Epic Camp France 2011 – Day 7 – Pure Fatigue

I had my first solid night’s sleep of camp, only waking when the alarm sounded at 6:30. I appreciate the rest, but unfortunately it was a sign of the level of fatigue I’ve reached. My legs felt dead and my motivation was waning. Still I traipsed down to the lobby and met the other guys for the morning swim.

I’ve never moved my arms so slowly in the water. Each stroke and each recovery took their time and I wasn’t willing to push myself, just complete the 45 minutes required for camp completion. Previous swims had left me feeling refreshed, this time I felt no better and just wanted to get to breakfast as quickly as possible. I hoped that once I was on the bike my legs would pick up and I’d be going well.

We started with the easiest riding of camp – taking the bike path along the side of the lake. Having to weave our way through other cyclists kept the pace necessarily low; I just span out my legs and didn’t complain. Once we’d cleared town and the path emptied Steven joined me up front and we pushed things along. Going harder on the flat didn’t feel too bad, perhaps the day would be good.

The first small (400m) hill put that idea to rest as I dawdled up it in a low gear. Mind and body were unwilling to work above a certain level. Given the next two climbs were significantly harder my optimism vanished. It wasn’t long before we reached the Col du Pre, the first major climb of the day, Steven had driven the pace hard to get us there and it had stung my legs. Once we headed up I dropped back and rode all the way with Douglas; we chatted and enjoyed the views, it was a pleasant way to spend a climb.

A brief stop at the top for drinks and to admire the beautiful lake and it was straight into a fast and eventful descent. Being at the back for the descent I came across a group of the guys and learned that Scott had had a close encounter with the back of an Audi. Both he and the bike had faired remarkably well considering; once he was sure the forks were fine he was straight back on it. It wasn’t long after that we reached the foot of our second climb to Les Saisies.

Not quite as brutal as the Col du Pre, but long enough. Douglas moved away early as I settled into my single climbing pace, it looked like I was going to be along. I soon caught back up and when I went past he didn’t follow; I was alone, just not near the back. I made steady progress up the hill again never pushing the intensity. My mind was focussed on conserving energy, as Scott put it – looking for fuel efficiency.

The views on the climbs were classically Alpine and spectacular. My legs hurt, but I paid more attention to the scenery around me and what life must be like living halfway up a mountain.

After lunch in Les Saisies we descended as a group and rejoined the bike path back to Annecy. I’d been warming my legs up on the descent, trying to feel if they had anything for the flats. Once we’d reached the path I moved to the front and tested them properly. The worked and I pushed the next 15K at a solid pace, the only frustration being the occasional gate slowing us down.

Things got a little more heated when we left the path and took the road down the other side of the lake. The pace picked up with Steven and Clas putting in some solid efforts on the front. I hung in there till we hit a steep little hill and the group fragmented. For those final 10k we were split by traffic on the busy roads. A tough day, but I’d survived and achieved something in the final hour or two home.

It wasn’t over though, camp completion required a run; Paul had been the only one smart enough to get it done early. Begrudgingly I changed and plodded out on the cycle paths of Annecy. With perfect hot weather for sunbathing the city was heaving and half the challenge was dodging pedestrians. It was a slow run for fifty minutes, but I was surprised that my legs worked reasonably well. That was it for the day training done.

After seven days of hard training I’m reaching my limit. Day eight is the return to Lyon – a long ride with a brutal climb in the middle of it. There is no other training required for camp completion and I’ve no intention of doing anything extra. Aside from a swim I’ve not tacked on this time and I’m not about a start. I just need to survive another 190km of cycling and the job is done.