05 July 2006

Epic Camp update through July 4 - Day 9

Day 7 – In Font Romeau

Before I forget a big congrats to our good buddy Clas Bjorling for lowering his IM PB by 6 minutes to go 8:15 at Quelle Challenge in Roth this past week-end. This is the first Epic that Clas has missed and he did so because of his plans for a good effort at Roth. Very good to see the guy still improving. He’s also been the on-going editorial director for the Epic book of standards at our camps and his influence on us all at the camps has been very significant. Hopefully he’ll be back for future camps.

Today is supposed to be a _relatively_ moderate day in the context of Epic Camp. Most people are doing the minimum distances of swim 3km/bike 60km/run 50 minutes. But we are at 6,000ft and any ride you do from here of 60km will most likely get you 3,000ft of vertical gain.
The sun was out all day and although not every one swam this morning at 6am nearly every one did.
No one missed breakfast. J
After a bit of a break and internet time we headed out for a sunny hot run on the trails and roads down into town and then around the training center. Most people did 50 minutes but Gordo started early and finished late to get 2.5 hours to stay in the battle for the camp yellow jersey. He and Mike Montgomery have now well and truly pulled away from the rest.
After lunch we headed out all together on a group riding downhill for 16km and toward Spain. In planning this camp I saw a little town on the map in Spain called La Molina with Super Molina right next to it. It didn’t occur to me one bit that they could be ski resorts. So I put them on the route map but when we got here we found out it would be a heck of a climb to get there. En-route half the crowd flipped a u-turn at the 30km mark. They obviously weren’t as keen as I was for the photo opportunity at the town limit sign. So we kept climbing up and up and up. Since I was a bit ahead I made a quick stop for a coffee and a beer and then got caught up at the drink and photo stop. We then continued upwards to make it a 90km ride and it was really nice up there at about 6,000ft. Another fabulous descent and then a toasty climb the 2500ft. back up to Font Romeau. My guess for vertical gain for those that went longer is about 6500ft. We were going at a leisure pace and there were 2 x 5 minute breaks but the ride still took us about 4 hours. So just a total of 6 hours for the day for me which has been my shortest day so far.

Day 8 – Font Romeau – Andorra loop with Pas de la Casa at 2408m (high point of the camp) and Col de Puymorens

6am start in the pool again today. We had some ITU boys from Germany on one side of the pool so I had to pick up the tempo considerably to keep the camp from falling into dis-repute! With such a big ride on the plan today a few of us were keen to get our 3km done and get in a massive breakfast. Mike Montgomery got his 3km done and promptly went for a 50-minute run. Michael Peters woke at 5am to do his run before swimming.

The planned route was 170km today.

Every day I think how glad I am that my good buddy KP isn’t along on this trip because we probably wouldn’t be friends any more! Although he’s done every other Epic this camp really isn’t a camp for bigger people. Its just too damn vertical and hot. He might have blown a few gaskets by now for sure. In planning Italy I am going to stick to a one pass or mountain per day policy to keep some sanity. I’ve made that promise to G-Man and I know he’ll help me stick to that goal. I’ve usually forgotten the pain of previous camps when planning the next one but this time I won’t forget. I’m planning on quite a bit of riding in the Dolomites for the Italy camp. If you’ve followed the Giro closely you know the Dolomites have a lot more steep climbs than the ones we are doing on this camp and now that I know what 13% feels like I will be more sensible in planning those routes.

We rolled out on the bike in 2 groups again to let the “grupetto” take it a bit more leisurely. I wanted to get to Andorra and the meat of the climb as quick as possible as I had seen the forecast high temperature was for 95 degrees F in Andorra for today. I had ridden this loop with Mike Pigg and Mark Allen in ’91 when we came here (Font Romeau) for a training camp between the Zofingen Duathlon and the Nice triathlon. But we rode it in the other direction so I didn’t remember Andorra too well as we just blitzed though it in the downhill direction dodging traffic. Riding with Pigg was always a challenge in more ways than one.
The climb today was about 5500ft up all together and it’s a doozy. The grupetto went to the center of town which was a small diversion but it meant we didn’t see them as we climbed to the top of the pass. Mike Montgomery also went the wrong way and came blazing past me near the top in a less than stellar mood! We hard a drink stop on the way up and lunch was at the top at about the 5-hour mark of the ride. It was a beautiful day so I stopped for a beer and a coffee at the top and at 8300ft it only takes one to get decent buzz in my dehydrated state. I could have stayed there all day with my shirt off slowly turning purple. I had my Santana playlist on the iPod today. It has everything he’s ever done – its about 5 hours long. Seemed appropriate riding through Spain. For those of you who like Santana he has a new album out titled “All that I Am” which just rocks.

On the climb through Andorra Gordo was very happy to see some of the best sustained Watts on his SRM that he’s seen since 2004. And this is Day 8 and you’d think he wouldn’t be able to ride his way out of a paper bag by now such is his fatigue level. But he was chasing Mike M! Nothing like a de-ranged super fit motivated age grouper to bring out the best in you eh G-Man! J
That’s exactly why we have the points system – to get every one to get a little more out of themselves.
The group got quite a kick out of seeing Colm Cassidy attack the Andorra climb in his big ring and then promptly detonate like a nuclear bomb. He ended up about 20 minutes back at the top of the climb! But 2.1 liters of Pepsi and a big lunch helped him get it back together and he ended up blazing up the last climb in 90 degree heat to get home first.
About 1km from the end I stopped to have a chat with Mike Montogomery who was doing a little “treats tour” of town hitting every shop that sold something with sugar in it. He was planning on a 1:40 run after the ride and looked pretty damn nuked at that point.
I went straight to sleep after a beer and a snack and rolled out for my run at 6pm. I was very happy to see the sun out and it was still about 80+ degrees F so I headed up on the trails to Col de Pam at 2005m elevation and wandered around up there listening to the Crusaders vocal album on my iPod. Great album and wonderful way to finish the day’s training.

We had a very nice outing to the closest restaurant tonight for a beer. 1 km walk each way which was perfect. We had a few wedges and lots of laughs. Nice warm night.

Day 9 – In Font Romeau

Today was planned as another easy day but its really up to every one to decide how much they want to do. The only planned activities today were a ride down (and back) to a lake 24 km away for an aquathon.
Some of us hopped in the pool for a swim at 6am. Monica Byrn gave some swim instruction after her swim and some of the guys really need it! So that was very nice of her. She’s pretty damn pooped too as you can imagine.
Some people ran in the morning and Mike M rode down to Andorra and back! which is 160 f….n km! Yikes!!! He skipped breakfast and got back just in time for lunch and then a roll-out at 1pm for our aquathon. That was a huge effort! And he’s really put a lot of pressure on G-Man for the Epic yellow jersey now.

The lake we did our aquathon is was about 70 degrees so we used wetsuits. John Newsom marked out a 3-lap course that ended up just over 2km. Monica and I led it out in about 28 minutes so it was a bit more than the planned 1500m for sure. Quite choppy and hard to navigate as well. We then did a 2-lap 7km run. I got a jump on Gordo but he quickly bridged up and ended up taking it with me second, Monica 3rd and Mike M 4th. It was good to give the G-man a bit of a push on the run today. He was breathing like a freight train! Even being at 6,000ft. I felt surprisingly good.
We then had a little snack and rode back up to Font Romeau. I could have had a picnic and a 2-hour nap in the sun there by the lake quite easily instead.

We had a little sit-down Q & A tonight with those that want to talk over some of the normal training and race issues they have along with some special considerations to prepare for post-Epic. We also talked about the various activities for tomorrow’s activities day which should be a laugh as always. Just a bit of goofing off really.
We had dinner 7:15-8pm. Cafeteria buffet-style dining is very nice when you’re in a hurry.
Then a quick trip to the local restaurant/bar for ice cream (Gordo’s suggestion!) and a beer (mine) for a few of us, then at 9pm bit of internet time to get caught up with the outside world to finish the day.