Epic Camp Days 7 and 8

Epic Camp is done and dusted. I’m on route back to the Gold Coast for a bit of recovery and then back into the training again. It was a great camp and I’m glad to have done it again. I completed my initial goals – all the minimums plus some extra.

Day 7

By this point of the camp everyone is a little tired and jaded. I don’t think I was alone in just wanting to get the day done and have all the training out the way. Day 8 was racing by this point that seemed like an easy option.

Today’s ride was 80-90km out to a lake at a place called St Arnaud. The profile was discouragingly uphill all the way with 3 little peaks to really make you work. With the mood in the camp we pushed along at a moderate pace remaining as a group. We weren’t making bad pace though nobody seemed keen to surge or attack like on previous days. All was well until we hit a small incline about halfway through the ride…

Bevan jumps out of the saddle to power up the climb and his wheel slips back. My wheel starts heading to the right to avoid it, but at the same time my mind says “LEFT!” The result is I touch his wheel and suddenly it’s that free fall moment where you get just enough time to wonder how much it’ll hurt. The answer was not so much really. It was slow paced and uphill, from the van it just looked like I toppled over. Dave riding behind me pulls an impressive wheelie finishing with his bike vertical. Even more impressively his back wheel manages to remove Tara’s watch without knocking her off the bike!

So not much damage done (I’ve got to sort out my aerobars before I use them again though) I get back on and ride with adrenaline in my system. The climbs split us up with me going to the back, I discover that now it’s painful in my side when I try to climb out of the saddle. Another 20Km and we’re past the big spikes and onto Kiwi Rollers. My pace and mood picks up and I push a bit harder to get to the lake.

Getting ready for the swim I notice my side really hurts. It’s actually uncomfortable to put on my wetsuit! Still need those minimum points and it’s not that bad. We were warned the lake would be very cold and we couldn’t swim too long. Initial steps into it seemed to support this, but once you were swimming it was perfect. I’m not complaining though, at this point I was glad to have a shorter swim for the day!

Swim over and it’s time for the run before we can have lunch. Scott announces that due to the high number of injuries on the camp the run won’t be a race. I’ll admit right now I was pretty relieved. There was no way I was going to be running fast the way I was feeling. The trails we ran on were fantastic, beautiful and peaceful. They also had plenty of roots and I suspect with a bunch of fatigued athletes racing through them there may have been carnage! Going up or down tended to disagree with my ribs again so I found myself opting to walk one or two sections. In true Epic Camp fashion having got back to the vans after only 43 minutes I jogged round the car park a few times with others to get in the 50 minimum.

Following yet another excellent lunch all I had to do was ride home again. Mostly downhill and if the wind hadn’t changed it’d be behind us all. Of course this being New Zealand the wind had changed. Still aside from some short climbing over those spikes there was plenty of downhill to enjoy. There must have been at least 5km where I didn’t bother to pedal! I tried to stick with the last bunch but found I couldn’t put the effort in anymore, again when I tried to really put some power in my ribs hurt. One thing that’s changed on Epic Camp is I’ve ended up riding with an iPod a few times. Something about 1250km of riding in a week means if I end up on my own I need something to distract me. I was glad for it as I spent the next couple of hours crusing home alone with the aid of the downhills.

Despite needing only an extra 15km for an extra point I just didn’t feel up to it. So back at our motel I got off and relaxed. The pain in my ribs was more of a bother than an extra point. Not exactly the Epic spirit though! Tara suggested I’ve probably bruised a rib. Never having done that before I can only guess that’s what’s happened. It does make certain movements, laughing, sneezing and coughing painful at times! Much as it wasn’t too comfortable I now just needed to complete the final day and I’d get the camp bonus points!

Day 8

Over the past couple of days I have wondered how much the poor performance post crash was psychological and how much physical. I can’t give a definitive answer to that, probably some of both. However the performance on day 8 was pretty poor by the standards I started the camp with! On the psychological side having had a rough night bothered by not being able to sleep comfortably I woke with thoughts about bailing on the final day. The walk to breakfast not being anywhere near as bad as I was imagining cleared those from my mind.

The final day started with the swim competitions. Essentially it’s an opportunity for Epic Campers to make fools of themselves by pretending they’re swimmers. Of course a few, like Heath, have a swimming background, but for the rest of us the 400 IM, 200m kick and 50m sprint are a case of survival! I haven’t swum much other than front crawl since I’ve been in Oz so I wasn’t going into the events with much optimism. I’ll say I did survive and complete them all. I also confirmed that I still can’t kick much!

The swim events out the way there was just a final triathlon to complete. We rode out to a place called Rabbit Island, taking a wrong turn on route and sending Steven up the road after some random cyclists. Still got us a good warm up of 20km before the race began. I just sat in and didn’t do much on the bike, happy to keep to an easy pace.

Rabbit Island has yet another beautiful beach for us to swim at. John had marked out a swm course with a couple of bouys. A typical Kiwi 1500m apparently measured by van. It certainly felt a lot longer than that once we were in there, especially with the chop. It’s a swim that will only grow in length with retelling. My left ribs ached a little with each left arm stroke but I kept on going till my 3 laps were done.

Getting to transition I wasn’t surprised to see most bikes were gone. I took a fairly casual transition talking to Heath who had punctured again. The guy has seriously had the most mechanicals I’ve ever seen in a single week. Out on the road and it was immeadiately a struggle to get into a rhythm. Ken commented that when he passed me he could tell it wasn’t a good day as I never moved from the hoods.

The entire ride was done at only a slightly higher power than some of the previous days riding. It really seemed like I had nothing in the tank. How much was fatigue, how much the bruised rib and how much mental I can’t say. The rib did hurt, but it wasn’t that painful, I’ve certainly felt worse. It was a peristant ache, but still I felt I should really be able to cope with that. At the end of the day after the swim and bike I was set for my slowest olympic tri ever!

The race finished with a four lap run course from our hotel. As I expected running really didn’t go well with the bruising. Still after 2 laps I managed to get into my rhythm and actually felt like I was running a solid place. In the end I was able to reclaim a couple of places, taking Dave in the last 1km. He was suffering with his knee especially after the previous days acrobatics. My favourite part of the run had to be having planes land just above me. It explained why there was a height restriction on the road.

That was it, camp done! Time to relax, chill out and chat with people. The only other hassle was to quickly pack the bike. I have to admit I was glad camp was done I’d worked myself hard that week more so than in Italy. I was a little dissappointed to end on a bit of a low, but it was all done now. All in I was just short of 60 hours training in 8 days with a lot more intensity than my usual week too!