Triathlon Training Camp 2014/2015

I’ve just returned from an amazing triathlon training camp over the New Year’s break. It was held down in Jindabyne; a town on the Great Dividing Range, south of Canberra that doubles as a snow resort in Winter and speed boat racing/athletics/cycling/triathlon training hub in Summer. It was an amazing experience to do nothing but sleep, eat and concentrate on training each day. I wish I was a professional sportsperson as I could definitely get used to this life! 🙂

Day 1 involved the 5 hour drive down to Jindabyne from Sydney, a camp team meeting, an idiot backing their car into my brand new Honda Jazz, and an easy run down by the lake to acclimatise us to the thinner air at altitude. Two mates and I had decided to share a house at the Jindabyne Sport and Recreation Centre and I was the first to check in. Our digs were clean, tidy, comfortable and quite nice. We started out in a two bedroom two storey apartment and then moved to a three bedroom single storey a couple of days later when one became available. This was not before our token male accidently set off the fire alarm in the first apartment by scorching some steaks though. Management were not amused to find us calmly sitting down to lunch amidst the smoke haze and blaring evacuation siren! Oops!

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Day 2 saw us head out on a 17km uphill ride into the farmlands, followed by a 30km time trial on an undulating, lovely, albeit dead and deserted country road, an 8km roll to Berridale and then a 30km trek back to ‘Jindy’. Under coach’s orders I sat out the ride back to Jindy, instead boarding one of our support cars in the hopes of preserving the compressed disk in my spine long enough to smash the bigger rides coming later in the week. I rode well in the time trial (30km in 57mins) even though I was on my training road bike, not on my tri-specific ‘beast’. I left the ‘beast’ at home as it’s not ideally suited to hill riding.

20150101_070922Later in the afternoon the camp group met by the lake for a lesson in how best to don a racing wetsuit, followed by open water swim training focussing on the technique of ‘spotting’. Spotting involves finding a feature on the horizon to steer your swim towards, checking your bearings against this landmark every few strokes in the hope of swimming a straight and true line. I have a tendency to circumnavigate the globe during my open water swims so needless to say this was a technique I certainly needed to practice! After dinner we concluded the day with seminars on recovery and on using a foam roller for self massage and stretching.

Day 3 kicked off with a 12km run composed of 4 x 3km sets, along the lake foreshore, followed by a stretch session. That 12km was my longest total distance since surgery! The afternoon was whiled away with a tyre changing workshop followed by another open water swim session; this time focussed on drafting and more spotting. We headed off to bed early, forewarned that Day 4 was to be a big day in the saddle.

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As dawn broke we formed a series of pelotones and headed off to ride up the mountains of Kosciuszko National Park to the famous ski resort town of Thredbo. The route involved 35km of tough climbing and undulating territory in the cold morning temperatures with the beginnings of cross winds gathering. Jindabyne sits 918m above sea level and Thredbo sits 2037m above sea level. The road between the two features a series of major ascents with little relief, one of which is affectionally referred to as ‘Oh Fuck Hill’ thanks to its imposing appearance upon approach. I am not the best climber but I had trained hills over the preceeding months and drew upon this experience and fitness to make good time to the top of the mountain.

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Upon arrival at Thredbo we changed into our swimmers and swam a few km in the local indoor pool whilst our coaches video taped our technique for later analysis. My legs were tired but I ripped through each 100m with faster times than usual. Throughout the camp I never really suffered from the altitude and in fact the cooler conditions quite suited my body. After a quick shower and munching down a protein ball, energy gel and plenty of water, it was back on the bike for the return journey to Jindy. The scenery was lovely as it flew past, at times at 70+km/hr but the terrain was challenging and the cross winds had picked up, making for some really nail biting moments as my bike was pushed laterally under me. Our groups had broken up according to the mix of abilities and I made my way back, towards the front of the pack, but mostly alone, narrowly beating a gathering rain storm. I finished the 35km return ride utterly exhausted but pleased that I had climbed strongly as never before and had made a very good job of the descents, even in trying conditions. After a Triathlon Q&A panel session that evening we each collapsed into bed. It had been a massive day!

There was to be no rest for the wicked though as we had to be up again early the next morning for another day of riding. This time it was a 20km undulating roll to the start of an 11km team time trial, finishing at the historic Dalgety Bridge, then a 25km trek from Dalgety to Berridale and 30km climb back up to Jindabyne. I was successfully putting into practice my experience in eating and drinking on the bike but must confess that there was a moment on the final leg where I repeatedly mistook a letterbox up ahead as a kangaroo! It took quite a few second glances for my exhausted brain to confirm with my eyes that it was in fact an inanimate object afterall. At no time did I ‘bonk’ (triathlon terminology for running out of energy) but I suspect that my sodium levels had taken a dive as I rolled back into Jindy with a strong salt craving and impaired balance. Again, experience came in handy as my dietician had previously armed me with low sodium recovery tactics that I immediately put into practice. I took the afternoon swim session easy and by that evening was feeling fine again.

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It was a good thing I’d managed my recovery as Day 5 was planned as the hardest ride day of the camp; heading up the 40km of climbing roads to Charlotte Pass (elevation 1837m above sea level) and back. It was a gruelling morning of climbing in the granny gear, frequently at a pace as slow as 8km/hr, relieved only by the occasional short downhill section. The landscape was dotted with ghost town ski resorts and chairlifts poking out the sides of mountains clad in grey rocks and ice burned gum trees. We all clapped as each rider arrived at the summit and then gathered for chocolate treats and a group photo to mark our achievement. The weather was clear, cool but not freezing and the morning’s efforts proved entirely worth it for the thrill of the downhill return. I could not be happier than I am when roaring downwards on the drops. Some find it terrifying but I have learned to just let go of any fear, keep my concentration on the road ahead, let my legs spin out the lactic acid, get down low and allow gravity to do its thing. What an utterly exhilarating way to celebrate New Year’s eve!

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My flat mates and I didn’t stay up to see in the new year as we were too exhausted from the day’s exercise. After a pub dinner with the rest of the campers we collapsed in front of the TV in our digs but then one by one drifted off to bed. New Years Day (Day 6) marked our first and only rest day. I started it with a 3km walk/jog/photo expedition whilst my house mates were still asleep then I cooked them a hearty breakfast of steak, eggs, rice, toast and rocket with Italian style oil & fresh rosemary marinade. Yum! The three of us then headed out to Yarrangobilly Caves and Thermal Pool for a bit of bush walking and a swim. The marsh flies made a meal of my legs but otherwise it was a relaxing day topped off by enjoying a much needed remedial massage back at camp before our team BBQ dinner.

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My crazy house mates photographed by a fellow camper

Before we could finish camp there was one last mountain to conquer. Day 7’s challenge was to climb the highest peak in Australia; Mt Kosciuszko at 2228m above sea level, not at a walk but rather, at a run! There is a short route to the top via a chairlift and 6km hike from Thredbo but we took the longer 9km one way approach on foot from Charlotte Pass. I figured on a 2-3hr walk up, with the hopes of running as much of the trek as I could, but I was surprised to find it was not a technical trail at all and I was able to run practically all the way, arriving at the summit in 1hr 6mins with one of my house mates! After the obligatory photo stop we walked back down to meet and accompany our 3rd house mate up to the top for further group shots but the marsh flies were again out in force so we didn’t stay long. I set off back down the mountain at a run again this time accompanied by my coach. We made it the 9km back down to Charlotte Pass in a moving time of around 50minutes leaving me well ahead of my companions who’d decided to walk back down. Having achieved my longest ever run at 18km total return I figured I was that close to a half a marathon I might as well as notch that achievement up as well so decided to run back along the track to find my house mates and then back to the start point to get the 21km up on my Garmin. I ADORE trail running, it was a lovely day and I was feeling inspired. Sure, my legs were heavy and sore but I finally stopped at 21.18km!!! I never imagined I was going to finish this trip or start 2015 this way. What a blast! #pkdwillnotbeatme!!!

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Day 7 was completed with a recovery swim in the lake that did wonders for my aches and pains, followed by our camp group farewell dinner. After 7 days great friendships had been made and huge hurdles had been overcome. I had faced each day with the hopes of good performances but with an open mind and no expectations. I pushed through walls of pain and climbed by telling myself repeatedly “You’ve got all day, just keep moving” (not entirely true but sometimes little white lies work) and “Let’s just get to the top of this next rise and then we can have a drink and bite to eat again” (I don’t stop to eat and drink but taking something in whilst rolling is a relief). My thoughts were simple and encouraging, just pushing myself to go on longer and faster and to finish what I had set out to achieve. There were several support cars along with us each day, bringing the reassurance of emergency assistance, but as tempting as this easy bail out option often seemed I resisted the urge to take advantage of it and just ploughed on. One 80km ride a week on the relatively easy roads around Sydney was an acheivement prior to this camp. Who’d have thought I’d cover this distance each day, largely climbing, consecutive days in a row, at altitude, and then to finish the week with a run up the highest peak in the country and my first half marathon to boot?!!!

What an astounding, amazing and memorable week!

© morethanpkd.com | 2015

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