The 7 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

Given the long hours spent biking and running, I listen to an absurd number of podcasts over the course of a calendar year. Of the 500 or so that I listened to, here are my 7 favorites from 2017 along with a few all-time favorites from the hosts. Hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Always looking for new ones, so PLEASE COMMENT!!! with your favorites from 2017 or all-time favorites. I need the recs!

Rich Roll Podcast

I love the RRP. I've listened religiously since it's start and have continued to learn and be inspired by the guests. Rich is fantastic at getting guests to open up and share meaningful insights all in the context of a natural conversation. (Rich is an inspiring dude himself. His book Finding Ultra is a favorite of mine and has been hugely impactful on how I live my life.)

Two favorites from this past year...

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Soundcloud Link

The first is this conversation with Tim Ferriss. Many of us know Tim through either the 4-Hour Work Week or his podcast, which dissects the habits of top performers. I liked this conversation so much because it showed a different side of Tim. It was a meaningful conversation, not on how to hack your way to a better body or career, but on the deeper meaning on life and what's really important in a life well lived.

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Soundcloud Link

The second was this chat with the one and only David Goggins. Goggins, a former Navy SEAL, is a master of mindset. Through sheer willpower, he's done physical feats that make Ironman racing look like child's play. He's who inspired Rich to take on his first Ultraman in Hawaii. Goggins has an incredible story and great perspective on life, making this conversation a must-listen. If looking for a hefty dose of inspiration, look no further.

How I Built This

NPR's How I Built This is a favorite of mine. It's great to hear the origin stories and humble beginnings of iconic brands and their founders. A great reminder that with hard work, determination, a good idea, and yes some luck (one of Guy's favorite questions...) anyone can create something great. 

Two of my favorites from this past year...

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Soundcloud Link

Jake Carpenter literally invented the sport of snowboarding. From first selling the boards out of his car to building Burton into the largest snowboarding brand in the world, this is a great story of passion and the desire to create something cool, not for money but instead for the love of this sport.

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Soundcloud Link

Manoj Bhargava is the ultimate entrepreneur. We can all learn from his insights on how to create a successful business. Oh, and he was also a monk in India before setting out on his entrepreneurial path, something that has shaped his outlook on life and money — he's pledged to give 99% of his net worth (which is ~$4 billion) to charity when he dies.

  • Two more all-time favorites from How I Built This...
    • The chat with Sam Adams founder Jim Koch.
      • Jim's description of "the difference in life between things that are scary and things that are dangerous" really struck a cord with me. While his well-paying, comfortable job as a consultant wasn't scary, it was dangerous because he could easily wake up one morning as a 60-year-old wondering what the hell he did with his life. Starting a beer company was scary, but it wasn't as dangerous as staying put. This is a brilliant insight. Give this podcast a listen to hear Jim explain this in more depth.
      • iTunes Link     NPR Media Link
    • This conversation with Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson. I love this guy!

The Joe Rogan Experience

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Stitcher Link              YouTube Link

Joe Rogan is both hilarious and a deep thinker. This conversation with Arian Foster was awesome. I only knew of Foster's ability on the field (he was one of the best running backs in the NFL for a 3-4 year stretch), but was pleasantly surprised by his curiosity for things outside the world of football and his humility regarding his athletic prowess. He's a bright guy and I'm sure he'll be doing some impressive things in the next few years... all of which will have nothing to do with football. 

The Tim Ferriss Show

As mentioned above, Tim interviews some of the best and brightest across many fields, looking for insights on what allows them to preform at such a high level.

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link              Mixcloud Link  

This conversation with Terry Crews was terrific, and a lot different from many of the other discussions that Tim has on the podcast. It was both inspiring and really funny. Terry — an actor and former NFL athlete who you may recognize from past Old Spice commercials — was super genuine and the conversation was powerful. Some of the interviews on the Tim Ferriss Show end up being a bit formulaic and aren't too much more than just a laundry list of daily habits and tips for being more productive. This is not one of those conversations.

  • One of my favorites from over the years is this interview with Jamie Foxx. It's simply fantastic. Foxx is hilarious and has a truly incredible story.

Lewis Howes School of Greatness

The Lewis Howes School of Greatness podcast is a good one. Yes, it's bit cheesy at times with a rah rah self-help / motivational speaker feel to it (at least the intro is), but Lewis has gotten really good at asking great questions and getting people to open up over the past few years. 

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iTunes Link              Soundcloud Link              YouTube Link  

I loved this conversation with Rachel Platten. I'll admit, I had no idea who she was prior, though her song Fight Song is one I've listened to a bunch. (Totally thought it was Katy Perry...) Platten worked in obscurity for over 10 years before Fight Song launched her to the big leagues. She has an incredible outlook on life and her perspective on pursuing dreams and never giving up is worth listening to and taking to heart.

  • One of my all-time favorites from The School of Greatness is this one with former NFL punter and Super Bowl Champion Steve Weatherford. This guy is a total beast and his mindset and positivity is incredible. Love the pump-up speech he gives towards the end. Need that on repeat.

The Forward by Lance Armstrong

Yup. Lance. And he's the interviewer, not the interviewee. Love him or hate him for his past, the guy is a great podcaster.

Best Podcasts of the Year

iTunes Link            Soundcloud Link

Top one for me from this past year was with Dakota Meyer, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He's the first living Marine in 38 years to receive it. His story is remarkable. I can't even begin to imagine that level of bravery.

  • This conversation with Michael Morton is mind-blowing. Morton was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder in 1986 and served 25 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2011. He's got some serious perspective of life, resentment, and forgiving, to say the least. 

 

My 10 Week Training Block Prior to Ironman Cozumel - Getting to Sub-9 Ironman Fitness

Here's a look at my 10-week build prior to Cozumel. Before this 10-week stretch, I was in good shape but wasn't ready for an Ironman yet.

My bike fitness was pretty strong -- while moving from LA to NYC had me relying on a stationary gym bike for all of July, I had spent pretty much every Saturday of the two years prior doing long rides with friends. (Ken, Jack - Thanks for kicking my ass up and down Malibu & Calabasas.). I also did a couple 100 milers in NYC in August with EMJ teammates which helped me maintain a good base. (Thanks Colin, Stefan.)

My run and swim were OK, but not great. My race at 70.3 Worlds in September showed both those were lacking.

Anyway, here's how Justin Daerr got me into race shape.

WEEK 1 through WEEK 5 (12-15hrs/week Training)

MONDAY -> Swim (90min) + Run (30min)
A couple typical Monday swims below. Run was just 30 minutes by feel, keeping HR below 160.

Mon Swim Weeks 1 thru 5.jpg

TUESDAY -> AM Trainer Ride (45-60min) + PM Trainer Ride (45-65min) + OTB 2 Mile Run
First trainer ride focused on lots of 30" hard efforts with 60" recoveries. Each week the number of 30" efforts increased and/or the 60" recoveries were reduced to 45" or 30". See below.
Second trainer ride focused on 1' efforts with 2' recoveries. Each week the number of 1' efforts increased or the 2' recovery time was reduced to 1'. See below.
The off-the-bike run was always 2 miles by feel, sub 160 HR. Sometimes I'd hit it hard, but mostly I'd run the first mile as a gradual build from 7:30/mi to 7:00/mi and then hold that for the second mile. (My goal IM pace was 7:00-6:50/mile.)

tuesday rides week 1 thru 5.jpg

WEDNESDAY -> Swim (75min) + Run (30min)
A couple typical Wednesday swims below. This was typically the really hard swim for the week. Run was just 30 minutes by feel, keeping HR below 160.

wed swim 1 5.jpg

THURSDAY -> Trainer Ride (75min) + OTB 2 Mile Run
Trainer ride was a mix of 30"on/60"off efforts along with longer 2-8' efforts with 1-2' easy between. See below. The OTB run was again 2 miles by feel, sub 160 HR.

thurs bike 1 5.jpg

FRIDAY -> Swim (75min)
A few Friday swims below. Not quite as hard as the Wednesday swims.

Friday Swim 1 5.jpg

SATURDAY -> Long Ride (5 Hours)
Got lucky with a warm end of September and early October in NYC, so was able to do these outside without trouble. Waaayyy better than hitting them on the trainer. No real structure to the ride, but the first hour would be very easy while getting out of the city. From there I typically rode at about IM watts (give or take 5%) for 3 hours, with another easy hour reentering the city.

SUNDAY -> Long Run (Starting at 13 miles, building to 16 miles)
Here's a look at the structure of a few of these runs...

WEEK 6 and WEEK 7 (25hrs/week Training)

These two weeks provided a huge boost in fitness. With weather in NYC getting cold, I fled to Tucson for two weeks of training with Justin Daerr and Chris Leiferman. The motivation of training with these two beasts pushed me to new levels, not to mention the benefit of the hot temps (high 80s, low 90s) and long outdoor rides and runs. Being away from NYC also allowed me to really focus on just training and work, with training really being a big priority.

MONDAY -> Swim (75min) + Ride (90min)
Two swims from the week below. Focus was holding a good pace for a slightly longer distance on a 30” or so rest. The ride was just a chill spin for 90 mins.

TUESDAY -> Run (80min) + Swim (75min)
Run done in the AM on a trail. Going by feel. Not easy but not pushing. Brain-off type of run. For me, this came out to 10.5 miles, and just under an 8:00min/mi pace. This was at 3k ft altitude on a trail where we gained 630 feet, so av HR (143bpm) showed that it wasn’t particularly easy.

Midday swim. Limbo set. Tough, esp. on tired legs. Limbo set looks like...

5 x 175 on 2:45, 2:40, 2:35, 2:30, 2:25
5 x 150 on 2:20, 2:15, 2:10, 2:05, 2:00

WEDNESDAY -> Ride (3.5hrs) + OTB Run 6mi
Challenging brick workout. Big efforts on the bike and a hard temp rung on the track. Lucky to have EMJ teammate Conrad Sanders join in on the fun for this session one Wednesday.  Ride + run description below.

Ride: 4 ROUNDS of 15' @ HIM Watts (5' easy) 5' @ Oly Watts (5' easy)

OTB Run: 9 x 1km @ HIM Run Pace (60" easy)

THURSDAY -> Run (80mins) + Swim (60mins) + Bike (2.5hrs)
Run was at the track. Lots of 800s & 400s on ~90” rest. Full description below.

2 Rounds - 4x800 on 90" rest - 400 easy between rounds
2 Rounds - 3x400 on 65" rest - 400 easy between rounds

Swim and bike weren’t super challenging; more like recovery sessions. 30x75 for the swim with 10-15” rest — first 10 with fins, next 10 with paddles/buoy, final 10 just swim with no gear. Ride was just a chill 2.5hrs to flush out the legs.

FRIDAY -> Swim (75min) + Run (30min)
Hard AM swim - a look at the two workouts below - followed by a chill 30 minute run in the afternoon.

SATURDAY -> Long Ride (5.5hrs)
105+ miler. Looking for some good chunks of IM watts, along with HIM watts, in the mix.

I was looking for 5 rounds of 20’ at IM to HIM watts. I was pretty much just trying to hang on to the wheel of Justin or Chris for as long as possible. That usually meant 2 x 20’ @ HIM with 10’ chill in between, then a few 20’ at IM watts with 10’ chill in between (20’ chill between the last two).

Normally Justin would have me build power across the set, but since I was doing this with him and Chris I went harder with the first 2x20’ at the start just to hang on. From there, I then looked to build power across the 3x20’ @ IM watts.

SUNDAY -> Long Run (2hrs) + “Lounge” Swim (45min)
Sunday #1 was a 18 miler; Sunday #2 was a 20 miler. A look at the specifics of the run workouts below.

Sunday Run #1 - 18 Miles Total - 5k Warm Up (2' Easy), 10k @ IM pace (2' easy), 2 x 5k @ HIM pace (2'easy), 5' Cool Down

Sunday Run #2 - 20 Miles Total - 2 miles Warm Up, 8 miles @ IM pace, 9 x 1 mile @ IM building to HIM (30" easy), 5' Cool Down

The Lounge Swims were super chill. Just flushing the legs out, proceeded and followed by lounging on the pool deck, catching rays.

WEEK 8 and WEEK 9

These two weeks were structured much like Weeks 1-5, but intensity and volume were increased.

MONDAY -> Swim (75min) + Run (30min)
Strong swim, chill run. Sample swim workouts below. Run was just 30 minutes, sub 160 hr, which came out to 4 miles.

Main Set: 12 rounds of 100 solid on 1:20, 2 x 25 easy on :40

Main Set: 5 x 100 on 1:35, 5 x 100 on 1:40, 5 x 100 on 1:45, 5 x 100 on 1:50 --- building speed from one set to the next as rest increases

TUESDAY -> AM Trainer Ride (45-60min) + PM Trainer Ride (45-65min) + OTB 2 Mile Run
A look at the structure of the AM trainer rides & PM trainer rides below.

AM Ride -- 15' easy, 30'@IM Watts, 15'@HIM Watts, 5' Easy
PM Ride -- 30' easy, then 30 x 30" /30" as 300-350/easy

2 Miles OTB were much like before, with first mile building to goal IM race pace more or less (~6:50/mile), then holding that for the second mile.

WEDNESDAY -> Swim (75min) + Trainer Ride (45mins) + OTB 2 Mile Run
Very hard swim in AM, with a chill trainer ride and steady OTB 2 miler in the PM. A look at the two swim sets below. Trainer ride was easy, sub IM watts. 2 miles in PM was by feel, typically averaging out to 7:00/mi.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 2.56.46 PM.png

THURSDAY -> Run 10-13.5 miles
Strong run with a good bit of tempo work mixed in. A look at these two workouts below.

Run #1 - 4 mi @ 7:30, 3 mi @ 6:45-7:00, 2 mi @ 6:30-45, 1 mi easy

Run #2 - 15' easy, 6 x 30" on /60" off ramp up, 2-3 minutes easy
Main Set - 3 x 3 miles @ 6:45-50, then 6:25-6:40 on 2+3, no need to drop down much below that. Looking to just run what you already have done in training. 2-3 minutes chill between sets.

FRIDAY -> Swim (75min) + Trainer Ride (45min)
Strong swim with a very chill trainer ride in the PM. Swim was focused on longer distance sets. A look at the specifics of these two below.

Trainer ride was a causal 45 mins at sub IM watts while watching Narcos. (It’s impossible to read subtitles while pushing decent watts on the bike. #Fact)

SATURDAY -> Trainer Ride + OTB Run
Back in NYC in November means back on the trainer. Here’s a look at the trainer workouts Justin had me doing. (These helped me survive: What to Watch While Biking Indoors / Riding on the Trainer.)

These were followed up by tough OTB runs. I did the runs on the treadmill since it was cold AF outside.

SUNDAY -> Swim

Speed work with short distance. Main set below.

30 x 25 on :35 holding 16-17
4 x 25 easy on 30" rest
20 x 25 on :35 same pacing

WEEK 10 (RACE WEEK)

Standard Race Week Taper...

Related Posts

 

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Back-to-Back Camps - A Look at Big Volume Training with EMJ + EC Camps

I've gotten a number of questions about the two camps I recently did, so wanted to share some info on the training. Also included is what my coach Justin Daerr has me doing for recovery given that I'll be racing Puerto Rico 70.3 on March 17, two weeks after finishing the two back-to-back camps. 

Together the two camps totaled 10 days, during which I did 43.5 hours of swim, bike and run. (I skipped two sessions over the 10 days; both 30min OTB runs.) Not a bad training block. Breakout of duration and distance for each can be found below.

TEAM EMJ VEGAS CAMP

CAMP #1: THURSDAY, Feb. 23 thru SUNDAY, Feb. 26

This camp was organized by Ritch Viola, founder of Every Man Jack and our fearless Team EMJ leader. We had 65 or so of the 70 team members join. Needless to say, it made for a rocking time. Pumped to race alongside these guys in 2017. 

Giving what's involved in organizing a group of 65 for a camp, Ritch deligates as much responsibility as he can. A week prior to camp, I learned that my main contribution would be renting and driving a 15-passanger van. This was pretty fun, I must say...

Workouts Provided by Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness   Photos/Videos Provided by Talbot Cox (Here's his YouTube page)

All-in-all, I got some really good training in, particularly in the water. I held back a good bit on both the rides & runs knowing that I had a big week ahead, but there was nowhere to hide in the water! I'll also add that training in the Vegas area is surprisingly BEAUTIFUL. Both the Red Rocks & Lake Mead (old Silverman bike course) rides were incredible as was the Lake Mead/Hoover Dam run. Just look at the pics & vids!

Day 1 - Run, Swim, Bike

6:30AM - Run, Easy 40'

9:00AM - Swim, *Key Session*

WARM-UP - 1000 Easy , 600 Straight Pull, 20 x 50 Paddles
PRE-MAIN - 2 Rounds of 2x 25 FAST, 50 Easy, 50 FAST, 2x 25 Easy
MAIN SET: 8 x 250 as 2 @ 70%, 2 @ 80%, 2 @ 90%, 2 @ STRONG
COOL DOWN: 100 Easy

12:00PM - Bike, 3hr through Red Rocks National Park

Ended up being 3hrs, 58.4mi with ~30' climb @ 205 NP

TRAINING PEAKS LINK FOR THE DATA GEEKS

DAY 2 - Swim, Run, Bike

7AM - Swim, Lower Stress with Speed

WARM-UP: 500 Easy; 600/500/400/300/200/100 Pull on 1' Rest
MAIN SET:
3 Rounds of 4 x 25 MAX effort on :45, 150 at 80%
Then, 18 x 100 as:
1 on 1:30, 1 on 1:25, 1 on 1:20
1 on 1:30, 2 on 1:25, 1 on 1:20
1 on 1:30, 3 on 1:25, 1 on 1:20
1 on 1:30, 4 on 1:25, 1 on 1:20
COOL DOWN: 100 Easy

10AM - Run, *Key Session* - 1hr 30min @ Lake Mead / Hoover Dam

30' easy, 30' steady, 30' tempo

I slightly adjusted doing 60' relaxed, then 3 miles at ~6:30/mile pace

TRAINING PEAKS LINK FOR THE DATA GEEKS

1:45pM - Bike, ~2hr Recovery Spin

DAY 3 - Bike, Run

7AM - Bike, *Key Session* - 85 miles @ Lake Mead / Silverman Course

5 x 7' (5' easy) @ STRONG effort, varying RPM (50, 60, 70, 50, 60)

I ended up doing 2 hrs @ 210NP (mix of HIM & IM effort), basically just trying to stay with a group. Some guys were BLITZING this ride.

TRAINING PEAKS LINK FOR THE DATA GEEKS

2PM - Run, OTB 30' (I BAILED ON THIS...)

I was pretty smoked after this ride and didn't want to push my luck given the long week ahead.

Day 4 - Swim, Run

7AM - Swim, *Key Session*

WARM-UP: 500 Easy; 200/175/150/125/100/75/50/25 building
MAIN SET:
4x25 MAX effort w/ paddles on :30, 500 buoy+paddles @ 70%
3x50 MAX w/ paddles on 1:00, 500 buoy+paddles @ 70%
2x75 MAX w/ paddles on 1:30, 500 buoy+paddles @ 70%
1x100 MAX w/ paddles on 2:00, 500 buoy+paddles @ 70%
COOL DOWN: 100 Easy

9AM - Run, 4 x 2.5 mi loops

Loop = 1 mile uphill (+3%), 1 mile downhill (-3%), .5 mile flat
1 mile steady up, 1 mile steady down, .5 mile recovery

TRAINING PEAKS LINK FOR THE DATA GEEKS

EC TUCSON CAMP

CAMP #2: MONDAY, FEB. 27 Thru SATURDAY, MAR. 4

This camp is one I've done three years in a row now. It's put on by Endurance Corner and provides fantastic training with an awesome crew of 20 or so athletes. There are people who I consider close friends who I met through the camp and only see during these seven days each year. Again, it's a great group. Always fun to be back hanging and training with my coach and good bud Justin Daerr too. (If interested in EC camps, you can enter your info here and stay looped in. They really do a great job with these camps, so I want to be sure to pass the recommendation on!)

Before diving in, I'll say that I was pretty tired when I arrived on Sunday night. Given that I've done this camp a few times now, I left dinner a bit early to get my bike sorted after the travel and to make sure I got to bed around 9pm. I know sleep is critical for me with big training volume, so I made it a priority. I woke up Monday feeling great after about 9hrs of shut-eye.

Thanks to Jeff Fejfar for many of the pictures below!

Day 1 - Run, Bike (with 10k TT), Swim

7AM - Run, Chill 50'

9:30AM - Bike, Easy with a Hard 5.75 TT on Misison Road *Key Session*

This TT makes for a great check-in on my fitness at the start of each season. Given that I've done this camp three times now, I can go back and look at my power across this 5.75 mile stretch and compare. (Time isn't worth looking at given the changes in the wind, but it is fun to look at average watts.)

Here's a look at my power from year-to-year:

  • 2017 - 251 Av Power (3.83 W/kg) - 19:47 (TrainingPeaks Link)
  • 2016 - 237 Av Power - 18:20
  • 2015 - 231 Av Power - 20:21

This year I came into camp in good shape, but was obviously carrying some fatigue from Vegas. I was hoping to hold 260 (magic 4.0 W/kg), but was still cool with 251 given the lead-up. In 2016, I came into camp in pretty lousy shape after just getting back into training in late January after a long stretch off. In 2015, I was a total newbie but had made some big gains since getting serious about training in Nov. 2014. My weight is the same as in 2016. In 2015, I was likely ~5 lb lighter.

2:30PM - Swim, "Recovery"

I found myself in the wrong lane for this "recovery swim" and was tasked with 3 rounds of 6x100 on 1:20 followed by a 400 pull set on a similar sendoff. Needless to say, I tossed on fins for the 100s and gave the 400s everything I had.

Day 2 - Bike, Run

8AM - Ride, 95+ Mile with Climb Up Madera Canyon *Key Session*

This was a tough day on the bike. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued, but I started to come around about an hour into the ride. I rode Madera by feel, keeping things fairly mellow, and ended up with 215NP as my power for the 1hr 6min climb.

Madera Canyon is just over 13 miles and averages a 3-4% grade. That's a bit deceiving though since the first 10 miles are ~2% and then shit gets real around mile 10, with an average grade of 8% for those final 3 miles.

TRAINING PEAKS FILE HERE FOR THE DATA GEEKS

After the climb and descent, my legs were toast. Never fun riding 40+ miles home like that, but thankfully I caught a ride on the Daerr Express for the bulk of the final 20 miles or so on Mission Road.

4PM - Run, 30' Off the Bike Steady

Ended up being 4.41 miles at 6:39/mile pace.

Day 3 - Run, Swim, Bike

7:00AM Run, Tumamoc Mountain

I took it easy on this one. More of a hike than a run given the average grade of Tumamoc Mountain in over 10%.

9:30AM Swim, Including Two 400TTs, *Key Session*

I was definitely feeling the volume during this swim session. We did a solid 20' build and then launched into the 400TT. I swam 5:15 for this, averaging 1:19/100. Not my best work. Normally I'd want to be 1:16/100 for a test set like this. The second 400TT was 5:19, so 1:20/100. Again, not the best, but it was the best I had in me. 

2:30PM Bike, Gates Pass & 2x McCain Loop

This is tends to be a pretty chill ride. Really meant to be active recovery. I pushed the pace a bit at times, but made sure to check myself given that we had Mt. Lemmon the next day.

Ended up being 36.7miles and a little over 2hrs at 193NP. Not a huge effort but not easy either.  

Day 4 - Bike, Run

8:30AM - Bike, Including 21 Mile Climb Up Mt. Lemmon *Key Session*

Similar to the TT, Mount Lemmon always serves as a good check-in on fitness. I've ridden Lemmon 2 previous times at camp and rode it last year in September, a month prior to racing Kona when my fitness was rocking.

For this go-'round, I decided to really go for it and put aside the fact that we had two more days of camp. Even though it wouldn't be apples to apples, I wanted to see how my power would compare to this past September when I rode 220 NP for the 2hrs up Lemmon.

So, I decided to sit on Justin's wheel for as long as I could. I knew JD wasn't going to attack it knowing that I was trying to ride in his draft, but he was definitely going to push hard enough to make me dig deep. This was exactly what I needed. My man Jimmy, also coached by Justin and a very solid cyclist, was in the same boat.

5 minutes into the ride I could tell it was going to be a sufferfest. My watts were 230 and it was pretty clear that Justin was going to keep this pace for the next 2 hours. I started just focusing on each mile, one at a time. 30 minutes in, I started focusing on just lasting a minute longer.

Just over the 1 hour mark (mile 11), I popped. Mentally I had a lot invested in making it halfway with Justin and Jimmy, and I was content to give in at that point. Watts were 228 and I was toast. From there, I rode the next 10 miles solo to the top at just under 200 watts. At the top, I barely had the energy to stand or talk. I simply ate a few bars and put on warm gear for the descent. While this was a good bit off from the biggest power that I've pushed for an hour, I think it's the deepest effort I've given for an hour on the bike.

Final NP was 215 for 2hr 14min. TrainingPeaks File Here. (Note that I had to stop mid-ride after launching my phone at one point.)

5:00PM - Run, Easy 30-45 minutes

I opted for a Illegal Pete's visit (for the uninitiated, this is an awesome burrito shop) and a nap. I was f'ing destroyed after the ride.

Day 5 - Run, Swim

7AM - Run, 11 miles on Starr Pass/Ferris Loop *Key Session*

Justin told me to run with him, so I did. I felt like shit for the first 2 miles, as is often the case with all my runs in a big training block, but started to feel good about 15 minutes in.

The run was more or less 5-6 miles up, and 5-6 miles down. We averaged exactly a 7:00/mile pace for the 11.5 miles.

TrainingPeaks Link Here

10AM - Swim, Some Speed Work

I only vaguely remember this. Must have been pretty tired. Seem to recall a good number of 50s on a solid rest.

Day 6 - Bike

8:00AM - Bike, 110 miles w/ 12 mile Climb Up Kitt Peak *Key Session*

This is always a tough ride. Typically there's a headwind for the 40+ miles on the way out, and that's just getting to the 12 mile climb. Thankfully this year the headwind came with just ~15 miles left in our ride out to Kitt. Even still, I was struggling a bit.

We reached Kitt after 2.5hrs and got right down to business. I started riding again with Justin and Jimmy, but after 15 minutes of 230 watts again, I pulled the pin. If we had been doing this 10 or even 20 miles from home, I would have given it a go. But given that at the top of Kitt I'd be 55 miles from the end of the ride, I didn't have the stomach to blitz another climb. I backed off and rode by feel, which landed me at 202NP for about 1hr 30min.

Even with the somewhat relaxed effort up Kitt, I struggled for the 2+ hour ride home. Thankfully we had a tailwind. By the time we got back to the hotel I was smoked.

Recovery Prior to Puerto Rico 70.3

I'll be racing Puerto Rico 70.3 on March 17, two weeks after these two camps. This means it's important to not only recover from the camps and "absorb" the fitness, but also dial in intensity to align with the efforts I'll put out on race day. Thankfully Justin is in charge of this; I just do what he says!

FIRST WEEK Following Camp

As Justin and the other coaches explain, it's important to take it easy in the days following camp, but also important to stay moving. If you fully shut things down after a big training block, the body reacts poorly.

For me, Sunday was off given travel. Monday - Wednesday were pretty easy with training. Starting to build back some swim volume each day, with a 1 hr trainer ride on Wednesday that included 10 x 30" on / 60" off after a long warm-up.

Thursday I started to get back in the swing of things with a 70-minute run that included 5 x 9:30 run/:30 walk @ sub-160 HR. Friday was a full 1hr 15min in the pool at Tower 26, which is always a tough session. (We did 6 Rounds of 100 @ Max Effort on 1:30, 300 @  70% on 4:30. Ugh.)

Saturday & Sunday were as usual the week prior to a 70.3. Saturday was swim (1hr 15min; lots of 175s), bike (3hr; pretty chill), run (15 min; steady) and Sunday was a hard 2.5hr on the trainer with 15-20 minute blocks at HIM effort followed by OTB run (35min; 2 Rounds of 2k@6:00/mile, 1k@7:00/mile).

Second Week Following Camp

It's looking like a standard 70.3 taper week.

Monday - 1hr swim, 45min easy ride

Tuesday - 1hr 15min swim, 1hr ride with 10x30"/60", 3 miles OTB

Wednesday thru Saturday - 30min swim, 30min ride, 25min run

Sunday - RACE!

NTSQ Velo - Cycling Retreat in Carmel, California

"Would love for you to join us, mate"

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I received a call from a former EMJ teammate, Travis McKenzie. I'd spoken with Trav a few times and knew him to be a good dude. He's also got an incredible story. Soon after having been on the cover of Triathlete magazine as a top age-group triathlete and Kona qualifer, Trav was hit head-on by a car while doing a training ride. Nearly killed, he was given a 3% chance of walking again by doctors. Six months later, in Nov of 2015, he proved the doctors wrong and ran the NYC marathon. He then raced two speedy Ironmans this year (2016) trying to get back to Kona. Total boss.

Anyway, in our convo, Trav and I discussed NTSQ Velo, a company he recently launched with help from friend and world-renowned chef, Jonathan Cartwright. Three weeks later, I was en route to Carmel for the first of their cycling retreats.

In short, NTSQ Velo combines the best of a cycling trip with the luxury of a beautiful vacation. As Trav puts it, "[NTSQ Velo] was born from the desire to explore the world by bike. I want to share that journey with as many people as possible... Allowing them to experience the joy of riding their bikes in stunning locations, staying at the finest hotels and dining with some of the world’s most talented chefs." Game on.

I hit the runway at Monterey Regional Airport at 5 PM on Monday December 12. While I'd be riding a bike for the next three days, I had just a carry-on bag. No bike. No bike kits. Just my helmet, cycling shoes, pedals and some casual clothes. NTSQ would provide everything else. I could get used to this. Traveling with a bike is like traveling with a baby. It's stressful, and it sucks for you and anyone else involved.

I exited the airport and was greeted immediately by Nic Tickner, employee number three at NTSQ Velo. (As Nic shared with me later, Trav was my triathlon coach for a few years. Soon after his accident, he was out on the track in a neck brace giving me splits on a cold, rainy day in Vancouver. When he asked me to join him at NTSQ earlier this year, I was 100% in. Given my background in cooking and hospitality, he knew I was passionate about this type of work. I'd follow him anywhere.) Twenty minutes later, we were at L'Auberge Carmel. After being greeted by the owner and getting a quick tour — the place is beautiful, reminiscent of a luxurious yet quaint European hotel — I headed up to my room before dinner.

In my room, I had a had a gift bag waiting. And by 'gift bag', I mean a nice Herschel backpack filled with a couple NTSQ t-shirts, a rad pair of pants from DU/ER, a training shirt from RYU Apparel, water bottles and tabs from Nuun, along with some other goodies. As far as clothes go, I could have just brought what I wore on the plane. No need for much else. (I'd end up wearing the DU/ER pants daily. Too comfortable to take off.)

After a quick shower, I went down to the hotel lounge to meet up with the rest of those on the trip. I had arrived a day later than the others, but quickly got up to speed on introductions over a cold foamer. We were a small group — ten in total, including the NTSQ guys — which was nice. The others had done a 100km ride earlier in the day, but looked relaxed since most were fresh off the massage table. A few drinks and an amazing dinner later, I was off to bed around 9:00pm. 

reacquainted with route 1

We kicked off the day with a 7 AM beach walk. Then came breakfast, then my bike fit. All before 10am, with nothing rushed. One just rolled into the next at a relaxed pace. The beach was peaceful and allowed a bit of quite time for us to simply sit still and soak in the beauty of Carmel. Afterwards, the group gathered in the dining room of L'Auberge for breakfast. I had coffee, avocado toast, fruit, and a fruit smoothie. (Wishing all could be served to me right now as I type.)

After some emails and more relaxing, I met up with Brad from Cervelo who was taking care of all things bike related. Having shared my bike measurements with Trav prior, my bike fit took all of 5 minutes. Brad had my Cervelo C3 ready to rock. Seamless. Even water bottles were filled up for us with Nuun and GU at the ready. Chef Justin also made some unreal granola bars. What?! NTSQ's attention to detail and service was next level. They wouldn't even let me bring my bike outside — already handled.

We rolled out at 10:30am. Today's ride was to Big Sur and back. It did not disappoint. Video below gives a taste of the awesomeness.

Almost a year ago to the day, my girlfriend Marla and I drove down Route 1 through Big Sur after picking her car up in Sacramento. We both commented on how amazing the route would be on a bicycle. We were right.

Our ride time was just under 4 hours, with the distance at 100km. While we largely stayed together (this was a strong group of riders), we were free to do whatever we wanted. Hammer, coast, whatever. All bikes had the route loaded up on new Polar GPS devices. And, both Trav and Nic were able to manage things by splitting up; one taking the lead group, one hanging back.

We got back to the L'Auberge around 3 pm. Lunch was waiting. I devoured my vegan Bánh Mì sandwich along with a tasty salad and a vegan (cashew)cheesecake. Justin Cogley (AKA simply, Chef), the Executive Chef at L'Auberge and an endurance-sport enthusiast himself, totally hooked me up with custom vegan meals through the trip. Just look at that sammy I've got in the picture below! He also joined in on the rides. What a legend. 

After a shower and change, I had a chance to catch up on some work. The relaxed pace of everything (save for the actual riding) was great. I even got to strap into a pair of Normatec boots while knocking out some emails al fresco. 

Drinks and dinner kicked off again around 7pm. This was an awesome group of people. The time sharing stories and laughs was made even better by outstanding food and wine.

17 Mile Drive

We kicked off with 7 AM yoga at the beautiful Carmel Refuge — a brilliant combination of spa, fitness center and yoga studio. If this place were within 50 miles of me, I'd go there daily. The yoga session was awesome. From there, it was back to L'Auberge for breakfast and a bit of down time prior to our 10am roll-out.

Today's ride was another 100km that would bring us up Robinson Canyon, then up Laureles Grade before riding through Pebble Beach on 17 Mile Drive. It's tough to rival a Route 1 ride to Big Sur, but today's ride certainly did so. I'm honestly not sure which I liked more. It may have been today's. It was pretty incredible to hit two well-known climbs (Robinson Canyon & Laureles Grade) and have those not even be the most scenic part of the ride (Pebble Beach is ridiculous).

We got back around 3pm and had lunch waiting for us. While the others devoured some BBQ that looked outstanding, I got my veggie on with a bomb plate of Asian stir-fried vegetables prepared by Chef. I then took down a large portion of the vegan berry crumble that was served as our desert. A+. 

After a nap and a massage, it was almost time for dinner. Tough life. Tonight's dinner was truly exceptional. As the last dinner of the trip, it was a multi-coursed tasting menu incorporating a handful of ingredients selected by Chef. Oh, and a wine pairing for each dish. NBD. Honestly, it was one of the best meals I've had in my life. On par with the vegan tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park, a THREE STAR (yes, that's the highest rating) Michelin restaurant. Chef knows his way around a kitchen.

Continuing with the hilarity of the trip, we ended this incredible meal with a game of Beanboozled. For those without 6-year-old kids, this is a new Jelly Bean game where two people pick a Jelly Bean of the same color. One has a traditional JB flavor, while one has a flavor like "booger" or "stinky socks". Seriously. This game exists. And, it's freaking hilarious. Video below shows the game in action... 

COFFEE CRUISE

After a fun night of eating and drinking, it was nice to have a chilled out coffee ride on the docket. It got us up and moving around 9AM prior to heading to the airport, but was nothing strenuous. We rolled a section of 17 Mile Drive and headed back towards Robinson Canyon. The ride ended up being only 20km or so, lasting just under an hour. We had coffee afterwards and then got packed up.

My flight was a bit later than everyone else, so I chilled at the hotel after seeing the rest of the crew off. While getting some work done on my computer, the staff at L'Auberge offered me everything under the sun. They couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating. While the others had to-go lunches packed for the airport (seriously, NTSQ thought of everything), Chef had mine prepared and served as lunch. After this, along with a few additional coffees for good measure, I was driven to the airport in the hotel's private car. The driver wouldn't even accept my tip. I was through security and at my gate in 10 minutes. Hell of a trip.

STORY TIME

As a reward for those who've made it this far, here are a couple of the funnier stories from the trip. I thought these were simply too good not to share.

No direct quotes here. Just some paraphrasing to capture the essence.

SOME MISSING WINE

I grew up middle class. My dad worked as a detective. He wasn't one to spend money but he did appreciate wine enough to develop an impressive collection. He had gout though, so didn't actually drink the wine. Anyway, a number of years ago, a mate and I brought back a couple girls when I was home on break from university. We wanted to impress them so figured we'd crack open a few bottles. After the third bottle, I don't remember much.

When we woke up the next day, we saw that we drank six bottles. I was horrified, but figured we could replace them before my parents came home the next week. At the wine store we learned that we drank over $5,000 worth of wine. Remember, my dad's a detective, right. Have you seen Misery? He's the type of person, like Kathie Bates, who'd know when a small figurine in the house has been slightly moved.

We ended up buying bottles of the same make, but different years. It was still like $800 or something. I was shitting myself for weeks. To this day, my dad has never said a word.

UBER MISHAP

I played pro hockey with a guy who was a great player and a household name in Canada. We'd go out drinking on occasion and then just Uber home. But for him, given that he's a celebrity, he was always paranoid about putting his real address in. Instead, he'd have Uber drop him a couple blocks away and then walk home from there.

Well, this one night, he messes it up and the Uber drops him like 5K from his place. The next morning, he wakes up in someone's front yard. A couple little kids stumble on him going out for the bus and realize who it is. He's probably their favorite hockey player, so they're over the moon to see him. It's like finding Kobe Bryant asleep on your lawn in LA. The best part is that the kids' parents just brush it off and make up something to explain it to the kids. They're equally as excited to meet him. They don't bring it to the press and all continues as normal.  

Can't Wait to Join Again

This cycling retreat was incredible. Trav, Jonathan and Nic are tremendous hosts, and Chef Justin along with the staff at L'Auberge are the best in the business. I've done many triathlon and cycling camps, but NTSQ is truly something unique. It's rare to be able to enjoy both a five-star vacation and world-class cycling. Typically I need a vacation after any triathlon or triathlon or bike retreat. This IS the vacation — you get to do epic rides, then simply kick back, relax and enjoy a beautiful hotel, incredible food, and great company. We'll done boys. I'm already looking forward to next time.

These awesome photos were taken by Matt Clark. More can be found at http://ntsqvelo.com/stories/

EPIC CAMP RECAP

Epic Camp was truly an incredible experience; one I will not soon forget.

The training was grueling, and pushed each of us beyond our limits. (I'm laughing thinking back to Day 5. That day of camp, Col d'Iseran in particular, freaking crusshhhed me. Hard to put into words how bad I felt that night and the following day. I also questioned my sanity/ what the effffff I was doing with my life while running in circles around a parking lot on Day 6 — the only strip of land without a 5+% grade — to finish off my 10km run for camp completion.) France did not disappoint with its beauty, and... wait for it... hospitality. Save for the debacle with Air France re: my bike, all those I encountered in France could not have been more friendly and gracious.

Our support and lodging was next level -- huge shout out to Pyrenees Multisport. Ian and Julie are the best in the business. If you ever look to do a bike camp or riding tour of France, Spain, Italy or Corsica look to these two for the organizing.

And, last but certainly not least, the people on the camp were fantastic. It was really cool to see how tight-knit our crew became over the 12 days. A touch reminiscent of fraternity pledgeship, we became very close with one another by virtue of enduring some brutal days. I'm looking forward to staying in touch with everyone.

JERSEY WINNERS

Yellow Jersey (Maillot Jaune), Overall Points Leader - John and Adam K duked it out all camp for this one. When the triathlon ended on the final day, John finished as the points leader. However, the rules allowed people to tack on until 4pm. Adam chose to do so (he got some grief for this), but ultimately took the jersey.

Polka Dot Jersey, King of the Mountains - Adam K took this one pretty handily. That said, Walter, Shannon and John were pretty strong with their KOM points.

Red Jersey, Points Leader Over 50 - Murray Lapworth took this one. He and Peter were smashing themselves over the course of the camp in truly impressive fashion. I'm 20 years their younger and would have been picking myself up off the canvas after some of the efforts they put out, particularly on the bike. Very impressive work by these two. I hope Murray frames this jersey after what he put himself through in getting in. 

POST CAMP

Thankfully I parlayed my camp trip with Tour de France spectating. Me, Phil, Ian and Murray made our way from Morzine to Luchon the morning after the camp wrapped. And by morning I mean 5am. I had far too much to drink (to borrow from the parlance of those on the camp, I got pissed) on the final night of camp, which made this AM departure tough, to put it mildly. Thankfully I slept all but about 20 minutes of the 8-hour ride from Morzine to Toulouse (where we picked up our rental cars), which is basically driving from Switzerland to Spain. And yes, going out hard in Morzine with JB, Joules and Peter was definitely worth it. I mean, when am I going to be in Morzine again?

TOUR DE FRANCE SPECTATING

The Tour spectating was amazing.

For Stage 8, Phil and I rode from the center of Luchon to the top of Col de Peyresourde (~18 miles) to see the final climb of the day. Here are some pictures and a Snapchat video from the day. It was freaking awesome.

Here's my Snapchat video from the day...

Oh, and Chris Froome went on to win Stage 8, taking the Yellow Jersey, with a downright absurd descent down from Col de Peyresourde. Here's a quick video of that; him fearless, just chilling on his top tube going a zillion miles an hour. 

This one is a bit longer, but is an awesome recap of the stage. This dude, Vegan Cyclist is f'ing hilarious. And no, I'm not just plugging myself here... shocker, there's another vegan dude who rides a bike.

For Stage 9, Phil, Ian and I drove from Luchon to the start line in Vielha, Spain (~45 minute drive). From there, Ian and I rode about 3/4 the way up the first climb of the day, Port de la Bonaigua, to spectate. Here are some pictures and videos of that...

Snapchat video from the day...

EPIC CAMP - DAY 11 (FINAL DAY?!)

RUNDOWN

  • Triathlon
    • 1.5km swim in Lac de Montriond
    • 28km bike with climb of Col de la Joux Verte
    • 9km run around Lac de Montriond

HOW I FEEL

Wait, camp is over after today? No. That can't be right... Surprisingly body feels pretty decent. With no intensity yesterday, I've had a chance to recover a bit physically. That said, after 10 days at camp I'm pretty smoked mentally. I'm tired of living out of a suitcase. (I've totally given up on keeping things organized.) My massive bag of almonds is tapped. (Though my 3lb bag of quinoa is still unopened. I've lugged this around since day one in case I found myself in dire straights, but have yet to need it.) I'm out of my travel-sized EMJ body wash and now I'm using hand wash as shower gel — the horror! I have two TME bars left; strong rationing on my part. All this and I'm still not ready for camp to be over. I like the routine, the focus on training, the people, and yes, France! I don't think I could stomach another 6+ hour ride over multiple Cols, but I am a bit sad that camp is nearly over. It's been a hell of a lot of fun and it's gone by quickly.

With John's massive day yesterday and Adam's consistently ridiculous volume and intensity at camp, I felt pretty good about my chances in today's tri. Then, I learned that the 28km ride (17.5 miles) would essentially be straight up, then down. A test of both climbing and descending skillz. Not totally my forte (hey, another French word I know!). That said, I wanted to give today everything and hopefully it would put me near the top. No more "I'm holding back" excuses for me. 

TRIATHLON

SWIM

After racking our bikes on the near side of Lac de Montriond (and posing for that killer pic above), we got our wetsuits and caught a ride to the far side of said Lac. Once over there, we suited up and waded into the water for our final swim. It would be a straight shot across the lake, about 1.5km (just under a mile) in total. With little formality, we were off. It was just after 9:50am. 

I started on Shannon's feet, but wasn't the only person vying for this position. I was edged out by someone else and soon lost their feet. I was on my own, but seemed to be going fairly well. I felt a bit flat (likely due to yesterday's 100x100) but the other strong swimmers seemed to be in the same boat. After 19 minutes and change (the swim was likely closer to 1.2km), I got out and sprinted for transition. John and Shannon were setting out on the bike, Adam was soon to do the same, and Charlsey (!) was jogging into transition with me. (Charlsey, an Epic Camp vet with amazing stories on everything from Epic Camp to Kona to Greg Norman, was a very strong triathlete in his day. Now a bit older in age, he's put his competitive days largely behind him.) It was great seeing Charlsey drill the swim like that, showing that he's still got speed.

BIKE

As soon as we pulled out of transition, we were climbing Col de la Joux Verte. It would be 11km (6.8 miles) up at an average grade of 6%. My goal was to push as hard as I could for the climb, knowing that the rest of the ride was mostly descending and would require less energy.

I got out of the saddle and started to push up the climb. At this point, John, Adam, and Shannon were already out of sight, but Phil and Walter were less than a minute behind me. With each switchback, I could see that both were pushing hard on the bike, which motivated me to dig a bit deeper — more out of solidarity than competition. That said, if I could keep Phil and Walter behind me on the climb, I was going well. (I knew I'd inevitably blow by Walter on the descent — he goes up faster than he comes down, while Phil would blow by me.)

The three of us pushed up, ticking off Ks all within 30 seconds or so of one another. I was out of the saddle for a huge chunk of this. The only time I really remember sitting down was to steady myself when I reached out to pet a goat. For good luck of course... (We encountered a few goats hanging on the side of the road as we climbed through the cluster of homes up to the town of Avoriaz. Gotta love seeing animals like this roaming around town.)

With about 2 km left in the climb, Walter finally came by me. I tried to stick with him, but after a K I lost him. By the time I reached the top, he had put maybe 45 seconds into me. Phil was likely a minute back from me.

My time to the top was just under 42 minutes. I started down the mountain with Walter 400m up the road and soon passed him. While I was going as fast as I could, this was a technical descent with numerous hairpin turns. Each time I slowed to go around a bend, I'd look back up the mountain expecting to see Phil buzzing down. About 2 minutes into the descent he came by. (He later told me that he kept saying Where the hell is Rob? while descending for the first couple Ks, and had taken some risks to catch up more quickly. At one point he even hit the guardrail going around a bend too hot.)

Photos: It's tough to relate how fast some guys on camp were descending, but here are some pictures that show these guys getting horizontal while zipping through hairpin turns. Phil, Jules, and John from left to right.

Phil was out of sight in few seconds. I was now on my own, which was not ideal since I wasn't quite sure of the route through town and back to the lake. Shannon, who was still ahead at this point, is a great climber but slow descender. I figured I'd catch her before the bottom. I hoped I'd catch her with very little descending left, so I wouldn't have to slow down to stick with her. But, before long I caught up to her and started riding the breaks. Time lost descending would be a lot less than on a wrong turn through town.

After another minute or two descending, we were cruising through town and then making our way back up to the lake. As Shannon and I came into transition, and I got word that Phil was a minute up with John and Adam several minutes up on him.

FOR THE GEEKS: My normal power on the 42min climb was 246watts. My normal power for the 1hr 11min ride was 231watts. TrainingPeaks Link.

RUN

Despite the ride being a tough one at the outset, the descent allowed for a good recovery and I was feeling good while throwing on my run shoes. This was it for camp and I wanted to end on a high note. I set out at 5:40 min/mi pace and looked to hold my pace there or thereabouts for the 9km (5.7mi) run, which was two laps of the Lac de Montriond. The route was mostly flat and on a trail, both helpful.

I was through the first 2 miles holding that same pace and soon caught Phil at the start of the second lap. Phil, always the good sport, gave me encouragement as I came by. I did the same. Just 24 hours prior Phil had been down and out with a stomach bug, so his high-level of racing today was even more impressive. He'd later go on to do a 3-hour ride post race to make up for the missed day and get camp completion. 

As I continued to push, it was pretty clear that John and Adam were a good bit up and that I wouldn't be catching either despite the hard running. With that realization, I had trouble holding on to the pace — it hurt like hell — and I slowed a bit. After a mile of letting up, I could see the finish up ahead and the support crew were cheering. I picked up the pace for this last quarter mile and made sure that I was hurting as I came across the line. Would have been a sin to end Epic Camp any other way. My time for the 9km run was 33min 35sec, an average pace of 5:56 min/mile.

I again finished 3rd in the camp's 3rd triathlon race. I was pretty happy with the result, but was most pleased with my riding. Above all, I was super impressed by John and Adam's race. (Adam edged out John, taking 1st in the race.) These two had been crushing themselves day after day, yet still were able to race fast on the final day. Crazy.  

 

EPIC CAMP - DAY 10

RUNDOWN

  • John's Birthday - Choice of 4.5hrs Training - Swim, Bike and/or Run
    • I'd do the 100 x 100m + 10km run
  • Big Points for Birthday Swim Set 100 x 100m
    • 4 bonus points for completing
    • on 1:45 = 3 points, on 2:00 = 2 points, on 2:15 = 1 point
    • so if you do on 2:00 you get 3 pts (3x3km) + 4 bonus points for 100x100 + 2 points for doing on 2:00 = Total of 9pts

HOW I FEEL

Super f'ing excited! Several months ago I heard John mention that we'd be doing a 100 x 100 swim set on his birthday. I've heard of people doing this — on New Year's Day, for example — but I've never been in a Master's group or swim squad when they've given it a crack.

While it definitely sounded intimidating — 10,000 meters?! 6.2 miles — I was confident that I could get it done on a soft send-off (i.e., decent rest after each 100) and I wanted to experience it. For me, this was equivalent to a runner getting the chance to run a marathon. And, while it was Day 10 of Epic Camp, I couldn't think of a better setting to give this monster swim set a go.

I woke up feeling good. My nausea was gone and I was happy to have logged some extra sleep. Today's training would start at 10am (for me at least), with a 9:30am departure for the pool. This extra time was huge. It not only meant more sleep but also meant that I had time to get a massage from Tim Pigott, one of the physiotherapists and supporters on the camp. (If you're in the UK, I highly recommend seeking Tim out. More info here.) Tim worked his magic on me and despite it being one of the more painful massages I've received, I felt loose immediately afterwards with little soreness. With the massage down, along with a big breakfast and several cups of coffee, I was ready to roll.

SWIM

The pool in Morzine is gorgeous, and thankfully was long-course, meaning that one length is 50m as opposed to 25m. Fewer flip-turns for us.

After a quick discussion with others doing the 100 x 100 (8 of us in total), Ben Moore and I decided to team up in the same lane. Right around 10am we got rolling with me starting and Ben going 10 seconds after me.

Still super excited, I quickly shot through four lengths of the pool before stopping at the wall to rest. When I came up, I realized that I had just started the 100 x 100m with a 200m swim. I totally forgot that we were swimming long-course and that I only needed to do two lengths to complete the 100. Whoops. The good news was that I was feeling awesome. I had a laugh with Ben and then got back on track.

We both cruised through the first 19 of the 100. After each, I’d say the number we were on and Ben would confirm with a nod. On number 20, we got to take our first slow 100 — John set the rule that every 20th 100 could be easy with extra rest. Our pace didn’t slow much on the 20s since we were already going conservatively, coming in around 1 min 45-48 seconds, but we did use the #20s to take on nutrition. I had a good bit of Fuel-5 and TME bars on deck since we were going to be in the water for at least 3hrs 20mins. (Yes, that's right, AT LEAST 3hrs 20mins...)

I think we were both surprised how quickly we got to number 20. Then, before we knew it, we were at 40. Breaking the 100 into 20 rep chunks definitely made things a lot easier mentally. We took a short rest, maybe 5 minutes or so, at 40. In addition to eating another bar and drinking some fluid, I actually got out of the pool to warm up for a minute or two. Despite it being a warm day, I was getting pretty chilly being in the pool.

From there, we kept cruising. Once we hit number 60, Ben and I new we had it. We were still venturing into the unknown, but things were flowing really well and I had a good sense that my body would hold up. Just two more chunks left. At 80, I got out again to warm up for a couple of minutes.

The last 20 laps came easily. The last 5 almost seemed like a victory lap or formality. Bizarrely, I never felt all that muscularly fatigued. I was mentally tired, but physically I pretty much felt as good on the first 100 as I did on the last. Guessing this was due to adrenaline and the soft send-offs.

Photos from Left: Pool view from eating area; Ben & me post 100 x 100

For me, the 100 x 100 was more a mental challenge than physical. (This would have been a different story if I had been more aggressive with pacing. Big ups to the 1:45/100 crew!) Doing it as part of a group and in a beautiful setting also made it a lot more tolerable. All-in-all, I'd say the session was one of the easier 3+ hours spent training on the camp.

In addition to me and Ben, JB also did the 100 x 100s on 2:00 and finished soon after us. John, Shannon and Lou did theirs on 1:45 (?!), Adam did his on a mix of 2:00 and 1:45, and Murry did his on 2:15. The eight of us were pretty giddy after the massive set. Lots of high-fives and laughs at the absurdity of it.

LUNCH

After a quick shower, a few of us headed into town for lunch. We'd heard good things about Satellite Coffee, so stopped in. Within seconds of looking at the menu, I knew that this would be my favorite restaurant in France. Tons of fresh veg-heavy options with a middle-eastern slant + awesome coffee. I couldn't make up my mind, so went with the falafel plate and the veggie pita. They did not disappoint.

Pics below: Ben sleeping standing up, Adam K sleeping on counter... Just another day at Epic Camp; Halfway through my dank eats

RUN

Soon after lunch, Ben, Stefan and I set out on an easy run to complete the 4.5hr training day. Going slowly around Lac de Montriond, we had a good chat about nutrition. It's always interesting to hear what has worked and what hasn't for others as far as diet goes. For the most part, triathletes seem more interested than most on the topic and are usually pretty knowledgeable as a result.

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY

This one goes to John. He turned 40 today so made it a big one. He started moving at 6am and didn't stop until 6pm. He started the day with a 30k ride, then knocked out a 10k run (sub-40min), then made it to the pool for the 100x100 (on 1:45), and finished with a 90k ride. Needless to say, we had a birthday cake waiting for him properly to honor the effort and celebrate the occasion.

EPIC CAMP - DAY 9

RUNDOWN

  • 101km Ride (Col de la Columbiere and Col de la Ramaz)
  • 10km Trail Run around Lac de Montriond
  • 3km Swim in Lac de Montriond
  • Le Grand-Bornand to Morzine

HOW I FEEL

I feel rough. Not as bad as I did post Col de L’Iseran - not sure I’ll ever feel that bad again - but it’s clear that yesterday’s tri took its toll. I woke up a few times in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (hormones seem to be a bit out of whack again from the hard day) and I generally feel pretty tired as a result. I'd give it a weak 5 on the 1-10 scale of hurt to robust. 

RIDE

After putting down yet another monster breakfast - I’m really going to miss these - we packed our bags and got ready to ride to Morzine. Giving our final goodbyes to Piet and his wife Eva at Chalet 4, we got rolling at 8:30am.

Today would be the last of our long rides - suck yeah baby!! 101km (63 mi) with 2712m (8900ft) of elevation. It would largely shadow this year’s TdF Stage 20 - the penultimate and last of importance for determining the Yellow Jersey. We'd go over two Cat 1 (AKA hard) climbs, Col de la Columbiere and Col de la Ramaz. (Unfortunately we had to alter our path a bit due to road work and cut out Col de Joux Plan. The roads get repaved when the Tour rolls through and, surprise surprise, strikes have put the work a month behind…)

After just a 5 minute descent, we started our climb of Col de la Columbiere. While being a Cat 1 climb, Col de la Columbiere - 11.6km (7.2 mi) at an average grade of 6% - is a bit easier than the other big cols. Given how I was feeling, I took it easy on the way up, holding just 175 watts, and was quickly shot out the back door by the others in the group. After almost an hour - with some photos and a wrong turn in the mix - I reached the top. I later heard that Shannon narrowly took out John for the KOM, reaching the top in an absurd 36min52sec, and earned Queen of the Mountain status on Strava. Pretty incredible given the popularity of this regularly occurring Tour climb.

Pics Below From Left: View going up Columbiere, Top of Columbiere, View from start of Columbiere descent

After a quick stop at the top, I descended solo down Columbiere to the foot of Col de Romme. The descent could have been a fast one, with some wide bends, but I took it slowly since the road was still having a good bit of work done on it — this would be the theme of the day. 

I headed up Col de Romme, still solo. Approaching from the south, Col de Romme a short but steep — just 6.2km (3.85mi) with 325m (1060ft) of gain at an average gradient of 8%. Unfortunately due to the road work, the pavement had tons of asphalt bits on its surface. These got caught in my wheel well on a few occasions which had me on and off the bike. The climb was a slow one as a result. I reached the top in a little under 30 minutes holding 173 watts. Interestingly, the top of Col de Romme is not actually in the town of Romme. It’s a bit higher up in a no man’s land of sorts. After less than a minute of descending down the north side, you cruise through the town. It’s pretty in an old-world type of way, with mostly small houses that look like they were built in the 1940s.

Before starting the descent down the northern side in earnest, I took a wrong going through the town and ended up descending down what turned out to be someone’s very long and windy driveway. I righted myself by climbing back up and then cruised down the ~11km road to Cluses.  

From here, still solo, I made my way through the town of Cluses and to the foot of Col du Ramaz. This was only 21km or so, but took nearly an hour since I was rolling through the streets of the town and frequently needed to consult my map. Thankfully Julie from Pyrenees Multisport was posted up at nearly every turn, waving me in the right direction.

Pics from the Left: Entering town of Romme, View just prior to descent down northern side of Romme, Town of Cluses

Col de la Ramaz would be the last of the big climbs for the day. I had been riding solo for about 3.5 hrs and was about ready to be done. With Ramaz being a key climb in this year’s Tour, the road was lined with photos of the past Tour winners (with the exception of Lance…pretty interesting). I soaked in the history while riding at a steady pace (185 watts).

While I was riding blind - had legit zero knowledge of the climb - I now know Ramaz to be a deceptively tough col. Approaching from Mieussy, it’s 14km (8.7mi) with an average gradient of 6.7%. While anything under 7% sounds great at this point, the average means little here since Ramaz is irregular. At first you’re climbing at 8% through grassy hills, and after 2km or so you start cruising at 2% for over a km. Oh, this isn’t so bad. Then the climb gets real, pitching at 9% and even 10% for long stretches as you climb up the cliff’s edge.

As I climbed, I felt pretty lousy physically. The day was warm but overcast with a cool breeze and I had a mix of fever-like sweat and chills going. I tried to focus more on the views and the scenery rather than how I felt. Just keep pedaling… About 8 or 9km into the climb, you reach a tunnel that’s built into the side of the cliff and open to the right side. While facing straight the views aren’t impressive, but when you look backwards, the view is pretty incredible. I went to take my camera out to take a picture and nearly fell off my bike doing so. Right at this point, the road pitches drastically going from 7.5% to 11.5%. My gearing was off and I nearly went down. Sadly no photo.

After 1hr14min, I reached the top having averaged 185 watts. Nothing special, but I was definitely happy to be at the top. There, I quickly connected with Ian in the support van and got directions to Morzine before starting my descent. I flew down and after about 10 minutes caught the girls. We made our way to Morzine, and ultimately to our chalet — I rode with my phone in one hand, staring at Google Maps for the last 5k. We rolled in around 2:30pm.

RUN (Part I)

By 4:00pm a few of us set out towards Lake Montriond for our swim. My plan was to run the 10km prior to swimming so that I’d be done for the day post swim. About 200m into the run (basically straight uphill to the lake) I started to feel nauseous and my head hurt. By the time I made it to the lake, I was walking and almost doubled over. I sat down for about 15 minutes before trying to run again. When I did, it didn’t last long. I did a mix of running and walking to bring my total to about 4km. My stomach was a mess, so I decided to get the swim done and finish the run later.

SWIM

Lac de Montriond is stunning. It’s set in a valley between two massive cliffs. As terrible as I was feeling, I was still able to enjoy the beauty — pretty hard not to. I got my wetsuit on and waded into the water. A few others, all having already done the full 10km run, got in the water just before me, so I followed their path swimming straight down the center of the lake. Apparently it was about 1.5km to the other side, so we’d be doing an out and back to complete the 3km swim.

I settled into a rhythm and started to feel a good bit better. There’s something about swimming that I find really soothing. I think it’s the combination of the quiet and the consistent rhythm of the strokes. The fact that the water was pretty cold helped relax me too. I weirdly love cold water.

After a little under 30 minutes I reached the other side of the lake. I turned around, but not before a couple guys fishing shouted at me in French, likely telling me to stop scaring the fish off. The sun was now low in the sky - it was probably about 6pm - and sighting was a bit of a challenge. I relaxed and took each stroke with ease, eventually getting back to where I started.

RUN (Part II)

As the others loaded into the van (lucky bastards), I got my run gear back on and started on the trail that circled the lake. I felt much better and quickly got through 4km or so, aided by some Rhianna from my iPhone. With just under 2km left to hit the 10km requirement, I set off downhill, back to the chalet.

When my watch finally beeped at the 10km mark I felt a huge sigh of relief. Today was a tough one. While I never considered giving up, I thought completing both the swim and run might keep me out pretty late. Having everything done by 6:30pm felt like a gift. 

ZOFRAN + DINNER

Before swimming, I had chat with Lou. He could tell I was feeling lousy and said I looked pretty yellow. Prior to the camp, Lou was prescribed Zofran, a medication that treats nausea, for altitude sickness. He offered me some and I gave it some thought. I'm typically one to avoid medication but was pretty worried that I'd be unable to stomach any food at dinner. I ended up taking the pill and felt a lot better.

After showering, I came up for dinner and was greeted by servers with champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The Brown Bear Lodge was not messing around. They even had vegan snacks for me and had made me a vegan stew for dinner. I devoured all and was very pleased to have had an appetite again. 

John gave a rundown of the next day — at least 4 hrs 3min of training, which could include a birthday set of 100 x 100m in the pool for those keen — and then it was off to bed.     

EPIC CAMP - DAY 8

RUNDOWN

  • Lake Annecy | Le Grand-Bornand Triathlon
    • 1km Swim in Lake Annecy
    • 32km Ride from Lake Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand
    • 7km Run

HOW I FEEL

I feel surprisingly good. Might go as far as saying a 7 out of 10. Despite ending yesterday's training around 630pm, we logged a solid 3 hours relaxing - with an amazing dinner in the mix - before finally turning in for bed. The time off our feet has definitely aided my recovery and generally boosted my spirits. Others seem to feel the same. Us knowing that today is a shorter day has also served as a bit of a morale boost/ mental reprieve. Staring down the barrel of a 5-7 hour ride + 3k swim + 10k run can cause some anxiety. On the other hand, having a 2-hour training day with the afternoon off feels like a gift from God.

LAKE ANNECY | LE GRAND-BORNAND TRIATHLON

Given that I was feeling pretty good in the AM, I wanted to push a bit in this race to see how I could fair. Not so much against the others on the camp, but more with my own pacing and output. While much of the camp is focused on long, steady output (at least for me - others definitely smash themselves on the KOMs, etc.), today would be a good test of near max effort across the three disciplines. I also saw it as a good training session in advance of the NYC Olympic distance tri, a race I'm doing on July 24.

As I mentioned in the 'Points Update' post, I've been going pretty steady on most days but look to "pick my moments" for going hard. The Alpe D'Huez pool swim and 10km trail run were two times when I chose to really push it. Given that I felt good today, I decided today would be another time to go hard.

SWIM

After a 45-minute downhill ride from Chalet 4 to the swim start at Lake Annecy -- this bike course would be a tough one! -- we put on our wetsuits and racked our bikes in a small area that would serve as transition 1. The lake was calm and clear, with a few small sailboats moving slowly around the section where we'd be swimming. Add this to the list of beautiful lakes in France.
John gave a quick rundown on the 1km swim course, pointing to the buoys, as we jumped into the chilly water to warm up. 5 minutes later, we were off.

My initial plan was to stick on John's feet for as long as possible. I figured I could do this until the first buoy and then go from there. John went out hard and was impossible to stay behind - not because he was going too fast, but because he was zigzagging like mad. Every 10 meters he'd cut either right or left. I thought to myself, Damn. He's clearly got experience dropping wannabe drafters. As it turns out, John wasn't doing this intentionally. He opted to not wear goggles (WTF?) and couldn't see shit at the start. Shocker.

Losing John, I settled into the second pack and made my way to the first buoy and then back in towards the second. Sighting was a bit of a challenge due to one or two of the sailboats in our zone, but we managed. (The hampered sighting was worth it since the sailboats were filled with young kids cheering like crazy as we swam past.) This second group -- me + Adam K + Louie + Ben -- came to shore about 15min30sec after the start. While Shannon was still in transition, John was already setting out on the bike. (Guess the no goggles tactic worked after all.) A big group was coming out of the water right after us as well, so other than John, we were mostly together getting out of T1.

Photos from Left: No-goggles John, Me

BIKE

We got a reverse preview of the bike course en route to the lake, and it was clear that it'd be a tough one. 32km with 990m (3,250ft) of climbing. This tri definitely favored the cyclist.
As I pulled my wetsuit off, I felt pretty smoked. The swim hadn't been all that fast, so I was surprised to be so tired. I got on the bike with John, Shannon and Adam K out in front of me - all great cyclists.

As I started pedaling on the bike, my legs felt like lead. Yesterday's ride and the week of volume had taken their toll. The thought of taking this race easy and using today as recovery started to creep in. JB came past and shouted something about wanting to share the load by team time trialing, each taking pulls at the front pushing big watts. Nothing sounded less appealing. Phil came by me next and shouted some encouragement, clearly seeing that I wasn't feeling so hot. Seeing JB and Phil out of the saddle and pushing uphill motivated me just enough to go hard during this first climb. From there, I just took the ride one K at a time.

After about 5k, with JB, Shannon, and Phil still in sight, Peter caught me. As he came by, I hopped on his wheel. Misery loves company. After letting him shoulder the load for a few minutes, I started to rally and came to the front. I committed to working with him for as long as I could. Now a team effort, I distanced myself from ideas of taking it easy, and pushed about as hard as I could for the stretches when I was at the front. We were going well, and starting to reel in the guys ahead. With just 1k or so left, we caught Shannon and had Phil just a few seconds in front of us. As the four of us approached the chalet/T2, we saw John already a few minutes into the run. He had 1st nailed. Adam K and JB were a few minutes behind him, and just a minute or so ahead of us.

FOR THE GEEKS: My NP on the bike was 223. I was pushing ~265 watts for the 2 min spurts while at the front. Interestingly, despite having a high perceived effort, my HR would not go above 155. I was watching this and laughing about it with Peter since he was seeing the same thing. We both knew that when HR won't go up despite the effort, it's a tell-tale sign of fatigue. Training Peaks page linked here and below. (My Garmin didn't pick up my power meter for the first K or so; required a quick reboot.)

RUN

With 3rd place in reach and 2nd a possibility, I pushed the run hard from the start. The course was an out-and-back, 1.75km downhill then 1.75km uphill (~3% grade), that we'd do two times through. I hammered the downhill (happy to be running in Hokas) since I knew it'd be tough to make up time on the uphill given how I was feeling. After the first loop, I could tell that I was making up time on Adam but that it wouldn't be enough. JB on the other hand was running well but starting to get closer. I caught JB halfway into the second downhill and moved into 3rd.

After 27min02sec of running, I crossed the line totally wasted. While pumped to have taken 3rd and to have posted the fastest run split, I was really happy to have rallied after feeling like such garbage at the outset. JB, who finished maybe 30-45 seconds behind me, joked that he never would have thought he'd have me take 3rd from him after having seen me in the first K of the bike. I made sure to thank Peter for the help on the bike -- he certainly pushed me to ride harder than I would have on my own.

Photos From Top Left to Bottom Right: Me, John, Adam K, JB, Shannon, Me

FOR THE GEEKS: My pacing was ~5:15 min/mi on the downhill sections and ~6:55 min/mi on the uphill sections. Average pace overall was 6:14 min/mi and total elevation gain on the run was 1,076 feet. While it wasn't happening on the bike, my HR came up a bit on this one, reaching a max of 164 bpm.

AFTERNOON OFF

After smashing ourselves during the AM, it was nice to stroll around the town of Grand-Bornand and act like tourists for a change. I quickly got a sense of how little French I know. (It's embarrassing. Thankfully I'm so tan now that people mistake that I'm from Spain and just start speaking to me in Spanish, which I'm at better at.) After John, Phil and some others nabbed some ice cream (crème glacée), we sat down and watched Stage 3 of the Tour over Kronenbergs.

Church in town center of Grand-Bornand; Us streaming the Tour later in the afternoon (Ian, Stefan, Phil, Iain, Walter)

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY

This one goes to Jen Turner, a strong triathlete at the camp from Australia. Soon after sitting down in town for beers and Tour watching, we spotted Jen still in her cycling kit with her bike. This was at least 2 hours after the tri had wrapped up. Turns out she had gotten lost during the race and went way off course - easy to do with the many roundabouts. Not knowing where we were staying, she had to show locals pictures she had taken of the town. Amazingly, they were able to direct her back to Grand-Bornand. Even more impressively, she was in good spirits when we saw her in town and even joined us for a beer. The best part was that her husband Titch, who is also at the camp, hadn't realized that Jen was missing. Spent from the race, he went straight to sleep. Pretty entertaining. Both got some jokes thrown their way that night.

EPIC CAMP - DAY 7

RUNDOWN

  • 120km ride with 3306m elevation gain (Cormet de Roselend + Col de Saisies + Col du Aravis)
  • 7km run to the pool
  • 3km swim
  • Sainte Foy Tarentaise to Le Grand Bornand

HOW I FEEL

It's pretty amazing how the body can rebound after some good rest and healthy eating. The chalet we've been in is pretty luxurious, and the added comfort of bigger rooms, a hot tub and a large common area make a big difference in helping a defeated body recover. While we still did a good bit of training yesterday, it was nice to sit on a couch for the first time in a week and watch a little TV with the group -- the Tour kicked off yesterday, so we're keeping track during what little spare time we have.

Things have improved on the diet front as well. While a little rocky at first, my diet over here has started to more closely resemble my diet at home -- i.e., lots of veggies, nuts, fruits, and beans/other legumes. The chef at our chalet in Sainte Foy Tarentaise has been awesome and seems to genuinely enjoy cooking vegan dishes for me. Needless to say, I'm super appreciative and am eating it up. Veggie curry on evening of Day 5, which ended up being yesterday's lunch, and a killer ratatouille last night. 

I'm sitting pretty at about a 6 out of 10 on the how-I-feel scale.

BIKE

After yet another strong breakfast and some time packing our bags, we geared up and started our descent from the chalet to the foot of Cormet de Roselend. Today would be a big one on the bike, with 120km (74.5mi) on the docket with three fairly robust climbs. Nothing like the Day 5 crusher, but still a solid day. Given my condition yesterday, I was approaching with caution. 

The descent from the chalet to Cormet de Roselend was quick, and after just 30 minutes we were lining up to tackle this first KOM points climb of the day. Not interested in flogging myself right off the bat, I sat back and rode at my own pace, going by feel -- which ends up being 190 watts and put me at the top in 1hr29min. Walter, even with his sprained ankle, pushed hard and claimed the KOM with a time of 1hr14min. 

Yes, another summit pic. I earned these!

Yes, another summit pic. I earned these!

The descent down the north-western side of Cormet de Roselend is a pretty one with an amazing lake (Lac de Roselend) that comes into view about halfway down. Despite stopping to take a picture or two, I put my new descending skillz to work and really went for it on the more open sections of the downhill. (Wanting to catch up with the front guys and still have time to get a coffee in the town of Beaufort.) Not knowing it at the time, I hit 56 mph, feeling 100% in control. 56 mph is easily 10 and possibly 15 mph faster than any previous highs, so John and Phil's tips were paying off. (I also closed the speed gap a bit between myself and John + Phil, with each hitting highs of ~60mph.) 

After a quick stop on the cobble-stoned streets of Beaufort (no time for a coffee sadly), we started rolling to Col de Saisies. This was not a KOM climb, so most took it at a moderate effort. Walter hung back and we chatted while riding together. I appreciated the company, so figured I'd reward him with a solid climbing picture with Mont Blanc in the background. (See below...) The conversation and views made this ~15km (9.4mi) climb that gained 945m (3,100ft) seem quite easy. After 1hr31min, me riding at NP of 185 watts, we were at the top.  

We descended down 15km to the town of Flumet and from there were quickly gearing up for the final KOM climb of the day, the Col du Aravis, a climb that's appeared in the Tour nearly 40 times. While I had no interest (or chance) at going for the KOM, I wanted to maintain a good effort on this climb since the day was nearly done and it was shorter than the others today and not as high. I again targeted 190 watts, nothing too crazy but still a decent effort given that we were 4.5hrs in, and had no trouble holding it through to the top which I reached in 40mins. I'd be lying if I said that I weren't motivated up by all the TdF signs that lined the road. John took out the KOM with a climb of just under 30mins (?!). While he outweighs me by ~10lbs, he was pushing 278w. Nutty.

A few of us regrouped at the top and then enjoyed a long descent down through the town of La Giettaz. Soon we were rolling through the center of Grand-Bornand and getting close to our chalet. Seeing an Epic Camp sign, I mentally checked-out and chalked the ride up as in the books. Sadly, the sign just indicated a turnoff and we still had 4km to go up a 3%. "You've got to be f'ing kidding me." 4km is not a long way, but it feels like an eternity at the end of a 5.5hr ride with 3 strong climbs. I was damn ready to be done. Finally, I spotted our place. And, again, it was an amazing setup and worth those painful 4 additional kilometers.  

RUN + SWIM

The only downside to great accommodations is that it takes extreme willpower to leave and finish the day's workouts. My transition from bike to the run+swim was a slow one. After feasting on the dishes layout out for us upon our arrival (the host, a former Epic Camper, Peit and his wife were AMAZING and even labeled the vegan dishes for me!), I found my room and slowly geared up for the jog to the pool. 

The pool was a 7km downhill jog from the chalet. All that was required of us was a jog to the pool, and given that I along with a few others were in no mood to do anything extra, we arranged a ride back from the pool in one of the support vans. The jog, joined by both Peter and Iain, was uneventful and actually pretty relaxing. I tossed in headphones and listened to music for one of the first times while training on the camp.

Similar to the run, the swim was no more than a check-the-box effort. I got through the required 3km in just under an hour. At times, I found myself annoyed with having to slog through the 3km swim. With it now approaching 6pm, I really just wanted to be done for the day. As those thoughts crept in, I took a moment to soak in the surroundings of the outdoor pool situated on a hill next to a beautiful set of buildings. In the distance we could see dozens of paragliders with brightly colored chutes cruising through the sky (this has to be one of the top paragliding destinations in the world). I compared this to the Chelsea Community Center pool that I logged a good bit of swimming around the same time last year. (I wanted to shower in bleach after these sessions.) Let's just say my mood improved and I got through the 3km set with no problem.

CHALET 4 & POSITIVE VIBES

Our lodging for the next two nights is Chalet 4. This place is truly remarkable and Piet and his wife could not be better hosts. With Day 7 in the books, we enjoyed an amazing dinner outside while chatting through the past week of big training over wine and beer. At this point in the camp, it's clear that anxiety/straight-up fear has lifted from most on the camp. It certainly has for me. The long training days are also taking their toll, so we all seem to be a bit delirious -- which has us laughing a lot more. I've gone from enjoying the camp atmosphere to really loving it. 

EPIC CAMP - POINTS UPDATE

From Left to Right - Adam K, Murray "The Holy Hammer" Lapworth, John Newsom

From Left to Right - Adam K, Murray "The Holy Hammer" Lapworth, John Newsom

At the start of day 8, the points have Adam K in the Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains), Murray "The Holy Hammer" in the Red Jersey (Over 50 Points Leader), and John Newsom in the Yellow Jersey (Overall Points Leader). Adam K has been crushing the King of the Mountains competition and has a commanding lead. (Walter, John, Shannon and Peter are other top KOM finishers, but still a good bit behind overall.) Murray took Red on day 1 and has been fighting off Peter Mills to maintain it. John and Adam have been duking it out for the Yellow, but John has kept it largely through wins in the aquathon and triathlon races.

As for me, I'm way behind on points. Not having my bike on Day 1 put me in last place and I've been slowly crawling my way back to a respectable position with some decent races and casual 'tack-ons'. I honestly think that starting in last place was a good thing. It's kept me from getting tied up in the overall points race and has allowed me to stay focused on getting the most out of the camp from a training perspective.

For background, prior to camp my coach Justin Daerr and I had a convo about how to approach the 11-day Epic Camp sufferfest. The goal would be to get solid training in (particularly on the bike) while not overdoing it. While it could benefit some, for me, red-lining day in, day out would leave me too smashed coming out the other side. With the camp as part of my Kona build, it would be best to "pick my moments" and keep things under control the rest of the time.

In all honesty, it's been pretty hard at times to hold back on some of the rides, particularly the KOM climbs. Every day I've chosen to ride with the guys who leave last (those who plan to ride the fastest), so it's pretty humbling to be dropped (quickly... like, shot-out-the-back-door dropped) on nearly all of the KOM climbs. I think I'd have more difficultly doing this if I didn't have a strong Ironman finish time to my name. It definitely helps me approach much of the camp with a "nothing-to-prove" type attitude.

EPIC CAMP - DAY 6

RUNDOWN

  • "Rest Day" 
  • 35km Bike, downhill to the pool & back
  • 3km Swim, 50m long course pool
  • 10km Run, big elevation with option to extend to 2hr/15km for additional point

HOW I FEEL

I'm destroyed. Last night was bleak. After the longest ride of my life, I tried to make up for lost time and ate two tortillas full of whatever vegan carbs I could find. Something in that mix did not sit well. (I'm getting sick to my stomach just thinking about those tortillas. It might be some time before I'm able to look at one without getting nauseous. Call your broker and short Chipotle.)

By the time dinner rolled around about an hour and half later, I was totally despondent at the table and just doing all I could to not bring up what little I could put down. Several others were looking equally as smoked, so I went pretty unnoticed. As a side note, JB didn't arrive back from the ride until nearly 8pm. He had stopped mid ride with a few others and took down a monster calzone + a Chimay Blue (a dark ale that's freaking 9% alcohol). Impressively, he refused the van picking him up at 7pm and continued on until the late hour. Still on track for camp completion...

I quietly plastic-wrapped my glorious yet untouched vegan curry dinner prep'ed by the rockstar chalet chef, and headed off to bed. I contemplated throwing up, but knew I needed to keep down whatever calories I could. (I had burned 3,900 calories on the bike and around 700 calories on the run, so my deficit was high on the day.) Despite the stomach pain, I fell asleep pretty quickly; maybe around 8:45pm. At 12:30am I woke up in a fit. After about 5 long minutes of not wanting to get up, my stomach forced the issue and I rushed to the bathroom. I quickly kicked up everything in my system and then sprawled out on the floor for the better part of an hour. I finally got back to bed around 2am, feeling better. 

The rest of the day would be a steady improvement from the rock bottom of puking and lying on the cold bathroom floor...   

RUN (Part I)

Adam K and I were rooming together - he's been kicking the shit out of himself since day one, so was exhausted and able to sleep through my barfing with no problem - and had discussed doing the 2hr run for additional points yesterday. When our alarms went off at 6am, we both got up and started getting our run gear on. While I felt better, I was still banged up and realized I needed more sleep. "Sorry dude. I'm hurting and was puking last night. I'm going to do this run later." With that, I was back to sleep. 

BIKE (Part I)

At 8:30am I finally got back out of bed. Feeling much better this go 'round and was just in time for the tail end of breakfast. By 10am I was in my bike kit and ready to ride down to the pool. The ride to the pool was a ~18km (11mi) descent from our chalet door. The weather was rainy and foggy, which actually helped my post-fever frail state.

Once on the bike, I pedaled maybe twice, hitting nearly 40 mph down the windy road down to the pool, dropping nearly 2,800 feet in elevation from start to finish. This was going to suck climbing back up. The sun came out just as we rolled into the parking lot of the pool.

SWIM

I knew this was going to be a slow one, so I avoided the fast lane where John and Adam were during it out for points in an effort to get the Yellow Jersey by day's end. As I slowly plotted through the water, I watched John knock out 1000m with bands (feet tied together), followed by 10x200 on 3:00, and finally topped off with a 200 fly. Good God. This dude wants the Yellow. Afterwards, John said he really had to dig deep on those sets and was in a world of hurt ~40m into the 200 fly. Damn impressive. Louie, AKA Louie the Fly, also drilled a ridiculously graceful 200 fly despite his long day on the bike yesterday. While I felt like shit, coming in at 2min mark on 100s, I was inspired by how deep some guys were going and was motivated to get my 3km done no matter how slowly it was coming along.

BIKE (Part II)

18km of straight climbing at 3-7% gradient is not fun when you're feeling super rough. Thankfully I had fellow Endurance Corner athlete Ben Moore with me, also taking it easy. We took our sweet time, me slowing things down. After 1hr30mins we were back at the chalet our bikes and hanging up our clothes to dry. (Worth mentioning, in addition to being a great guy, Ben is one of the most humble triathletes I've met. He has a 9 hour Ironman to his name, but you'd never hear it from him. With Ironman Wales coming up in ~10 weeks time, Ben is taking Epic Camp with caution per coach Alan Couzens advice, much like myself and Walter.) 

RUN (Part II)

This was purely a check-the-box run. With zero flat terrain in the area, I jog/walked up 4km of a trail and then jogged down, zigzagging across the path, partially to slow down but mostly in a desperate attempt to increase the distance and maybe pick up an additional km on the downhill. I finished the 10km in an almost flat parking lot near the chalet. Total time 1hr16min (aka 12:09/mi) - my new slowest 10k. Total elevation gain was 1,300ft. Just look at that graph!

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY

Have to add this section in today. My man Walter took a spill while doing the 10km trail run up on Alpe D'Huez and banged himself up. Sprained ankle, possibly broken hand, and a chin that probably could have benefited from some stitches. After taking yesterday off, he bounced back today. In fact, he, Phil and Peter rode to Italy for a coffee. Yes, you read that correctly. He and these two RODE to ITALY for a COFFEE!! A 30km climb up Col du Grand St-Bernard. This ride to Italy embodies all that I love about Epic Camp. After Walter mentioned doing it, Phil and Peter jumped on the idea in a matter of seconds. Italy? Yeah, I'm in. We should get a coffee. Can add it to my list of countries visited on this trip. (Due to some last-minute booking, Phil's trip to France from New Zealand included layovers in the US and Germany, and will include Spain and China on the 40 hour trek home...) Very bummed that I was too banged up to do this impromptu trip to Italy. So awesome. 

 

EPIC CAMP - DAY 5

BIG DAY = LONG POST... Apologies in advance for being a bit wordy.

RUNDOWN

  • 10km Trail Run
  • 165km Ride (Col de Lauteret + Col du Galibiere + Col de L'Iseran)
  • La Grave to Sainte Foy Tarentaise

HOW I FEEL

I'm banged up. Maybe a 5 on the scale of 10 upon wake-up. Yesterday's Alpe D'Huez day took its toll. I woke up 3-4x last night in a cold sweat and generally got lousy sleep. The periodic wake-ups with sweat and chills is not uncommon to the triathlete - typically follows a high-intensity (aka high heartrate) training day and comes as a result of the cortisone and other hormones rushing through the body as it tries to recover. The high altitude here in La Grave doesn't help things. At ~1500m we're at the elevation of Denver, CO so we're getting less oxygen while we sleep. Not the best for recovery.

My heart rate is also a bit out of whack -- 60 bpm upon waking as opposed to normal level of ~38 bpm. While being up 22bpm might not seem too significant, it's nearly a 60% increase and is very noticible. It seems like I can hear my heart beat.

Basically all just another way of saying that the combo of a hard training day and the altitude has hit me hard. Nothing I'm not used to, but normally I might take it easy on a day like this with a relaxed swim. Unfortunately that's not an option here at Epic Camp... Staring down the barrel of the hardest ride of the week and I didn't even know it until someone mentioned it over breakfast. Eff! As I explain more in BIKE, I started the day at a 5 out of 10 and that's about as good as it would get from there.

RUN

With it being a long (long, long) day on the bike, the 10km trail run kicked off early. 6:00am start from the foot of the hotel. Given my fitful rest, I got out of bed at 5:50am and jumped on to the run just as the group started moving.

To call this a run would be a stretch. More like a hike. It was an out-and-back, first going downhill and then coming back uphill. I took it very easy; not that I had much choice in the matter. Me and JB, a witty bastard on the camp, found ourselves way behind the group after the turnaround. Both exhausted and a bit brain dead, we somehow got lost coming back on the trail. After a few wrong turns, JB pointed to a new trail that seemed to extend deeper into the forest. "Hey, what could go wrong?" We took a different route and ended up climbing an absurdly steep hill through someone's front yard. Final time was 1hr05mins. Definitely the longest 10k my Garmin has experienced. 

BIKE

In many cases, ignorance is bliss on Epic Camp. If you know what you're getting into, you might freak out and quit (literally or just mentally) before you even start. That said, it's probably best to have some sense of what the hard days entail and at least know when they are so that you're not blindsided.

Today, I was blindsided. In a convo over breakfast I got a bit of detail on the day's ride - 165km ride with 4500m of climbing, so a hundred or so miles with 12,500ft elevation gain. Cool, a big day. What I didn't realize is that we basically would climb from miles 0-15 and then again from 35-75, with miles 55-75 being at 7-10% grade. 40 straight miles of climbing is ROUGH. Especially when the last 20 f**king miles are Col de L'Iseran, a 5x Tour de France mountain climb and the highest paved pass in the Alpes. It didn't help that I'd be riding solo for about 95% of the day...

After packing my bags and slamming a robust breakfast of croissants, jam, nut butter, bread, fruit, muesli, bread, and more bread, I rolled out with the crew at 8:30am. I felt surprisingly decent at the start. Weather was crisp and the group was taking it fairly easy on the climb out of La Grave and up to Lauteret. I sat in the group riding a bit under Ironman pace (~180 NP). Soon we were at the base of Col du Galibier, a 8.5 km (5.3 mi) climb that has an average gradient of 6.9% with a maximum of 12.1% (?!) at the summit. Galibier is one of the super old and iconic TdF climbs - it first appeared in the Tour back in 1911 and has made nearly 60 appearances since - so I was pretty stoked to be riding up it. I kept cruising at about 180 watts while taking some pictures, letting the group pull away as I rolled up at a relatively easy clip. After 47min53sec, I was at the top. 

Col du Galibier

After a few pics and a quick refuel with the aid car, I hit the long descent down the north side of Galibier down to Telegraph. Still not the best descender, I left the top a few minutes before the best riders in the group -- John, Adam K, Phil and Peter. While I hit a touch over 40 mph coming down, these guys blew past me. Phil, who cycle raced at a high level in his later teens and early twenties, hit 60 mph on this descent. Insanity. I could hear him coming from about 50 meters behind me before he torched by.

Ahead of most of the group but behind the top guys, I found myself in no man's land and would soon set out on a solo ride to Col de L'Iseran. This 40km trek was basically a false flat of 2% gradient. As I clipped along at 170 watts (not hard, but not easy; zone 1-2), I enjoyed the time alone since I could ride at my own pace and stop for the occasional photo - like the one below of the 19th century Esseillon Forts. Pretty sweet.

Esseillon Forts

Esseillon Forts

Since I was by myself and going at my own pace, I didn't stop at the car aid stations as I headed to the foot of Col de L'Iseran. In hindsight, this was a big mistake. Without realizing it, I was running a pretty big calorie deficit and would soon be climbing 33km (21 miles) unsupported. Still feeling solid, I kept rolling and about 5hrs30min into the total ride I hit the town of Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis which marks the start of the climb. About 5km or 3miles later, I started to get a bit tired and watched my power drop. I thought I'd rally, so didn't think much of it. Soon after that, I started to look at each kilometer marker (aka gravestone) with total dread.

My internal dialogue quickly went south. "18km left? 7% grade? Are you shitty me?" I did a quick mental calculus to put this in perspective. The longest climb I do back home is up Latigo Road, a "big" climb in the Malibu Canyons that's well known in the cycling community. It's 14.5km (9.2mi) and has an average grade of 4%. On a good day, when I'm fresh, I knock it out in 50 minutes. Now, nearly 6 hours and 65 miles into my ride I was still facing a climb that was longer than Latigo Road with long stretches at a much steeper incline. While Latigo climbs 2,000 feet in elevation, Iseran climbs over 4,500 feet! From 18km to 8km was a death march.

From there, I was just in survival mode. I crawled through the next few km's and started to wonder what the hell I was doing on this trip. While normally I have a positive internal dialogue, I started to get pretty down on myself. Exhausted and low on blood sugar, I was loosing my mind a bit. I thought, "Wow, I clearly suck at cycling. I have no business being on this trip. These guys are real athletes. I'm total a fraud. Why am I even trying to do well in Kona? I'm going to get crushed." As these thoughts were swirling, I stopped and got off my bike with 5km to go. I did so not to give up or to walk my bike, but instead I got off to simply take in the views. It was incredible how pretty it was. I reminded myself that this was a vacation. I took a few pictures, mentally reset, and started up again. I did this two more times before I finally reached the top. It would be a long descent home from here, so the hard part was now over. 

All said and done, it took me an absurd 3hrs10mins to climb L'Iseran. A full hour longer than the faster peeps on camp, especially since it was a KOM points climb. (Adam K took out the KOM yet again with a time of just over 2hrs.) Watts were ~160, a good 20% lower than what I'd look to ride on an Ironman bike leg.

At the top, I hung out for about 10 minutes with Julie, one of our awesome supporters from Pyrenees Multisport. I was a bit dazed as she excitedly grabbed me and took my picture in front of the summit sign, blasting music from her support van. After a coffee, a couple of bananas and a few Taos Mountain Energy bars, I put on a warm jacket and started the descent. 

The descent down the north side of L'Iseran is pretty spectacular. It's 48km (30mi) and you can really bomb down it since most of the turns are fairly wide. Not wanting to pedal another stroke unless absolutely necessary, I took all the advice I'd been given over the past few days on descending from Phil and John and went for it on this downhill. I was flying, and it felt awesome. Still descending, I cruised through the town of Tignes and was blown away by the lake views. Despite not wanting to waste any free speed, I got off my bike and snapped a few pictures. 

La Dame du Lac de Tignes

La Dame du Lac de Tignes

The final climb of the day was a merciless 5km uphill to the chalet. After descending for an hour plus, my legs were like bags of cement. I cursed John for not picking a place at the foot of this climb and thought, "F**k, this place better be amazing." With just a 400m to go, I spotted Walter out on stoop waiting to steer me home. As terrible as I felt, I couldn't help but smile. The chalet was in fact pretty incredible, so John did well (once again) and I had to bite my tongue.  

View from our chalet

View from our chalet

Looking back on this ride, I know that's it's the hardest I've done and by far the worst that I've felt on a bike. I'm a bit surprised by how frustrated I got with myself, but am happy that I was able to work through it. That's what Epic Camp is all about. Pushing through lows and just getting on with the training. 

Epic Camp - Day 4

RUNDOWN

  • Alpe D'Huez Triathlon
    • Time Trial up ADH (12km, 1030m elevation, 9% av. grade)
    • 1500m Swim at ADH Summit (1850m elevation)
    • 10km Run at ADH Summit (yes, still at 1850m elevation)

HOW I FEEL

Despite hitting lows in the 5 range (1=dead man walking, 10=rockstar) while climbing Col du Lautaret, the night's stay in La Grave with a banging veggie dinner brought me back to life. Worth noting that the first few nights of camp were a bit tough on the dinner front given that I'm a meatless, no eggs, dairy-free weirdo. Not a lot of veggies, fruit or beans/legumes - 75% of my normal diet - had me running on that new high-carb, all-gluten diet. Anyway, the injection of veggies, hummus and lentils at the Auberge Edelweiss lodging had me rocking at about an 8 out of 10 upon waking.

ALPE D'HUEZ TRIATHLON

Alpe D'Huez Time Trial

While we're hitting a bunch of iconic Tour climbs, for me (and most others), Alpe D'Huez is the granddaddy of them all. Not so much with respect to difficulty or beauty, but more to the amazing battles waged on its surface and the madness of the crowds during this pivotal Tour segment. (During the Tour, as many as a million people gather on the narrow 12km stretch of road that winds up the mountain. It's f'ing awesome.)

Pulled from Cycling Tips

Pulled from Cycling Tips

When I learned that a time trial up Alpe D'Huez would be part of this camp, I knew I had to sign up. To say that I was excited for this climb would be a massive understatement. That said, it was just Day 4, so as much as I wanted to hammer it, I knew it best to hold back just slightly. In all honesty, I'm a bit terrified of this camp's volume and camp completion (+quality Kona training +killer memories) is all I'm after...

After a 30km descent from La Grave to the foot of Alpe D'Huez, we gathered as a group for a photo. Ten minutes later, with some cheers and shouting "Allez!" (ah|LAY; French for "Go!"), we were off. As we started the climb, the weather shifted from fog to rain, which I welcomed. I felt strong and really loved the epic feel of the weather as I worked my way up into the clouds and through each of the 21 hairpin turns. Even hitting my target watts, I quickly fell back from the strong riders in our group. After 1hr4mins, mostly riding solo - which was cool, I reached the top. (I actually wasn't sure where the top was technically, so rode on for a few minutes.) Up this high, the sun was out and views from the top of the mountain were pretty rad.

FOR THE GEEKS: Alpe D'Huez is typically about an hour ascent for strong climbers (relatively strong climbers that is; top Tour riders bang it out in about half that time). With that in mind, I wanted to hold power at about 85% of my Functional Threshold Pace (FTP; watts I can hold for a one-hour all-out effort) since altitude and the fatigue I was carrying would make a bigger effort quite risky. 85% of 265w is 225w. I eased into things, starting around 220 watts, but eventually brought the power up to 230-235. I finished the climb at a NP of 229. TrainingPeaks link & Strava link if looking for a deep dive. (TP time is 1:07 since I went up as far as possible before hitting 'lap'; wasn't sure where the Strava segment ended.)

Alpe D'Huez Summit Swim

After about thirty minutes of chilling at the summit and getting into our swim gear, we kicked off our 1500m time trial in an outdoor pool. (The pool was quite nice, but the staff were militant about swim attire on deck. No joke, the guy refused to let people stand on the pool deck if they weren't wearing a speedo/swim briefs. Seemed to be very worried about bad tan lines...)

Feeling good, I decided to push a bit on the swim. Despite being at altitude, I some how got in my mind that I should be pacing around 1:30-35 per 100meters. (I normally swim yards, so maybe that was it.) I mentioned this in the lane selection process, and others seemed impressed that I'd be pushing that pace. I realized immediately that it might be a touch fast, but I thought, "Well, shit, now I'm committed to it. Better not come up way short and look like a fraud." So, I pushed. I also had my buddy Walter in my lane, who's just a slightly slower swimmer, so had him as a carrot to catch.

My final time was 23:47, or 1:35/100m. For the last 500 I could really feel the altitude. My stomach tightened smaller and smaller with each lap. I started to think of the new Phelps UA commercial where he's barfing on pool deck. Definitely happy with the time, likely went a bit too hard.

Alpe D'Huez Summit Run

Soon after the swim wrapped, we rolled into the trail run. The swim had my stomach in knots, so I wasn't expecting much from myself. That said, the pace started fairly slow on the trail since we had a good bit of gradient throughout (1352ft of climbing, so a challenging course).

I made it through the first loop in 21min10sec and the leader Adam K was holding back a good bit on the downhill sections. I had Hokas on, which I think really help cushion the downhill running, so I pushed. By the start of the second lap I had 1st and felt good. Despite going off course a bit, I was able to extend the lead and finish the 10km in 41:30, 4:13/km or 6:35/mi.

FOR THE GEEKS: My pacing was 6:43/mi for first half, 156 Av HR & 6:26/mi with 162 Av HR (169max) for second half. Training Peaks page here.

FINAL PLACEMENT

With the combined time from the TT + swim + run, I found myself in 4th overall. Not bad. Adam K took 1st, John Newsom took 2nd, and Shannon Charles took 3rd. Definitely pleased with my effort and happy to have taken out the run. A big highlight on the day was a HUGE pizza, sans fromage + champignons. Negative splitted the 'za as well.

RIDE TO / FROM ADH FROM LA GRAVE

Is dope. 30km descent there and 30km up coming back. Crazy cliff views and waterfalls. Even a chopper in the mix.

EPIC CAMP - DAY 3

RUNDOWN

  • Aquathon Race - 1700m Swim + 5km Run  
  • 113km ride (+7km tack on for points), 2804m elevation
  • Embrun to La Grave (a small ski town in French Alpes)

HOW I FEEL
Maybe a 7 out of 10. I woke up feeling fairly decent, though my sleep wasn’t the best. (Back-to-back 1 night stays in hotels means less sleep with packing/unpacking.) About 40km into the bike ride I’d be feeling pretty brutal. Aquathon in the AM and efforts on the bike yesterday took it out of me.

SWIM + RUN (AQUATHON)
We jump-started the day back at Lac de Serre-Ponçon with an aquathon for points. Given that I’m better at swim/run, I wanted to push a bit on the aquathon. Not so much for points (I’m way back in the standings due to lost bike and no Ventoux) but more for fun/pride. That said, I didn’t want to go all out given that it’s just day 3. This is a long, long camp and a hard run really beats me up.

We dove in at 7:30 and quickly made our way through the 1700m swim. I led the second pack of swimmers, behind a stronger group of three. I was out of the water in 25-26 minutes, putting me in 4th and about 2 minutes down from first. Forgetting my Garmin at home, I set out the run going by feel (probably best since I wasn't glued to a pace). In the first 500m I was overtaken by Adam Krzesinski, a damn strong triathlete on the camp, and I had no desire to go with him. I sat on my own pace - which I later learned was 6:07/mi (or 3:48/km) - and soon passed one of the stronger swimmers. I finished with a 19 minute 5k and 4th place. I was happy to have been able to show some strength in the swim/run and take 4th, especially among this group of solid triathletes.

BIKE

Today’s ride was another doozie. 120km (~76miles) with 2804m (9199ft) of climbing, traveling from Embrun to Le Grave. It included two Tour ascents - Col D’izoard and Col du Lautaret - the first of which was a camp KOM points earner, i.e. a race to the top.

Traveling from Embrun to the base of Col D’izoard was wild. Basic at the outset, but 30-40km in we hit a twisty road (Route des Gorges du Guil) that sits on the edge of cliffs and winds through the mountains with tunnels and traffic adding to the scene.

Route des Gorges du Guil (Credit:   Envie de Queyras website; bit too sketchy to take my own)

Route des Gorges du Guil (Credit: Envie de Queyras website; bit too sketchy to take my own)

From there, it was a race to the top of Col D’izoard. Feeling the swim/run from earlier, I watched the KOM contenders hammer away and I slowly slogged up the climb. Even just a few k’s in I knew it was going to be a long day. For the tri geeks out there, I crawled up Col D’izoard at 169 watts normalized power (NP), or 2.66 watts/kg, about 10-15% below my Ironman watts. I reached the top in a sluggish 1hr25. Adam K was first to the top, followed by my training buddy from NYC Walter McCormack, who’s also coached by Justin Daerr. These guys blitzed it; getting to the top of the 14km climb in :57-1:00. (Walter is a total axe on the bike; has PB of 4:35 bike split).

Col D'izoard Summit - Feeling every inch of that 2360m altitude

Col D'izoard Summit - Feeling every inch of that 2360m altitude

From Col D’izoard to Col du Lautaret, I hitched a ride with a few other guys from the camp, being pulled largely by Murry and Phil. The climb is basically a straight shot as opposed to switchbacks, etc. In fact, I was so wiped that I didn't realize we started the climb until it was nearly over. I thought we were riding a false flat with a strong headwind, and was doing all I could to hang on -- again riding at ~170 NP, but this time while drafting -- to the wheel in front of me. Someone shouted, "Almost there." and I realized we had nearly reached the top of Lautaret. (There's a turnoff to the right for Galibiere, a mean Tour climb, that I momentarily thought was a continuation of Lautaret. The left turn to roll over Lautaret and descend was one of the best I've taken.)

With our support van at the top of Lautaret, we stopped for a refuel and quick photo. Feeling quite smoked, I took down a half dozen dark chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of water. 

Col du Lautaret Summit - Post six choco chip cookies

Col du Lautaret Summit - Post six choco chip cookies

Getting to Le Grave, where we'd be staying for the next two nights (2 nights, yes! Thank God...) was all descending from the top of Col du Lautaret. This descent from Lautaret has some stunning views too. Killer mountains with a small topaz blue lake below. Seems all the lakes in this area of France are this awesome color. 

View from Descent of Col du Lautaret - Had to hit the breaks and pop of to capture this one

View from Descent of Col du Lautaret - Had to hit the breaks and pop of to capture this one

Once we hit La Grave, the choco cookies had lifted my spirits enough to join in on the tack on the 7km ride for an additional point. While it'd be steep 3.5k descent and then 3.5km climb back, it was a hell of a lot easier than yesterday's tack on. It was also great to see more of La Grave. The town, which gets its name from the many climbers and skiers who have died in the area, is a cool village of sorts wedged in between mountains of the French Alpes. Pics of La Grave and our awesome hotel, Auberge Edelweiss, below.

Town of La Grave

Town of La Grave

View from the garden at Auberge Edelweiss

View from the garden at Auberge Edelweiss

EPIC CAMP - DAY 2

RUNDOWN

  • 30 minute run
  • 170km ride from Vaison-la-Romaine to Embrun (+ 40km tack on for points), 2700m elevation
  • 3km swim in Lac de Serre-Ponçon

HOW I FEEL (Adding this piece in, since it's quite relevant...)

On a scale of 1-10 (1 = garbage, 10 = rockstar)  Feeling 8-9, due to lack of Mont Ventoux ride. Many are looking hollowed out already.

RUN

We woke up fairly early and enjoyed some breakfast in the courtyard of our hotel. The hotel, La Fete en Provence, was beautiful (the word quaint, which I'm not sure if I've ever said, comes to mind) and the food met our high French-cuisine expectations. Our run was an easy one, and provided an opportunity to see a bit of the town, Vaison-la-Romaine. (Apparently the town has a lot of Roman history; the town square had a Roman feel to it, if that's a thing...)

RIDE

Riding east from Vaison-la-Romaine to Embrun was basically a false flat for a 120km. Guessing the incline was maybe 1-2% for the majority of the stretch, with one or two sections of 3-5% climbing over 10km.

Given that the group was pretty smoked from Day 1, we pacelined this 120km, sharing time at the front in 10-15 minute stretches. Feeling guilty about having missed Day 1, I took some long pulls at the front. That said, I certainly wasn't the only one doing so. (For any non-cyclist reading this -- hi mom! -- taking pulls at the front means that you're working hard at the front of the group while shielding the other riders from the wind. You typically expend ~30% less energy, measured in watts, when ride in someone's draft.)

The ride was scenic in areas, but the real jaw-dropping views kicked in at the 140km mark as we climbed north of Lac de Serre-Ponçon and caught views of the lake's wildly blue water down below.

Since the camp dishes out points in 30km increments (i.e., 170km gets the same as points as 150km, however 180km gets an additional point), I was convinced to join an 'easy' 40km tack on ride to get to 210km. I joined, again feeling guilty about missing Mont Ventoux, and it was a sufferfest.

SWIM

An easy 3km in Lac de Serre-Ponçon. The water was a bit chilly, but I welcomed the cold and went no wetsuit. It felt great and probably helped me recover a bit after the long day of riding.

EPIC CAMP - DAY 1

RUNDOWN

  • 3km Swim in Mediterranean Sea
  • 160km Ride with 3187m Elevation Gain
    • Aix en Provence to Vaison-la-Romaine w/ Mont Ventoux
  • 10km Run
Mediterranean from Carry-le-Rouet

Mediterranean from Carry-le-Rouet

SWIM

Day one of camp kicked off with a stunning 3km sunrise swim in the Mediterranean Sea, entering from a beach in Carry-le-Rouet. The swim opened with a 2.2km ‘race’ with points on the line, so most of us got right to business. Knowing that I might have a shortened ride (more on that below), I pushed a bit and felt pretty good. I finished 3rd in the group and then did a brief cool down to hit the 3km total and really soak in the views.

Having yet to do the Kailua Bay swim at Kona, this by far the prettiest swim I’ve done in my life. A bit choppy and cold, but still fantastic. (Was happy to have worn my wetsuit; 2 or 3 of us had sleeveless suits and required some thawing out after the session. And no, the guy in the speedo below, did not do the swim after all...)

Crew 'bout to kick off

Crew 'bout to kick off

BIKE

Despite promises from Air France, at this point I still had no bike. No riding for me as a result :/ While I waited around at the airport, here’s what the others did. Oh, and it was super windy…

Soon after the swim, the crew rolled out at 8:30am heading east from Aixe-de-Provence to Vaison-la-Romaine in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The ride would be 164km with the iconic Tour de France climb, Mont Ventoux, coming at the 112km mark.

The group would ride up Mont Ventoux from the South, the most famous and difficult of the ascents, and would time trial (TT) it for King of the Mountain (KOM) points and the camp Polka Dot Jersey (see significance here). This would make for a BIG first day... As Wikipedia shares, going from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux is "one of the toughest in professional cycling" (wiki link). The day's totals for the ride would be 164km riding and 3187m elevation gain. As camp organizer John Newsom said afterwards, "We ease into things, keeping it light on Day 1 and building from there."

More from Wiki on Mont Ventoux for the geeks:

The road to the summit has an average gradient of 7.43%. Until Saint-Estève, the climb is easy: 3.9% over 5,8 km, but the 16 remaining kilometres have an average gradient of 8.9%. To serve as a comparison the climb of L'Alpe d'Huez is about 13.8 km at an average gradient of 7.9%. The last kilometres may have strong, violent winds. The ride takes 1h30m-2h30m for trained amateur riders. Professional riders take 1h-1h15 min. The fastest time so far recorded has been that of Iban Mayo in the individual climbing time trial of the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré: 55' 51". The time was measured from Bédoin for the first time in the 1958 Tour de France, in which Charly Gaul was the fastest at 1h 2' 9".

 

Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fifteen times since 1951.[11] The followed trail mostly passes through Bédoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world.

The mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died here on July 13, 1967 from heat exhaustion caused by a combination of factors, including dehydration (caused by lack of fluid intake and diarrhea), amphetamines, and alcohol, although there is still speculation as to the exact cause of his death.

Needless to say, I was super bummed to miss this ride. While all rolled in to the hotel 9-10 hours after having set out, looking completely shelled, they were pleased to have experienced the brutality of Mont Ventoux in all its glory.

I’ll include my buddy’s Garmin file of the ride in due time.

By 6pm I had my bike in Provence. A huge victory considering that I thought I might never see it again. I took a little cruise through Vaison-la-Romaine. Beautiful countryside with vineyards everywhere.

Got my bike!!

Got my bike!!

RUN

The day was rounded out with a 10km run. I did this in late morning while still in Aixe.

 

 

DAY ZERO - EPIC CAMP FRANCE

Sans Velo. Other than merci and bonjour, pretty much the only two French words I know are sans and velo. After having now been in France for 36 hours without my bike, it's quite fitting. Camp kicks off tomorrow -- 3k swim, 160km bike (with climb to Mont Ventoux), 10km run -- so I'm hoping my bike is here to greet me in the AM.

With no bike, I did a relaxed jog around the area. (Strava) We're currently about 8 miles west of Aix-en-Provence. View from the local run path below.

I finally took some time to review the bike courses for the camp. Holy shit. I'm official terrified. 865km of riding with 20150m of climbing. (That's 537 miles and 66,100 feet of elevation.) And that's just the biking! My Christ.

Epic Camp France

As part of my 2016 Kona training, I'll be participating in Epic Camp France.

For those unfamiliar, Epic Camp is a stage-race style camp that, over the years, has drawn an international crowd of triathletes as strong as they are crazy. The camp has a points system and doles out leader jerseys, rewarding fastest climbing on the bike, overall daily swim/bike/run volume, and other feats.

Epic Camp France, which kicks off on Monday June 27, will be 12 solid days of nutty swim/bike/run volume following much of the Tour de France path. We travel up Mont Ventoux on day 1 then snake through the Alpes to Morzine, hitting Alpe d'Huez and other iconic climbs.

Here's a cool video pulled together by The Col Collective that provides a little taste of Alpe d'Huez

For those who want to geek out on the details, here's a thorough outline of the points system. Note that bonus points are also given for keeping a blog. Given that I expect to be off the back on nearly every bike climb, I'll be blogging my ass off...

CATEGORIES

  • Yellow Jersey = Overall points leader
  • Red Jersey = leading Vet over 50 years
  • Polka Dots = King of the mountains
  • Bellwether Jersey = performance of the day

HOW TO SCORE POINTS

Daily

  • Swim: 3km or set daily minimum swim = 1 point
  • Bike: every 30km = 1 point (eg 179km = 5pts, 180km = 6pts)
  • Run: 10km or 60mins = 1 point

Daily Bonus Points

Any athlete who completes the daily set swim/bike/run minimums (usually swim 3km / bike the set distance / run 10km) on any particular day gains 3 pts

Any athlete who completes the daily swim/bike/run minimums for the entire camp gets 20 bonus points. This should be everyone’s main objective.

Swim:

  • Swims of 6km get 2 extra points. Limit of 2 per camp to get the bonus points
  • An additional 3km swim just gets 1 point (ie AM & PM)
  • Special swim sets for bonus GC points are:
    • 1km nonstop bands only
    • 200 fly nonstop (needs to be continuous, two hand touch each end)
    • 12 x (100IM + 150 freestyle) = 3km nonstop
    • 10x200 on 3:20 = 1 point, on 3:00 = 2 points, on 2:40 = 3 points
    • 100 x 100 (long course 50m pool in Morzine)
      • every 20th can be recovery
      • 4 bonus points (you don’t get the 6km bonus points)
      • on 1:45 = 3 points, on 2:00 = 2 points, on 2:15 = 1 point
      • so if you do on 2:00 you get 3 pts (3x3km) + 4 bonus points for 100x100 + 2 points for doing on 2:00 = 9pts

Bike:

  • Every 30km gets 1 point
  • Rides over 200km get 2 bonus points (limit of 2 times per camp – that doesn’t mean that you can’t ride over 200km more than twice but you won’t receive special bonus points)
  • King Of Mountains:
    • Selected climbs will have the following points 1st = 48, 2nd = 43, 3rd = 39, 4th = 36 then dropping by 2pts per place. If there is a group that leaves early you will contest the points from the last place of the main group
    • At the end of the camp KOM standings will be placed from 1st to last (1st = 21pts then dropping by 1 point per place) and transferred to the GC.

Run: 

  • Each additional 10km or 1hr gets one extra point
  • Runs over 2hrs get 2 bonus points (limit of 2x per camp as above)
  • Special run sets for bonus GC points are:
    • 7x1km with 1 minute rest between reps <4:30/km = 1 point, <4:10 = 2 points, <3:50 = 3 points
      • AKA <7:15/mi = 1 point, <6:43 = 2 points, <6:09 = 3 points
    • 10km run: <42mins = 1 pt, <40 = 2 pt, <38 = 3 pt
      • AKA 10km @ <6:45/mi pace = 1 pt, <6:25 = 2 pt, <6:07 = 3 pt

Other Bonus Points

  • There will be a number of special events, races, TT’s etc through the camp that will have points allocated to them. Some of these will be mini competitions with a select few being maxi competitions
    • Premium races are with 6.3pts (dropping .3pt / place)
    • Minor races are worth 3.15pts (dropping .15pts / place)
  • If you keep a daily blog during the camp you will get 3 pt (YEAH BABY!!!)
In addition to this blog, I'll be keeping a photo journal via Instagram @followmetokona

In addition to this blog, I'll be keeping a photo journal via Instagram @followmetokona