. Apparently, at this point, Mary (one of our two Ironteam coaches and who was driving SAG) had seen us miss our turn and was yelling at us while we were stopped that we had missed our turn. A few teammates heard this, but didn’t know why a crazy lady was yelling at us. So we turned left. We see Mary drive by and pull in to a street. She waves us in and proceeds to tell us we missed our turn about 5 miles or so back. It wasn’t that bad…actually only about 2 – 2.5. But, we were on a very busy highway with semi-trucks buzzing by. Yea. That’s what I get for a heads-down riding approach, right? So we turned around, and were soon back on course. After this Mary and Heather (two of our three excellent sag vehicles) were at several major intersections making sure we made our turns.
After this John kept his cue sheet in front of him, and would tell me the next turn and distance. On the straight-aways the two of us would pace from the rest of the group, but would re-group at the frequent turns/stop signs.
Soon the infamous Sugar Loaf Mountain was looming in front of us. I looked at it and decided it didn’t look that bad, and rode up it. It was hard. But it was short, and I knew I could get it. I probably shouldn’t have ridden it as hard as I did, but I ascended in decent time for me, passing a few people. At the top we took a break (pit stop, adjust water bottles) and soon John and I were off with the others close behind.
Lap two was much different. We knew the route. John and I got a good lead from the others with us, and just went. After the ride I looked at my average pace for each of the two laps and the average for the second was slightly slower (less than 0.5 mph) but it felt SO much better – continuous and just a solid ride.
The wind did pick up more if I was looking for a reason because I felt strong (even stronger) on the second lap. On a 6 mile straight-away John was about 0.5 miles ahead of me, but we stayed together for the ride. He pointed out several sandhill cranes to me, explaining they are very loyal birds to their mates, and it is rare to see one without their mate (we saw two). I know I read too much in to in, but in my brain I compared our ride that day to the sandhill cranes, and was pretty sure we would be finishing it out together. That thought probably did not cross John’s mind, but it gave me a sense of security (someone to catch turns and keep us on course and as I view a stronger rider than me so I can pace off of him instead of pacing myself) and an objective for the ride. I also enjoyed having someone to ride with. I don’t always get to chose with whom I ride or the size (and love riding most any time), but feel best and enjoy rides the most when riding with 1-2 other riders and we can ride a good, solid pace together.
Soon we were at Sugarloaf Mountain again and I just barreled up. I passed a couple of teammates and met a group of teammates at the top. Jane made me laugh with her remark about my ascent, and I commented it was mostly because I had had to go to the bathroom for the past 5-7 miles, and this was the first place I could stop!
After a quick break, John and I took off; the group of teammates left ahead of us so we were playing catch up so to speak. And soon we were hitting the trail back in to the hotel for our T-run. 90 miles done. I felt good. And it was time to run! It was short (30 minutes) but I felt strong. I hit the hills with little difficulty and enjoyed running my legs out. What a change from the first time I had run off my bike!
We had time for group ice bath in the hotel pool (unheated and outdoors), a quick lunch which I had in my room (I was ready, and knew time was short). Then it was time for an open water swim.
The sign at the beach said no swimming, but I got a solid 30 minutes in water that was low 60’s or so. Having been at training camps before, I know that the swim is more of a tired “get ‘er done” effort. But this time was different. I actually felt strong. I was tired, and people could see it, but when it came to swimming…I asked and my body and mind didn’t flintch at giving. Woo hoo! A year of steady training has paid off! The swim felt better as this thought passed through my mind J
Soon the swim was over, and we had a team meeting and then dinner. While walking back from the meeting we saw Heather and a group in her car. She stopped and we hopped in for a ride to get some Cuban food. Good thing it wasn’t a stranger with the same offer!
Day 1 was complete. I felt strong, and looking forward to day 2: 16 mile run and an afternoon swim. I had gotten to talk to a few of my teammates that I hadn’t gotten to spend much time with.
I woke up at 5 a.m. this day. I wanted to get breakfast early enough to let it settle so I used the microwave in my room to make my breakfast before the breakfast buffet opened. Susan didn’t seem to mind, and I kept it quiet.
I went out and joined my team, getting coffee and sitting to chat for a bit. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after a long (and hilly….for FL) ride yesterday. I am also working on increasing my calories on the run. Turns out, after speaking with Marni, I have been shorting myself. Starting off with 100 calories per bottle and planning on seeing if I can take more over the next few training runs.
Soon we were meeting outside and warming up. A few words of wisdom from our coaches and we were off. I had 16 miles, and as a spoiler alert….the time flew by. It was a terrific run. The entire team did fantastic. I think running with Rich may have done that….he’s just awesome that way J
For the first three miles my legs were a bit stiff. After the first three I felt fine and comfortable. In my mind I realized I may have reached the point where an easy warm up spin before a long run may be a very good idea. Time to try it out on my next long run!
Rich and I were about even paced for most of the run, or else even when he went ahead of me, I always saw him. We ran out together and were together until the Nanci’s water stop. Jeff caught up with us, and we were a loose group until that water stop. I veered off for a quick bathroom break and when I headed back out, was surprised to see Lauren a little ahead of me. I used her as a rabbit for about a mile or so and then caught and passed her slowly. Her run has improved in a HUGE way from the last ironteam. Way to go Lauren!
The path ran out and ended at about 7.5 miles, which was perfect to turn around and head back. Around here John and I stepped in to pace together for a bit. We ran together, both stopped as we passed Nanci again to refill our water bottles and headed out. After a mile or so John decided to run his two extra miles (he had 17 on his schedule) down where it was flat. I decided, since I had been running flat in Atlanta often, to test my mettle and run back up the hill and face some additional hills near the hotel for my extra mile.
At this point Rich had gotten about 0.5 miles ahead of me, but I could see him. I kept consistent as possible in my HR and effort thinking of Mike Sklar’s coaching from last summer regarding hills and pacing. I figured if he was pushing limits uphill he just may lag towards the end and I could catch him before he finished at mile 15 (the Ironteam schedule called for 15 miles that day) and see if he was still up for finishing off 16 with me. He wasn’t. He was actually feeling off. After EPIC weekend he went to the doctor to learn he had an ear infection. This just tells you the strength of my teammates. I was thrilled to finish feeling strong and good on a hilly course and could have continued. Hooray!
We met as a team to stretch and then did a team ice bath…again. Good times. This time the sun was on the pool and that made a world of difference. I made it for a full 20 minutes with the sun (and a towel on my shoulders).
I had time for a quick lunch in my room and relaxation time before we hit the National Training Center pool.
On both training camps I went to previously, this swim is hard. Basically, you are tired and just get through it. That was what I expected. It is not what my body felt. Yes, I was tired, but when I got in the pool and asked my body to go it went. I didn’t have to force. To paraphrase my friend Kathryn, my slow was not my new fast. Nor was my moderate my new fast. I actually held a decent pace and could do a solid effort throughout the swim. To say I was excited is an understatement. I kept thinking and wondering if this was a measure of actual progress by me or just lucking out. I decided a measure of progress and swam with it!
Dinner was EARLY but fun. Some drinking went on, and I had about 1.75 glasses of wine. I knew it was a mistake as I started to feel it, but I did get caught up in the fun. Lesson learned: sun, training and even small amounts of alcohol don’t mix.
I knew what I was going to order based on my nutrition schedule. That evening we divided in to two groups: one went to a bar, one went to the Hampton in and hung out in the lobby/breakfast area. A joke had started that it was Mary’s birthday (it is in December). A small group had gone to Publix and gotten birthday items to carry the joke through, including a card and ice cream. Beer and three large bottles of wine were also purchased.
The evening progressed and the two groups got in to a texting war of where the party was. Eventually those at the bar started trickling back to the hotel, bringing us all together. Yes, it can be said we bonded via a text battle! And over beers, wine and a few other drinks. The next day would be a tough day for some, but they toughed it out and I was very impressed. I cut myself off after dinner and it was a good thing. I wanted to put in three solid days of training, and not deal with after effects of alcohol. One time does not a season ruin, but I still recall my over-indulgence about 2 years ago, and it was so bad it will keep me pretty much in-line for another 8 or so years I think! Also, my body rebelled enough at the little amount I drank when combined with hard training and sun. Again – my body displayed it’s preference to race and train hard over other activities.
I left the group about 9:30 or so.
It had been a fun day and lots had been done. I was excited with how strong I felt and was wondering how day 3 would go.
I went to bed but woke up several times throughout the night with a very bad headache (migraine-esque to me). I still had it the next morning. I ate my breakfast in the room before the breakfast bar opened, and got coffee. The coffee didn’t go well at first, but sweet things did. So when the breakfast bar opened I went and got a bowl of the fruit mix. My headache started ebbing (thank goodness). I went back for some more and by the time I was done my headache was gone and I could stomach my coffee. Um….OK. I won’t complain.
We were doing a reverse triathlon where we were running 2 miles, riding 1 hour, then checking out of our hotel and going over to swim at the NTC. I will say that I admired the strength of my teammates, some of whom felt worse than they let on. I have gone and swam after drinking and ended up throwing up somewhere. Everyone who may have over indulged was strong and took it. Again, although not an ideal show of strength, it showed me how strong our team really is.
When we went out on the run, it was as if the previous two days hadn’t happened. My body was ready to go. The first mile was slow as it was a warm up, but my pace dropped over 1 minute per mile on the second mile. My body was ready to go.
Heading out on the bike I wasn’t planning on racing as we were riding on a trail with pedestrians and lots of stops. But I did ride well where I could. My body just responded and was ready to go. I was the first person back, and went back out to catch my full hour on the bike. I felt great!
And the same was true with the swim. I asked and my body responded as if the previous two days hadn’t been there – it just went. I was beyond giddy in my mind. I felt strong.
Right after Susan, Mary and I headed home. I rode in the back seat all the way. No complaints here. My body had responded well, and just relaxing after a fun training weekend just felt good.
Overall, it was a good weekend. I felt strong and did well. I loved realizing that I felt strong throughout the camp. Hooray!
I also loved spending time with my teammates, and getting to know a few of them better or at least chat with some people I hadn’t really gotten to speak with before.
Overall, a very positive weekend. I have some fabulous teammates. And I am looking forward to IMCdA.