31 January 2008

Epic Camp NZ '08 Day 5

Epic NZ ’08 Day 5 – Still in Wanaka

For those following along from afar you may know some of the campers either in person or from their race results over the last few years.
There’s no one here who wouldn’t be one of the strongest guys in their hometowns.
Everyone here has ridden well under 5:30 in an IM and is as tough as hell.
Yet after 4 days of smashing themselves to bits and being smashed by the group even these guys start to get humbled when the intensity really gets amped up as it does at some point every day.
A good example of that was today’s uphill TT up the Crown Range from the Queenstown. I’m putting the results here to help with perspective and no other reason The TT came at the 100km point of the ride and most of us had already swam and ran this morning as well as rode very steady to get to the base of the climb with quite a few hills enroute up through the Kuwara Gorge. We figured it would take approx. 40+ minutes for the fast guys to get up it and that everyone would spend considerable time in their easiest gear no matter what gear they brought.
We set off at 30-second intervals with the leaders on the KOM points going off at the end. Here are the times:
Beven James-Eyles 36:37
Chris MacAteer (support crew) 37:58
Paul Westwood 38:49
Me 39:31
Newsom 39:54
G-Man 40:23 (got a bloody nose doing it!)
Albert 41:10
Douglas Scott (age 47) 42:07
Tara 42:19
John Drury (age 47) 43:10
Mike Gilbert (age 42) 43:22
Elliott Drake 44:04
Toby Radcliffe 44:45
Rob Creasy (support crew) 44:55
Clive Asplen 45:17
Kevin Farley 47:41
Ron Tribendis 49:01
Mark Petrofesa 49:14
Andrew Charles 51:23
Rob Chance 56:41 (just happy to get up that damn thing!)
Anthony DeMarco 58:06
Andrew Chirnside (aerobars came loose and nearly came off)
Brandon (knee is dodgy so didn’t do it)

Everyone has my full respect for doing it at all. It was damn hot and sunny again and hardly a breath of wind on that climb.
I’m sure some of the guys really didn’t appreciate prior to the camp just how much intensity there would be. When you look at the distances involved its safe to assume it all must be getting done at a very moderate pace but if you talk to them now I’m pretty sure everyone will agree that we’ve been going damn hard at some point every day and usually for a hell of a long time.

At dinner tonight G-Man read off the points and Albert is still in Yellow with Newsom and Tara now within range, but they’ll have to pull out something pretty special to take Yellow from Albert. He tacked on to total 180km for the day on the bike and still had his run to do. Since he swan another 6km this morning he didn’t have time to run unless he would have started out with some of us at 6am.
Tara also tacked on the bike and then ran another 50 minutes! so is fully into playing the game now. She swam 6km in the pool with me this morning so had about 10 hours of training today.

When we pulled into Wanaka near the end of the ride a lot of treats were gobbled up! I think I might have had a 10,000 Calorie day today. Seemed like I was drinking thick carb drinks or stuffing my face with food all day. And then another scrumptious dinner!
Toffee Pops all around tonight and well-deserved.

Tomorrow is another massive day. The ride is approx 180km goes back over the Crown Range, the back way to Queenstown for lunch and then out to Glenorchy and back. That section is 90km of the slowest road in the world! And my guess is that it will take the quickest guys approx 3:20 to ride that section alone.

Lots of laughs at all of this silliness tonight as I sign off……….
Newsom had said he wasn't going to be part of any tackon-a-thon.

Sure Johnny. Sure :-)

30 January 2008

Epic NZ '08 Day 4 - In Wanaka

Epic NZ ’08 Day 4

The last of the contenders for Yellow just walked in at 7:20pm after swimming and running in town as the rerst of us were just sitting down to eat dinner. Looks like at least 4-5 people are shooting for max points for the camp and perhaps some time in Yellow.

G-Man says there’s quite a bit of Yellow fever going around and its fun to see so many people playing the game.

Last night seemed to go by pretty slowly as I am sharing a room with Epic snorer Anthony DeMarco from NY, NY.
I was woke by what I thought might have been an earthquake and realized it was his snoring! It was like I was in the room with a jackhammer the vibrations were so strong. I’m amazed the guys fillings don’t vibrate out! Every now and then there were some really strange guttural sounds coming out too like his gall bladder was in spasm or something.
Tonight I’ll put in ear plugs and will probably wake up feeling like I’ve had 8 hours of Tapotement.
Anthony’s bike finally arrived yesterday along with Rob’s so they finally get to ride their own bikes. They’ve both been great at putting up with borrowed machines.

Our day started with a swim race and G set the swim course that looked to be approx 5km. After yesterday’s aquathon I knew there was going to be some tired swimmers.
Albert went straight to the front to string it out with Newsom and crew member Rob
Creasy sitting on with me in the “sweet spot” #4 in the line. We were moving along at a very good clip! 1/3 the way through the 2nd lap Creasy decided to stay away from the shallow water and took Newsom with him but I stayed with Albert who had been sighting brilliantly and he pulled me away from those guys.
That lake is an absolute delight to swim in when its calm but all I saw was bubbles for an hour! Newson was 3rd, G-Man 4th with Mark P and Rob Chance on his feet and Tara just behind. I thought “Major” Mike Gilbert from Auckland might be in there all day but he finally made land just before we were going to send out the search and rescue team.

After the swim we hopped into the vans to drive back to the road just below the lodge to run a 10km. This was another race for points but we also did a secret ballot time prediction which was worth ½ points with the person closest to their prediction taking it out. I predicted a 43:15 for myself which I thought was a little optimistic. No one was allowed to wear a watch.

Paul Westwood took it out in 35:03 which was a damn fine effort this far into the camp.. Beven closed a lot and dropped G to go 35:30 to get 2nd with Newsom 4th. Albert lumbered out with a 4+ min first km looking determined to be sensible but I don’t think he really has it in his personality to cruise any type of race at all and he soon got ramped up to chase some people down.
We have some very good over-40 runners on this camp with Major Mike and John Drury from Folsom, CA coming to the camp with very good recent run credentials. They were right there with Albert.
Young Elliott from Reno was closest to his prediction – he predicted 43:24 and came in at 43:32. He came in right with Tara.
The sun was high in the sky by the time we finished and it was a balmy 23C.

We had a very leisurely late breakfast and laying around and some people (including me) had a little nap.
Finally at 12:30 we rolled out for an easy spin of 60km. It was a sunny 27 Degrees C by now. We did the 12km into town to begin, then around the lake to the base of Treble Cone ski area and back. That’s the last part of the Challenge Wanaka course and it’s a nice but very rolling section of very rough chipseal. Some new road surface was being laid while we were out there. Not so nice on some very sore under-carriages.
We stopped in town for treats before heading back. Albert had his heart set on a steak mince pie from the bakery and washed that down with date scone. Gordo took some of the others to Luxury burger for a big greasy burger and Fries. Mark P was all over that! His appetite seems to have grown from camp to camp impossible as that may seem……….

Dr. Douglas from Auckland did the longest ride of the day at 100km with a few others going 30km over the 60km minimum to get an extra point. Then the real earnest chase for the Yellow began as some went to the pool and some ran again.

Albert finished his day with a 6km swim session composed of the 3km IM set, then 20 x on the 1:30 and then another 1km to race into the points lead. That’s a 11km swim day for him!

Tomorrow we resume some normal Epic training with a swim in the morning (some going to the lake, some to the pool), a very hilly ride 170km ride including a very steep 45+ minute hill- climb 100TT up the back side of the Crown Range and then a run during the day either right after swimming or riding. My prediction is there is going to be some people falling over!

It was nice to see super support crew Dave and massage guy John get out for a nice ride in the sun today. They’ve been working their tails off.

29 January 2008

Epic NZ '08 Day 3 Tekapo - Wanaka

Sorry if I've been a little "dry" in my updates thusfar. That won't change tonight! but perhaps tomorrow I can manage more than a blow-by-blow update.
Tomorrow has an optional ride scheduled and perhaps it will be less than 6 hours so I may have some energy.
After yesterday I was so worn out I really did start to re-think this whole idea of Epic Camp. This is how it went from my perspective. Keep in mind that G-Man will gie his version of reality at some point.
We woke to a brilliant calm morning in Tekapo. As I pulled the curtains back to check the weather at 6am I saw a few folks wandering out for a run. I returned to bed to do my blog!
We had breakfast at 6:45 - 7:30 and then rolled out to Wanaka at 7:45.
Beautiful clear, calm day and not hot which was nice. I've went through approx 20 bottles in total the first 2 days.
We cruised along the canal roads which have no traffic at all. As the support crew passed a salmon farm they popped in there to get some for tonights dinner. So at least I had that to look forward to! :-)
We took a great photo in front of Lake Pukaki with Mt. Cook in the background and rolled on to lunch in Omarama. All very cordial and leisurely as we rolled along.
After lunch it was 34km to the KOM at Lindis Pass and it didnt' take long for things to heat up. Approx 20km out from the top it starts to go gradually up and Brandon strung us out for a solid 10km + into the wind. I was at my limit and there were still about 14 people hanging on! Then Mark P put the hammer down for another 6km and shattered the group. I was one of the first to go. Luckily John Newsom came by sensible-like to pull Tara and I right to the top and we pulled in a few who had cratered near the top. I almost got Mark P and Brandon (a few measly seconds!) as they were able to cruise the last couple of km up.
Beven took the KOM quite handily again and G-Man managed 2nd this time ahead of the "Rotorua Guy" Paul Westwood who is always right there on every climb.

After the top I was able to hop on the "Love Train" down the other side and all the way to Tarras 35km away (and into the wind) Mark P and Brandon continued to take massive pulls into the wind at 40-45kph so we got to the drink stop quite a ways in front and promptly rolled out just as some others arrived (sorry guys!) but at this point it was time to get the damn ride done already!!!
Our little group kept things pretty mellow most of the way until Brandon decided he'd been riding "too damn long already!" and motored us to our lodge. I had to tack on a6km to get 210 and that all important bonus point! as I knew the others were going to do the same.

There were some casualties today. Rob felt like s..t right from the start and decided to hitch a ride in the van which is never easy to do when everyone else is riding. Ron hit the shingle on the side of the road just over the top of Lindis Pass and went down pretty hard. Nothing broken but he's got some nice scrapes.

After the obligatory post-ride beer (??? was that only me??) and a snack we headed down to the Lake to take part in an Aquathon (swim/run) series event. We made it a points race as far as the camp points are concerned. It was supposed to be 600m swim/4km run but eyeing it up at the start the swim looked to be at least twice that long. And it was.
Very tough conditions too. Albert led the way followed closely by John Newsom and I. We had a big gap to Gordo who was in the water for just over 20 minutes. Johnny ran away with it with Albert 2nd and me 3rd just holding off G-Man.
Tara was out with Mark P and ran into 4th and the others were really strung out by such a tough swim. Special kudos go to Paul who did it with no wetsuit and managed to not only finish but ran like a bloody deer. I would have been a popsicle with no wetsuit.

We're staying at a really nice Lodge a few km outside of Wanaka called the Lookout Lodge. Very nice. I'm sure the guys who came to last year's camp recognize this as quite a step up from the Haast Motor Camp which was quite the sand-fly breeding ground for the South Pacific I think.

I'll be happy to stay put for a few nights. I know the support crew will be too as its really hard on them to move on consecutive days packing and unpacking everything after supporing us on the road all day.
Its 9:42pm as I finish this. More tomorrow..............

Epic NZ '08 Day 2

Epic NZ ’08 Day 2

It already seems like day 4-5 as I type this on the morning of day 3. Hard to believe we first started these camps 5 years ago, but it feels like I’m back into the camp grove now and there’s not much time or energy for anything other than eat, sleep and get through the sessions.
Last night your Elliott from Reno, Super Dave (support crew Dave Dwan) did slip off for a quiet beer at about 9pm though.

Day 2 started at 6am with a swim at the pool I usually swim at. I’ve been swimming there since ’88 and actually worked there for 10 years as a masters coach and 6 years running the little gym connected to the pool. That facility seems pretty familiar to me – something like my holiday places used to feel.
The coach made sure we had the entire pool for 45 minutes so we all did approx 2600m first with some people doing 1km with a band around their ankles for a bonus point. If you’ve never tried to do an entire 1km nonstop like this I highly recommend it! You start to realize what poor body position does to your speed.

Then we did a 400IM race for points. Not many of the campers ever do the other strokes and some had never even tried doing more than 25m of fly at once in their lives so its always a little entertaining when they do attempt it. John Drury from Folsom, Calif. was more than a little anxious beforehand and his underwater recovery on his stroke did prove to be rather difficult!
We all got through it though. Rob chance from Tulsa obviously has a very solid swim background but the previous days toil did take a little snap out of his stroke. I managed to take it out again in 5:50 with Albert right on my feet followed by Newsom, Gordo and Rob all right under or at the 6-minute mark. That meant I was likely to end the day in yellow again if I could just manage to run and make it to Wanaka.

Then some of us went for our run which included some time in Hagley Park which is the big inner city park here. It was sunny and cool. Shaping up to be a perfect day. My knee wasn’t grumbling too loudly and Tara and I had a chance to chat and catch up.

After breakfast we rolled out towards Tekapo – 245km away. The wind was really solidly pushing us along and it would have been very nice to just cruise along at 35kph but Clive doesn’t seem to have much use for easy riding!!! he and Gordo kept it at 38-45 and we were al strung out in the gutter for the first 100km.
Then Mark P and Brandon decided to have a little fun and games and decided to race us into Geraldine and the next 40km was damn hard! I certainy should have just let them go as we still had a very tough 150km to go and no points were on the line…….. so why did I do it??? I wish I had a better answer than just “pride”.

Albert rolled into lunch and started talking about taking up golf and staying home more to cuddle his wife and that perhaps it was time he was done with this sport and stuff like that………. He did look pretty tired!

We still had 90km to go to Tekapo after lunch and that included all the hills, 2 x KOM and it was damn hot, so some folks found it a little too much and decided to hitch a ride. I know from past camps that its very, very hard for anyone on these camps to not complete the scheduled rides so I always feel for the guys (its never the women!!!) who get to that point. I do remember this ride on Day 1 of the very first camp where I cramped up and had to hitch a ride. It still bugs the crap out of me. All DNF’s do, even when its just training.

G-Man rolled off the front soon after lunch and that meant the rest of he day was going to be damn hard. I’m pretty sure many people would be very surprised at how steady the guys at the front of the group go day after day. Gordo does a good job of keeping it honest to say the least and the “Rotorua Guy” (Paul Westwood is his name actually) and Beven had to work their tails off to reel him in 30km later just before the first KOM.
Those 2 guys are pulling away in the KOM points and I really can’t see that any of us can do a damn thing about it.
Brandon, Mark, Toby and I were all working hard together to try to keep in contact to some but Tara rode away from us on her own! Damn tough chick!

We had a drink stop in Fairlie 45km after lunch and I was parched even after having 3 bottles on that segment of the ride. I had changed bike shorts at lunch and they were already covered in salt marks so I mooched a few salt tablets and filled 3 bottles again for the last 45 km which looked to be into some monster winds.

Not everyone made it to the drink stop by the time my group rolled out. Certainly the group was really stringing out now.

The fitter guys (and Tara) rolled out at a very solid tempo again and I was toast so really had no choice but to conserve and try to make it to the end. The winds came right up to damn near gale force and the climb up Burkes Pass was brutal. It took my group of Newsom Toby and I approx 100 minutes to do that last 45km and we were crawling along at 14-18kph for a lot of it due to the side winds. There’s just no where to draft when the winds are like that as the 2nd or 3rd guy in the line is right in the road if you are trying to get a little protection.
It seemed like the weather was toying with us a little today – tailwinds for the first 3 hours to lull us into a false sense of security and then ripping the life out of us the last couple of hours. It was a ride to remember.

I'm sure I missed a lot as I didn't really catch up with most folks at dinner since I needed a little nana nap!

27 January 2008

Epic Camp NZ '08 Day 1

Epic NZ ’08 Day 1 – Akaroa

When I arrived in Christchurch at the end of n ’88 with my hot babe girlfriend Erin Baker the ride to Akaroa and back was one of the main rides IM folks did to get ready for IM NZ. The race was held in Auckland back then. That course was a hell of a lot harder than the current one in Taupo so the Christchurch athletes spent a lot of time in the hills getting ready for it.
The typical starting point at Princess Margaret Hospital makes the ride 150km round trip and it would usually take us 6 hours. We often did it on a Tuesday morning and it was always a crack-up to me that so many people would call in sick from work in order to do it.
It’s a very hard ride with lots of steep climbing (7500ft?) but once you get to the top of the first big climb at the Hilltop it really is a gorgeous place.
We warned the campers to bring real climbing gears of 39 x 27 or easier as there are quite a few chances to use them when you’re really tired.

Today our day started with a 6am run to the pool for those who wanted to get their run for the day out of the way. Then we hopped into the pool warmed up with a 1km before starting our first “race” of the camp – a 2km TT.
We had Monica Byrn hop in with us as a guest camper for this so the group could see what a real tri swimmer can do. I think some of the guys could feel her wake wash over them from about 3 lanes away!
Albert Boyce through down the gauntlet right from the gun with a 1:15 100m. John Newsom hung in there with me for a little while as did Rob Chance from Tulsa and Tara. When Monica came past me to lap me I had to respond! and in doing so was pulled to the front of the group to finish in 26:05 (1:18’s avg/100) which I felt really good about. Albert was right behind with Tara next followed by 1 second!! by Newson with Rob a few more seconds adrift. There were quite a few guys around the 30-minute mark. Andrew Charles did 31+ which was about 3 minutes faster than last year when he came to the camp with absolutely no swimming training at all in the previous months.
A few of us added on a 200m fly which gave us an additional point.

After breakfast we rolled out easy towards Akaroa and the pace was very friendly. Common sense seemed to prevail :-) and I certainly hope to have more of that over the next week as it’s a real nice way to pass the kms.
After a drink stop it was straight into the first KOM of the camp and G-Man led it out from the gun. There was probably no chance any of us are going to get anywhere near a fresh Beven James-Eyles on any decent climb and sure enough he soon assumed the front and blew the rest of us out the back. Only the “Rotorua Guy” stayed in the same time zone.
I burned more than a few matches to drop Toby and G-Man near the top and in the process just caught 66kg (yes that’s right!) Dr. Douglas from Auckland. Douglas is an old bugger like me but he’s built more like Contador and looks likely to make a good account of himself on all the hills.

The sun was out today and the wind was rather kind so I think everyone was a little low on fluids by lunch. Another fabulous picnic was set out for us by the crew including Monica and Andrea. Another thick layer of sunscreen was put on and off we went for the return trip straight back over all the hills.
Tara wasn’t holding back near as much this time and hung close to the top group with Beven once again taking the KOM but G-Man was a close second. I was happy just to get to the top of that sucker and was at peak sweat rate and absolutely drenched.
Newsom put in a decent effort to get up the hill ahead of Tara and was going to feel that later on in the TT for sure!

We re-grouped in Little River to do a 42km TT back to Halswell which is a suburb just outside of the city. We went off at 30 second intervals and I didn’t feel too bad during the first 10km tailwind section. Tara came motoring past me at the 12km mark after starting a minute behind and I knew I was gonna get smoked!
Brandon Del Campo (who looked more than a little under the weather earlier in the ride) came by me soon after and was ripping the thing apart only to come to a halt from cramps approx. 10km from the finish.
Mark Petrofesa smoked everyone except for the “Rotorua Guy”. Tara beat both G-Man and me and nearly every one else which to me seemed to be the performance of the day. Some of the guys showed some common sense (and perhaps a little fatigue???) and just rode moderate. I was toast.

We then cruised back to the accom. and some people tacked on to make the ride 180km in total to get another point. Then the people who didn’t’ run earlier headed out for their runs. Damn tough day.
I grabbed a beer, shower and was on John Ellis massage table within 15 minutes of crawling off my bike. I sure as hell needed all of it.

The crew cooked us a fabulous meal with guest crew member Andrew Black doing a fabulous job on the BBQ. New crew member Chris McAteer arrived straight after doing an Oly distance race down in Timaru this morning and was promptly put on dish-washing duty!

Molina is in Yellow! but only by an inch on a KOM countback as Tara and I are tied for the points lead.
Beven has the KOM Jersey and the Green jersey for BOF (Best Old …… umm…. Fella) also resides on my back for now.
So that’s a quick wrap-up. I’ve got to get some sleep as we have a 10-11 hour day tomorrow finishing in Tekapo. Andrea took a bunch of photos and Beven did some podcast recording so we should have that stuff posted soon.

25 January 2008

Epic Prologue - NZ 2008

Often times when building up my training to get ready for these camps I have many brilliant ideas for my journal entries but forget about them by the time I get home. Sound familiar?
This year I decided to try a little harder to improve on jotting down some notes as soon as I got home and even put a pen and pad in my cycling goodie bag to record thoughts on the fly.
Hopefully these thoughts will serve some one well at some point or at least entertain a little. I always feel like I’m the funniest guy I know when I’m chuckling to myself 50 miles from nowhere. Good thing for me I like my own company! or the last 25 years would have been pretty miserable.

This year we’re lucky to have Tara Norton along on the camp.
We don’t get enough women on these camps and hopefully that will change!
Over the years at these camps we’ve been fortunate to have Monica Byrn, Bella Comeford, Marilyn McDonald and now Tara along to help us gain true perspective on what characteristics enable a person to achieve IM excellence.Most of the top IM women in the world don’t have an amazing top end on the bike or run and even they will often get dropped when the “racing” starts or the hills ramp up very steeply. Marilyn was probably the exception to this rule as she’s an incredible climber and bike racer.In addition - women seem to have more pacing prudence and less ego tied up in staying in the pace line at all costs. I’m sure many of you out there will have noticed this in your own group rides/swims/runs at home. Some guys just can’t comprehend how a woman they can drop in every single session they do can somehow kick heir ass by miles in an IM. Here at the camp we see it time and time again.I love the hard parts of group sessions and the fun involved in hammering and seeing if I can hang onto the hotshots in the group, but I realize its not my ability to hang on in those situations that will have the greatest impact on my racing success. I can’t rely on those moments to define my success or failure in my race preparation.
The key as these women show us repeatedly is how to back up their steady training with more steady training week after week after week. In IM training and racing it’s the same ol’ tortoise and hare scenario.. I’m sure at least one camper is going to get a solid dose of humility on this camp! and that’s a good thing. I just hope its not me! Sometimes its much better to give than to receive. :-)
Tara arrived a little early to escape the cold of Toronto and promptly kicked my butt on some of the hardest climbs we have around here. And she hasn’t ridden up a hill in months! Albert Boyce also arrived early and promptly proceeded to do the exact same thing the following day. I suppose its time to “freshen” as G-Man says. I’m feeling kinda wupped.
I’m mostly just trying to survive the first 4 days of this camp as I think it will be the hardest first 4 days we’ve ever done.
Gordo wanted to try an 8-day format for the camps this year to see if it suited the campers better as the previous format of 12 days of Epic training has tended to put people a little too deep into a hole. Since we’ve got quite a few returning campers it will be interesting to hear their feedback in a couple of months after they’ve had time to digest this one and see how they’ve recovered.
We’re also using a route similar to the one we used for the first Epic in 2003 and the G-Man has been good about reminding me often how I failed to finish the very first ride we did to Tekapo. I do remember I hardly took a turn on the front of the paceline that ride but John Mergler and Chris McDonald slowly ground me to a pulp.
We have had bigger groups since that camp so now there’s more room to hide at the back!As I’ve said before I do this camp blog mostly for the campers who are often too tired to record their own thoughts each day or even remember where we went or what the hell we did. It all gets a bit fuzzy upstairs after a few days.
Its also for past campers with whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending many long, enjoyable days with. Hopefully you previous campers will get your memories of previous camps refreshed. All good stuff.

To my good friends KP and Klas especially – we’ll be thinking of you, laughing at the crazy stuff we did, and you’ll be missed!