It’s ironic but the word, “camp” is a bit misleading here. Camp implies, sailing boats, riding zip lines and making smores by the camp fire. This camp included none of that. We swam, rode our bikes (180 miles with a total of 17,000 ft elevation gain) and ran off the bike, on hills, and at the track. This camp was a deep dive immersion into the art of triathlon. The focus was not on how to get faster but how to swim, bike and ride —- WELL. If you don’t know how to do something well, then how will you have the skills to go fast? So the intent on the 4.5-day full immersion – was to soak up every tidbit of info I possibly could in hopes of applying this knowledge to my training as well as share with my coached athletes.
You may be wondering why an experienced endurance athlete, USAT Level II Endurance coach and board sport certified registered dietitian would value this experience. Well, my friends, there is always more to learn. If you aren’t growing, you are backsliding. My approach is to be fully committed to listening and learning all I can – and if it is repetitive – I still listen. As far are the nutrition goes, I’ve been an RD since 1992, so I know my stuff inside and out. And I find that although we may differ in our approach, it doesn’t mean one is wrong, and one is right. It’s just a difference of opinion, and both could be right if applied to a specific athlete. Nutrition and sports fueling are NOT a one size fit all. So just because your favorite pro may use two bottles worth 700+ calories for the bike leg or consumes 6 gels on the ride doesn’t mean you should too.
Whoops – I got off track… – the camp was amazing! I love my coach(es) – b/c they tell me what I need to hear. I am always in search of the truth – not a sugar coated wad of crap. Yep – give it to me straight. And I got the good, bad and ugly. But- the BEST part of a 4-5 day triathlon camp was the 16 campers who flew from all over the world to immerse themselves in an SC triathlon camp arrive with the single goal of improvement and training with like minded athletes. I LOVED it!! And I wanted more and more and more. I wanted more days to train with these people who were encouraging, funny and so very entertaining all while escaping our lives to focus solely on ourselves and our sport. Truly a treat. The group (12 men and five women) made for an ego free environment, and we bonded quickly as if we had been life long friends. I respect every one of the campers and hope to cross paths with them again.
The SC camp was my third camp in 12 months – and because I am no longer new like a deer in headlights, it was clear to me the changes I needed to apply back at home in my training. Most of them I’ve implemented, but these are worth mentioning since we can all learn from the wisdom derived from an immersion camp.
Triathlon Lessons 101
1- Slow really does mean slow. Not an 8:30 first mile on the run but maybe a 10 min warm up walk then a 9 min mile. If I can muster the self-discipline actually to do this – the payoff is big!
2- The swim warm up should be painfully slow. I used to gauge my warm up time (a 500) as a predictor of how the rest of the swim would go. Don’t do that – allow your body time to warm up – and you’ll find you might swim your best.
3- Incorporate the drills, all of them – and yes it might take longer to finish the swim workout, but do it anyway.
4- The warm up on the bike as I am riding out of the neighborhood and through intersections will be slow. If it pulls down your total average on the bike – who cares. If it bothers you – hit lap to separate the warm up and cool down. There are no gold medals for improving avg pace on a ride don’t try to win one.
5- Relax the arm as the stroke enters the water – no shoving the mail in the mail box slot. You are doomed if you do that – so don’t do it.
6- Riding hills burn more fuel than flats – prepare for that in advance.
7- Never skip a post workout recovery fuel. Rule of thumb: Protein needs: .25-.3 x body weight in kg and carbs/protein are 3:1. Ideally, consume within 30 min of the workout finish. It is as important as the workout itself.
8- Sleep. Sleep. And Sleep some more. That is where the magic happens – not when you are crushing your workout. If you skimp on sleep, you will not gain the fitness you are working so very hard for.
9- Never skip breakfast. I don’t care if you aren’t hungry – you learned to swim, bike and run – learn to eat breakfast too.
10- Excuses sound good to a non-athlete – but to an athlete, they sound like fingers on a chalk board. We all have niggles and short comings – but don’t let them be a crutch. Find ways to make the best of a situation and be a fighter – after all – you’ll need to be a warrior on the battlefield (race course). Practice starts in training.
11- Make every effort to be as consistent as possible with your workouts. Most of us don’t get paid to be triathletes, so it’s understandable if and when life demands get in the way. But – something is always better than nothing and if you are skipping more workouts that you are executing – then it’s wise to make a change to your schedule or change your race goals until life calms down. Keep in mind – stress from life is similar to the stress of training. So a busy lifestyle along with a training load will require additional recovery.
12- Don’t take yourself too seriously or over obsess about training or race conditions that are out of your control. It’s fine to plan for them, but not okay to obsess. It if rains, it rains. You won’t melt. If it is windy or hot – learn to ride and run well in those conditions. And relax – a tense body does not execute well.
13- Focus on where you are at the moment. If you are swimming, keep your mind on your swimming – not what you are making for dinner that evening. Same goes for riding and running. This is GREAT mental practice for race day. Our minds tend to wander up the road – 50-60 miles — nope. Pull it back to the here and now. Stay where you are – focus on the process, and the outcome will take care of itself.
Thanks for reading and good luck to you on your next race!!