Epic Camp Days 4 to 6

So onto part two of my Epic Camp report. The fact I’m posting two reports during the camp is a step up from last year! Then again the whole Camp has been a step up for me this time round, bigger volume, extra points and not feeling quite so tired from this. I’m roughly where I was in the points game as before, though the next couple of days will decide final standings. Either way I’m still on target for my goal of all the minimums plus some extra points.

Day 4

I started the fourth day with an early run with Steven and Jo. Jo had been suffering with some pain in her legs the previous day which unfortunately cut the bike short for her. Today she was determined to keep going and pushed through it on the run. We finished at the pool with a plan for a 6K swim set for some bonus points. Unfortunately the pool attendants didn’t plan on arriving on time so with a 30 minute late start I bailed on the idea not wanting to have a rushed breakfast! Even so checking email and packing meant I missed out on the bacon going!

The previous night the weather forecast looked promising. However by the morning it had all turned a bit too British summer for my tastes. I layered myself up to keep my Queensland acclimatised body warm. I also reminded myself how much worse the conditions were back home. The chain gang headed out and worked effectively to get the first drizzly 50Km done. Then we reached the aid station at the bottom of the days climb. This time both a KOM and a race.

Perhaps I should have been concerned that my legs felt ok on the ride in. When we started off I missed the first group and my attempt to bridge to it failed miserably too. I was asking my legs to do what they’d done the past two days, but the answer was a resounding no. I shot to the back and started to slog up the climb proper. I encouraged myself with two thoughts firstly I would probably warm up into this and secondly a few people would surely blow at that pace. The former definitely proved true and whilst I never reached the level I had the previous days I did pick a few places back. As Scott pointed out to me at the end of the day I put my placing in risk performing so poorly there!

I descended cautiously in the rain and caught back up with Ken and Tara. It proved to be a lucky break as Tara took to the front and pulled us along to lunch. I was hungry and this was the quickest way to get there! After about 20km she pulled off the front, Ken did a couple before flicking me through and I did probably all of 500m! Another big lunch and we rode as a group the final section to Collingwood. This was over what was described as ‘Kiwi rollers’ we know them as sharp hills. Similarly ‘sea breezes’ means strong headwinds.

I finished the day by sneaking in a second run accompanying Ken out on some of the local roads. It was a bit of a trudge and we avoided anything looking remotely like a hill. By the end of this all I was feeling pretty wasted. The next day was the easy day of the camp.

Day 5

Epic Camp easy days aren’t like the easy days I usually know. The rules generally are a minimum of a run, 60Km bike and a swim. This time round the swim was a roughly 3K open water race and the run was over 2 hours on a trail. I was facing this still feeling pretty rough.

The sea swim was setup along the local beach. In initial claims that a lap was 900m were fortunately corrected to 1400m before we started. I’ll be honest whatever the distance I had a pretty poor swim. I failed to get on any feet early on so swam solo and my sighting had me zigzagging the course. At points it was so shallow the race turned into a bit of an aqua-jog. That’s a killer in the middle of the swim too, really getting the heart rate up. The other end of the course had a current running against you, great one way, not so much the other. Frankly I was mostly just glad to be done with it!

After breakfast we drove to a nearby trail for the run. A straightforward out and back uphill on the way out so down back. The first 15 minutes were horrible, but then I started to feel good and pick up the pace. Despite the fact I was doing a long run for my easy day I was quite enjoying it and felt like I could have run much longer. I did manage to trip and lose a small amount of skin on the way back as did a few others. Minor really in comparison with Tara who has done some kind of damage to here hamstring with a fall.

For once a leisurely lunch which I even allowed to fully digest before I contemplated my ride. The sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon. I headed out after 3 with a vague idea of doing a little bit more for points. Most of us opted for a nice flat out and back trip leaving you with about 15km to go to hit the 60K. I went out there riding with my ipod for the first time. Great until the battery died 15 minutes in! The next 30km were solo and I was starting to contemplate only doing the 60. Coming the other way I saw Tara so turned around and joined her.

Despite the leg injury she’d decided to get in an easy 60K and at least be moving. It’d keep her in the points game too if she manages to recover enough to keep doing the minimums. Not many women come on Epic Camp, but those that do are strong and can certainly show most of us guys up! We rode along at a pretty easy pace to reduce the risk of making her injury worst. Let’s be honest I was glad to keep the pace low I didn’t want to work my legs too hard! It was a big help in getting me beyond the 60K mark and by the point we separated I only have 15K to go.

Perfectly timed Jo came flying along the other way. I flicked round again and had to work hard to get up onto her wheel especially with a few one lane bridges and cars in between us. I eventually did and discovered she was aiming for 150 and could only do it by holding a certain pace for the next hour. I passed her a couple of gels as she’d run low on food and stuck with her for a few more kilometres. Not wanting to do anymore than necessary and not having the time I turned to get back to the motel at 90Ks. Jo powered on clearly determined to get some bike points in now she was able.

And that was my ‘easy’ day!

Day 6

I started the day early by going for a catch-up swim at 6:30. I’d have loved to have a lie in, but not on the cards here. This swim made up for missing the swim on Day 3 and wouldn’t count for the days totals. At least this ensures I’m still on track for camp minimums. I’m finding the first workout of the day is always a struggle, but things generally improve. The few of us who went for a swim splashed about for 50 minutes picking bouys at random and swimming back and forth. Apparently a few stingrays were out there, though my goggles were mostly fogged so I missed out on the wildlife.

Breakfast was fairly leisurely which at this point in the week I’m appreciating. Then it was out on the road and back over Takaka hill from Day 4. We weren’t long on the road before John moved to the front and picked the pace up. The next 40km were a matter of hanging on to the back of the pack. I was actually looking forward to the hill so I could let the bunch go and climb at my own pace. I did hope that perhaps my legs would be up to a decent climb, but once again they weren’t delivering.

At least this time we had the sun out for the climb. I struggled up at an effort that I might count as normal, but here on Camp wasn’t good enough! Then it was down the other side and to Kaiteri for an Aquathlon. There were a few sharp little hills on the road to Kaiteri just to work the legs over a little bit more. I was a little bit sick of Kiwi Rollers by then!

The beaches at Kaiteri are amazing. Really stunning scenery. I decided to join Bevan and Scott and race this one old school. This meant Speedos for the whole event. Despite the strong sun it was a wetsuit swim with a couple of loops in the sheltered bay. Once again my open water swimming let me down a little and I came out somewhere towards the back of the group. Following Douglas also brought me out one ladder short making a longer run on gravel to the transition. Then it was out onto the streets of Kaiteri for the run.

Once again Kiwi Rollers were the order of the day. The far turn around point having a particulalry nasty little climb to the top. I ran as hard as I could for the distance, admitedly this wasn’t that impressive. I just didn’t seem to have my top gear and couldn’t bridge up to anyone ahead of me. Still I ran strongly and am informed that the Speedo option did get a few comments in town! Not that I’m attention seeking or anything!

Unusually I couldn’t stomach lunch and had to graze on whatever seems least likely to make me nauseous. Once we rolled out for the journey home John moved to the front and put the pace down. The next 30K were another case of hanging on to the back of the bunch. Fortunately 30K down the road most of the group stopped off at a winery. A few of us opted to go on and get to the motel earlier. The pace actually remained pretty high and my legs started to feel good. I could have used that a few hours back the other side of Takaka Hill.

I did a tiny bit of tack on to 150Km on the bike to get one extra point, but when it’s only 8K extra it’s a no brainer. Since then I’ve been trying to make up for missing lunch. Also trying to get a bit more fluid in as I was definitely a bit dehydrated most of today.

Two more days to go and I’m now pretty confident I’ll get the minimums in. As long as nothing goes wrong I’m on target for the goal of all the minimums plus a few extras. Mostly been a good camp for me though the first 3 days were definitely my strongest and it’s now more a case of survival mode. Looks like another early start tomorrow and another run race.