Epic Camp 2004
By Scott Molina
January, 2004
(www.slowtwitch.com)

[Ed. note: Most Slowtwitch readers are now familiar with Epic Camp. We think it has enough legs for another go-round, especially as Scott Molina promises to opine on whatever it is that strikes him as opinion-worthy at the moment.

Epic Camp is back 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
THE "P" SCALE
EPIC DAY SIX
EPIC DAY SEVEN
EPIC DAY EIGHT
EPIC DAY NINE
EPIC DAY TEN
EPIC DAY ELEVEN
EPIC DAY TWELVE
EPILOGUE



EPIC PROLOGUE

To save long time readers of this site the pain of enduring my repetitive rants on topics I hold dear, I’m going to try and moderate my updates.  I’ll keep the tall tales short and the blow by blow to a minimum.  I’ll try to stick to the numbers for the most part—how much distance we actually cover.  Pace, wind, temperature, the road surface here in New Zealand, etc., obviously affect the overall camp experience, so I’ll include anything relevant about those aspects as well.  Perhaps one or two rants, please forgive me as I tend to get a bit worked up when going long and hard every day going hard on the vitamin V (Vivarin).

Over the last week Gordo and I have fine tuned the points system we use to help motivate the campers to reach a bit deeper. This takes a bit of time to read through but it accurately conveys what we’re trying to do here with these camps so I’ll spell it out. Perhaps some readers might be able to give us ideas for further refinement.

Although we have place points awarded for sprints and KOM’s along the route (1st is 3 points, 2nd is 2 points, 3rd is 1), most of the points are accumulated by doing more training. Bonus points are awarded for:

• Doing 3 sessions in a day—2 bonus points: These sessions don’t have to be just swim, bike run.  They can any combination of those, or be another kind of workout.

• Doing 4 sessions in a day—3 bonus points: These sessions don’t have to be just swim, bike, run.  They can be any combination of those or be another run or gym session.  Double sessions are encouraged this way.

Each of these have a minimum distance to qualify as a session.  Runs have to either be 50 minutes, 10km, or a 30-minute run off the bike.

Bike sessions have to be at least 30km.

Swims have to be at least 3km.  Gym sessions are subject to the scrutiny of the judges (me).

Lengthening any individual session can get you extra bonus points and going extra long will get you more—BUT!—to get the points for those extra long sessions you have to back it up by doing the minimum in that sport the next day.

• 5km swim gets an extra point, 10km gets you 2.

• 200km ride gets an extra point, 300km gets you 2.

• Running for 2 hours gets you an extra point, running for 3 hours gets you 2.

• There are also small “events” along the way, like 2km swims and 10km runs for instance where place points are awarded.

There are also special swim sets where you can earn more points, but you can only do each one of them once during the camp.  A 400IM swim for example will earn you a point. Swimming 1km with a band only around your ankles (no buoy) will earn you a point, etc.

There are also 2 classes to make it more fair and “encourage” healthy competition—elite and civilian divisions.  I have volunteered to be in the “elite” division to ensure no paying clients go home the lantern rouge.  It's all part of the service, and we do have great service here this year. We have an experienced crew of 4 catering to our every need, two of which are racing IM NZ themselves.  I make the coffee in the morning, but that’s about it as far as my operational duties are concerned.  I don’t have any energy for anything else anyway after being cannon fodder for the big guns all day.

As you can see these camps are about training.  No points are awarded for talking, although certainly a lot of trash talkin’ will be goin on.  There are bonus points awarded by the committee (me) for selfless acts of support for fellow campers done while ignoring great personal suffering though.

EPIC DAY ONE

Great weather today in Auckland, which is normally a pretty rainy place.  Balmy 70F and the UV index was very high by 8AM and that always gets me in a good mood. We jogged an easy 5km each way to the pool and swam 3.5km long course (or more) including a 2km TT.  Björn Anderson from Sweden took the yellow jersey quite comfortably with me a distant second.  But second is good!  Probably one of the few times I will actually earn place points on this camp. I’m sore as hell from the effort too.  We have some pretty average swimmers on this camp!  So good to see we’ve got a couple of weeks to make some progress. After breakfast we headed out for a 165km ride to the Coromandel Penninsula with a few KOM’s and sprints along the way.  Mr. Anderson (we’ve taken to calling him that to show the appropriate level of respect) cleaned up everything en route as expected even after towing us around most of the day.So he’s got a good grip on the yellow jersey. More on Mr. Anderson later.

We had some wind, plenty of sun and heat and approx. 4,000' of climbing on the ride.  A very decent effort.  Michael from the UK managed to break his saddle all the way off and had to ride 30km without it.  We managed to get him a new seat post so he was still able to do the whole ride.  Our first ever Epic Chick Marilyn (the “Mar”inator) McDonald from Calgary aquitted herself admirably.  She arrived 9 days early to escape the freezing winter of Alberta and managed to put in a very solid 40 hour week in Christchurch last week to get ready, and it showed.

After the ride some did a 30 minute run off the bike and Clas (the “Baron”), Gordo and Björn raced each other over 10km for more points. I was happy to be watching. The guys were killing each other! With a monster 2 hour+ run up a 3,000ft mountain tomorrow I thought it was a bit impetuous, but it certainly kept the camp's good name from falling into disrepute today.  Eleven days to go.  Seems like we might have some casualties.

EPIC DAY TWO

We’re in the little town of Coromandel today at the end of a spectacular peninsula.  This area is the main holiday area for folks from Auckland, New Zealand’s main city. Beautifully lush countryside.  We had a 6AM start today in the pool.  Bonus point for completing a 400m IM which a few of us did.  Other various swim sets qualify—like 1km with a band around your ankles, but you can only do each set once during the camp for a point.  5km swim also qualifies for a point, and that was earned by Gordo and I, fearless leaders that we are.

After breakfast we rode out an hour to the end of the paved road and then drove an hour out to the trail head for a big run.  Clas uses his GPS on all training sessions so informed us afterwards we climbed 5,000' of vertical on our 2-hour run.  Clas got the KOM and the first to the finish points quite handily of course and the rest of us were glad to finish at all.  I must admit here I did walk a bit.  It takes a hell of a lot of steep stuff to make me walk on a run, but we hit a wall at the 1:30 mark that made me think my plantar fascia were going to rip. My quads are trashed too.  No way I’ve been running enough to manage a run like that without some serious damage.  Great, scenic, hot, challenging run and the Desert Lizards (Kevin Purcell and I) were glad to soak up some serious UV’s.

We had a bit of a picnic before driving an hour back to our bikes, and then riding the hour back to our accommodation.  Gordo, Clas and Björn went immediately to the pool to do at least 3km and also earn some points for various swim sets.  We also give 2 bonus points for 4 sessions in a day, so those were on their minds as well. Björn smacked out a 200m fly in 2:30 to get an extra point.  The guy can swim.

Michael Hanreck from the UK did another run of 50+ minutes to get his 3-hour run 2-point bonus.  A hell of a way to earn a couple of extra points! Then he did another swim to get his swim total over 5km for the day.  We might have to see if we can find a little “Belgian Mix” for him if he tries to keep this up.

Fabulous steaks on the barbecue tonight for dinner.  Gotta love summer! ( sorry). Then off for a little stroll to find internet access, a little bubbly anesthetic to ease my ailments, and treats.  Standard way for me to end the day on camp.

EPIC DAY THREE

The quote of the day yesterday goes to Clas on the ride home after the big run. He said “One Day! I just want the yellow jersey for one day!” The “friendly” points competition is heating up a bit.

The day started at 6AM with a swim, then breakfast. Since we need a 5km swim session to get another point most of us opted to reach for it. One of our special swim sets for an extra point is 10 x (200IM, 10 seconds rest, 100 free, 10 seconds rest) so some of us did that as well. G-man slipped off for an extra run and some of us lifted weights to get 4 sessions in a day, which is worth 2 bonus points. I realize this is kinda boring stuff to read but it goes to show how a little competition can help you get out the door to do some work.

After the first 2 sessions and breakfast we headed out for a ride. The easier option was 50km to Whitianga with 2,000ft of climbing. KP chose this route thinking he would get an easy day but ended up getting a PR for his highest heart rate for the last year on the bike just to get up one of the walls we encountered. This is one hilly little island. Now I can appreciate Cam Brown’s training numbers just a little bit better. He does his initial build up out here around Christmas time every year. You have to work damn hard for your miles here. I felt pretty good upon reaching our hotel so I kept rolling to get 120km in total.

The gluttons for punishment chose an even hillier 155km route and then a run off the bike for a minimum of 30 minutes. Mr. Andersson (more on him later) extended his ride to get 220km before his run. There’s some big hours going down. One of Gordo’s main goals for the camp is to set a PB for hours trained over a 12-day period. He needs 84 hours and its looking more likely that he’ll get it. With a half- IM race in Auckland on Sunday every one is starting to feel a bit more cautious. Except Gordo.

As self-appointed Social Director and Cultural Ambassador for the crew I suggest a nightly stroll into the town of each new place we visit. Comes with the camp package.

All part of the service. Even if everyone is too pooped to want a night out I feel obligated to show its possible to do a little socializing even when completely obliterated, so I sometimes end up drinking alone. If I feel like learning a bit about the local culture its not hard to find an expert or two. Most bartenders are quite informed and don’t mind introducing me to a few locals. All it takes is for me to make the offer of another round and I get lively conversation and entertainment as long as I’ve got money to spend.

EPIC DAY FOUR

Gordo says to me this morning “Molina, this is just an extended pub crawl for you.” Which of course is an exaggeration.

Today we had an aquathlon to start the day. It was a 1km swim in a calm ocean followed by a 4km run on the grass. Place points for each category and for fastest swim and run splits. Mr. Andersson won handily as expected, but the surprise was Clas who has essentially been a duathlete and non-swimmer in the past. He beat Gordo out of the water and was a little over a minute behind me. He’s learned how to swim! Over the winter in Sweden he worked steadily on his swimming and took 10 seconds off of his 400m free PB. Then he flogged himself mercilessly for 3 weeks when he arrived in New Zealand doing a solid 25km/week and has made another big gain. I’m sure a few people will be quite surprised by his swim and bike in IM NZ this year. After a 4th overall there last year he’s very determined to move up.

After our little race and breakfast we rode to Tauranga which was another hilly route with 5,000ft of climbing. Still no rain, but the rough roads and all the kms are taking a toll on a few backsides. Everyone did the 170km to the hotel. The little varmint Marilyn “the Marinator” did her best to keep all the male egos in check. The little critter can go uphill like hell! Gordo, the Baron and Sam McGowan kept going to get 200km for the day. Pretty staunch effort on Sam’s part as there are numerous holes opening up on his under-carriage. I’ve brought along a tub of 2% hydrocortisone crème (the stuff Lance got into a bit of flack over) to help alleviate some of the discomfort and help with healing. There’s still going to be some suffering going on though. I do recommend you get some of this prescription strength stuff if you are ever planning on doing a big period of cycling like this. It helps a lot. Some campers do seem to extract a little bit of excessive pleasure when applying their crème. Between that and the Chamois crème I swear some of these guys are having the time of their lives. I’ve also brought along a big bag of sterile popsicle sticks so we don’t have to stick our fingers into the container. No sharing of cooties here on Epic Camp.

It's bad enough sharing the same air at night when sleeping. Some folks are pretty oderiferous. We had a huge laugh at dinner tonight because at lunch KP announces that his crotch isn’t killing him and he thought he was going to have a great day. One of the topics of conversation every day is how everyones’ bottoms is holding up. Well, when he got to the hotel that afternoon KP announces he spoke too soon at lunch, and now he has 4 new holes in his body!

Every one ran off the bike today and we are all damn sore. At least 7 hours for everyone today. Only a few of us sugar junkies managed a limp into town for a meager ice cream cone. I was in the mood for a nice Latte and a Grappa or two but there’s still 8 days to go so thought the better of it.

EPIC DAY FIVE

What do you say about a guy who rides a bike very differently from anyone you’ve ever seen before yet goes faster than just about every one you’ve ever seen before? I’m talking about Björn here. I remember the discussion here on the Slowtwitch forum a while back comparing Björn’s position and cadence to Steve Larsen’s. There’s certainly some contrast there. What’s clear is the guy is fast. What’s unclear is why, and if he could be even faster by adopting more conventional methods. I had the chance to train with him a bit last year when he was getting ready for IM NZ. My opinion now after having ridden behind him for a week is that he is going to make his methods work for him. He’s a very large man for an elite triathlete, but very aero in his extreme position.

He might not run as fast as some of the light guys, but he can run too. The argument that he might be abit fresher off the bike and run better if he changed position and cadence doesn’t hold up to scrutiny if you compare his heart rate relative to his max as a judge of effort. Add that to the fact that he can go much longer and faster than just about any pro triathlete out there. Forty kilometers per hour is a walk in the park for this guy. His LT is closer to 47km/hour. His lack of killer run speed is more due to his size and lack of high mileage running over the last few years while he’s developed his cycling. He was a very fast swimmer as a kid (17:06 1500m at age 15) and many swimmers take awhile to find their running legs. Our sport has largely been dominated by those who’ve done so. He’s been doing triathlons for 8 years but many of those years were spent training sporadically and a knee surgery set him back a bit.

So much of the technical spects of cycling training and position are infuenced by the “man of the moment” and we’re certainly in the Lance era right now. Does anyone remember how Bernard Hinault rode? Bjarne Riis? What if there was no Lance and we were in the Jan Ulrich era? All big gear mashers, but it's safe to say they all rode with a higher cadence than Björn. He certainly has an issue to deal with in keeping his low back from seizing up, but he’s working on that.

Whatever method you use, if you train with it long and hard enough and with enough conviction you’re bound to make some progress if it doesn’t keep injuring you. Do you remember what Oliver Bernhard used to pedal like when he first started winning Powerman Zofingen? He wasn’t much of a swimmer back then but pushed a massive gear. I remember him passing me in his first years in Nice going uphill towards the village of Gillette in his 55x12. I tried to hang with him for a few miles but he dropped me. He biked and ran himself into 6th that year. Now he uses a cleat position so far back he has to have his shoe specially modified. The Swedish woman who’s won the cycling world champs uses a similar cleat position. Certainly way different than the norm, but it works well.

Back to the issue of using massive gears—one of my dear wife Erin’s nicknames in Boulder was “Big Ring Baker.” She hardly ever changed into the small ring, not even when riding over the major passes in Colorado. When she started cycling in Christchurch there were only 6 speeds on the rear cluster and you were considered a wimp if you didn’t have a straight block (12-17). So that’s what she had. We laugh at those days now because we use 23’s all the time at home struggling on the steep hills. But she never even used her 17. That was for sissies—the “granny” gear.

It will be interesting to see if Björn can put together a good IM. After a blistering ride in finishing a close second to Cam Brown in the in the blazing heat of the Utah Half last year its not too much of a stretch to believe it will happen.

Today we had what would seem to be a relatively light day on the schedule. Some slept in and some went to the pool. Those who did swam 5km. My special set of the day for a point was a 3km continuous swim done like this: 12 x (100IM, 150f/s). Gordo chose another option—20 x 200 with 10 seconds rest. It was a slowest pace he’s done for a set like that in over a year, including the time he did it in Vail last Epic at 8300', but the committee (me) gave the bonus point to him anyway.

Easy ride of 80km to Rotorua today. Not too windy or hilly. Some took off early wanting to get a bit of a head start as they wanted to go a bit easier. I remember KP doing this last year in NZ on our first camp. His roll-outs got earlier and earlier until we weren’t sure he ever went to bed! He would just head off with his directions, map and money, and slip off very quietly.

Upon arrival most ran off the bike and then Gordo, Clas and Björn headed to the pool. G and Clas did another 5km in the pool to get 10km for the day. Which was a damn admirable effort. We all got a massage this evening as well, and it was much needed and appreciated. As I sit here typing this at 9:30PM after a short stroll into town, G is having his 3rd dinner. Glad he's sleeping in another room tonight.

Tomorrow is a very easy day for everyone but him. He’s got a lot of solo time planned. With a hard half-IM on Sunday followed by 5 more huge days we will be glad to just piddle around tomorrow.

THE “P” SCALE

Gordo and I have come up with a method to objectively convey how much pain we’re in. We call it the “Pamela Anderson Pain Scale” or “P” scale for short. Since every one has a different perception of pain, we felt we needed some sort of universal (among males anyway) norm every one could understand. Here’s how it works:

Let's say you’re sore. Pammie knocks on the door and says she wants you. She’s got to have you. She’s just wearing a bit of black leather—no more than on an average football. The scale goes from one to five:

1) You say “come on in baby! Ride this bronking bull like there’s no tomorrow.

2) You say “Yahoooooo! But I’ve got to be on top and please don’t squeeze my ass or touch my thighs.”

3) You pause a moment to think, then you call out from your bed because you don’t want to get up, “Ohhhhhhhh shit. Come on in Pammie baby!” But then you tell her you can only handle a BJ and please don’t touch anything else on your body.

4) You wimper for a moment. Then you call her in and say ”Pammie. I think you’re the greatest babe to ever stride the earth. Better than Raquel Welch even. But I’m in pain here. Severe pain. Could you just give me a bit of a dance and wiggle your chest for me?”

5) You’re practically comatose from the pain. You don’t have the energy to cry. You agonize over this, but you’ll have to pass on the opportunity of a lifetime. You call out ”Go away Pammie my love. I’m too sore!”

There is of course a bit of fine print that goes along with this scale and on long rides we add to it all the time. (Too much to include here, and I’ve forgotten it all anyway), but that’s the brief version. Obviously a guy like Tom Cruise might use the scale differently than a 58 year-old grandpa from Des Moines who’s been married to the same old obese battle ax for 36 years.

I’ve asked some of the women triathletes I know which male would serve as the equivalent of Pam for very sore females and the concensus was Brendan Fraser from “George of the Jungle.” There’s a lesson here for us males, I guess—hairy, weedy, too serious and pale aren’t desirable traits if you want to get laid.

EPIC DAY SIX

Not much to report today. It’s a very light rest day for all but the G-man. Some did a little, some had a day off. Clas and G ran a bit and swam 3km along with Macca (Chris McDonald). Some drove to Auckland with the support crew. Some of us flew. G-man rode the 200+km to Auckland to stay on track for his 84-hour goal for the camp. Don’t think he’ll be up there fighting Cam for the win tomorrow.

Thos of you who are interested to find what your own limits of training are have probably had numerous conversations about what is the optimal amount of training a person should do actually is. Gordo has his own ideas about that and has been pushing the envelope in trying to see just how fast he can race an IM. Last year the results were very good—two sub 8:50 IM’s for a guy whose top-end could generously be described as average.

Is 50 hours per week berko even for a guy like Gordo? My opinion is its probably worth trying for him, and much like Mr. Andersson’s extreme approach to cycling, the results will make for interesting conversation at the very least.

Nice to get a little R& R and get a bit caught up on work. Us online coaches work every day!!!

Before the camp I started a biography on Captain James Cook the explorer. Its title is “Farther Than Any Man”. Inspiring stuff, and good for my motivation. Most accounts of history usually don’t delve into the gruesome details of significant historical occurances, but this book does. Why is it that all of the base elements are left out? Why do we usually only want to the glossy, touched-up final product?

EPIC DAY SEVEN

Auckland half-IM today. Although the forecast was for a warm day, we were happy to see the starting time was 8:30. A 7AM start would have killed me. We had a 40-minute drive to the start and still had plenty of time to get ready.

The swim was a bit short, but Björn was still the first individual out of the water, about 30 second up on Cam Brown. Then he had a sidewall blow out while extending his lead. The Baron got out just ahead of Gordo and about a minute down on me, but they promptly changed (I like a more relaxed approach in transition) and got out ahead of me. G-man and I rode together rather moderately while the Baron went into second. He ran like the wind to finish second behind Cam and camper Chris (Macca) also rode great to come in 3rd. Our little jockey (she used to be a show jumper) Marilyn had a very solid race to finish second woman, 2 minutes down on the winner, so it was a nice bonus for 3 of our campers to go home with a paycheck.

G-man finished 4th and the rest of the crew wandered in at various times. I was in sooner than the rest as I only managed 14km before calling it a day. My ailments were telling me to be sensible in order to make it through the rest of the camp. Very sunny today so nice sunburns evident. I had quite a fever to go along with my flu and wanted to cover up after getting enough sun (even for Desert Lizard) but KP still had his shirt off. After my miserable day where the only highlights were provided by the athletes I coach there was no way I was going to be out-tanned.

We had a great laugh as we were laying around recovering from the race next to the massage tent. After my post-race rub Marilyn got on the table and after telling this older masseur (about 60) that her glutes were a bit sore and tight he promptly went to work on them. Then he kinda hollers out “Holy Cow! Would you take a look at that little cutie!!” referring to Marilyn’s very discreetly placed tattoo. As a few people gathered around she nearly died of embarrassment. She’s not exactly prudish, but if she was religious she’d probably be a Quaker, or perhaps Amish. Wy got a good photo of it for future use and I told her it would be posted on the www.hottattoos.com site soon.

Everyone except for Björn and I finished the event, which was admirable. Damned tough bike course.

EPIC DAY EIGHT

The race and the travel yesterday, along with the hot sun has zapped everyone pretty good. My skin has taken on a crispy bacon kinda quality. Last night the crackling noise it was making woke me up a few times when I rolled over.

We had a bit of a sleep in and were in the 25m pool in Rotorua by 7:30. Eighty-four degree water today and although my tired bones love that temperature, it was tough to get my 5km. After a couple of caffeine pills I perked up a bit and chose a main set of 20x 200 for a point. I did 5 on the 3:00, 5 on the 2:55 and 10 on the 2:50. Not exactly snappy, but still better than the others could manage. Michael did do 20 x 50 bands only though, and that’s a tough set with lead legs.

After breakfast we rode to Taupo 100km away. We were supposed to get onto the IM NZ course, but as the paceline revved into gear early in the ride we shot past our first turn.

With only 100km on the plan today every one is willing to attack. 100km isn’t scaring any one here. Mr. Andersson had another bad tire day and spent the afternoon on the side of the road getting eaten by sand flies. He had to patch a tube so we left him with a patch kit and a pump and wished him good luck. We did alert the support crew by phone, but since we had taken a different route than planned it took a while to collect him. He spent 2 hours out in the boonies getting eaten alive. He never did get riding again and was feeling pretty despondent this evening. Those kinda days back to back like he’s had sure can bug the hell out of you. He’s ready for a huge day tomorrow.

Most ran off the bike today. I didn’t! I went to get a massage instead and loved every minute of it. Every one had a rub today.

Most campers total hours are similar to Clas who’s coverd a bit more distance. He had:

Cycling – 766km
Running – 117km
Swimming – 30.6km
Hours trained – 42.5

That included a very easy day and a good half-IM race. He uses a GPS system and meticulously records his training details every night.
Gordo had 52 hours including his 9 hours in there the day before the half. Much of this camp has been at high intensity too. He’s pooped.

EPIC DAY NINE

Big day for everyone today. Even crew member Ally rode around the lake today. She’s just started a one-year sabbatical at the beginning of this camp and that year will include IM’s in NZ and Penticton.

It’s a tough 165km ride around the lake with 5,000ft of climbing. Great weather again with lots of cloud and no wind. Not too hot. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in nearly the whole way with Chris doing the work up front of our little group. The Baron was in the midst of the illness/flu that has been hitting most of us and he just sat in the back very quietly enduring his private misery. We got around the circuit in a riding time of 5:10 with one break for 10 minutes.

After 2 days of bike problems from hell Björn hit the loop on his own early and ripped around it in a 4:33 ride time and then, after stopping in for a quick bite to eat in town, headed out onto the IM NZ bike course. He did that minus 5km in 2:16. A very solid 255kmfor the big Swede. The guy can motor.

G-man and Michael headed out for the loop after a 5km swim and 70-minute run and then lunch. They managed just over 5 hours as well.
I totaled 7 hours with my run and 3600m swim. Some highlights for the day:

Swim – One of the coaches I’ve worked with for 8 years (“Fin”) says when Gordo’s doing fly he looks like Rocky Balboa warming up for a fight. Remember him? (Aaaadriaaaaaaan!) When he’s going the other way doing fly its like a barge passing you, nearly washing you over the lane line. I managed 2 extra points for a set of 20 x 50 bands only and a 200 fly.

Bike – New way to ride! G-man was trying to figure that out on the very first day. I was trying to find one today, spending a considerable amount of time on the tip of the saddle – the “Mike Pigg” position. He was the guy who really invented the forward position when he became the fastest tri guy on two wheels in ’87. It was the only spot that was comfortable for me to ride today. I’ll have to ask Pigg one day if he initially started riding in that position because he had saddle sores everywhere else, and not just because he found it was faster. Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

Marilyn and the Chinese Water Torture – the Marinator cracked today at about 150km. Everything started to go black while she was riding. The relentless days have finally worn her out and she’s sick as well.

The Pamela Anderson Pain Scale—there are some very sore people here, including me. How sore? I’m only a 2 on the “P” scale (see sidebar if Dan and the Slowtwitch ethics committee will print it) but there are some 3’s this morning.

Getting tired—how much is too much? Sick, tired, very sore, not sleeping well—all signs of overtraining. Each person has to gauge how deep they can go and bounce back.

Little pink caffeine pills. I have some 100mg ones and some vitamin “V” which are 200mgs each. I’ve gone to my little bag quite a few times this last 3 days. I also carry Ibuprofen and aspirin on all long rides just in case. Drank a lot of coke today also. Sometimes it seems like it’s the only thing that will pull you out of the hole.

Doin’ my Don Rickles. We all try to have good humor here. It’s a necessity when going this hard and long. I tend to get a bit like Rickles with my barbs. I try to keep it light but have fun at every one else’s expense from time to time. I went kinda quiet today though, so I didn’t get tortured too much. Chris was feeling good and kind enough to pull us around the lake.

Bowel tolerance. Gordo says it all comes down to this. How much can you eat? I’ve also been testing my limits of vitamin C consumption to help me recover from the training and also get over this f…..ng illness. Well, I reached that limit today in a big way. Excellent evacuation after about 20 grams over 24 hours. This was an especially rewarding experiment as I haven’t really had satisfying movements in the mornings this past week and I’ve had to endure Gordo coming out of the john each morning with a huge grin on his face. He usually invites everyone in to have a look, like a proud parent who’s just had a child: “Take a look at that enormous snake in there—a damned anaconda!”

EPIC DAY TEN

Was it the Ramones who wrote the song with the line, “I want to be sedated,” in it? That was turning over and over in my head all day today. Just wanted to be a little more comfortable today.

Started the day with a main set of 40x100 on the 1:30 as part of our 5k session. Gordo wants me to let you know that it's possible to keep the quality up even when doing 50 hours per week. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that someone like Barb Lindquist does a set like that for warm-up with every other 100 being kick or drill (but he’ll know now).

After breakfast we rode out to the main ski area at Mt. Ruapehu. It was only a 120km ride but included 6,500 ft. of climbing, so the ride was at least 4 and a half hours for the fastest guys. The rest of us had at least 5 hours of ride time. We stopped en-route to try and get Marilyn some antibiotics but the country bumpkin doctor she got in to see in the small town of Turangi wouldn't prescribe any for her. That got me more than a bit PO’d. What’s she going to do? O.D. on them? It was a good lesson for me to have a more complete medical bag with me on future camps. We don’t have the time or patience to be messing around with dumb shit backwoods doctors.

KP came in to our motel muttering something about “excessive—damned excessive.” We had a bit of cool rain by the end of the ride, too. Some ran off the bike, some didn’t. I went straight for the medication. With a big run on the schedule tomorrow the runs were all kept short.

We all had a massage and Sam had a wonderful angel with nice—uh—hands, which was real treat for him. He’s had a hell of a day. First, he missed a turn and went longer. Then he got sheep piss all over him from a passing sheep truck. Then he got a bee in his helmet and crashed when trying to get it out. Then he stripped his headset trying to straighten his handlebars after the crash. Then he bonked. An angelic masseuse was the answer to his prayers. Even then he wasn’t able to savor his moment of nirvana as Michael was in a very chatty mood on the table next to him. Sam was in bed snuggled up with a book and a big bag of chocolate chip cookies by 7PM.

EPIC DAY ELEVEN

The highlight of the day was a long trail run out in the wilds surrounding Mt. Ruapehu. Michael, Clas and Gordo ran a route called the Tongoriro Crossing which is a very well-known tramp (the word for "hike" in NZ). Its also goes up another volcanic mountain (Mt. Ngauruhoe) and they took a little side trip to the edge of crater. The route is a true mountain run with about 3,000ft of descent at the end, so its fair to say they’ll be a bit sore tomorrow. Clas added some onto the end so he and G-man got in 3:30 of run time. Michael got a just a bit less run time, but still nearly 3 hours. The rest of us did a tamer route but everyone hit the dirt at least once. There was a lot of upper body work on this trail run and KP was a bit mentally exhausted from having to concentrate on his footing so much. He wolfed down a sausage roll immediately upon reaching civilization. Very unlike the big guy to crack nutritionally like that.

Along with some of the other sickies I took the rest of the day off to try and shake my cough and congestion. Gordo took three others for a ride down to a lake for a swim and then back to get another swim/bike/run day and another 7-hour day. The lake had some spooky algae in there and KP got a bit nervous that some type of Loch Ness monster might be lurking in there. We really are out in the boonies tonight with a very long day to wrap up the camp tomorrow.
EPIC DAY TWELVE

When we’re riding easy sometimes we’ll talk about future camps in Kona, Australia and France, among other places. The first camp we did last year had more long rides than this one, and the Colorado camp had more trail runs and gym work. We’ve been able to get in more swimming this year, partly due to the adjustment to the points system which has encouraged more swimming. France will definitely have more cycling emphasis and include as many of the classic Tour climbs as we can squeeze into 12 days. Australia will most likely be in the hinterlands of NSW and Victoria. Kona won’t really be an “Epic.” It will be a pre-race camp and open to a wider range of abilities.

Baron’s revenge. After breakfast we rode around the mountain and onto the desert road. We had a great tailwind to start so averaged 25mph for the first hour. Not much of a draft in that situation and our “social” ride Gordo talked about the night before quickly turned into a hammerfest. Very early in the camp the Baron seemed to have tired of having Björn disappearing into the distance every day and has been riding much harder than previous camps. Having someone so strong around is a constant reminder of our own inadequacies on the bike.

Chris was able to sit on Björn to the lunch stop but busted his wheel when pumping the 53x11 for all it was worth. He had to wait for the support crew for another wheel and had a very long ride on his own for a change. He got a bit of a taste of what KP and Sam have been experiencing for the last 2 weeks. His ride time back to the hotel was nearly 30 minutes faster than ours and we were holding onto the Baron’s wheel for dear life into the massive headwind for the first hour after lunch. We were crawling along at about 10mph uphill into the wind and I was very glad to have the Baron out there breaking the wind for me.

The support van came across KP sitting on the side of the road during that stretch with his head between his knees. He said he was OK and was just stopping for a moment to put on his jacket, but it’s the kind of super windy deserted place that encourages self-examination.

Marilyn sat on the entire way determined to not face that wind on her own. Massive effort on her part. We made a short snack/water stop with 50km to go and the Baron had a bit more of his Swedish sports drink. That’s Red Bull and V-cut with coke. Combustible stuff and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Near the end of the ride we cam across Cam Brown again who was out for a short ride before starting a training camp that he and I are hosting this weekend in Taupo. It's aimed at folks getting ready for IM NZ. He was nice enough to tow us in the last 40 minutes as it started to pour. 185km on the odometer today and although the wind and rain weren’t really necessary, it seemed an appropriate way to end the camp.

There were no points awarded today and no swim or run on the schedule so no one was made to feel obligated to do more. It has to end some time.

EPILOGUE

I missed the final group dinner as I had to start the Cam Brown camp. That one started by going on a one-hour run and then I gave a nutrition talk during dinner. My fellow Epic Campers got quite a kick out of the idea that I would be giving such a talk, having seen me eat and drink over that last 12 days.

Gordo and Wy gave out certificates and goodies from sponsors and a I saw a lot of empty dessert plates sitting on the table when I arrived late. Then a few of us went out for a few beers while others went back to pack up for early flights back home. Everyone looked a bit shelled and I’m sure most are looking forward to a few easy days. Gordo still had 14 hours of training to go over the next two days to get his 100 hours in two weeks, but the signs of a major meltdown were pretty evident. His two sundaes after dinner (photo adjacent), added to his two pieces of cake for lunch, liters of coke and other un-Gordo-like stuff all day gave us all a good laugh.

It's always nice to get away from the everyday stresses of life and just train. For those who came over to NZ and escaped Winter it's especially nice. Hopefully they will go home with some good memories and enough momentum to keep them going through the rest of the winter.

A big thanks to our epic crew of Wendy, Wy, Ally and Mark. The service and energy they gave us on this trip has been so generous.

One of the reasons I take the time to write these summaries is so the people who are sharing this time together have some written record of it. Often the days just blend together and it's hard to remember what the hell you did. It seems like KP has been asking us nearly every day where we went just the day before.

Marilyn has two big, ridiculous-looking tan spots on her forehead where the sun has been getting through her helmet vents, and her jeans are looking very baggy. She looked quite a bit thinner than when she arrived a few weeks ago (and a bit goofy), and as she made her way to the airport she mentioned that she wouldn’t be passing up any top-ups of her wine glass on her trip back to Calgary.

Gordo got a big dose of “quad lock” on his run today (it's Sunday as I write this) and had to walk about 5 miles to get back to the motel, so it looks like our usual post-Epic, "Let’s see if can we dig ourselves out of this hole," is underway.

I’m self-medicating at this very moment J.

Have Fun. Train Hard. Satiate the Need.