More Epic Camp
By Scott Molina
July/August, 2003
(www.slowtwitch.com)

[Ed. note: Seven months ago we published what turned out to be a very popular set of articles: Scott Molina's day-by-day account of Epic Camp. This was a non-competitive (sort of) 12-day adventure that was part training camp, part Grand Tour. It captured the imagination of our readers (and our imaginations, too). In fact, back then we said it might be the Next Big Thing, and we haven't seen any reason to step back from that assessment.

Skid and his Epic Camp partner Gordo Byrn are at it again, but this time Epic Camp's in Boulder, not in New Zealand. We'll present to you the daily updates, as written by Molina].


EPIC PROLOGUE
EPIC DAY ONE
EPIC DAY TWO
EPIC DAY THREE
EPIC DAY FOUR
EPIC DAY FIVE
EPIC DAY SIX
EPIC DAY SEVEN
EPIC DAY EIGHT
EPIC DAY NINE
EPIC DAY TEN
EPIC DAY ELEVEN
EPIC DAY TWELVE
EPILOGUE



EPIC PROLOGUE

Time for me to get out in the sun and the mountains again. Like a reptile that needs outside sources of energy I need these two things above all else to survive. Food, water and sleep thrown into the mix and I'm a happy man. A few beers here and there and I can leave the rest of the world behind for quite a while.

If you had a chance to read through my first Epic Camp updates from New Zealand in February then you know a little about the reasons for this venture on which Gordo and I have embarked, and what I'm all about—we love to train. That's why we do it. It's a very simple concept and if you follow these updates I'll share with you some philosophy on how I've come to view this sport and our involvement with it.

First some details about the camp. For one thing it's timed so that the participants can use it to get ready for events. For example, some of the events that campers here are getting ready for are IMs in Canada, Wisconsin, Florida and Hawaii.

Participants must be pretty quick. We've set the level of proficiency one must have as 10 hours for an IM, or at least be a cyclist of that caliber. The idea is to let everyone go at a challenging tempo without having to wait for others. We'd also like every one to train as a group for the most part and with approximately 100,000 feet of climbing over the next 12 days it is important to be pretty fit and fast to begin with. I was thinking of this 10-hour guide when I was completely blown to bits in IM New Zealand in March. I really had to crank out the last 5km as I always want to qualify for these camps legit!

I've chosen the route again for this camp because these are rides and runs I love to do. If you come to my camp then you do my favorite routes and visit my favorite places. No democracy here. We'll be riding over most of the best passes in Colorado, and Gordo had come up with a KOM points scale along with points for city limit sprints, swim, run and gym sessions completed. We may not be able to do the Tour, but we can have a bit of fun pretending. We call it "stage training"—a bit harder than normal training, but not really racing all out either.

You can read more about upcoming camps or Gordo's updates on our website epiccamp.com. Just remember when reading anything that there is probably more than one version of reality. Gordo tends to view just about everything in the world a bit differently than I. Makes for interesting conversations during 40-hour weeks. We hope you can find some inspiration and perhaps even some little useful information for your own training along the way.

EPIC DAY ONE

We had a great BBQ here in Boulder last night to get organized and meet up. We supported the local brewpubs quite adequately.

The first day was meant to be fairly light to let the non-altitude adjusted avoid total annihilation the first day. Just five hours or so.

To start things off we swam 4km long course. Then after breakfast we rode up to Brainard Lake at 10,300 ft. We had a stop in Ward to get out of the lightning, hail and torrential rain. I guess a little epic weather is to be expected, but this was a really good spanking we got today. If you’ve ever been up to Ward then you know it’s a very special place where alternative lifestyle really takes on a new meaning.

After a bit of coffee we headed up again and got smashed again by hail. We had a nice run and then a picnic lunch on the agenda but instead some of us scurried back down with all available extra clothing from the sag wagon and a few of us hitched a ride. Later we had a nice run in the sun for an hour out on the trails surrounding the Boulder reservoir. A moderate five-hour day to kick things off. I say moderate because some of these guys have been drilling it for quite a while up here.

For Gordo this camp is just a continuation of his epic summer that has included quite a few weeks over 35 hours. Sessions have include a run up Pikes Peak, a trail marathon race in Leadville, a bike race called the Triple Bypass which included 10,000 ft of climbing over 120 miles, a ride with Cameron Brown that included 16,000ft of climbing, a “Kenyan” track session up at 8300ft, a 220-mile ride high in the Rockies, etc. You get the idea. He’s a bit ahead of us in both fitness and altitude adaptation. To top it off he also sleeps at 13,000 ft. in an altitude tent.

Clas Bjorling (we call him “The Baron”), who placed 4th in IM New Zealand after spending the summer training with Gordo and coming along on Epic Camp NZ, has joined us again. He’s been in Boulder for two weeks already and is getting ready for Powerman Zofingen among other races. I’ve packed bungies for both running and cycling for this camp so Clas can give us a tow from time to time to get a decent work-out. Yesterday Gordo and I went for a 20km run with him and for the first hour we had to press ourselves a bit to get his heart rate to crack 100.

Tomorrow is scheduled to be masters swim session, weights, eat, four-hour ride up to Estes Park, run, massage, eat. Another moderate day, this time about seven hours. Then we’ll step it up a bit.

EPIC DAY TWO

I love this state! Having lived here in Colorado for 7 years I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of epic sessions. One of my all-time favorites was two weeks out from the World’s Toughest Triathlon in Lake Tahoe. A few of us doing the race spent a weekend with a 4km swim followed by riding 110 miles to Colorado Springs on Saturday, then racing the Pikes Peak ascent and riding back to Boulder on Sunday. Diane Israel (the original “animal” among the women triathletes) pushed me along the entire way! Weekends like that have a way of making long races seem quite a bit easier.

Today we started the day with a tough masters session which totaled 5400 yards. Then right into the weight room for some maintenance. No need to waste away into some pencil-necked endurance nut just because we’re going long every day. Gotta keep up the strength training — it’s a must for me. I may not be able to go fast anymore but I sure as hell am gonna try and look like I could. My session was 3x15 of the following exercises — bench press, lat pull, seated row, dumbbell shoulder press and DB lateral raises, preacher curls, hammer curls, dips, wood chpper trunk twists each way and twisting crunches for upper body, squats, leg press, leg extensions, back extensions for lower body. A solid hour practically non-stop. I love the gym! Then we headed to breakfast and onto the bikes at 10:30.

The route today was flat for 30 miles and then up to finish in Estes Park for a total of 60 miles in just over 3 hours with 4,000 ft. of climbing. Epic weather once again pounded the crap out of us. It was raining so hard that there were a lot of big rocks racing down the bike lane with about 2 inches of water. Hard work. Chuckie V came along today to keep the conversation lively and the pace up. He had to borrow quite a bit of gear to get home. The dude is a bit on the thin side!

Runs of various distances were done.The young Swede Clas punished Gordo for dropping him on all the climbs today. I did a little recon up onto the Lumpy Ridge trails for those who may want to do it tomorrow. That took me 1:40 and although I wasn’t exactly smokin’ out there I covered about 18km with 1,000ft. of vertical. Gordo thought that might have been a bit impulsive and excessive (“Who, Me?”), but finding new trails to explore is one of the best things about running.

[Photo is of Gordo (in helmet) and Scott (w/large cinammon roll), doing what Epic Campers do when not precisely training].

The massage crew had a fair amount of work to do tonight. Since we’re headed up Trail Ridge over the continental divide at 12,000 ft. tomorrow we were very happy to let them go for it.

So, total for the day works out to a solid 7 hours. Should sleep well tonight.

EPIC DAY THREE

There have been a few accidental epic camps along the way over the years.

Once before the Nice, France, triathlon Gary Petersen and I rented a small apartment up in the Maritime Alps in a little village named St. Martin Vesubie. Its about 40km and 1500ft above Nice. We were up there for 10 days before the race. Our daily ritual for the first week was to ride into town, stash our bikes at a friends apartment, swim 3-4km in the ocean, run 10-12 miles and then eat. Then we would ride the course or some other mountain route above Monaco back to our apartment. We did about 50 hours of training that week and our main recovery drink was Perrier mixed with cheap “vin de table”. To make up about 3 liters of that wonderfully cheap wine cooler it cost us about $1. The riding in France is absolutely stunning. Gordo and I have a promise to each other to have an Epic Camp there one day.

One thing we learned to stay away from in France was the baguettes that are a normal part of every day life in there. You hardly ever take a crap if you stuff yourself with too many of those! Epic blockage. No wonder many of the French we came across were so uptight! We might have had a bit of Epic blockage tonight by the smell emanating from some of the campers’ rooms tonight. At the New Zealand camp I thought it was just the replacement drink we were all drinking. Now I think its just from cramming in so many calories while training — there is a bit of digestive over-load.

Day three consisted of a 4,000 yard swim in the Estes Park pool. Damn hard to breathe here even if you are acclimated to altitude. The sea-level crew were happy just to stay off the bottom. Lead legs all around. This was followed by breakfast and then a ride up Trail Ridge through Rocky Mountain National Park which climbs to 12,000ft. It was quite a nice day but even so that’s a big climb and we hit it pretty steady. Some of us headed down the other side to our overnight stay in Grand Lake. Group “B” finished with 50 miles of riding and then we did a little horse trail running up in the forest for an hour to finish the day’s training. Total of 6 hours.

Group “A” (Clas and Gordo) who are shooting for an 8:30 IM some time in the future did a ride up Trail Ridge and turned around to run in Estes Park, and they are going to ride up it again tomorrow to begin a 150-mile ride to Steamboat Springs.

EPIC DAY FOUR

Another training camp in France was with my dear wife-to-be Erin. We stayed in a little farmhouse in Perigeaux for 3 weeks in ’88. I remember the bed being very crummy with a huge dip in the middle, which of course I didn’t mind back then. She also loved to eat baguette and cheese and drink wine (all of which I hated) but you know how it goes when you’re courtin’! We rode about 500 miles/week there and she often would drop me about 20 times/day. When training with Erin on a regular basis it was very plain to see why she won most of her races by a large margin. She was an animal in training. One of the last hard track sessions she did was 10 days out from Nice and she did 6 x 1km descending from 3:12 to 3:05 with a 200 jog between reps. I got hammered on every rep.

A week before Nice we did a race in Geneva for a little extra cash and Rob Barel out-kicked me by 3 seconds. Rob didn’t race in the USA very often but I can tell you that in the early days in Europe the guy was KING! The next week he would beat me by 36 seconds and deny me the opportunity to get a win in Mark Allen’s absence.

After Nice we went home for a few days and then flew off to Palm Springs in order for her to get ready for Kona, and for two Olympic Distance races coming up in Hilton Head and Bermuda. Will tell you about that camp in tomorrow’s update.

Today those of us in Grand Lake had true country experience! It was a nice stay at a real working ranch and we had a great breakfast before riding out to Steamboat. I snuck out for an easy run before breakfast and every one else did various runs after riding. The “A” team started out at 5:30am and we met up at lunch. They did 150 miles, we did 115.

We rode together for the first 60 miles before hitting the climb of the day. There was only one climb of substance and it was 2500 ft. The group broke up, the temperature was rising and it got kinda hard! But there’s no mercy in Epic Camp so people just had to ride their own tempo and get to the lunch stop on their own. Lots of time to think out there and sore butts all around.

Our outstanding support crew (Betty, Wy, and Wendy) made us another scrumptious dinner and then they headed to the pool with a couple of us to get in 3,000 yards or more.

Even our support crew are IM. Betty is training for Canada in between looking after us all day. Nice pool here in Steamboat with some natural hot springs next to it to hop into afterwards. We’re here two nights and in the afternoon tomorrow after weights and swimming we’ll have a bit of time before or after massages for a good long soak. It ain’t all pain and misery here on Epic Camp.

EPIC DAY FIVE

With a fair amount of good fortune I was able to cross the line first in Kona in ’88. Not only did Mark Allen have more than a few problems that year, Dave Scott didn’t even race. Prior to the race, Erin and I spent 10 days training in the desert to get ready for the heat and try out a few different salt solutions. In those days no one was taking salt tablets or carrying their own drinks on the run, so these were kinda novel ideas at the time. I ended up settling for a salt solution that would get me about one gram an hour for the bike and run. When it got hot the drinks made Erin puke, so she settled for about half that amount. One particular ride, in which I had about 10 grams of sodium, the salt gathered into my bike shorts to such a degree that after six hours it was like riding on top of really rough sandpaper.

More than a little uncomfortable to say the least, so I stopped in a 7-11 to buy some Vaseline to try and make it home. Only after going around the back of the store to apply a liberal coat and turning my shorts inside out to ride home, did I notice a big group of farm workers having a beer in the parking lot. They must have gotten a big kick out of me going around the back with my little jar of Vaseline.

One of the rides I suggested on that camp was a ride around the Salton Sea. A headwind came up big time during the last few hours, and along with the 110-degree temperature, the ride turned into epic misery. Even a blossoming love affair can only stand so much idiocy. Lucky for me the wind drowned out most of the verbal thrashing Erin gave me that day. I rode the last two hours of that ride with a one gallon jug of fruit punch on my Scott DH handlebars.

On that camp I ended up averaging 104 miles/day on the bike and 10 miles/day running for 11 days. At least three hours of every ride was in heat over 100 degrees; much of it over 108. The longest ride was 186 miles into Borrego and back. Just me, my walkman, and the heat. Why? Because I wanted to find out if it would do me any good, and I needed a severe test for my salt and fluid experiment. One of the things you can do on these camps is test things out, because you’re going through the kind of stress you’ll encounter in an IM.

Today the campers spent the whole day in Steamboat Springs and it hit 93 degrees.

First thing this morning we blasted up the mountain trails right to the top; 6,800 to 10,300 feet. Had to do it. Couldn’t let the camp fall into disrepute.

I gave the “A” team a little push from behind. Perhaps they couldn’t actually see me there, but they knew if they backed off I was there to give ‘em a good hiding. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. There was a Gondola to take a lift down from the 9,000-foot point, so hopefully the damage won’t be too severe. Roger from San Diego has a little bit of shin splints going on in one leg, so he was very happy to run up and take the Gondola down. A bite to eat and then a few of us headed out towards Steamboat Lake and turned around at Clark. Great ice cream stop there in Clark, so we took a bit of time to savor it. A fairly light day on the bike today. Only 40 miles and nothing too hard.

The DLTT’s (Desert Lizard Tanning & Triathlon Club) got the shirts off for the trip home to catch a few rays. We want to die thin and brown. Tinley was a founding member of the DLTT’s back in the Palm Springs camp days, but he’s kinda wimped out since he got skin cancer. So I’ve made KP (Kevin Purcell) a full member in his place. When every one in the camp is lathering on the sunscreen before heading out for a five-hour ride, KP is covering himself with baby oil. He’s really latched onto the true spirit of Epic Camp.

The afternoon was taken up by massage, weights and swimming. No group swim since every one had different massage times. I did a steady 3,500-yard after weights to total 5:40 training time for my four sessions today.

EPIC DAY SIX

Breaking down. What is that? What does it mean? How far can you take it? Exploring these questions has been one of the main themes in my life, and is the main theme of this camp. There are some tremendous, inspiring books written that hit this topic very well and I’ve mentioned them before on previous Epic Camp updates. Some of my favorites are:

  • “Running With The Legends” by Mike Sandrock, and
  • “Once a Runner” by John Parker, and
  • My new favorite: “Gold in the Water” by P.H. Mullen

In this book the author does an amazing job of describing the mind set and commitment swimmers take on in order to improve maybe one or two seconds over an 18-month period. The book conveys the type of commitment to excellence I see as the main benefit in personal growth that one can derive from sport.

I’m “philosophically opposed” to a few different training strategies and this is fully reflected in the way Gordo and I set up these camps. One of the main things I'm opposed to is setting up your training such that the majority of it is spent trying to reduce the effects of gravity, wind and water resistance.

Let me make my point clearly here before you call me a knucklehead, neanderthal, pompous ass. You might be thinking, “easy for you to say because you can already swim/bike/run well and probably always have.” True. But I’ve worked with a lot of people as a coach over the years so I have some perspective on how a lot of people go about involving themselves in this sport, and those who get the most out of it.

I’m not opposed to getting fast wheels, a fast wetsuit, an aero helmet, etc. I have all that stuff. I’m not opposed to doing drills and trying to improve technique. What I am opposed to is seeing experienced (over two years in the sport) triathletes spending 80% or more of their training day doing drills working on technique and position, and going very easy when doing it. MOST of training should be about overcoming the resistance the events and the sport present. To go faster you should be spending time training to become stronger and faster through fitness and strength. This is what this sport should be about. Effort and hard work. Even when doing drills or technique work the physical effort should be significant.

Is one approach more worthwhile than another? I think so. Is the end result (the race finishing time) the only determining factor? I don’t think so. Some examples of decisions you can make along the way to answering these questions:

  • Training at altitude vs. EPO
  • Learning to psych yourself up vs. amphetamines
  • Dieting to stick-figure proportions or running more

The thing is, I don’t lack the dedication and patience to work on going faster by learning the skills of minimizing resistance. I do a bit of that. It’s just not the largest proportion of my training sessions because I just don’t prefer that method of improvement.

The plan for today was to jog the three miles down to the pool (6,700' above sea level), swim, jog back up (to 7,200'), eat and then ride. It's 95 miles to our next stop at the Vail Racquet Club with 4,700 feet of climbing along the way. Wy has printed out directions to our accommodation and topo maps with an altitude profile for every ride, so every one knows what to expect and how to get to our destination if they get dropped.

The plan for the morning went good. We all did at least 3,000 yards in the pool. Gordo had us doing 10 X 100 medley/150 free. That’s a 2500 yard swim. Then some 50s to round it off. After another gourmet breakfast cooked up by our support team, we headed out for the ride and it was damn hot: 83 degrees F to begin and it hit 90 by noon. Clas “The Baron” Bjorling was hitting his straps finally (after a 10-mile run while we swam) and took all the KOM points handily. Roger from San Diego missed the train after every climb so spent a lot of time OTB. Pretty lonely back there, but he held it together to get in a very solid effort. I sucked serious wheel for about 90% of the ride today. Huge salt marks everywhere at the end of the ride. Lunch at the 70-mile point ended up being a rehydrate stop as it was too damned hot to eat. This was the third day in a row of hot weather so things are looking good for the Desert Lizards.

It was just under 4:45 ride time for the fast guys today, then Gordo and Clas went for another run of 30+ minutes. So, total training today of 6:35 damn solid hours for me and the rest of the gang except for Clas and Gordo who went over seven. I’m toast.

EPIC DAY SEVEN

Epic Sex. Well… not quite. Just a distant memory at the moment. Hope some of you out there are having some ‘cuz we sure ain’t around here. Everyone is tired today. Don’t think there will be much bar hopping going on tonight.

Here’s a few words about getting away from it all to train. Of course not everyone can do it. There’s responsibility to others to consider. We all feel very privileged to be able to do this, even though some of us have worked our butts off for ten years or more to do it. I’ve left home for 17 days on this trip. It’s “partially” work — mostly it's my vocation, which sounds very similar to vacation doesn’t it?

Just so you realize I’m not a totally selfish cad leaving two small children and an overworked, over-stressed businesswoman at home, I’d like you to know I left my wife with a very large supply of AA batteries and the best self-pleasuring device money can buy! Hey! That’s the kinda fella I am. :-)

Enough humor. Today in Vail we had an easier, shorter ride on the plan so we could have a bit of fun with some more swimming and running, and even perhaps get a little rest. A few of us took off at 7:30AM and rode over Vail Pass to Frisco and back on the best bike path in the world. If you’ve ever done it you know what I’m talking about. Truly remarkable use of taxpayer money. If you know of a better bike path than this one then let me know because I want to ride it. The ride is 50 miles with the two crossings of the pass totaling 3200 feet of climbing. We just went easy with a nice coffee and bagel stop in Frisco. It’s a sunny Sunday so there were quite a few people out on the bike path. Good to see.

The rest of the day was taken up by eating, napping, massage, run, swim, weights in various order depending on who had the most energy. My weights session included some of the dumbbell rotator cuff work I learned from Dave Scott when I was coached by him in ’94. Dave’s philosophy is that you use every muscle in your body in triathlons so train it to be strong and efficient. There was always something to do in the gym on Dave’s program and I’ve integrated nearly all of it into my own gym work. Owning my own gym these last five years has made that a bit easier. I also did lots of abs today after seeing Clas’ 6-pack yesterday. The guy is an anatomy chart.

His totals for this first week on Epic Colorado are 840km cycling with 11,000 meters of vertical gain, and 150km of running with lots of vertical gain as well. Also two gym sessions.

Gordo has a total of 46 hours this first week with the same cycling as the Baron and I’m just a bit behind. Every one else is about even in total training time. My totals for the seven days are: swim, bike and run every day and three solid gym sessions: 42 hours. Average altitude for the camp so far has been about 7,000 feet.

Tomorrow after swim and gym we head out of Vail to Aspen. It’s a pretty flat “stage” so the pace is bound to be pretty quick.

EPIC DAY EIGHT

We may never ride the Tour, but we can dream. This is our Tour (for the second time this year). But I really enjoyed watching the real Tour this year. What about that Tyler Hamilton?! Jeez, he was an inspiration. Does he get heroic effort of the year or what?! What he did will inspire me for the rest of the year and maybe next year too. Perhaps it’s common to root for the underdog, but in my view what he did epitomizes what being a pro cyclist is all about — overcoming mountains, supermen, your own body, pain.

For Epic Camp, Gordo has a very intricate points system set up which includes KOM’s, sprints, points for swim/bike/run days, extra sessions done, etc. So far in the “elite” section I’m getting slaughtered, but am hoping to make up a little ground as I get acclimated to the altitude and we hit some steeper climbs. Others here on the camp have made sessions they otherwise might have skipped if it weren’t for those points. It’s been good incentive for very tired athletes.

Gordo has been “mentoring” young Clas this year and he couldn’t have found a better pupil. This guy is willing to suffer in more ways than one. I’ll tell you a little story of mentoring I heard from a friend of mine, Bob Roll, who was my first cycling mentor. Bob and I ran track and cross-country together for two years at a Junior College in California before he took up cycling. You might have got a glimpse of Bob’s personality if you watched the OLN coverage of the Tour. He’s a unique individual. Back then he was like the main character in “Breaking Away.” He loved everything Italian. Had to have a Bianchi with Campy gear on it and those wooden-soled Duegi cycling shoes.

Well, one spring he took on a young protégé named Norm Alvis who wanted to make it as a pro cyclist. He hooked up with Roll to learn the ropes. On their first training camp together, before a series of bike races at the then-called the Tour of Texas, Norm and Roll trained together for a little while to get ready. They rode about 120 miles each day. Since Norm was a big powerful guy at the outset, Bob told Norm he had to strip off some bulk. So he told Norm that three times per day he could eat as much as he could pile on his plate at the cafeteria. Norm agreed. No big deal. Then he handed him a coffee cup saucer and said “here’s your plate.” Needless to say Norm did end up losing some weight. He also spent a lot of time at the back of the pack doing some real suffering during the Tour of Texas.

We’ve also been throwing down a few challenges to each other along the way during this camp and it adds quite a bit to the atmosphere.

The time schedule today was set up to allow for two hours from 7-9AM for swimming and weights. Then breakfast and pack the bags and onto the bikes by 10:30 for the ride to Aspen. Run off the bike today.

Weights again! Always something to do in the gym. Only 40 minutes for most of us and then into the pool for a minimum of 3,000 meters short course. Up at 8300 feet makes it tough and we were draggin’. I managed 20 X 25M on the 30sec at the end to completely bury myself. First sprinting in the pool on this camp and I won’t be doing any more! Silly idea.

Huge breakfast! Then off to Glenwood Springs 65 miles away for lunch. The bike path through the Glenwood Canyon is cool. A lot longer than I thought. Since it was downhill and into the wind we had the opportunity to float behind the G-train all the way to lunch. Then we had a bit of fun with some tempo and some sprints en route to Aspen. It’s a gradual 2,000-foot climb over those 40 miles and we did it in 1:50 and it was a toasty 88F degrees. Nice day to hammer. Rob from Nashville showed his pedigree today with some massive pulls without aero bars. For a sea level dude he’s been riding very impressively and just going for it to see what his limits are. Don’t think he’s found them yet.

Then we hurried off for runs of 35-60 minutes and another eight-hour day is done.

If you’ve never been to Aspen, I can assure you it’s the land of milk and honey (and money). What a gorgeous town. Just stunning here. A little stroll around after dinner for a few treats and lights out came at 9:30PM.

EPIC DAY NINE

Seventeen days until Canada IM for campers Betty, KP, Gordo, and Roger. Not long now, and it’s on their minds several hours each day. It’s starting to look very likely that they are going to have a very good experience there. Hematocrits are going up, endurance, comfort zones, climbing speed — all going up. Body fat percentage coming down. All good.

For me, there’s 72 days until Kona. I might not have mentioned that I’m racing there before because I wasn’t too sure until last week. The last time I showed up there on the 20th anniversary of the event, I was a bit of a fat drunk. I did have a great time on that trip with all sorts of deplorable and downright ungentlemanly behavior (which really is quite out of character for me), but that 11-hour effort wasn’t anything to get too excited about. This time I’d like to do a bit better in the race. Not really going there to compete in my age group, just have a solid race and catch up with a few of the people I’ve been working with this year who are also racing. It would be nice for my kids to see what Ironman is all about too because so far in their lives all of this exercise is rather pointless — it just takes dad away for hours every day, makes him tired and doesn’t do them any good. So the whole family is going. Even my daughter Jenny from my first marriage is going. She’s 22 and hasn’t been back to Kona since the first time she went along in her mother’s womb in ’81.

We woke up in Aspen today. Such a place is really tough to describe. The worst and the best of the nation are represented here. We chose to revel in the best the town has to offer endurance athletes. The recreation center is outstanding and we swam between 3-4,000 yards this morning. Still hard at 7,500 feet, but the crew is really getting acclimated to the altitude now. The trails here are as good as any town with bike paths and running/walking trails for miles. Clas did his normal 15km run while we swam.

After breakfast and pack-up we headed up Independence Pass on our way to Leadville.

Independence Pass is where Alexi Grewal used to train. Remember him? Gold medal in the road race at the ’84 Games in L.A. The guy could climb. The pass climbs 4,500 feet and Gordo, Clas and I had a bit of fun racing up it and then DOWN the other side to the Twin Lakes sprint. The G-man got both, but we served notice that his grasp on the camp points championship was tenuous — I'm making him work for it. Then he hit some gravel on the turn-off for lunch at Turquoise Lake and hit the pavement pretty hard.

After a quick lunch, we wheeled the few miles into Leadville to finish off with a 60-mile ride and then went for a run. Even Leadville had a nice surprise for us with its incredible bike path around the town and through the forest. I was stunned yet again at the incredible cycling paths we’ve come across on this trip. It’s been about eight years since I’ve been to any of these towns and every single one is much improved for runners and cyclists. That’s been a very nice bonus for me on this trip. So another swim/bike/run day in the bag — Number Nine of the camp.

Then dinner with big fat steaks all-around. No vegetarians on this camp! Then a stroll over to the Boomtown Brewpub as it was Betty’s birthday. She deserved a small celebration of sorts. She was pooped too, and it doesn’t take much anyway at 10,200 feet to get a nice buzz goin’.

EPIC DAY TEN

Big breakfast at the Delaware Hotel in Leadville, and then onto the bikes by 8:15AM. Big day today with three passes and lots of KOM points on the line. This is how it went:

First there’s Fremont Pass at 11,300 feet and Molina shows he’s serious about the “No Mercy” policy and drills it. Then we cruise down to Frisco to top up on fuel (and caffeine mostly). Then another great bike path ride through Keystone to Loveland Pass where we have another Epic battle for KOM supremacy (yes, I’m braggin’ here yet again!). Quick snack there at 12,000 feet and another photo for the file. Race down the pass and along I-70 and then another caffeine top-up in Georgetown. The daily caffeine mgs are steadily climbing, too. Then make our way over to the last pass of the day — Berthoud at 11,300 feet. Not a lot of chatting up that one. This one takes the total elevation gain over 10,000 feet for the day. The Baron aces out Gordo for KOM there and we cruise down to Winter Park for a run. Ride time was about 5:40 today for the 100 miles.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit this little town then you’ve missed out on plenty. It really is one of my favorite places in the world. There are over 600 miles of marked, mapped trails to ride, run and hike so there’s something for every ability. It remains a small, unpretentious ski town in winter, too. We owned a condo here for five years and used to spend a lot of time here in the summers. I took the Baron for a 45-minute, 9km loop up the Blue Sky trail before dinner. Then a few of us managed a stroll and a rehydration stop this evening to finish a fantastic day in the Rockies.

As this camp nears the end, big days are starting to seem very normal.

Did you ever do any sports camps or training camps as a kid? My first “camp” was a swim camp as a member of the Pleasant Hill (N. California) Swim Team in 1976. The club had hired a new coach named Ron Young and the board gave him the directive to try and build the club to one which could compete for honors at the National Camps. He socked it to us! Over Christmas break we swam 310,000 yards in three weeks, did two to three weight session per week — I also ran 40 miles/week. Near the end of that camp I set a PB in the 1650 of 16:36 near the end of a 12,000-yard day. That ended up being my all-time PB as I stopped swimming soon after to concentrate on running. I distinctly remember the college guys pounding the crap out of us set after set. A typical set for me during that period was 10 x 200y on 2:10 descending down to 1:58. When you do sets like that day after day you start to adjust your perspective on what it means to go hard.

You can see that change of perspective on the faces of everyone here now as they head out for another monster day. They’re more relaxed about it because they know they will come out the other side and be okay. Roger from San Diego had a bit of that going on today. He did his best riding of the camp today. I rode up the third and last pass of the day with him and we rode very steady. Then he suddenly turns into Cippolini and slams it in the big ring to blow me off at the top of the pass.

Just proves miracles can happen on Epic Camp.

EPIC DAY ELEVEN

We’re in Winter Park all day today. After taking a good look at the trail map last night the plan for the day was to spin down through Fraser to the YMCA for a swim and ride back easy, then lift weights and run later. Not an easy day really, but not a hammer session up a mountain pass or three either. Some folks don’t want to run too far with IM Canada just a couple of weeks away. Some of us (meaning me!) want to have a good wander through the mountains and get in some more vertical. We’ve also got the ride back up Berthoud Pass and then up Mt. Evans looming tomorrow, so trying to being a little sensible in the few moments of clarity between the long, foggy patches. Still, the Baron and I had a good wander up onto the resorts mountain bike trails, got a bit lost and ended up with two hours and 2,000 feet of vertical.

Joe from Edmonton, KP and Rod from Nashville wanted a longer flat run today, so they got out there for that. Gordo did his swim, weights and run out at YMCA of the Rockies to get it all done before returning for massage. He was the only guy to get bonus points for getting all four sessions in. Gordo got 4 and-a-half hours in today and so did I, but with no swim. That makes two days out of the pool! Yikes!! Will have to remedy that tomorrow.

Super-duper support crew member Betty from L.A. (who’s doing IM Canada in two weeks+) did a five-hour ride and then 30-minute run off the bike, so she had the biggest day of all of us.

They have a great gym here at the Snowblaze condos, so we pumped up something serious. It’s right in town so it was a great, short stay here in Winter Park. Sorry to leave so soon.

It’s not hard to believe its Day-11 as I write this. Seems like we’ve been going at this for weeks.

EPIC DAY TWELVE

Big day today with a ride up Mt. Evans on the schedule. It was raining last night so we all decided that if it was going to be wet in the morning for our 6AM departure we would wear everything we had. Turned out to be just cloudy, which meant a bit warmer so we were all in good spirits.

The first climb of the day back up Berthoud pass is 18km and 2,300 feet of gain. Clas disappeared and the rest of us struggled. Everyone is tired.

We cruised down the 30km descent and then we had a weigh-in at Idaho Springs for the weight-graded points climb. The way this worked was we got on the scale holding our bikes to determine our “weight.” Once weighed, you weren’t allowed to dump anything on the climb including liquid. No demerits for defecation or urination, but of course you’d better do it quick as there’s no stopping the clock once we began the climb. If you were 10% lighter than the other guy then you had to beat him up the 28-mile climb to beat him by 10% for the points. So there were points for weight-graded (but not age-graded or “from sea level” graded), and also for GC just like normal passes.

We all started together and hit the watch at 7500 feet. Gordo and Clas let me hang with them as we rode steady up to Echo Lake at 10,600 feet. Very gentlemanly so far. At 12,000 feet and eight miles to go, they dumped me and finally the war started with two miles to go. Gordo gapped Clas by 20 seconds and ended up three minutes ahead of me at the summit at 14,200 feet. Just under 2 and-a-half hours of climb for me. Luckily the wind was helpful. Our support crew was there to record the times and points and give us some coffee and food. Everyone made the ride far more comfortably than I thought possible when planning this camp 10 months ago. We couldn’t stay long there and savor it, as rain clouds were threatening and it was pretty cool. So we cruised down to Bergen Park for a total of 100 miles of riding. Then we grabbed some food (TCBY for me!) to end the training part of the camp, except for KP, Gordo and Clas who rode two more hours back to Boulder.

The camp wrap-up, awarding of jerseys, Epic Certificates of Achievement, goody bag swag, dinner and beverages were at one of my all-time favorite restaurants — the Walnut Brew Pub. The world’s best Salmon fish n’ chips. There was still some packing of bikes to do and we were all pretty damned tired, so it was an early night.

My personal totals for the camp over the 12 days were:

  • 9 swims — 37,000 yards
  • 12 rides — 900 miles with 61,000 feet of vertical gain
  • 11 runs — approximately 95 miles with 6,000 feet of vertical gain
  • 4 gym sessions

EPILOGUE

I worked my tail off at this camp. That was the whole idea and I’m very content to come out the other side fit and well and not a gibbering wreck in a lunatic asylum. The need to work out very hard hasn’t diminished over the years. I keep hoping it will moderate at some point, but there always seems to be at least a couple extended periods during the year when I have to train very hard. I need the challenge. If I were a writer like Bill Bryson I’m sure I’d happily do that. If I could sing like Al Green or Tony Bennett, play the guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc., I would be content to do those things for a lifetime. But I’m not. I’m a triathlete — 23 years worth.

My friend Pete back in Christchurch will be encouraged to know that a guy can prepare for the riding part of this camp by training indoors. Nearly all of my riding prior to coming to Colorado was during the one- to two-hour nightly sessions in his garage watching the highlights of the Tour. I also ran approximately 70 miles/week in the hills, lifted a ton of weights, and swam approximately 10km/week during the six weeks prior.

Other factors that contributed to handling this amount of volume, altitude and intensity well are a good base of training, and a good diet and plenty of vitamins and antioxidants on a daily basis.

My dear wife worries that I’m doing myself irreparable harm with all of this training — grinding myself to bits which will lead to many years of suffering later. Is she right? Are any of you struggling with the same question?

Dave Scott and I have discussed this on several occasions — he with knee problems and I with a worn out low back. The only thing we’re absolutely sure of is that we won’t stop. So we’ll just figure out what changes, supplements, surgeries, etc. we need to keep doing it as we get older.

These camps are a blast and Gordo and I are already looking forward to future camps.

We have camps planned for New Zealand in January, then Kona in ‘04, Australia and France in ‘05.

Before that I’ll be spending some time with Cameron Brown this September as he goes to his “camp” to prepare for Kona. He has a very industrious work ethic so is a pleasure to be around, and perhaps this will be the year he finally gets all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together perfectly. He’s been doing this sport for 15 years and knows his body very well. I’ll be tagging along mostly for moral support. We all need a bit of that.