Epic Italy – Part II

EpicItalyPart2

Been out for a gentle 3 hour spin on the bike this morning. Nice breakie with John, dropped in to Cycles Dauphin for a chat. It’s helped lesson my post camp blues.

Here’s a piccie of Jo and  I atop the Stelvio – what a great day.

Second instalment of the Epic Camp entry. Had a couple of days of complete rest now and gone through a period of feeling pretty down following the camp. Getting back in to some sort of routine is helping. Yesterday I went and spent several hours with my sister and one of my nephews. Today some light training. This is making me think about how I can structure my life to continue with full time training indefinitely. I feel it must be possible…

So more on the camp.

Friday 13th June

HR: 51, Sleep: 8.25hrs, Motivation: 6, Fatigue: 8

Swim: 3km, Bike: 91km, Run: 6m, Hours: 4:59

Slept like a log last night. Yesterdays training completely wasted me. Jo had got up early to go for a long run. Was tempted to go with her but pretty clear that she wanted to go on her own. Her mood is being badly affected by the fatigue and I felt that some time on her own in the hills would do her no end of good. Also, today could be tough and I thought perhaps I should play it safe based on how much I’d done yesterday. As I layed in bed I could hear torrential rain. I felt for Jo out running in it, though running in the hills in the rain is a massive release… so part of me was jealous. I thought about the plan today – over a pass then over an hour of downhill riding, an aquathon then back on the bikes – in this weather we’d be frozen by the time we got to the pool … what to wear for the ride there ? keep warm clothes for after or start out in them and hope that the weather clears.

Over breakfast the rain did not clear up. The decision was made to drive to the pool. It was what Jo and I had said we’d do. Considering the sort of conditions I know we’ve both gone out in I was going to be seriously impressed with the Epicness of Epic Camp if they’d made us ride in that. As we drove over the pass the rain was torrential and the car was saying 2c … the decision was right.

For me this was a great help. I needed all the recovery I could get. I’d planned to just sit in on the ride but sitting in in the van was even better. Because of the weather the open air 50m pool was closed so we went to a  lovely indoor 25m pool instead. I took the opportunity to do the IM set. 12 x (100IM, 150 free). It was a fun relaxing set. Having these swim sets for points is a great way of giving some focus for a lot of the swimming. Without them it’d be tempting to just plod up and down for 3k. I can feel my swimming improving with swimming each day. It fits in well with my plan to get 5 swims in a week (20+k) per week right through to Kona – with luck will get my Kona swim split well under the hour and get me out of the bike a lot higher up the field.

The aquathon was changed to a 10k race since we were in a different pool. It was a ‘major” points race and there was a secondary ‘minor’ points race for predict your time. We couldn’t wear watches. I predicted 40 minutes, thinking it was achievable and if I went under that I’d be chuffed. Gordo and John shot off ahead of us. I ran the first half lap with Scott. After that he edged away. As I ran I considered how it’s interesting how someone can just edge away – the difference in speed would appear to be so little u should be able to stay with them but pushing that little bit more is just not comfortable so you don’t do it. It felt quite amazing that we’re so sensitive to such changes. I settled in and ran comfortably. I didn’t want to go all out for fear of trashing my legs and also after yesterday I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to be on the bike. I’d be happy with 4th so when Russ put in a second lap surge I had to keep a close eye and run pretty hard for the last 1km to hold him off.

As soon as we set off on the ride I knew I wasn’t as strong as I had been. Again, I had this feeling of a stage race and thought I mustn’t let anyone know I’m feeling pretty shot today. So when Gordo and John jump the group I surge and get on the wheels. It was a hard effort but worth it. We’re pushing along with someone on my wheel, just as I look over my should to see who it is (shocked to see it’s Jonathon not Scott) Gordo sits up in 2nd place and lets John go. Briefly I do nothing, then wonder whether it’s the coaches ganging up on me, so I dig deep again, go round Gordo and bridge to John. Gordo comes with me but not Jonathon. I then play the same game, sit up and see if Gordo goes through. He does, I look round and see we’re well away from the group which was my goal and let them go. Now I can just take a conservative climb up the Passo di Erbe, conserve my legs and get to the top 3rd in the KOM. This worked well and I got to the top 3rd with Mike and Scott only minutes behind which probably means the did the actual climb quicker than me.

The ride to Bolzano was awesome –  50+km downhill. I was on my own and could just do recovery riding… all focussing on getting recovered for the Stelvio tomorrow. The day had gone well … I’d managed to get a recovery day in and still score good points. No tacks on today.

At dinner I was quite chuffed when it was decided there’d be a prize for the first “normal” person to the top of the Stelvio and that I was grouped in with Gordo, Scott and John as the not normal people !

Saturday 14th June

HR: 42, Sleep: 8hrs, Motivation:9, fatigue: 6

Swim: 3k, Bike: 142km, Run: 5m, Hours: 7:43

Jo was keen to try for the normal person prize. She’d been first normal person on several climbs so had a shot. The problem would be ensuring she didn’t get dropped by the surges on the way to the climb. I decided that I would do my utmost to prevent this.  I would not follow any moves by Gordo / John and would ensure Jo stayed in the group. We discussed this early in the ride and even agreed I would try and pace her up the climb as best I could.

We all started with an easy run. I kept it steady, still thinking of letting the legs recover. Ran with Mike and Gordo and had a good chat. Another awesome open air 50m pool. I swam without a wetsuit and it was cold. Had to push it along – got my 3k done in 47 minutes which I was pleased about.

The ride to the start of the Stelvio was a lot more than expected – over 3 hours of pretty hard riding. I tried to keep behind Jo in the group and whenever a gap appeared in front of her wheel I filled it and pulled her back on before dropping back behind her. This worked well. Towards the end of this section Gordo jumps off and John goes with as well. I take the front of the group and manage to slowly bridge back to John. At the feed station at the bottom of the climb Gordo has hung around so we’ve kept everyone together for the climb. I was feeling really strong riding today and was looking forward to this.

At the start I stuck to my guns and tried to pace Jo, letting Gordo and John go. It was really difficult and made me realise what a skill this domestiques have. Jo soon just told me to head off as it wasn’t of any help anyway. I was pleased to be able to go and I soon bridged back to Gordo and John. I then decided to take it on and went to the front. I concentrated on my breathing pattern and pushed to the level of a steady heavy breathing. This continued for a fair while and we joked when we saw the first hairpin labelled No.48 !! Gordo gave a surge which I tried to go with, I look back and saw John was not quite with us. This encouraged me to continue trying to get Gordo’s wheel. I didn’t manage it but it gave me enough gap over John and I settled into my own rhythm.

The Stelvio is one awesome ride. Starting from about 600m and finishing at nearly 2,800m ! Great consistent gradient and views slowly revealing themselves to you. I could see John and Scott below and could keep them a few hairpins back getting me to the top in 2nd. It was about 2c with light snow once in a while. Putting everything on u still slowly got cold. Had a great lunch and then Scott treated us all to sausage sarnies with sauerkraut from a local vendor.The decision was made not to continue on to the Gavia – I must admit I was a little disappointed. John did say I could go on and do it and they’d give support but after such a good climb I felt it would be nice to enjoy a dinner with everyone else. Brilliant brilliant day. JO and I decided to ride down as well. It was awesome and we were gobsmacked by how long it was… going down it just hit it home.

Really enjoyed the ride back in the van. Jo was in the car so there was some banter from the boys about how I should “lock that girl down”, that we’ll kill each other with encouraging ever more outrageous training and finally Scott commenting on Jo and I going for a date and just riding round in the dark all night chatting ;o) He also found it rather amusing that after all the bad weather it was only on top of the Stelvio I pulled out my ‘just in case of bad weather jacket”.

After dinner I finally had a beer with Scott, Douglas and Mike. Jo came down after her massage and we enjoyed a couple more beers. It’s great to be feeling stronger as the camp progresses, I am so chuffed that I’m coping with riding pretty hard every day.

What a great finale to the camp. Just tomorrow to go. Long flat ride and being still in pink I’m determined to do more than my fair share of pulling on the front to get everyone home.

Sunday 15th June

HR: 47, Sleep: 7.5hrs, Motivation: 8, Fatigue: 6

Swim: 3km, Bike: 170km, Run: 3m, Hours: 6:35

Final day of the camp and the Pink is in the bag. A long flat ride back to Verano is ahead of us and I feel I should do some decent pulls on the front at some poin.

First up is an uphill 5k running race. Boy is it hard and as usual I go off relatively steadily. Jo is tenacious in the first k or so surging as I try to pass. Then Anthony provides resistance and re passes me on a slightly flatter section.  I have to push hard as the gradient increases to retake him. Douglas is next up but I can’t make inroads. End up finishing 5th behind Gordo, John, Scott and Douglas. Happy with the effort.

Nice breakie – all my best nutritional intentions are more or less out the window now … I’m so hungry. I munched loads of cereal, bread and cake. Off to the pool where I’d save the 200 fly for the last day. No messing – long course. The first 100 was tougher than the second as I go into a great rhythm and felt I could keep going. In fact, I continued on for an extra 50m it felt so good ! I was told I was the only Epic Camper to complete the 200 fly long course and that perhaps in future it would have to be 300 ! I fully intend to include fly in some of my training sessions now … so by next Epic Camp (if I do one) perhaps my fly may be halfway decent!

We had a very early lunch before heading off on the excellent cycle path to Verona. Gordo was doing long hard pulls on the front with a few of us others taking on shorter ones. Whilst I was on the front I managed to miss a turn and it split the group up. A group with Gordo at the front, then one with John, then Jo and I off the back. The groups were not letting up to allow us to regroup. I tried to help Jo back to Johns group but it wasn’t working so I bridged up alone. I sat at the back feeling sure John would get us back on but we were dropping behind. I took the front to try and pull us up. We then came to a bridge we had to cross. This slowed up the group in front and I decided this was my only chance to bridge. I went balls out sprint and got with 20m before their pace really upped and gaining those last few metres was hard. I kept thinking u must fully commit to this, don’t ease off with a couple of metres to go. I finally got on having redlined for minutes and breathing as heavily as I could as I sat on the back. They were doing 38kmh ! Douglas later said he thought there must be a rabid dog on the back. It turns out Gordo was doing 1km efforts. I sat in for a good 10 minutes before my breathing really settled and I decided I wouldn’t do any work on the front till after the feed station. The pace at times was incredible and there was no way anyone else was going to bridge to us.

Finally, rather relieved, we made the feed station. I stocked up on bars for my pockets as I didn’t feel the pace was going to ease up. It didn’t we continued along the cycle path but after a crash (Scott got a rather gashed elbow) we moved onto the road and seeing the 40km to go sign I took the front and decided I was going to pull the guys home. I kept the pace high not wanting anyone to take over on the front.  Reckon I averaged over 40kmh for that last section and whenever I felt slightly tired I pushed on, secretly hoping everyone was suffering on my wheel ! At least we would get home quick. By the time we got into the outskirts of Verona Gordo suggested I backed it up a little once we were in town – I was happy with the excuse to ease back. I’d felt great pushing hard and chuffed to bits to be so strong right at the end of the camp. Douglas commented he wasn’t in a happy place with that pace, Scott commented it was really fast and we’d dropped Mike. Sorry Mike, but I must say I was quite pleased to have dropped someone … guess most cyclists like the feeling of taking the front and riding hard till people beg for mercy !

Absolutely awesome end to the camp – it was a really buzz hammering along with people on my wheel !

Quick pack of bikes then a great final meal and out for beers. I asked Scott about things I could do to get my IM time under 9 hours. He said that sometimes you just have to be patient, keep on with what you’re doing and the improvements will come. This was quite different to what I hear in general where people tell me I should do more speed work etc… I guess this is the kind of thing I wanted to hear and coming from such a star of the sport I was chuffed. We will see … it’s been a few years now of cranking out some serious volume … with luck some  really decent times will  start to follow.

Epic Camp was certainly Epic even by my standards. I managed my highest volume week this year (just)… highest swim vol, highest bike vol this year. That’s not what made it Epic for me though – what did was the intensity on the rides. I had large sections of hard riding everyday and still felt strong throughout. This was an eye opener for me. Add to that some good solid swim sessions and the races / TTs made for an awesome (Epic) week of high volume good intensity training. Just hope I can afford to do another at some point in the future.

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