I watched the last days of the Tour de France with particular interest. Besides rekindling my excitement for pro cycling, the stages in the Alps were a preview of my next trip. My bags are packed, ready to fly to Lyon and join the Epic Camp crew for their final outing. Eight days of hard training taking in numerous Cols and the Embrunman Short Distance Triathlon, along with plenty of running and swimming. There are challenging times ahead.
I’m a veteran of Epic Camps, I know what to expect. My first showed me what it was like to really push myself – fighting around the Dolomites whilst a cold tried to bring me down; tough days of training in miserable weather. I was better prepared the second time, taking on the South Island of New Zealand and holding my own till a crash bruised a rib. At a whole new level of fitness I confidently approached a third camp, but the game changed when we rode the length of New Zealand. I was ready for a week, but two blew me away.
Now I head to camp number four.
Epic Camps have always been a focal point in my year, I train to be ready for them as much as I prepare for any Ironman. It’s really a stage race – there are points to be won and jerseys to be worn. Before camp starts it’s easy to deny the lure of the game, but I always get drawn in. I have never worn a jersey. Not once in the four weeks I’ve participated in Epic Camp have I led any classifications. This is my final chance.
Just like an Ironman I’m tapering down and planning my strategy for the week ahead. There can be a fine line between chasing victory and ruining the rest of your season. I always start camp with some clear objectives to ensure I don’t cross it.
- Camp completion is my first priority. The minimums are challenging, but so far I’ve managed them. Large bonuses mean completion is essential for any chance of a jersey.
- Consistency has been more of a struggle. Some athletes come into form as the camp progresses, I’ve a tendency to hit out well and fade. Starting too hard and finishing fatigued. A more balanced approach is needed.
- Fuel myself. It’s not unusual to gain weight on camp. I’ve tended to binge, not eating enough whilst training, then consuming too much after. I want to spread the load evenly – eat more on the bike and less at the stops.
- Recover. Effective fuelling is part of the solution, then there’s massage, stretching and compression to consider. I’ve had enough problem with my calf and tight hamstrings this year; I need to proactively keep my legs in good working order.
- Race! Camps always have competitions – King of the Mountains and numerous events for extra points. My performances are mixed and if anything makes me suffer on the overall classification it’s the games. If I want to contend I can’t afford to give points away.
- Think of the bigger picture. Epic Camp is a highlight of my year and I would love to wear a jersey, but I can’t afford any more injury. Where ever I sit in the classification, leaving camp in one piece takes precedent.
Remarkably similar objectives to previous camps, though ambitions for a jersey have grown. There will be very strong athletes on camp, reaching the top of the points table is no easy task. Bike fitness has been tested, I’m confident I can hold my own; swimming I’ll survive; running has become the weakest link. Previously I’ve used my run to gain bonus points, this time the minimums may push me. I will sacrifice points if it avoids further calf problems.
Just like an Ironman. I’ve set myself ambitious goals and I’ve made my excuses. There’s nothing more I can do. A couple of easy days and then the hard work begins.
One last Epic Camp, can’t wait.