Day One: I left EARLY Sunday morning (4:15am early) to drive down to Seattle to catch my 9:30am flight. It was my first time driving to Seattle so I was sure I would get lost or something, but to my surprise - the drive was completely uneventful and I rolled into the Park'n'Jet in time to seamlessly catch the shuttle to head to Sea-Tac in perfect time to catch my flight. I got to San Fransisco easy breezy in less than two hours, my bags showed up and I was right on schedule. What's the catch you ask?? You must know me well to question why things are running so smoothly.
Coach (Drew) was supposed to pick me up at 12:00 noon and at 11:45 I text him to let him no I had arrived. At 12:15 I called and left a message telling him where I was. At 12:40 I started calling every 5 minutes. At 1:00pm black mini van with BC plates and a neon t-shirt wearing, white sun glass donning, frantically waving man hanging out the passenger window comes ripping through the terminal honking and yelling "We're HEEERRRRE!". Ah. My chariot awaits.
Turns out that Drew left his phone on the roof of his car at the last pit stop and now his I-phone is a part of the I-5.
Four and a half hours later, after a few pits stops for groceries, gas, cheap US drug store flip flops and a few other random road trip items, we arrived at Lake San Antonio camp site and home sweet home for the next 7 days. Since we were pretty much alone on site most of the week there wasn't much to check out when we finally settled.
Andrew and Adrienne had been in the car for 17 hours or so, so they were eager to head out for a quick spin on the bikes to loosen up their legs. I on the other hand had gotten up at 4am and had a much more eventful day. But - "when in Rome...." So we went for a quick 1hour easy spin through the park. WOW! It was incredible. So beautiful, I could barely believe it. There were nothing but big hills and more big hills. There are no flats, you're either going uphill, or downhill. I knew I was in for a good (read: hella hard) week of training.
Day Two: We all arrived safely and got settled Sunday evening. We started off Monday as we would every morning this week. With a big cup of coffee, a big healthy breakfast sitting in the sun of the morning. No rush to get going - we're on vacation!! Deal was that we could get up whenever we wanted, as long as we had time to eat a big breakfast and be on our bikes by 10am. For those of you that are not morning people, that may sound early, but for those of us that are cursed/blessed with the 6:30am natural alarm clock - not having to be ready until 10am was a perfect casual start to any day.
Training for the day? Easy 48km out and back on the Olympic race course. Like I said, there are no flats here. Either uphill, or downhill. But the best part? We're out in the middle of nowhere! No cars. New pavement. No potholes. When you're going downhill - your flyin' downhill! Tuck into your aerobars and enjoy the ride!
Back to camp in just a little over two hours and started to make lunch. Ate to our hearts content, relaxed for a bit and headed down to the beach for the first open water swim of the season. Felt great to be out of the pool and into the lake. Despite the (what'd you call them Drew.. "lake dust bunnies??") whatever they were.. it was gross.
At the end of the day - we ate a great big dinner, had a hot shower (thank god) and did our 30 min of yoga out in the open field while the sun set. Really? Not a bad way to start the week.
Day Three: Big ride today. We fueled up in the morning with a big breakfast as usual and headed out to ride the half iron bike course. This is not only the longest ride I've done, but by far was the hardest BUT was also the most beautiful. It couldn't have been a better day, the sun was shinning, blue sky and warm temps. We rolled up and down hills, rode through long stretches of wine vineyards, country roadsides, mountains and lakesides. It was awesome.
About 3hours into the ride we met what I had been forewarned about and thankfully well prepared for (mentally that is). Nasty Grade. A climb straight up 5 miles / 1,000 feet, 41 miles into the ride. Let me tell you, it's rightfully named and it's reputation is well earned. This climb is seriously tough.
I made it, it wasn't pretty - but I made it. And the best part of that climb? The view at the top is to die for, the ride along the ridge as you turn to head back to camp is spectacular, but it's the long winding descend down the other side that makes Nasty Grade worth climbing. On brand new pavement, with no cars in sight.. its pretty fun racing down at 70km/hr on 14lbs of carbon fiber! WOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!
90km was a good ride, but don't think that was the end of our day. This IS a training camp. So, as soon as I pulled into camp, quick transition into my runners and I headed out for a 45min trail run. Low heart rate, easy run. Crazy? Nope, crazy would have been stopping. After that long and hard of a ride, I had to keep moving to keep my legs form cramping up. The run felt sooo good. A nice change up for my muscles. Once I got back form my run, it took about 10-15min of pacing around camp before I could stop moving. When I stood still - ouch! Hamstrings cramping.. gotta walk it off.
So what keeps you motivated at hour 4:50 of a workout? Food. You start to think about everything that your going to eat when you get home. And eat we did.
Day Four: Another tough workout today. Run/Bike intervals. We do a 10km bike loop then a 1 mile run. We do this combination 4 times each one getting faster than the one before. It's tough. Because of the workout the day before, this was probably the hardest workout. I loved it. I descended (went faster) with each loop and my last mile run was 37 seconds faster than the first. I love having days when everything comes together in the workout. You feel so strong in the end.
And then we eat. Oh how I love lunch.
After lunch we held to the beach. Swim time. This wasn't an easy swim either. Two medium length intervals, a long interval and finished up with 2 x 200m sprints. How does Coach keep you motivated to sprint fast in the water after two hard workouts like we just did in the morning? A little game called Scared Rabbit.
You line up single file slowest swimmer to the fastest and race out to your buoy with 5 seconds in between. The slower swimmers have to swim pretty damn hard otherwise everyone behind you catch up and (purposely for simulating race scenarios) swim right over top of you, knocking and jarring you the whole way. Sounds fun doesn't it? Well - guess who's one of the slowest swimmer in the group??? Yup. Yours truly. I made it to the buoy first in the first sprint. The second sprint I wasn't so lucky. Thanks Coach for the "learning experience". Some people call that abuse, but I guess you can get off with calling it "tough love".
Best part of training? I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Food. Following our swim, we all went out for Ice Cream!!! Yum!
Day Five: So the two hardest days are behind us. Phew. Today, a 3 hour bike ride out the Olympic bike course and beyond. An easy spin. Marie, Michelle and I took advantage of riding without the Coach there and stopped for a few key photo ops. Chatting with the girls makes 60km just fly by.
To celebrate the week starting to wind down (for those that were racing) we all met up at the nearest store which was a little 'hill-billy' place called the Bee Rock about 6 miles from camp. Nothing like pizza and beer in the sun to make the perfect end to the perfect training day. Nice helmet hair Clay.
I was excited to get back to camp that afternoon - things had started to pick up around the site and the race Expo was starting to open! Starting Thursday afternoon, people started to steadily arrive and set up camp around us. The energy was starting to build!
Day Six: Today was an off day for those that were racing so we had planned a trip out to the coast to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and check out the views.
I got in a 35min easy run just to stay fresh, then we were off just after lunch time. The drive was beautiful.
We took the route through the Military camp which made for a pretty interesting drive. Super steep, windy roads that while incredibly scenic, didn't agree with our friend Stan. He almost lost that lunch that he worked so hard for.
The main attraction on the coast, besides the breathtaking views, is an Elephant Seal sanctuary right on the highway. Thousands of seals sitting right there on the beach mere feet from where your standing. Amazing creatures, but pretty smelly if you ask me...
Day Seven: Race Day (Half Iron). Adrienne was racing today. Marie, Drew and I went to the top of one of the first BIG climbs out on the bike course and cheered on the men coming out of the water and heading out to do that nasty ride I had done just a few days before. Some of them looked prepared, others had no idea what they were in for. The atmosphere was fantastic and the smiles told us they were thankful for the support at that particular part of the hill. Adrienne had a great race and finished 2nd in her age group (that's pretty stellar considering there are thousands of racers).
Because the roads were closed for the race I couldn't get out for a ride. Instead I went out for a 1:10 run along the bike route and supported while getting in my workout. The camp site is clearly in full swing now as about 30,000 people have shown up for the weekend. It's a much different camp site now. A little busier if you can imagine.
Saturday night was pretty average. Dinner, stretching, hanging out reading a book, streakers. Oh yeah, the annual Wildflower Naked Mile.
Wildflower is a big event for the Collegiate racers. What do college kids like to do best? Run around naked of course. They came out of nowhere, although you could definitely hear them before you could see them. At least the wave of noise gives you plenty of time to grab your camera. God bless college kids.
Day Eight: Last day. It started early with Brenda and I out on the Olympic bike course before the day's races started. Its' funny how physiological biking can be. After doing the Olympic bike course four times that week, it wasn't a long hilly, tough ride anymore, by being familiar with each twist, turn, climb and downhill, the 40km ended up being a real quick out and back and didn't seem like much of a work out at all. It was a nice simple way to start the day.
We watched Coach Drew, Stan, Clayton, Teresa and Brownwyn kick butt in the race. Teresa won her age group! Seriously, she kicked ass. After I saw all the guys on the run course, I headed down to the expo to do some last minute shopping before packing it up and heading back to San Fran to catch my flight home.
What an incredible week. I can't believe how much I learned and how valuable it was to my training. Really - the information I gathered through friends and training partners at this camp would have taken years to come by in any other situation. I'm so lucky to have had them and this experience. I can't wait for next year.
Life is back to normal (sort of) and race season is upon us. My first race of the year is coming up next week.
All the pictures can be found on Facebook here (you don't need to be on fb to view this):