Epic Camp Days 1 to 3

Forget sleep, time to actually update my blog and let people know how we’re going. Three days in and I can’t quite believe how much I’m hammering myself this time! Steven commented to me on arrival day how he was amused that on the one hand I’ve commented on how I’d been warned the second camp was when you go over the top, but was planning to go over the top. Well so far I have, but somehow I’m hanging in there.

Day 1

Just like in Italy the camp started with a run. The QEII centre being conveniently about 10K away so ideal for the first points run of the camp. Pace was actually pretty high I stuck with a small group up with John Newsom which got there in 44 minutes. I was glad to get the first session out of the way, it cleared the pre-camp nerves.

Next up was the 3K swim with a 2K time trial in there for fun. I’d not done particularly well at this last camp and having not swum much the past couple of weeks wasn’t entirely optimistic. On the other hand I did hope that the work I’d put in the past few months might help. It wasn’t to be though, I never felt entirely comfortable and posted an average time. To make up for this I ran back with Steven, Jo, Tara and Douglass for my first extra point of camp.

After a big breakfast it was off to ride the gorges. Once the neutral zone passed and the side winds hit it was every man (and woman) for themselves. I stuck to a small group somewhere in the middle. Put in a bit of effort at the King of the Mountain climb and then all the craziness over felt a lot better! The lunch stop offered plenty to eat, too much in my case as I over indulged. When Douglas persuaded me we should go on Steven and Jo’s planned tack on I discovered cycling and digestion didn’t go entirely hand in hand.

Having caught up with Steven and Jo who’d set off earlier I turned to find Douglas had dropped off the back and left me alone. Too late to turn around I stuck with the plan to visit Porter’s Pass. It was a tough slog on the way there with plenty of New Zealand wind in our faces and then a decent climb to finish off. When we turned to head home unfortunately the wind did too so we were faced with a headwind for the 70km trip back. Somewhere on the climb to Porter’s Pass the large lunch had gone from slightly uncomfortable to nauseating. Trying hard not to spew I stuck on Steven or Jo’s wheel for pretty much all that 70km home. I have to admit I was seriously impressed by Steven’s ability to hold pace into that headwind.

We were calculating the speed we needed to hit 200km before the 6pm training cut off and things were tight. Steven put in a sterling effort on the front, but with 30 minutes to go we decided it wasn’t going to happen. However as we got to the last few minutes it became apparent that perhaps the target could be hit and steven and Jo shot off at a pace I wasn’t in a condition to match. I struggled on and at 6pm was just a little over 199km. Fortunately Scott and John gave us the 200km bonus for being that close!

Day done, almost 10 hours of training in the bag! I stuffed myself with dinner leaving me feeling sick again!

Day 2

Another trip to QE2 this time by van. We joined the local club swimmers for a swim set. Things got a bit confused between campers and club members and it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on at times. There was time for a 6km swim for more bonus points if you wanted, but after the previous day I wanted the longer breakfast!

The ride for the day was a tough one, around 190km with the last 70km being done as a time trial. Not that the first 120 was easy by any means. Whilst the neutralised section proceeded along pretty smoothly with one or two exceptions once we were past the first aid station and there was a whiff of the KOM in the air things started to get tough. I spent a lot of time battling to stick to wheels until bang, a surge went to get the KOM. I had nothing to follow it and soon most people had past me. Fortunately the surge was fairly early so I got to pull in a few people before we finally reached the point.

After that I actually felt good and whilst we were once again fighting a bit of a headwind I put in some work to pull together a few of us in the back group so we could work together. It sort of worked though there seemed to be a tendency for some people to attack the group rather than working to get us to lunch. Given the TT was ahead it seemed pretty foolish, I already feared I’d done too much.

I tried hard to be more moderate at lunch, but still it didn’t quite work! Once it was over it was time to start the TT. My tack on with Steven and Jo had me in third place on General Classification leaving me 3rd last to leave. With Steven and Tara behind me I was seriously concerned I’d be off the back! I really didn’t feel in great shape for a TT. Steven reeled me in shockingly quickly confirming my fears. A little bit later Tara came past and there I was at the back! Slowly, but surely I started to come good though. As I saw others ahead I worked to pick them off and move through the field. Watching the powermeter when I hit the hilly section I wondered if I was wise attacking the hills so hard, but just kept pushing. The final 15km were on the flat with a fair head wind to challenge you. Mentally this was the toughest bit and keeping going was hard work! Not only that, once again I wanted to spew! Finally I was done and had somehow pulled a 2:04 for a windy and hilly 70Km TT out the bag. It was good enough for 6th place!

The day finished with a slow, sore run where yet again most effort went into not throwing up!

Day 3

An early start after a quick breakfast for a long, long ride. 250km and after the past 2 days I wasn’t sure what would happen. Happily everyone was very well behaved for the first 60km working as a group. It was the next 60km with rolling hills when things got tough. A few surges on the hills and I was up with the front group and doing my hardest to stick there! Once again I found myself looking at the powermeter and wondering if the effort was going to prove fatal over the day. On the other hand I wanted to be up there and was going to fight to stay there!

Regrouping at the second aid station and with a nasty headwind facing us on route to lunch we bunched up again. We operated a very neat, if at times painful (when you were moving up to the front!) chain gang. Sore as my legs felt at times it helped get us through a very tough section which would have been mentally and physically draining on my own.

Without much plan I somehow ate just the right amount at lunch and for once nausea wasn’t a theme for the day. We rolled out after lunch heading towards the KOM for the day. Again things were beahved at first, but the surges started to come. Out of fear of being blown off the back I’d kept myself up near the front. When the moves came I went with them and somehow I was up there again! Come KOM I knew I didn’t stand much chance, but I thought I’d give it a go. I was hoping to take down John Newsom having shocked myself doing so on the TT the day before I figured I’d give it a second shot! When I moved past him he stuck to my wheel and flew off it the second the summit came in sight. I had nothing left to respond with and had to settle for a place behind him.

The final climb of the day was spoilt by a puncture for me which spearated me from the lead group and left me right at the back. Once I’d sorted that out I fought hard to get myself back up to the second pack, reaching them just before the aid station. With only 10K to go and a town to navigate I was happy to have others to guide me to the motel anyway.

All this done there was still a run to do (the pool was closed so we’re allowed to catch up the swim later). I headed out with my current room mate Dave and hooked up with a couple of other Epic Vets, Ken and Lou. It helped me slog out a 50 minute run over 4 laps of the local sports park. Run done and a second day close to 10 hours!

So that’s the training so far, I’m actually feeling surprisingly good and think I can hit my goals of doing all the minimums plus some bonus points. Not sure of my General Classification standing right now, it was 6th on day 2, but it’s way better than I expected. It’s been a big confidence boost for me so far and I go into each day feeling I can at least give it a good try and go for broke. I actually enjoyed riding for 250km especially when I was up there in groups with the likes of Chris MacDonald and Tara Norton (hey and Steven Lord!) Compare to Epic Camp Italy this is feeling pretty good so far. I only hope I can say the same in 5 days time!