This morning was the final race of the camp which would decide the overall camp winner. We all headed down to the beach for the handicap swim race. We were pretty excited about it as we hoped the handicaps would be pretty accurate since the course length was approximately the same as the handicapping race. It was a beach start, round Emma holding our orange rubber ring, parallel to shore and round our red buoy, back round Emma up the beach and round Jo then the simple matter of swimming straight out to the line of buoys and back to the beach and across the line.
Simples we thought…
The sea was seriously choppy and made sighting difficult. I headed off 7:32 behind the first in last place and worked hard round the first section. Heading out to the line of buoys I appreciated just how high the swell was and focussed on looking for the buoys way off to the right which were in line with the ones we had to hit but I knew generally were more visible. I also had the advantage of having swum tonnes of times to the line of buoys and knew approximately how long it would take and that it was just beyond where you could no longer make out the bottom. I touched those buoys and was pretty certain I was leading. As I cruised back about a minute from shore I saw Roz running up the beach. Turns out she “likes” rough water and had steered one of the best courses. We had a sprint finish for third and then everyone drifted in with varying tails of woe. It was tough.
Jo and I had a brief nervous moment when we couldn’t spot the final three. Turns out they’d missed the line of buoys completely and ended up by a fishing boat. Sergio had asked the fisherman where the buoys were and they looked a little surprised. We credited them with an extra 500m of swimming. Brett was near Sergio so turned round with him and Paul Weinreich seeing them turn turned as well.
Most people chose to swim an extra 30 minutes after the race to get a wild card to avoid tomorrows swim. I lead an adventurous group to find the rocks in this big swell. We managed it but out there the swell was huge – the biggest I’ve seen here. It was great fun.
Rides today were reasonably short to allow people to ease up ready for tomorrow if they want. Many guys needed a regroup day and sensible minimised their training. Others just keep going for it. We like to see both ! Some campers are really starting to look tired but with just one day to go we’re hopeful they’ll all celebrate tomorrow night having learned a little about how much they can do.
I lead the fast guys, now down to Brett, Jon and I round an 83km route. Turned out a very windy day and from an unusual direction resulting in some horrible side winds for most of the day. Out into the teeth of this wind I was on the front doing ~320 watts when this spanish guy, who must have been at least 60, on a full suspension mountain bike with flat pedals stopped on the other side of the road, spun round and dropped into an echelon behind me. He sat there for a while before pulling through and doing his turn on the front. I said “I’m not proud” and just tucked in. Amazing. Jon had a chuckle then came through and we headed off and dropped him like a stone ;o) We hammered round the bike completing it in 2:49 with normalised power of 250 watts. Hopefully we’ve stitched out legs up enough to encourage some others to join our group tomorrow.
In the afternoon I took the chance not to run and catch up on admin and try and get better. I’ve a pretty terrible cold right now and am feeling pretty rotten at night though bizarrely once out swimming or cycling I feel great.
Only one day to go and we can celebrate. Currently the average daily hours per camper is 5:15 which means we’ll almost certainly hit the target of 30 hours per camper for the six days !
Based on the aquathon handicap, this morning we ‘made’ our campers do a similar length swim race but on a different course and with very different conditions, for the final of our three camp points competitions. We set the guys off on their handicapped start-times, which gave us 3 quite tightly bunched groups and a smattering in between. This would theoretically have allowed for some tactical racing, with similar strength people able to work together for improved performance relative to their own handicapping, had it nit been for the very rough conditions and some piss-poor navigation. Steven was racing – starting 2 min after Mel and was one of the few people who actually managed to make a reasonable direct course to the far turn-around out at sea and ultimately was second across the line. THE FAR turn around was a continuous string of buoys which runs about 300m out, parallel to the beach to mark out the boat- free zone. It was entertaining to watch most of them guys swimming a diagonal course, and in some cases virtually parallel to the string of buoys. At about the point where i started to become quite concerned about a group who were clearly never going to intersect the line and had managed to swim beyond the end of the line into the fishing zone and would soon be lost from sight around the next bay, they were approached by a fishing boat. Sergio, our spanish camper, was asking them for directions to ‘the buoys’ !! Despite some pretty shocking navigation during the aquathon on a flat calm day, Roz managed a near perfect line and therefor improved her handicap to be the first out o the water – a second win for her! It goes to show that in the long run, consistency wins over raw speed – Roz may be amongst the slower of the group, but has thrown herself into a huge training week with massive enthusiasm and not faded at all. As a result of her ‘single speed setting’ she measures out here efforts very evenly and relative to the rest of the camp, appears to be getting stronger through the week.
A fairly relaxed breakfast, we left as 3 groups on different length rides. Today ‘s popular option was the easy-paced 50km reduced ride for those playing ‘wild cards’ in advance of the long run option scheduled for the afternoon and a big final day planned for Friday. I lead a nice compact group of 5 around the ‘extended route’ – into a screaming head /side wind for 3 1/2 hours, whilst Steven took the fast paced riders (basically Jon and Brett with their heads down! ) around the standard route. The strong winds (which somehow were not our back at any point) heaped additional work and tension into even the easy sections of the route, and what we were all hoping would be a nice steady ride was really very tiring. After a solid week I know that my legs were really feeling it and so I am pretty sure that the guys I was with, who have done more volume than they are accustomed AND raced daily for 5 days, would be feeling it even more. On our approach to Fire Mountain from Mancha Blancha, we picked up an additional cyclist; a fit looking local who, having sat on the back for a while politely came through to take his turn. Conscious of the suffering in our group i was hesitant about picking up the speed to suit this rider, but in that wind his wheel was just too tempting and three of us jumped on. He towed us to the bottom of the climb where i expected he’d drop us like stones, but he did not react when Kevin made his early surge onto the hill and soon I found myself pushing on a little to pass them both. Caught on a corner by a very sudden strong gust from the side, I heard that dreaded clatter of bike on road and looked back to see that he’s been blown off. He quickly picked himself up and raced Kevin to the top. These conditions somewhat spoiled the lovely long descent off the ‘mountain’ into Yaiza, which i tok very cautiously at the back of the group (which now included ‘Eric’ who Kevin was chatting to in Spanish). the offer of an additional lap around El Golfo loop was unanimously declined so we rode Eric’s wheel back into town…finishing they day with a ‘race the locals’ effort up the final climb from Calero. When it transpired that we’d accidentally cut the planned route short, I had no qualms about the missed km – we’d all had a tough ride, no matter what Marc’s power-meter told us (his lowest av power of the camp).
The group long run that we’d planned for the afternoon ended up as several different runs in pairs – which was probably for teh best given the inevitable disparity in running pace and preference for terrain. Mel and Matt, having returned from their short ride a lot earlier decided to set off promptly off the bike and covered 20km on the cliff path in two hours – thats a good pace on that trail. Sergio reported that he’d “ran with a horse” meaning John, and Brett and Kevin took the coast path. I got to run with Simon, who I coach and have enjoyed seeing him really getting the absolute max out of this camp and discovering a lot about what he can do when sufficiently motivated. We opted to run along the Ironman route – no hills but the very solid running surface and dull scenery make this a tough run for me, so it was good to have company. We ran at Simon’s comfortable-steady pace on our way out, and agreed to negative split the return. With a slight tailwind, we found that it was quite easy to lift the pace and, with about 5 km left i challenged him to pick a target average pace that we’d run until we’d achieved. We finished with 1km at tempo pace and a final sprint, which Simon took from me.
At the end of the day Steven worked out the overall camp points results – provisional on the basis that the winner must also achieve camp completion – and it made for some fascinating reading. We had a tied lead. John and Roz were dead equal on points after the 3 handicapped races. In the case of a tie-break, Steven and I had already agreed that the win would go to fastest overall time (on handicap). There was a mere 40 seconds in it, but John just had it. This guy has really been impressive through the camp – an extremely competitive athlete who just loves to go hard all the time..and does not fade. He’s been looking absolutely wasted every evening but he’s back full-.pelt the next day. His prize ( assuming that he makes it through tomorrow) will be free entry to a TriGrandPrix race of his choice in 2011, and based on what I know of John and his love of racing, he’s a very suitable winner of that prize!