23 December 2006

EC:NZ'07 Prologue

As I type the first part of this I’m in Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. on holiday over the Christmas period with my family. I hope you’ve also had a good break away from work spending some time with those who you are near and dear to.

My wife’s sister and family live here so we get over here quite often. It’s a great place for training and I’ve spent many long days on the bike here preparing for one event or another. One of my best memories associated with winning Zofingen in ’91 was the prep I did here late in the southern hemisphere summer. Lots of great climbs in every direction. So it’s a good place to be to start getting ready for Epic 2007.

On today’s ride I was rambling through my memories of previous Epics and I have high hopes that this year’s camp will have some memorable highlights. Here’s a few examples that I think the campers who attended these specific camps will surely remember...

In 2005 we had a stay at a real high country sheep station in Aussie in Goulburne. And I’m sure the campers wont’ ever forget our climb up Brown Mountain on that camp or our tri that finished at the summit of Mt. Kosciosko (highest point in Australia) on a crystal clear day.

Other highlights for me over the years are the ½ IM’s on both the North and South Islands in the middle of those camps, the race up Steamboat Mountain and Mt. Evans with Clas and Gordo on the Colorado trip, climbing both sides of the Tourmalet in France.

Other great memories for me were things I didn’t do but watched others do in the pursuit of the yellow jersey awarded to the camper with the most points. Examples include watching not-so-great swimmers do a 200m fly or a 1km with a band around their ankles, watching Gordo churn out some 13km swim days and 51km running in 2 days in an epic struggle with RoboSeth in Aussie. Watching John “No Van” Mergler head out into some 70mph winds in Wanaka in 2003 to stay on track for his 2,000km cycling goal for the 12 days when no one else on the camp was riding that day... so many good memories.

Most of my memories are of people, not places or events. I’ve made some very good friends as you can imagine when you spend 12 days with some one. We have 8 returnees on this camp and that means a hell of a lot to me. I’m not sure what we would do if we have so many people wanting to return to the camps that we don’t’ have room for any one new, but it looks like we’ll have to deal with that soon.

One of my hopes for Epic Camp in the future is we’ll continue to have at least one camp a year that is held in our summer that starts at my door.

When Gordo and I began this little venture he was spending his summers here in Christchurch. Now that he is not basing himself here any longer I’m sure it will be a bit tougher to entice him to continue to do enough work in December to be fit enough to get through an Epic in January.

But we’ve got John Newsom as a partner now (someone has to organize these things...) so at least two of us ought to be able to front up and be ready to deal out the appropriate amount of training stimulus to the campers every January. Gordo has already booked his early winter accom. In Noosa, Aussie already for December so he’ll be good for at least one more January camp.

We’re doing a different route on the South Island this year that includes just about the entire West Coast. So I’m praying for good weather! I had the pleasure of riding through some notorious West Coast wet weather in October on Pete O’Brien’s 5-Passe Tour and I’m not ready to suffer through that again in this lifetime.

If you’ve read through any of the journals from previous Epics you’ll know I like to discuss ideas related to our sport that support the Epic ethos we’re trying to convey. There’s plenty of scope for new material here so I hope to touch on some new stuff for you long-time readers. I don’t tend to write a lot for general public consumption because I’m generally not inspired to. I’ve written the odd article for a few bucks here and there over the years mostly when the weather is too crummy to go outside. If its nice outside and I have the opportunity to get out and do some exercise I will almost always choose to do that instead of writing. Time for training is still precious to me even though I generally do about 20 hours/week.

Besides that I hate having to make everything I write politically correct for mass consumption.

We tinker with the points system we use on the camps a little bit every camp. That keeps it fresh for us Epic Vets as well as keeps every one a little off-guard so they have new challenges to take on. It also serves to allow various types of strengths to be rewarded. We like all campers to have a chance to shine and feel good about their efforts. When you have some one like Bjorn, Jonas, Clas or Stephen Bayliss along it can make even super stud age groupers feel like a useless snail day after day.

For this camp I wanted to encourage faster swimming in general so I’ve added some specific sets with target times to hit as additional opportunities to earn points. Most camps had swim sets that you just had to complete to get points. We still have those, but now we also reward speed in the pool and in our swim races a more. We’ve had a lot of zombie swim-a-thons in previous camps so we’ll see if we can’t lift the standard a bit.

We realize when we make up the camp schedule that it will be very hard for most of the campers to complete every session and that’s still the main goal I challenge the campers with. When you know you’ve going to start off with a 40-50 hour week it’s a bit hard to know how hard you can go and still get to the end. It’s a tough job to pace yourself through 12 days and still take some risks to earn points. But this camp is all about taking risks to see what’s possible.

As part of this camp we’ve also got the opportunity to take part in a new, exciting event happening at the end of Epic down in Wanaka. Its called Challenge Wanaka and its being put on by Matt Tuck who owns Pro4 which is a major sponsor of IM New Zealand and Quelle Challenge. I’ve signed up to do the entire event (IM distances) along with a few others and some of the campers are planning on doing the swim and bike. We’ve done some ½ IM events in the middle of Epics before, and I once did Boulder Peak 2 days after finishing Epic Colorado with a tough day riding up Mt. Evans 2 days before. But this is a whole ‘nother enchilada.

And as I write this on December 23 I’m pretty mangled from a hard crash 5 days ago. My run progress this year seems to be coming up against one setback after another. Its a good thing most of my competitive aspirations are very modest these days. Just taking on the challenge of Epic Camps and events like Challenge Wanaka are enough to motivate me to get out the door every day. I don’t need to even think about doing well at them. Just getting through them is tough enough to motivate me sufficiently now.

I’ll save the topic of motivation for another post. Its one of the main ideas I feel athletes need to spend time on to get them headed in the right direction, so if I’m gonna write about it then I’d like to give it due respect.