A few weeks a go I finished the last Epic Camp which was held in The French Alps. Epic Camp is a unique training camp focused on seeing how much training you can manage in the eight days. To make it interesting and motivate you there is a points competition the leader of which each day wears the yellow jersey. There is also at least one King Of The Mountains each day and the leader in that competition wears the Polka Dot jersey. Points are available for extra swim, bike or running, doing particular swim sets and for competitions (e.g. aquathons, run races, 400IM) that are held each day to ensure some intensity is included.
The camp is really more like an eight-day competition including a bike stage race. They are great fun and an environment that completely suits my temperament and strengths. I’ve completed four camps now and won the yellow jersey in each.
Unfortunately within Epic Camp circles there’s always talk of ‘The Curse Of The Yellow Jersey”. The person that wins the yellow tends not to race well at their next race and at times people have destroyed whole seasons. The feeling is that the level of training required to win can take a long long time to recover from.
I’ve not escaped the curse in my previous three wins. I did Ironman Germany following Epic Italy and had a well below par performance completely fading on the run. Following Epic New Zealand I managed to snap my FHL tendon just before my next race. The race after the 15-day End to End New Zealand camp I faded in the second half of the run. Each time, however, I felt it was worth it. The Epic Camp experience is unique and for me is an end in itself. Sacrificing my next race to race the camp hard and test my limits was an easy decision.
Epic France was a particularly hard camp with serious riding everyday and I had Ironman Wales exactly three weeks after the final day. My focus was on fully enjoying the final camp but also attempt to race well following.
The plan, well probably more just the way it panned out, was to try and err on the side of more recovery. This started with full recovery from Ironman Austria and entering the camp undertrained. This had the nice side effect that I got stronger every day on the bike. Then following the camp I really concentrated on recovery doing only a few key sessions in the run up to Ironman Wales.
Arriving in Tenby the final build up to the race was intimidating. The weather was looking pretty ferocious and I was getting excited by the swim as from the window of our flat I could see how tough it would be. I was disappointed when it was switched to the other bay but it was clearly the right decision as many competitors would have been unwilling to even attempt the swim in the conditions on the original swim course. Following the final decision to move the organizers did very well. The decision was clearly made a day before and at bike check-in there was very clear information about the changes required.
The race itself was absolutely awesome. A long standing race would be proud but to pull this off at the first attempt was quite an achievement. This was my 21st Ironman and the hardest. The swim was rough and was the toughest swim I’ve done. The bike course is unrelentingly hilly and despite one of my strongest rides was my slowest bike split. Then a run without any flat sections, definitely the hardest run course I’ve done. For me the toughest Ironman course I’ve raced.
Did the curse strike? Unbeknownst to me I was 3rd in my AG off the bike and a long way ahead of the final slot. However, I faded in the second half of the run and dropped to 16th and out of the slots. Now, I could blame this on the curse of the yellow but to be honest it’s absolutely down to lack of appropriate run training. One of the reasons I like Ironman is the belief that you tend to get out what you put in. You need to put the work in. For me, there’s some consolation in confirming that if I don’t put the work in I don’t qualify.