Sunday, March 20, 2016

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Last Day: Orange Grove Run and a Ride with Power

The last day of the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp is always my favourite day. That’s because we get to run the utterly spectacular Orange Grove Trail. This 16km (10 mile) loop is red clay/dirt – and includes some beautiful views – including, often, several orange groves.

In past years, this run has started right at sunrise, but with the time change moving to the weekend after camp, the sunrise was too early – so the coaches decided to start the run a bit later. That was fine with me – it meant I got a little extra sleep, and also had time to eat an English muffin with some peanut butter in advance of the run.

Unlike previous years when I ate too much at the Irish Pub, this year, I was feeling pretty decent stomach wise before the Orange Grove run. Alas, the temperature was already climbing when we met up at the start of the trail – and the humidity wasn’t much better. I did use my inhaler, but I admit, I was uncertain how this run was going to go. I was also testing numerous things on this run – including my Mizuno Catalysts (first long run in them) and my new LPC running singlet. I was hoping that both would turn out to be good purchases.

Before we started, we had a group picture – I think we were all raring to go! 
At the start of the Orange Grove Trail

I put my handheld water bottle in the support van. In hindsight, this was the absolute wrong move. But you’ll hear more about that as I go along.

My goal from Coach Mark for this run was to do the first 8k easy, then 6 steady and 2 tempo. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. (In other words…this didn’t really happen).

The first 8km were beautiful, but incredibly difficult for me. My asthma was really kicking me in the butt, so I had to run incredibly easy for most of this time – which didn’t feel at all easy. I was sweating but none of it was evaporating, which meant I got incredibly hot. I wasn’t particularly thirsty, but I found myself wishing I had water with me to try and cool down. Even running slow, I didn’t feel very good.

I admit, I was utterly over the moon when I saw Coach James at the half-way point. I picked up my water bottle and took a few moments to catch my breath. As I leaned against the car, he asked how I was…my response was ‘terrible!’ Given I normally come up with something positive to say about most situations, you can tell I was feeling the heat/humidity pretty badly.

My only saving grace that first 8km was that I hadn’t had any foods I can’t eat before I run – so I avoided a full-on asthma attack (I generally only have those when I mix eating the wrong foods - like dairy, citrus and a few other things - before I  exercise). I wasn’t breathing particularly well that first half, but as long as I ran slow, I was okay.

While I was stopped, I took an extra dose of my inhaler. Between that and pouring water on myself, I was feeling much better just a minute or two later. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit my steady pace (~4:55 pace), much less my tempo pace (~4:35), but I tried to up my effort heading into the second half.

I could tell almost right away that I was feeling better. My first km after stopping was significantly faster than all of my other kilometers so far. Every couple of minutes, I made sure to take a small sip of water and to pour a few drops on my head. It was like magic, I tell you. The difference in hindsight was astounding.

I caught up with Coach Mark fairly soon after (he’d been within sight for much of the first half of the run - running with one of the other campers). I mentioned as I was passing by that there was no way I’d be hitting my goals for the run. He said to just aim for a negative split given the weather. With the second half more hilly (making it harder) – a negative split made for a more realistic goal in the heat, while still being challenging. I agreed that’s what I’d do.

And I did. While I lost my data for this run (and the other stuff from Thurs/Friday at camp), I remember that I was well under my first 8km pace for most of the second half of the run. Especially near the beginning. I wasn’t at goal tempo pace by a long shot, but I was in the 5:15-5:30 pace for all but 1km of this – except the last km or two, which I’ll mention later.

Going up and down the hills was spectacular, although footing is always a bit challenging in the dirt. I think this time last year was the last time I ran on dirt (besides a couple of runs on a dirt track) – so I’m not good at it. Always worried I’m going to mis-step. I kept my habit of sipping water regularly and dumping it on my head. It made a massive difference. It was like I was on a completely different run from the first 8km.

With about 2 or 3 km to go, Coach Mark caught up with me and ran with me. He couldn’t have picked a better time (it may have been intentional – I didn’t ask!). Either way, as we ran side by side, I was able to pick up the pace for the last couple of km, which is what I was supposed to do. I don’t know that I would’ve had the oomph to do it if my coach wasn’t right next to me! When I looked afterwards, I managed to get under 5min pace for both of those – if barely. I think it was 4:59 and 4:51 for the last 2…but I will take it in that weather!

Crossed the ‘finish’ line feeling toasted, but did manage to squeeze out a 200m cool down to get my mileage right to 10 (or 16km). Had fun waiting for everyone else – and also took a picture of another group that was running who asked me too. Yes, it was a busy trail that day!

Verdict for the shoes was a tentative ‘good’ – although I need to test them on normal pavement. They did feel much better than the Inspires, with more support than the Sayonaras though – so I am very hopeful they’ll work for the Toronto Goodlife Half in May and the Tremblant 70.3 in June. We’ll see.

The LPC run singlet was wonderful as well – fit was perfect. The only issue is the water really soaked into the back of the shirt rather than evaporating – but that could’ve just been the highish humidity. Either way, I expect to be running in it more often as the weather gets nicer – so I can give it more trials. At first test though – it worked – and I didn’t get any chaffing. Mind you, I did use a bit of body glide just to be sure. Better safe than sorry!

After the run, my wonderful friends from Missouri were heading out since they had a long drive ahead of them. It was very sad to see them leave – but it was so wonderful having them here for the week.  I’d post a great picture of all of us – but those pics are on my dead phone – so I will have to wait and see what I can do to get them off of there!

After cheering on Coach James’ Dad who made it the full 16km (he's an amazing inspiration, that’s for sure), the rest of our house headed back to the resort for a bite to eat and to get ready for the last bike. Although only a couple of us actually did the bike, since the others wanted to pack and get sorted for their trip home.

The afternoon ride was spectacular. Despite being tired, I was really looking forward to testing out my borrowed PowerTap wheel.  I even rode a lap around the resort before the ride just to make sure the wheel wasn’t going to fall off – and to see if the power was syncing with my watch. It was!

We started the ride with a visit to the fountain at the entrance to Emerald Island Resort. I got there a bit early, but that worked well since there was a family there taking pictures –  two from California and 2 from Asia (I can’t remember which country – I think it might have been Hong Kong). After chatting with them, I learned that one guy had a sister from Guelph – where Coach James is from. What a small world. After taking a ton of pictures for them, they took a few for me (also on my dead phone) – and were off before the rest of our group got there for a group photo. Perfect timing!
A group picture before our final camp ride!
Following the photo, we biked out to an empty subdivision about 15km away from the resort. Well, technically, we biked past it first to get a picture at the Disney World entrance. That was fun. It is also one of the few pictures I have from that day right on hand, since I emailed it to someone! Lucky me!

Small but mighty Group B on the final Camp 2016 Ride
After the picture, we biked back to the subdivision. As I was starting to say above...this sub-division is awesome. It’s a 1.5km loop – which was pretty much completely empty of all traffic. This made it incredibly easy to ride fast. Wanting to test out my new power meter, I did exactly that. I ended up doing 7 laps…1 easy, 1 hard, 1 easy, 1 hard, 2 easy, and then 1 extra to find one of our riders who was waiting at a different corner than the rest of us. I was actually excited to do another loop because I was having so much fun. I honestly think this was the most fun I had all week. Or maybe not – but it was close. I just loved, loved, loved it. Given how tired I was, it was kind of amazing. Goes to show how much having a new piece of technology can do to get you excited and energized! Hilarious, right?

Power wise – I can’t remember anything but the two hard loops. For the first, I averaged around 214 watts (~35.7km/h), while for the second I was a bit lower (around 210 watts, 35.2km/h). Those could be off given I'm not sure as to the accuracy of this power meter compared to the one I did my FTP on - so take the numbers with a grain of salt. Although the speed is accurate - which is crazy.
What you need to know is that I’ve never done those speeds on a flat outside – EVER – except going down a hill or long false flat (think riding down the Beeline in the rain during IMAZ)….which is amazing all by itself.  Goes to show how much I was wanting to test the power meter since I didn't worry about going too fast for comfort (the lack of cars helped immensely though - had there been cars, I wouldn't have been so fast). Also, we’re talking these speeds for around 2 minutes – so not very long by any stretch at all. But still – it was fun!
I very quickly learned that power will keep you honest. If you’re coasting…you can see it (I went down to 66 watts around corners)…I certainly did, so rode harder. Not sure how that will work to keep from going too hard at times – but for this one day, it was so much fun just to do some testing. I loved it. Also, I never would’ve even tried to ride hard without a good excuse! When I texted my friend Paula after, I think she was overjoyed to hear how much fun I'd had! Can't wait to do more riding with this wheel when the nice weather comes!

After doing the fun loops, we headed back to Emerald Island – where we had plenty of time before getting ready for the final night dinner. I admit, I was pretty tired, so it was nice to get some downtime! I went with 3 of my fellow housemates to happy hour at the Tiki Bar at the resort clubhouse and tried the Florida Lager. It was actually quite nice. After a few drinks there, we had time to get back to the house and pick up our leftovers before heading to the main camp house for the final potluck.

In previous years, we’ve gone out for dinner – but I liked this option so much more. It was much more relaxed and I got to talk to everyone. Mind you, I was utterly exhausted, so I headed out a bit early. I was dead to the world by 10pm that’s for sure.

On the bizarre side, I was woken suddenly at 11 or 11:30pm when all of our fire alarms started buzzing. They’re hard-wired so if one goes off – they all do. I was so sound asleep, I spent 15 minutes thinking it was a truck backing up outside before I realized it wasn’t. Out in the hallway, my other housemates were trying to figure out what was happening since there was no fire. We finally figured out that one of the alarms had a dead battery…but then we had to fiddle with half of them before we got the stupid things to shut off. Gak. These wired alarms are great if there is a fire…but for a low battery, it was overkill to the n-th degree.

I ended up reading for 30 minutes after that since I was wired (pun intended), and then got back to sleep thankfully! I was then up early enough to have a cup of coffee and to say goodbye to several of my housemates before it was time to head to the airport and back home.

All in all, it was an incredible week. I learned a lot, saw many friends, made many more – and had a blast training with everyone. Big thanks to everyone at LPC for putting on such an incredible week.  I think this was my favourite camp yet!
I’m already looking forward to 2017 for another week of awesome adventures and training – okay, and to finally do the Allen’s Challenge with as part of my 5 year camper-versary celebrations – assuming my friend Paula really is willing to do it too. Ha. It’ll be nuts. Can’t wait!

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Day 5: Starbucks, Swimming and Sugar(loaf)

After a week of working, I am getting back on track with my blogs from last week’s LPC Florida Triathlon Camp….Sorry for the hiatus! On the plus side, since I felt guilty for not updating soon enough - I wrote a lot. Just what you wanted, right?

On the sad side, my phone I don't have many pictures until I can figure out how to get them off my phone. I do have a few, but not many. Sorry!

In all seriousness, the fifth day of camp started off at River Island over at the Orange Lake Resort. According to the schedule, we had a 20 minute run to start the day – but Coach Mark told me not to do the run (because I’d done some good running in the brick workout on Wednesday – and then had a long run on tap for Friday) so my run turned into a walk to Starbucks for a coffee. Can’t argue with that option! I finished my coffee just in time to join the group for a mobility session before the swim – led by Coach Liz. This was a nice way to start the day.

Following the exercises, we jumped into the Lazy River. I really do love this pool. One day, I need to see it when it’s full up with people and inner tubes. Bet it’s an entirely different place.  Today’s swim was fantastic. We did some warm-up, and then did some practice turning in one particular section of the river. I only managed to scrape myself against the wall once. That’s pretty good for me. I was following someone and didn’t notice the wall was so close. Where are the lines when you need them? 

Part of the Lazy River at Orange Grove Resort (Photo Jenny Clark)

We also did some work on sculling – which is a skill I am much better at after a fair bit of practice this past year. I still prefer mid-sculling, but even with front-sculling, I’m not too bad. We then did some more drafting practice. This time I was partnered with a friend who is a stronger swimmer than I am. But it worked beautifully since I was able to draft off her quite well. This rarely happens for me, so I was quite happy for the opportunity. At times, I had other people on my feet somewhat by accident, and another time someone snuck in behind her, so I drafted off her hip. That was great practice too – and I actually found it easier than drafting off the feet.

All in all, this swim was a great success. I felt really good coming out of it.

Back at the house, we had time for a quick bite to eat before heading off to the Irish Pub – where we gather for the ride to Sugarloaf. On the plus side, when we finish the ride, there happens to be an Irish Pub to toast the triumph. Isn’t that fortunate?

It was starting to get warm (i.e. hot) on the way to Sugarloaf. I was riding with the B Group again – the group doing the 95km loop. Everything started out pretty well. Other than one road that is a bit busy to get away from the Irish Pub, it’s a wonderful route. We spend a bunch of time on paved bike paths which is awesome, followed by rolling country roads to get to Sugarloaf Mountain. 

About 40 km or so into the ride, I had to stop abruptly in the middle of a hill when a friend came from behind while starting up. This caught me by surprise and I had to stop. No worries. I was able to put my foot down so had no mishaps. The challenge was getting back going again since I wasn’t in the right gear. It took me a good couple of minutes to finally get my bike going again. I was able to catch up with Paula and we road together for a bit as we slowly caught back up to the rest of the group.

Little did I know, that was an out and back section – so I could’ve just sat and waited for everyone to come back to me. Ha. As if. As I was riding back, one of the guys in our group had a flat. He was fine when I passed him, but apparently broke a tube so Paula stopped to give him hers. Back at the original corner where I’d managed not to fall, we waited for him to catch up. When he did…he flatted again. Seriously, how much bad luck can one person have. But I think that was the last one for the day. Better on a training day than in a race though. And at least it was a nice day.

Thank goodness I had my Speedfil bottle since I drank a ton of water over that section of the ride. As we approached Sugarloaf, I admit I was looking forward to the water up at the top of the hill. I made it up Sugarloaf – it felt harder than previous years, but in reality it wasn't really. I just think I went a bit harder than in the past.

At the top, C Group caught up to us, so we waited and got a picture of all of us in front of the house. The nice people who live there keep coolers of water by their front gate for riders to use – so I refilled my water bottle and drank about 10 little cups worth of water. Yes, I was hot. I finally remembered to bring some cash, so left a donation in their donation box for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Apparently they’d just sent about $2k in donations in according to their sign. Glad to see cyclists being so generous.

Top of Sugarloaf - B and C Groups
With half the ride to go, I was pretty tired. Thankfully I convinced Paula to stay with B group because the two of us rode much of the rest of the way fairly close together, while the rest of B group was a little ahead (although they waited for us at different points). We weren’t too far behind – but it felt like it at times. C’est la vie.
The funniest thing that happened on the way back was the fact the store kept getting farther away. Honestly, I could’ve sworn we reached the store within 10km of Sugarloaf last year…but this time, we didn’t reach there until around the 75km mark. So funny.

Apparently the store was never where I thought it was. Mind you, it wasn’t wear Coach Nissim said it was either since at one point he said it was about 5km away…and it was more like 25km. I tell you, the store kept moving on us!  

But we made it to the store around the time I ran out of water – so I filled up my bottle again, and also drank a Coke. I admit, it was delicious and much needed. I think the Coke gave me some extra energy, since I didn’t have any issues with riding that last 15-20km. I actually started feeling good again. Maybe I needed to eat more – although I thought I’d been pretty good with my nutrition. While training for Ironman, I really got pretty good at it. But maybe it the heat, I needed a bit more than I was taking in.

We got back to the Irish Pub where I was able to stow my bike in the trailer, and then change out my shoes. Inside, I was more than happy to have a beer (aptly named ‘Fat Tire’) and some French fries. Sadly, their patio was under construction, so we couldn’t sit outside.

All in all, I’d say this was a challenging ride – moreso than I was expecting – but nothing I couldn’t handle. After riding 180km with 100kmin the rain at IMAZ, riding 95km with hills, even in the heat and a bit heavy legged I wasn't worried. After riding much longer distances, this never felt like it was going to kill me. I knew it wasn't that long relatively, so I'd reach the end eventually. So hilarious how your perception of distance changes following an Ironman. Don't get me wrong though. I would not have wanted to ride another 5km on this particular day!
I think my overall pace was a tad better than last year (although we rode a different course – since last year we did 87km including Sugarloaf twice), but since I lost my data from the last 2 days of camp, I will never know for sure. I do recall I did this ride in ~4:13 of riding time, compared to ~3:58 riding time for 87km the year before – which suggests a very slightly faster pace.
This was also my longest ride ever at a CampLPC - 95km compared to last year's 87km Sugarloaf ride! Awesomesauce.

I learned afterwards it actually hit 90F or so on the ride, so that’s a good reason I was hot. But who cares. It was such a fantastic day and I wouldn’t change it. I find this ride is constantly challenging – partly because as you get better – you work harder. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

That night, one of my Missouri friends offered to lend me her PowerTap wheel – which is a back wheel that has a power meter as part of it. I’ve never actually used a power meter on the road; my only experience with one has been doing my FTP test last year and then this year. After making sure she really was serious, I gratefully accepted. It will give her a great excuse to come visit me in Toronto, so she can get the wheel back. Well, if I don’t hide it of course. She swore I was going to love training with power.

It took me a bit to get the wheel on, but everything seemed to work just fine once it was set up (although I will take it to a bike shop when I get home, just to make sure everything is well aligned – and to get a new chain since mine is getting worn).

I said I’d test it out the next day during the bike – and would report back to her on the results. Alas, she was leaving after the run – so wouldn’t be there for my inaugural power ride!

Still – big thanks to my awesome friend (you know who you are!). I still can’t believe she’s lending this wheel to me. That really goes above and beyond. I owe her big time! But if I get faster this summer – it’s going to be her fault!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Day 4: Brick at Lake Louisa State Park

One of the best parts of the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp is the brick workout over at Lake Louisa State Park. Okay, there are a lot of best parts to the camp experience, but Lake Louisa is one of the few places where the riding is almost completely traffic free. Doing the brick workout there also allows everyone to go at their pace, so everyone gets the workout they want that day.

As a reference, this was also where the ITU race was on Saturday - so this was my second time here this week. I was excited for the training opportunity.

Lake Louisa State Park
In the same parking lot where some of the ITU stuff had been set up, the coaches set up a real transition area (complete with a bike rack) which makes practicing transitions very real.
LPC Transition Zone
We started with a warm-up loop for both the bike and the run. The bike was an 11km loop around the park complete with some turns and some nice long but not too crazy hard hills. The run was 1 mile (or less for people who didn’t want to run as much) – and  a slight uphill out and downhill back.

My legs were a bit tired from the ride the day before to Allen’s, and my asthma was giving me a little grief because of a bit of humidity in the air, but I was feeling good overall. I was just conscientious of keeping everything as a real warm-up, unlike last year when I went too hard right off the bat.
So I simply went out of my way to enjoy that first loop and not worry about speed. Not that my watch was giving me distance properly (still!), so speed didn't matter. Whatever speed it said I was going - it was far less than actual. So the whole time focused on effort. I am sure Coach Mark doesn't mind that. It's good practice.

After the warm-up, we went through transition practice - running up to our bikes, changing into bike gear, mounting, riding a brief circle, dismounting, racking our bikes, changing to run shoes, and then running out. This was fun. I actually did a pretty good job with this – much to my surprise. I must be getting better at transitions – not that you’d know it from my snail pace transitions at IMAZ. I think the whole thing took me 2:06 – which is great for me. Of course, we didn’t have to peel our wetsuits off either – so that would have added a lot more time no doubt.
 Lap 1 - You can see why I need to sunscreen my lower back!
The main set for me was 3 loops of the 11k bike/1 mile run. Coach Mark had me try and descend 1-3 – and build over the course of the set. During each set, we practiced transitions – which I really liked. 

The first set went pretty well, and I descended the second loop just a bit. About mid-way through the second set the wind really started to pick up. By the third loop, I was a bit nervous with the shifting wind – and had a bit of nervousness going downhill. At one point I even felt my bike blow sideways a bit on a fast descent (for me anyways), but I managed to keep control. I’m definitely getting better at bike handling when something unexpected happens, that’s for sure.

After my last bike rep (which I think was marginally the fastest), I had a slightly slower final run.  My legs were too tired to push as hard as I wanted. But I was at least in the same zone as the first two runs, so that’s not too bad. All of the reps were above my target steady and tempo paces mind (i.e. around 5:00-5:05 per km, rather than around 4:55 and 4:35). This was a bit frustrating, but I also was erring a bit on the side of caution early on hoping to descend…so I can’t really complain! I am glad I had good bike sets at least, and that the runs were passable.

After a quick break to eat, we changed into our wetsuits and had a short open water swim in the tea-coloured Lake Louisa. The colour has something to do with the trees along the shore, but the outcome is that the water is very dark and somewhat eerie. You can't see anything.
I've never seen an alligator - thank goodness!
Oddly, I don’t mind the dark water at all because, unless all I can see is sand, I don’t want to know what’s in the water with me. I hate weeds more than anything – kind of odd I know, but that’s me for you. It’s not that I don’t swim fine above weeds – I just really hate looking at them because often I get this sense they’re reaching out like arms and I want to avoid touching them. My triathlete friends find this funny.
Coach James giving instructions (Photo: Brad Reiter)

The open water swim was awesome - probably because I love swimming in open water so much more than in a pool. I ended up swimming at the back of the second group – and finally got a ton of excellent drafting practice. It seems like every round I had someone’s feet, which was awesome. I did very well sighting, even with people in front of me. I’m glad for that since I’m sure that’s the main reason I could stay with people. I didn’t wander off the short course at all.
 And we're off! (Photo: Brad Reiter)
After the swim, we had a wonderful stretching session with Coach Liz Campbell. Between the yoga and the swim, my legs felt so much better than they did right after the bike. I was almost recovered or so it seemed to me. Not like I tested it.
About to start yoga
That was it for the training part of Wednesday. It was an incredibly productive morning that's for sure. The afternoon: not so much. I think most of us relaxed for a few hours. In the later afternoon, my housemates and I went to the outlet mall (thanks to Coach Nissim for the ride) and had fun shopping. After a less than stellar experience in the Sketchers store, I did find a nice pair of run shorts at Nike. Thankfully I didn’t see anything at Pearl Izumi that really called my name. I feel pretty good for only spending $20 – between the shorts and a pretzel to eat while waiting for others to finish looking around!

After a fight with traffic (Lesson: Go earlier in the day!), I got home and had some dinner before heading off to bed. At least I think that’s what I did. I don’t really remember now. Most of the evenings are a bit sketchy since I was so tired!

All in all, it was an amazing day!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Day 3 - Beautiful Day for the Allen's Challenge

It was yet another beautiful day in Florida today, making this the third one this week. Glad it was so nice because this was the second longest ride of the camp – an 86km ride out to Allen’s Creamery in Windermere.

For the past 3 years, this ride has always been on the last day of camp after the 86km ride, but after some feedback, the coaches changed it up to make it a different day. By having it earlier in the week, it gives people more recovery time – plus makes it easier for people to attend a final night dinner without being exhausted. Personally, I loved this change. It made for a great day of riding!

We all collected at the main LPC camp house for a maintenance workshop before the ride – focused mostly on tire changing and being prepared for a flat. This clinic never gets old – as each time you can learn something new. And with many new campers, it’s always good to make sure people are prepared. Following the clinic from Coach Ryan Power, we got ready to ride.
Tire changing clinic with Coach Ryan Power

I rode with the B group again, which was the right choice. For the most part, I had no issues with the pace– not that I’d know any different since my watch refused to give me the right distance or speed. So annoying! I’m now going to try a reset to see if that helps.

The ride out seemed so much faster than previous years – probably because Coach Mark and Coach Nissim got us there with no problems. This is actually a huge deal for me since every year until now I’ve ended up in a group that got lost…last year by a lot! Pretty soon we were in Windermere riding through all the nice houses on our way to Allens. We did ride on one road I didn’t like much, but we weren’t on it for long and I am a much better rider so it wasn't a big deal, thank goodness. Most of the ride was beautiful riding with lots of opportunities to practice riding in a paceline.
Allen's Creamery in Windemere

At Allen’s, 4 people took on the Allen’s Challenge – including a showdown between Coach Mark and John Pulford – as John took the record last year in about 4:50 – for eating 11 scoops of ice cream and 6 toppings.  Coach Mark had been the previous record holder. The bowls of ice cream are gigantic, so watching the challenge is quite a highlight of the week – and today was no less than spectacular.

John and Coach Mark Take on the Allen's Challenge!
All 4 competitors actually finished the challenge (you get 15 minutes to eat it all) and won their free t-shirts. But John Pulford won again – breaking his own record with a time of 3:16 (don’t ask me how – even though I watched it!), while Coach Mark also beat the last record in a time of about 3:45-3:50 (I can’t remember exactly). Crazy!

My friend Paula said she’d compete with me next year as part of my camp 5 year anniversary. We’ll see if that happens or if we both chicken out! I feel like doing a beer mile in -15 degrees and half a foot of snow last week was about as foolish as I get. That much ice cream is a bit insane.

After the challenge, we headed back home – Coach Mark looking none the worse for wear after his ice cream battle. The ride back was a bit more challenging because of the wind, plus a few frontrunners in our group decided to up the pace a bit (no idea by how much since my watch wasn’t working properly). I managed to stay right up front with them for a large chunk of the ride back, but I eventually got tired.

When we were about 15km from home, Coach Mark went off with the fast people, while the rest of our B group took a more leisurely pace home. I probably could have stayed with the B-1 group, but glad I didn’t because I wanted to save my energy for tomorrow (technically today since that’s when I’m writing), when we have a brick workout at Lake Louisa State Park.

It was pretty hot when we got back to the LPC camp house, but I still had a 3km brick run on my plan – or one loop of the Emerald Island Resort. I quickly changed into my shoes – which I’d left in the garage, although I rued the fact I didn’t have my hat with me. Ah well, it was 3km, so I figured I’d be done quickly enough that it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The run was actually better than I thought – although still pretty easy. My friend Flora (a super-fast girl who won the A1A marathon in February) passed me at one point like I was standing still. Absolutely amazing. To be honest, I enjoy watching great runners and cyclists (tomorrow's report will have a similar story about Lionel Saunders) – you can just see the focus and determination in their eyes. And Flora looked incredibly strong. As did Jack and many of the fast guys who also passed me at some point in the loop.

I managed to ride 250m back to my camp house after the run, where I proceeded to spend the remainder of the afternoon sitting in a deck chair on the back patio. Ahhhh, that felt good.

In the evening, a bunch of us went out for dinner at Orange Lake (and a few went for a hard swim – glad that wasn’t on –my- plan) – and celebrated Coach Mark’s birthday. I finally got around to giving him the small gift I brought back from Ironman Arizona and the Epic Road Trip…a mug and a crab magnet that reminded me of my first year of being at Camp when Coach Mark had Crab at Joe’s Crab Shack. I still have the picture of the silly bib with a hand-drawn crab that he wore, even though he wasn’t my coach at the time – it was just funny!

After dinner, we headed back home where I finished the Day 2 Blog and posted it! I’m definitely a bit behind this week, but I’m trying not to fall too far behind!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Day 2: National Training Centre!

Today was an awesome day at Camp LPC. We went to the National Training Centre in Clearmont, Florida for an awesome morning of training and seminars – and then did a great skills ride!

The morning started out at the track – a beautiful outdoor 400m track. Well, technically, it started on the cross-country course since I took the option of doing my warm-up there. I almost never run on trails so I had to run pretty slowly, but who cares since it was the warm-up. It was fun to weave a few hills on grass! I think the last time I did that was last year, but it seemed like the trail was better groomed this time!

When we got to the actual track, we split into 2 groups. I joined the fast group mostly because I know all the running drills and figured why not. My coach didn’t have my running hard today, but I figured I could always modify my pace as needed.

We started off with running drills – none of which I had any issues with (A, B, C, Karaoke) and then some pick-ups.

The main set was sets of 3x400s – descend 1-3. Since Coach Mark didn’t have a lot of running on my plan, I stuck to 2 rounds. I figured since he had 10x30seconds of intervals (which wasn’t an option so I didn’t even think to do that)…that was about the same as 4 harder reps (i.e. reps 2 and 3 of each set).

Beautiful NTC Track
Despite starting a bit too fast, I managed to descend both times. I really had to focus on my pace since there was a big temptation to go as fast as the other people in my group (not that I could). But I thought I did great. I just kept the faster guys in sight and tried not to lose too much ground. It worked well and I felt okay at the end.

After the awesome track workout, we headed up to the main building for our swim session. The NTC has a beautiful outdoor pool which was a pleasure to swim in. Similar to last year, we rotated time with several coaches to get different drills to work on, plus a main set. Each lane then got pulled out to do the swim analysis video at some point during the workout.
Photo thanks to Coach James! Swim drills
The drills were all great. Coach Alex had us doing drills focused on leading with the hip, Coach Gabby had us doing sighting drills, Coach Jo did the main set – although I missed most of that because of the video.  All in all, it was an awesome session.

Coach Mark did the video this year. I admit, it will be interesting to see the result since I’d just spent so much time doing drills and was a little off. Just hope I have improved my hand/foot entry since I’ve been working on it since my last video in December. Kind of nice to have a new video so soon to see if I’ve improved!
Coach Mark doing swim videos
After the swim, we had a bit of time to get showered and changed before the seminars. In a weird coincidence, I had someone in the change room ask if I was in the Toronto Triathlon Club (because I had a TTC water bottle). Sure enough, when I turned around, it was my friend Claire who happened to be in Florida. How awesome is that?

I also stopped in to the NTC store and got a really nice feeling Couer bike jersey. Another camper got one as well, so it worked out well (it was buy one get one free) – so we just split the cost. That was nice given the value of the Canadian dollar right now!

The first of the seminars was Coach Mark, who gave an excellent nutrition talk. He gives one each year – but the information is incredibly valuable and there always seems to be a new spin on things.  Seeing as I can now eat on my bike (mostly), it was interesting to go through what we should be eating for different races. I didn’t quite manage the minimum 60 grams of Carbs an hour for Ironman – but I came pretty close. That’s a big improvement over previous races when I had barely anything.

Coach Mark - Nutrition and hydration seminar
After Coach Mark, Lionel Sanders gave a great talk. Lionel’s had a phenomenal rise in triathlon over the past few years and it was neat to hear about his journey and the different stumbling blocks he’s had along the way. I was really impressed with his current outlook about racing – which is just to be the best he can be. It’s very much in line with my ‘Be Awesome Today’ motto.
Lionel Sanders - Amazing triathlete
Lunch was catered for the talk, which was great given the two workouts in the morning. I think my veggie wrap and chips disappeared in minutes. On the way out of the NTC, I also bought a chocolate banana smoothie….yummy.

Back home, we had a little bit of time before the bike session at 4:30. I can’t actually remember what I did which probably says I was a bit tired! But I was good to go by the time the session came along – a ‘skills and drills’ focused session around the resort.
Skills and drills!
We did a lot of cornering practice going different directions, plus some snail game riding – all of which I enjoy practicing (and I need it). I find it funny that most people prefer going left, whereas I prefer going right. Similarly, I had no issues at all with the right U-turns, but the left ones continue to give me a lot of trouble. Coach Gabby chatted with me after the ‘official’ session and we did a few things to figure out what I’m doing wrong. We didn’t really have a good spot to practice trying to fix it, so if we have time, she said she’d give me some help at Lake Louisa State Park on Wednesday. I do realize that a lot of it is mental at this point – so hopefully I will be able to get it!

Back home, our House of Secrets crew all contributed tons of food to dinner. Not long after that, I went to bed! Amazing how tiring all this training is! But oh so much fun!!!

LPC Florida Tri Camp - Day 0-1: Fun Time in the Sun!

Year 4 of attending the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp. Hard to believe it's been four years! Some days it seems like yesterday since my first time at camp.

I sometimes wonder if I should keep doing these daily updates since I've now done three years worth…but the truth is, I enjoy writing about what I did each day – and every year is different, so I figure even when we do similar things, my knowledge and awareness are different, which might make for a fun read for people. So, I am doing this again.

People starting out in triathlon who might be imagining their first camp experience should look up my blogs from March 2013 (start at the bottom and work up)…and then read about my progress year over year: March 2014 and March 2015. I went from falling several times and being terrified all the time to being an ok rider who is still learning how to make left U-turns. One day! One day! But if I make all this progress, anyone can!

This year, LPC offered the opportunity to come in Friday night, rather than Saturday. I LOVED this option because it gave Saturday as an open day before camp started on Sunday. Coach Mark picked me and two other campers from the airport, stopped at the grocery store so we could get a few things to tide us over, and then dropped us off at our camp houses.
I was happy to find myself back to the start of it all - in the House of Secrets. Funnily enough - with my friend Paula who was there my first year as well!
Saturday: T-1 Day
With a bunch of people racing in the ITU race in Clearmont on Saturday, I decided to spend Saturday watching the race, then I could take it easy before starting camp on Sunday.

Watching the ITU race was a ton of fun. I got to see part of the women’s race and then the men’s race. Everyone related to LPC  did incredibly well – and wow, it’s amazing how fast they can go! They are rockstars!

The start of the Men's Race

Apparently, I wasn't the only one taking pictures...but it was so bright, I couldn't see what I was getting in my pictures!
ITU Men's Race

Stayed to watch the medals ceremonies. Sarah Haskins - who was the guest speaker at camp last year - came in second for the women! I am hoping a fellow camper will give me a picture of the women's podium, since mine didn't turn out.
Men's Podium - ITU Clearmont
After getting back to the resort, I picked up my bike and then did a short 45min ride with several of my housemates. We just rode around the resort, but it has ups and downs throughout so it made the ride interesting, while never being particularly busy. Fantastic! Plus it was a chance to get our bearings (because I am still directionally challenged). The weather was amazing.
The Missouri contingent arrived in the late afternoon - Paula, Karen and Jenny, and another woman from their tri club. Party time!

That night, most of my house smushed into a big truck (8 of us) and went out for Mexican to celebrate my friend Paula’s birthday (yes, the Paula who came to cheer me on in Arizona along with my friend Karen). I admit to eating far too many nacho chips (thankfully Jenny did too) along with a veggie enchilada and another veggie thing I still don’t know how to explain.

Happy Birthday Paula!
I was full to bursting, but I made it home and just hoped I wouldn’t feel too awful in the morning for the start of camp. On the plus side, all the food was tasty…so I can’t complain.

Sunday: a Swim, a Run and a Bike

I got up still feeling full from the day before, so I wasn’t sure how the morning was going to go. I admit to visiting the bathroom several times…and I did warn people early on that they didn’t want to run near me. Ooops. But hey, at least I’m honest.  Thanks Mexican food! Thankfully the over-full feeling didn't last very long and I was good to go pretty quickly!

The day itself dawned gloriously beautiful. Our first order of the day was a short (20 min) shakeout run. In previous years, I always took this way too fast. This year, I actually managed pretty good pacing, mostly because my stomach hadn’t settled down yet. I ran by myself for the first 10 minutes, then joined another camper from my house for the run back. I was actually faster on the way back when I was talking I think (and because my housemate is very fast even going easy) – but all in all, it was much better pacing than any other first run I’ve done here. I think I was well above 5 min km pace the entire time. Go me! 

We got back to River Island at Orange Lake Resort….where we had a wonderful yoga session to loosen everything up further. After all the travelling, it felt great.
Yoga/Exercise Time
The swim was a bit different this year. I finished the warm-up and there wasn't really a separation of groups like I thought there'd be. Apparently a very small group (of way faster-than-me folks) broke off before I got there, so it was all the rest of us together.
The actual swim was amazing – in the 350m lazy river pool. When it comes to open water practice, this is such a perfect way to do it since there are no walls!
Today was mostly easy swimming and then several laps of drafting practice. The first few rounds, I was with a wonderful girl who probably wanted to shoot me since we weren’t the same pace. When she was drafting me, I kept getting away. Thankfully, we were able to change it up after a couple of attempts – so hopefully she got better practice!

I ended up in a group with two guys at that point. To be honest, this didn’t work any better for me, since the one guy was way too fast and got away from me within about 2 min of starting each loop. In my effort to keep up, I usually dropped the second guy trying to draft me – so I suspect all 3 of us just ended up doing 2 laps on our own. Oh well! Our little group was just the weird ‘too fast, but too slow’ group. Can’t do much about that. For me it was nothing new. In races I almost always have the same issue...not fast enough to draft the fast (much lest super-fast) swimmers - and generally ending up on my own in a 'dead' zone because I don't want to go slower than I am. So funny!

After the main part of the swim, I did a couple of cool down loops, then headed off to join some of the other campers in the hot tub.

After a lovely stint there, Coach James took half my house to the grocery store and we got a pile of groceries. Back at the house I had some lunch and watched my Missouri friends cook up a storm. That is so not me. I bought a lot of nice, healthy easy to cook stuff that doesn’t require any prep time. Got to love vacation.

In the afternoon, we had an easy bike ride from the resort. I loved, loved, loved this. I’ve come so far from that very first ride I went on back in 2013. I’ve graduated solidly to the ‘B’ group – not being either the fastest or the slowest in the bunch. I’m still the most useless bike handler (as evidenced by my inability as of yet to make left U-turns with any kind of consistency…still...after 4 years of trying. One day!). But hey, after making my couple of atrocious turns, I could catch up no problem, so I can’t complain.

For the ride we went out to a sub-division about 10km away…and then practiced a rolling paceline. I admit we kind of got away with ourselves there, really pushing it at times. But I had a ball. At one point a group passed us and Coach Mark had me ride with that group while he took my place in the first group I was in. Then later, it switched again as they passed us. Not sure whether he had me change to push harder, or just too keep the numbers even – but whatever it was, I had fun the whole ride. Originally we were only planning to do 2 loops, but we ended up doing 3. That was awesome. I also felt pretty good about going faster in a group. That's amazing for me.

On the funny side, my watch kept giving me bizarre speeds – like 18 km an hour when we were probably above 30 for large parts of the circles around the sub-division. Despite doing the same ride, my watch says I did 10km less than everyone else! Gah! I may have fixed the issue. We'll find out on the next ride!

After the ride, we had a bit of free time, so several of my housemates and I went over to the main clubhouse for the resort for some hot tub time. Yes, after swimming, biking and running – I went and got in more water! It really was a beautiful afternoon.

We ended the first day with a camp pot-luck dinner, which was fabulous. I ate way too much food and had lots of great conversations. Met a lot of the new campers who I hadn’t actually spoken with earlier in the day. What a great group!

Soon enough, it was time to head back to the camp house. I started writing this blog, but my mind started to turn to mush, so I went to sleep. I finished the last few paragraphs today (on Day 2)...although I'm posting on Day 3. Yikes!

And speaking of Day 2….