Each year at the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp I've run this route. Some years I've run a bit more (up to 21km if I recall correctly).
This year, Coach Mark asked me if I'd be up to the challenge of doing 2 loops of the trail as part of my current marathon training cycle. That's to say, 2 loops after a long week of training, including the 95km Sugarloaf ride the day before.
My answer was something along the lines of, "Heck yes!"
I woke up on Friday morning a bit unsure of whether I'd bitten off more than I could chew. But I figured I'd get it done. My goal was to simply negative split the run. I didn't really have any time goals.
Because of construction, we ended up leaving a bit early - meaning that I started my run at close to the same time everyone else did. Well, technically I got about a 15 minute head start I think, since it took about 38 minutes before the speedy fast folks started to pass me.
In my head, I split the run into 2 x 2 8km segments. This works because the 8km point is a traditional rest stop with a support vehicle (where you can re-fill water, etc.), while the loop ends back where you begin.
I took the first 8km segment quite easy because it was misty and humid and I didn't want to get into any breathing trouble. I stuck just under 6min pace per kilometre. About 7km in, Coach Mark caught up to me with some of the faster folks. He ran with me for a few minutes and suggested I try to take the next 8km segment a bit harder. By that point, I figured I was in good shape to be able to do so.
I didn't stop at 8km because I was carrying a Nathan Handheld bottle so I was good for water.
The second 8km segment was excellent - probably the best segment of the entire run, which is nice given the 'back half' is where all the hills were. I was very happy with my pace through there - still on the easy side, but faster than the first segment at about 5:30-5:45 per km.
As I came through the starting point, I also decided not to stop (bad idea in hindsight), although I did wave to the folks who had finished the first loop and got some motivational support as I headed out for loop #2.
The third 8k section started off pretty well. The mist was long gone, however, and the heat was ratcheting up considerably. I didn't realize it, but I started to fall off my pace from segment #2. Part of this was the fact I wasn't drinking enough water. A few km into the section, I realized I was running out and I didn't know if I'd see anyone to refill it. I knew my second loop was somewhat of an outlier in terms of folks running, so I wasn't sure if I'd see a support vehicle. So I started to really conserve my water. As the heat started to wear me down, I even walked for a minute around one very sandy corner because I was worried I'd trip in the dirt.
Thankfully, as I was getting close to the 8km mark, Coach James drove by to check up on me. I admit, he was a lifesaver. I chugged some water, refilled my handheld, and dumped a bottle over my head to cool off. Coach James also gave me a head's up that Coach Mark was running from the opposite direction and would meet me at the 8km point to run the rest of my run with me.
Sure enough, as I got to 8km, Coach Mark was there to meet me. I admit, having my coach there to run the last 8km with me made a big difference in terms of how it went. It was very hot by this point, so my speed plummeted. I don't think I talked all that much - particularly toward the end, but Coach Mark was positive and helpful the entire time.
At one point he gave me some form advice going up a hill. Basically it had to do with lifting my foot up when going up a hill rather than forward so I didn't shuffle (something more apparent after running for 28km I think). So for the rest of the run, each time I went up a hill, I thought "up, up, up" - and it made a big difference. It seemed to help both how my legs felt and my ability to get up the hill.
If Coach Mark hadn't been there, I might have stopped a few times to cool down - but with him there, I couldn't do it. I did take a 30 second walk break (again at a particularly sandy spot), but otherwise I just kept going.
As we reached the end, I realized that we were going to be a tad short...so I did a (not very quick) out and back to get the last 500m or so in. Coach Mark did the same thing although he stopped to open the van door for my friend Karen first (sign of a good coach - he thought of everyone else first). Karen was kind enough to wait for us after she finished her loop of the run.
After a very brief cool down, we got into the car and went to check on Paula. She was happy with her mega-run and was more than ready to call it a day given the crazy heat. With all of us done, Coach Mark insisted on stopping back at the start for a group picture.
I was incredibly happy to get this run done, especially given the rest of the training week at camp. This was also my longest training run of this marathon cycle by 5km, giving me a nice boost. Other than the heat, I think I was in pretty good shape - which was nice since when I was doing mega-runs for Hamilton I had a very tough time. I hope this bodes well for a better race experience in April. We'll see!
On our way back to camp, we stopped off and grabbed some food (and a few balloons for the party that evening). I think we got back to the resort at a perfect time because I didn't really have time to sit down before it was time for the last bike ride at camp. While my coach had listed it as 'optional' in my TrainingPeaks, I knew I wanted to do it if I could. But I know if I'd had time to sit down, I might not have gotten back up.
At the beginning of the ride, we went to the fountain at the resort for a group picture. We had an amazing group at camp this year. The Orange Shirt is for Balance Point Triathlon Club - an awesome group in London run by the fabulous Coach Gabbi Whitlock. If you're in London, check them out. This is the second year Coach Gabbi has come to the LPC Camp - and she's been great. Several times she told me to quite downplaying my accomplishments. And that reminded me to tell other people the same thing.
After the picture, we separated into different groups as usual. I took the fairly short option because I wasn't sure how long I'd last. But like I said, I didn't want to miss it. The Friday ride (new last year after they moved the Allen's Challenge Ride to Tuesday) is wonderful. We ride out to an empty sub-division where you can do intervals on a completely empty square loop. Even tired, I didn't want to miss this ride. It's too nice.
After an easy ride out, we did a few laps of the sub-division. While I didn't have much tempo in me, I did manage 2 laps at a pretty good clip (31.5km) given how much I ran that morning. That was it for me though. Man, I was tired. Happy and smiling as always of course though.
After the ride, I dropped my bike off at the main camp house for its trip back to Guelph, then headed back to House of Lido where I had another relaxing dip in the hot tub (and some time in the normal pool). It was a great way to relax after a great training day.
A shower and packing was all I had left to do before it was time for the end of camp party at the LPC Camp House. Was happily surprised to get my Allen's Challenge T-shirt when I got to the party. One of the camper's moms waited for over an hour to get our shirts for us on Tuesday and brought them with her to the party. It was a very kind and thoughtful gesture. See, even the LPC extended family is awesome.
I am really impressed by what Coach James has accomplished over the past 10 years. I am very grateful to him and to my own Coach Mark for always being incredibly supportive to athletes of every age, shape, size and ability. They've created something amazing in the collegial and friendly atmosphere that is teamLPC and the LPC Triathlon Club. From the people who win races to the people who are just in it for fun and to see what they can do - everyone feels welcome.
Having my brother Anthony insist I go to the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp back in 2013 was probably the best triathlon related thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me the momentum to dream big and go for it.
Here's to many more awesome years LPC! See you at camp next year for #6.