23 January 2006

Epic NZ - Epilogue

Back to normal life here now that its Monday and it feels pretty good. The good weather has returned and I'm looking forward to another 6 weeks of summer.
Yesterday I had a day out with the family watching some Buskers festival acts in town and lunch on the strip and today trimmed the hedge in the sun with my son Miguel. My daughter has friends over today and they're out in the back yardin the pool and on the trampoline and they stop in every hour or so to mooch more money to go to the dairy for ice creams or milkshakes. I'm off to the pool to swima nd do some light weights in about an hour so thought I'd take a moment to reflect on this last camp and the camps in general before I lose everything I've been thinking about the last week or so.
These blogs are mostly for me and the people who do the camps. After the first few days the specifics of the camps - where we went and what we did - all tend to blend together in a big purple haze. If you take a look of that photo of Albert Boyce in the photo gallery on Day 7 doing the "Epic zombie stare" you'll have a good idea of how most of us feel most of the time during the camp. So its nice to put down a fe thoughts along the way for the archives so all the campers can have some recorded memories.

Firstly about finishing the camp - actually doing all of the scheduled sessions. This is something I really know every one would like to do when they sign up. But for various reasons before or during the camps some of the campers cannot complete all the sessions. And that's OK with me, but its not really doing the camp is it. And I mean this in the best possible way. The camp is an arbitrary challenge and has no objective value on its own. Only the value we each assign it for ourselves. Just like starting an Ironman we sometimes don't finish. We can say we took part and gave it a good try but if we didnt finish then we didn't and hopefully we learn most from those challenges we took on but failed to complete. So for those campers who made a valiant effort to do the entire camp but for various reasons failed to do the whole thing I salute you and hope you still were able to go further than you thought possible and that carries over into future challanges you find for yourself.
For those who did complete all of the nutty challenges Gordo, John and I set for you during this camp then well done. Because it was a very big challenge.
Secondly there were a couple of stunning revalations in the camp in Mike Coughlin and Brandon Del Campo. These are two guys who came to NZ this summer to make a big jump of several levels in just a few short months and they have done that already. Brandon's improvement since he's arrived here in NZ in early December has been nothing short of remarkable. Talent can be a curse, but it can also be a huge advantage if channeled in the right direction. I look forward to following their results over the coming year, along with the rest of the campers.

For me the camps are a way of examining and sharing all I have learned and appreciate most in my 30 years of endurance sport. They are like and exhibition a painter friend of mine is having soon in a local art gallery. He's been rounding up all of the artwork he's sold over the last 28 years that's still around and putting it all on show. He's a bit nervous about it as it is collectively a very good summary of his life's work. I feel like that about the camps.
Going forward I hope to do things I've never done and go places I've never been on the camps. I want new challenges for myself and sharing it with friends makes it more special for me. I really don't have any specific race aspirations at the moment so the camps are stand-alone prospects for me. Personally I don't attach any importance to them as race prep. I know races will come up that I get excited about, but this year I'm having an Ironman-free year so the camps are the main things I will be training to prepare for, not vice-versa.
Gordo still has some very specific race goals so his goals and motivations for the camps remain quite different than mine. And really I hope that (like him) most people who do the camps use them as a springboard to achieve something special in endurance sports. I just hope to be a guide from the back of the pack some how as my physical powers wane. And boy are they waning!!! I do like to step up to the mound and serve up some of that special Terminator fastball now and then to the big boys to see if they can deal with it, but more and more often they're whacking the ball over the fence with a sly grin on their face.
Its getting more and more obvious that I can't be physically present when they are digging their deepest. But I'm OK with that. I get a deeper satisfaction knowing I helped create the environment that enables them to reach for more.
I've been racing age-group for 6 years now and have been enjoying the company of my fellow age-groupers so much I can easily see doing this for another 15 years or so.
Thank you all campers who shared this one with me. I hope you have some good memories.
Special thanks to Pete, John, Michaela and Daryl for super support crew duties. Once again your humor and friendship made this all the more enjoyable.

19 January 2006

Epic Camp Day 11

Day 11 ended up being about as planned with a leisurely ride down from Arthurs Pass back to Christchurch. Some of us ran at 6am up in Arthurs Pass first as there is some amazing trails up there. Its hard work but definately the kind of place we don't get to run in very often so some of us didn't want to pass it up.
8:30 roll-out on the bikes and many took a headstart so they could relax a bit. Its quite hilly for about 90km before getting to lunch and riding the rest of the 150km on the flat.
We had great weather today - only the 3rd day I would call it that for this camp and I feel we got a bit short-changed by the weather over-all this last 2 weeks. But today was perfect.
We went back to QE II pool to get our 3km+ swim done and some of the guys were lined up behind Albert Boyce getting motor-paced for 3km straight! I actually felt good in teh water for a change which was a nice bonus.
After the swim some who didn't run earlier did a run and then we had dinner together at 6:45pm followed by a nice hand-out of swag from Oomph and Blue Seventy (formerly Ironman Wetsuits).
Tomorrow is mostly a fun day with some various short races, some food and R & R. Hope to get some good photos. This one here (hope this works.....) is a view of NZ similar to what we saw the majority of the time on this camp. Lots of open roads.
I hope to have a few coherent thoughts for an Epilogue but that might be a couple of days from now.

18 January 2006

Epic Camp Day 10 - Wet.

We did a good job of getting some good training in today in the wet. It was rainining steady all day tday so we improvised the triathlon race we were going to have in Lake Brunner this morning and made it into a 1700m swim/7km run aquathon. Cooooool rain the whole morning. About 66 degrees F by my guess.
Young Brit Stephen led it out after gapping Colting and Bjorling on the swim. He actually increased his lead on the run which was good to see. He's finding some form. Monica held me off by about 100 meters! but I ran well today and am feeling stronger every day now.
After a long leisurely breakfast contemplating the downpour we headed out for Arthurs Pass at 11:30. The Otira Gorge here was everything advertised - wet and super steep. About 15% incline for about 2km and my compact cranks were worth evry penny! Man its just incredibly scenic here. The ride yesterday was one for the postcards too. That West Coast on a fine day rivals any coastal ride on the planet. Hope some one has got some photos to post for you and for teh archives. What a day.
We also had one of teh nicest beaches to run on in Wesport. Jason Rita needed to run on that beach too after his solo 240km km ride on Monday. Days like that rally test you, and then when you can find such solace running free at teh end of the world on a perfect beach....... well that's special.
I'm rambling a bit but I'm late for dinner. We're eating ina resteraunt again tonight so I don't want to be late (just giving our support crew a bit of schtick here....).
p.s. - last long day tomorrow- run in the am before breakfast, 180km to Christchurch with one pass (Porter's Pass) and then swim in the evening. Should be about 7-8 hours worth. Forecast looks decent!

15 January 2006

Epic Camp Day 7 - Resiliency

This is one of the main physical and mental characteristics one needs to be successful at this sport.
You have to work through plateaus.
You have to train when injured sometimes(often for older athletes).
You have to train when sick sometimes.
You have to train when tired or crappy weather threatens to de-rail you.
You have to train when you just don't feel like it.
You have to do it consistently week after week, year after year.
This is what Cam Brown calls "backing it up".
And hopefully this is one of the main things people come to expect more of from themselves after Epic Camp.
This morning the crew saw young Clas rip a hilly 1/2 marathon to shreds after putting in a massive week previously. He did the same thing on Epic 2003 when we did a 1/2 Ironman in the middle of that camp and he did it again on the North Island in 2004 when he got second to Cam in a 1/2 IM in the middle of that camp.
This is why guys like Clas and Cam run 2:42 on hilly IM run courses. Because they "back it up" in training. Its a priveledge to be associated with people like that because their example of a stellar work ethic is so obvious for any one to see. They just put it right out there for all to see. You just have to turn up to see it week after week!

After the 1/2 marathon this morning we had a pastry run follwed by a ride of 60km. Most opted for the flattish route guided by the G-Man and Clas, Albert Boyce and I headed up another solid climb of nearly 7km out towards the Rai Valley (towards Blenheim) and back. The sun came out today and I had those rivers of sweat running down my legs on the climb. Always a good indication its pretty warm!
Then we had a nice sunny swim in the outdoor 50m pool again before dinner. The pool's beena bit cool here up until now. It will be sad to leave htis pool now that its warm!
Tomorrow is our longest day on the camp - around 11+ hours is my guess witha 240km ride to Westport tos tart the day. Its forecast to be into a slight southerly headwind so hopefully it won't be too bad or else we're looking at over 10 hours on the bike. Then a run and a swim. So I don't think I'll get a chance to get to a computer tomorrow.......

14 January 2006

Epic Camp day 6

This will be short and please exuse the typos. I'm shattered.
We went up Takaka Hill today which is a 3,500 ft. climb over 15km on the way over, and only 11km on the way back. That's right - over and back.
The ride was 170km all together and with double KOM points on the line both ways some of us were determined to make an effort.
I led out and applied some serious pressure to make the guys think twice about how much they wanted to suffer today and I did indeed get a gap to take the first summitt nd held on until the last km of the second ascent when young Clas reeled me in.
Top effort to the whole crew today, even those that only did one side of he mountain. People are getting pretty darn tired and every day there are ample opportunities to question how much we want to do.
The sun came out on the climb today too which was nice. The views are incredible up there and it would have beena shame if it had stayed socked in like it was all morning.
So that was certainly a highlight for the camp.
We swam this morning and most did the minimum 3km without much fuss. Mostly just straight swimming. Clas and I did an IM set (12 x 100IM + 150f/s) continuously for a bonus point. There are only a couple of bonus points for swimming this time around and most every one is going to get those. Nearly every one ran tonight too which was a bit of a surprise. As incentive to encourage people to swim/bike/run every day we've assigned a whopping 20 bonus points at the end of the camp if you've done the minimum for all 3 disciplined on 10 of the camp days.
We have a special event tomorrow morning to kick things off and until tonight's briefing its beena surprise. We haven't told any one anything other than it will be a hard running event.
Its a local 1/2 marathon that we'rehopping into and there are place points on the line for the first 4 places in each category (civilian and elite). So that should see the runners looking to dish out a little punishment like what they've been taking from the better swimmers and cyclists in the camp.
After lunch we have a very hilly 60km ride follwed by a swim in the evening.
On Monday we have an early start as we'r doing ur ongest ride of the camp - 235km from here in Nelson to Wesport over on the West Coast. The weather forecast for that one looks pretty good so far. Lets hope its not a severe head wind. OK - its 8:40pm and time to check the mail......

12 January 2006

Epic Day 4 preview

WEll its 6:30am here. Its been light for almost an hour but thick cloud is over-head, its slightly drizzling and about 12 degrees C. Looks like a cool run this morning to kick things off.
All campers have the coice of how far to run each day and today is no different. We have minimum distances of 10km (or 50 minutes) to qualify as a run and 3km to qualify as a swim for points each day, along wiht at least completing each days's route to get points for the bike.
We've modified our points/incentive/motivation scheme slightly this year to give more weight to consistency. If you do the minimum for all 3 for 10 days on the camp then you get an extra 20 bonus points at the end. So if you do happen to crack and miss a session then it will effectively put you out of the points competition. We've only had one camper crack in tht department so far. Mitch (the marine even!) decided not to swim or run yesterday. In one regard that must feel pretty comforting because it removes the pressure to complete all sessions for the rest of the camp. But that's exactly what the points system is designed to do - motivate everyone to reach for more.
Coffee is starting to kick in and I'm feeling pretty normal now! Whci is a relief. I think I'm about 8 lbs lighter than I was 2 weeks ago before I got sick. With 530km cycling, 3:10 of running and 13.8km of swimming done over the last 3 days my tank was severely and utterly empty last night before dinner. But I saw a few veins in my legs this morning!!! so it ain't all bad.....
More later.

11 January 2006

epic Camp Day 3

OK. I'm better now.
Coming to you live from Murchison which is the kayak captial of the South Island because of the 4 rivers that converge here.
I seemed to carry a nasty bug with me into this camp but now have just had my first meal since Sunday and it seems like it might even stay down. So a stroll into town for a few "quiet ones" (as they say here in NZ) is in order. Perhaps a bit of sweet stuff too as I'm feeling pretty hollow.
The camp has been just as big as advertised so far. If you've read G-Man's account of Day 1 and 2 then you know the numbers. Wim's updates have also included quite a bit of numbers from our rides.
My own personal issues were significant so I felt pretty weak with only a token attack on the KOM on Day 2. But I am feeling a hell of a lot better now so hopefully I can show a little bit of Epic strength by day 5-6. But there are a lot of very strong, well-prepared people here so its no easy task to make the group work a bit. Getting to the front is a hell of a mission.
We had some very serious wind today. They call it a Nor'wester here because fo the direction t flows from and it was a steady 20-30mph into our face for the first 2 hours of the ride. Even working together it took 2 hours to go 50km.
Clas, Stephen Bayliss and Mike Coughlin (yeah! who the hell is he???!!!) from Ontario are certainly the strongest on the hills so far. Wim is right behind but I can see he's marshalling his strength pretty well so far.
Tomorrow is a 150km ride to Nelson where we'll be based for a few days. It will be nice for the support crew not to have to shift everything for a little while. They've been doing another stellar job to keep us fed and watered so far.
More tomorrow.

08 January 2006

pre-camp dinner

Hello! Just trying this sucker out. Webmaster Brian put in the test post for me. I'm just headed over to dinner to meet everyone and say a few words about what's coming up.
The wind was howling again today so no need to say anything about that. The group was going out for a run in Bottle lake Forest which is pretty protected from the wind. But I just heard there is a big forest fire going on thee so the already hot 27 degrees C might seem a bit hotter over there.

There seems to be more fast guys here than I thought. I haven't been paying very close attention to the c.v.'s people have sent in obviously. There are 5 guys who've gone under 9 hours recently here along with a few more just over the 9-hour mark for their PB's. Plus Monica and Bella.
Good to see all 3 Swedish Doodes there tonight - Clas, Jonas and Bjorn. Bjorn is going to tag along with us tomorrow a little bit. The other 2 are doing the whole camp.
We have a first rate support crew here who've all done Epic support before and this year we know where we're going! so it should be a bit smoother for every one and easier on the support crew to look after us. Last year in Aussie we had a few more hassles to deal with not knowing the towns/cities along the way at all.
5:15am alarm bells going off for me tomorrow. Hope you enjoy following along.

More later......