As I sit at Calgary Airport I thought I’d get this post written whilst things are still hazy in my memory, but fresh in terms of time, so I don’t sugar coat stuff or over think it (ran out of time so there’s a bit from home too).
I was expecting a mixture of people, abilities and personalities but I knew I was far from as fit as I was going into Tahoe so did expect quite a bit of me time, having been spat out the back of the pack. I still expected to tack-on but would be quite content going home with the camp completion tick in the box, having just never thrown in the towel or bailed on a session.
Being a listener of IM Talk (or Ironman Talk back in the day) it was also fulfilling a long-term ambition of going on this crazy camp with super-human athletes pushing themselves beyond their preconceived limits; I’ve always believed I can do anything I set my mind to athletically, so this was the next step up from Ironman racing and I was looking forward to seeing how I fared.
So just how would I do, when all I had to do was JFT*?
*and pack / unpack plus blog which took up a surprising amount of time.
ECC – Epic Camp Canada
Having travelled a lot of this route I knew the setting was going to be amazing and seeing it from two wheels was amazing. The first half of week one was designed to take some of the spark out of the keener athletes and build some fatigue in early and with swim time trials, aquathons and the first ever Clinton “Newsom Friendly Distance” Triathlon and it certainly did just that. Throw in the odd 13 km king of the mountains challenge and some seriously solid riding and you’ve got a recipe for fatigue, sometimes deep fatigue.
Here’s a breakdown of the training – I’m not a gadget person so times, power, distances are probably missing, or there’s an odd combo of the above. Italics denote tacked-on / additional training that may or may not include the daily minimum.
|Day||Swim||Bike (Distance / Elevation)||Run||Race|
|Tue 19th||3km||78 miles +6700ft||7 miles to / from pool 10km run||1375m Swim TT|
|Wed 20th||In race||133km with 13k KOM +2100m 30k extra||In race||Aquathon 1km swim / 6km run + KOM|
|Thu 21st||6km (3km min)||105K +1700m||7km(no points) 10km|
|Fri 22nd||3km (inc race)||9.5km to lake 30k||In race||Clinton Triathlon 2km/55km/10km|
|Sun 24th||3km + 3km pm||110km +1100m||20km|
|Mon 25th||2km (shortened minimum due to ride)||215k +2250m||7km OTB (shortened minimum) 10km|
|Tue 26th||6km||60km||2hr trail run|
|Wed 27th||3km||86km with 2 x 13km climbs||10km trail run||13km KOM|
|Thu 28th||3km||178km +2015||8km (to/from lake)|
|Fri 29th||No suitable venue||20km hill climb 120k||2hr jog / hike|
|Sat 30th||No suitable Venue||201km net downhill||10km zombie||First to the bar!|
So, all told, it was around 85 hours over 12 days, 3 days where I did camp minimum and 9 days where I tacked on. I’m pretty happy with that, as there was plenty of quality in the mix too with some rides involving hanging on for grim death praying you don’t lose the wheel in front.
But there’s more than just the training…
Epic Camp is a bubble – there’s no time for distractions. It’s up, prepare, eat, train, eat, prepare, train, eat, tack-on, prepare, clean-up, eat, blog, (try to and not always) sleep and start again. By the end of day 2 you were already struggling to remember what you did on day 1 and everything outside Epic Camp becomes secondary. The walls of this bubble become thicker as the days roll on and the fatigue sets in. You know you are tired, you know people are getting narky and irritable and things that shouldn’t be important take on huge significance. So and so isn’t taking a pull or ate the last of the Nutella – all trivial but all becoming seemingly more important as the camp ticks on. It must read as so unimportant, trivial and even childish but within the camp environment it just takes on a world of its own. Certainly yellow fever and the other trivialities don’t affect everyone, or at least don’t seem to. People like Charlesy and Rob seemed super calm throughout and certainly helped steady the ship and I thank them for their guidance and support from day 1 to day 12, especially Rob who had the misfortune of sharing a room for at least 2 nights.
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for anyone I annoyed within my time on camp!
But this bubble isn’t all bad – as you’ll have read Adam met his hero Petro and has since taken and shared more photos in 2 weeks than he’s done in the rest of his life – he is even all over Instagram and can no longer have his photo taken without pulling some kind of face. Joking aside, you do form strong bonds with the group you spend your time with, whether that’s the groupetto or at the front or maybe the guys that tack-on together and as the camp rolls on this group expands, as people share rooms and move and mix within the group dependent upon their goals and fatigue levels. That’s possibly another real advantage of a longer camp as it gives ample time to interact with everyone. I think we were truly lucky to have a very solid and fun bunch of campers; it was great to hear from past campers that they rated ECC so highly, both in terms of venue and the group of people. I’m very proud to have been part of this!
Pushing the envelope…
A primary aim of Epic Camp is to push your limits and demonstrate you can push yourself further than you thought possible – not only just “handle” the load but actually perform well whilst at this load. You certainly have your up and down days; after smacking myself on day 2 I felt it on day 3 but quickly bounced back. During yet another bout of insomnia I decided to try and list the symptoms of overtraining – I’d like to clarify that I don’t think you can over-train in a two week period but you can certainly get close, especially if you’ve been smacking it prior to camp. So, for fun, here’s a list:
- Persistent muscle soreness – Yes
- Persistent fatigue – Yes
- Elevated resting heart rate – Probably
- Reduced heart rate variability – Probably
- Increased susceptibility to infections – Yes, chest infection from Day 3
- Increased incidence of injuries – Yes, tendonitis for the first time
- Irritability – Oh yes
- Depression – thankfully not, had a brilliant time and laughed more and more throughout the camp
- Insomnia – Only slept when using drugs
I don’t think I’m over-trained but I do think I pushed pretty close to the edge that my current fitness would allow, so that was an objective met. I didn’t want to leave Epic Camp thinking I could have done more and while I’m sure I could have done an extra 30km riding here and there or an extra run or swim, it wouldn’t have made any significant difference to the total training load and was more likely to jeopardise future sessions or camp completion.
Would I do Epic Camp again?
At the blink of an eye. I can’t see it happening but it was the most fantastic experience and I think the advantages of being a veteran camper in the first few days are immense. Plus, I know that at least half of the next camp will be made-up of people from ECC and that would be enough on its own!
Can you do Epic Camp?
- You enjoy training
- Are a reasonably decent athlete (bike fitness is key) who is willing to push out of your comfort zone
- You can handle the “No mercy, no whinging, no waiting” ethos – if you puncture, you’re on your own and that could mean a long solo day ahead, something I dealt with a few times.
- You don’t quit. The (I include myself here) non-swimmers all managed the 400 IM and refused to stop, despite it nearly killing us and all of us are glad we did it despite the hurt!
- You go in with the attitude that this is a shared experience. You will have your own goals and aims but these are secondary to a happy camp – friendships and bonds form quickly, you wouldn’t want to go through this camp feeling isolated.
A major thank you to John Xpress Newsom for putting on these camps. Yes, there are now more and more camps out there but there’s really none like Epic Camp. The number of times I heard “This isn’t Easy Camp” or saw people puncture being left to look after themselves as everyone shot by at 30 mph was pretty high – no one complained, people just got on and dealt with it. Anyway, the venues, the organisation, the plan and the activities, everything worked out perfectly. The thought of finishing a day’s training and then dealing with road closures, bike mechanicals etc is beyond me.
The support crew were amazing – Michelle, Dave and Mark, always in good spirits and willing to help despite the numerous simultaneous requests.
The rest of the campers are what made the camp. This was a fantastic group of people and I’ll no doubt be boring people for years to come about these experiences but unless you were there, you won’t fully understand it.
Ella and family – thank you for letting me experience this amazing opportunity. It was a completely selfish undertaking and I owe you all loads and will always be in your debt.
Good luck to Zach and family on the imminent birth of their baby, so nice to see Smoking Zach sitting in bed at 8pm reading baby books getting ready for the big day! Remember, the only advice to take is not to listen to any advice (except baby led weaning).
Best of luck to those racing soon; Adam K. at Tahoe, Barry at Chattanooga, David at Wales, Leah at the Worlds and everyone else with their goals, especially Adam B at Kona.
Finally, you might be aware that my boy Cormac was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy early this year. This has thrown my family’s life upside down. If you’ve enjoyed / endured these blogs I’d really appreciate you visiting and donating here: http://www.justgiving.com/fegan