So here I am. The first session of what I knew would be a few days of blood, sweat and tears. And phone calls to my mom. And lots of venting (here venting might have a different definition for the guys from PE. Or so did anybody in striking range learn over the course of the weekend. Lethal. And did I say sleeping yet? Yes, that and eating. None the less, I was ready and amped. Thanks to silly season and client madness back at work, I had lots of adrenaline to get rid of. But suddenly my motivation got trampled... Around me millions of rands of bicycles and equipment (literally) are ready to be ridden like a horse into the sun, by sharp and pointy-headed aliens. It made me wonder if I pitched up for a triathlon camp or a NASA mission. No time to be in awe of my fellow friends’ satellite equipment or to grieve the mission. Before we start this camp with an “easy” ride, I need the toilet.
Yep, this is how 2016’s Cape Town training camp started out for me and what is to follow is a brief description of how I, as an amateur fish and chips age grouper, got smacked hard. Like a stepchild.
Training started Thursday the 16th of December, which saw most people pulling in to the Rugby Performance Centre just outside Riebeeck Kasteel for a day schedule that was said to be easy. It kicked off with a morning out-and-back group ride after which attendees were allowed to continue moving in, settling and socializing above the allowed maximum decibel level. My afternoon sleep was followed by the various coaches taking the athlete group on an afternoon running drills and technique clinic and a run through the beautiful vineyard setting of the surrounds. The evening session saw me being amazed at how fish can swim, Kenyans and Fred can run and what a big of an impact aerodynamics and bike setup can have on a good bike leg. It had me realize that the aggregation of marginal gains truly has exponential consequences. Have I mentioned anything about the heat? Right on the sun I tell you.
Friday. Carnage. A four of 60-minute continuous brick session, building in pace and speed. The four-hour brick session saw me crumbling to pieces, distorting the pre-brick selfie and mannequin video fun. The heat played its part as many an athlete experienced exhaustion and what is now known as “droogies”. I also had the privilege to experience (participation is disclosed) a mass bonking. The hard brick session made me ask a few questions. Why I am I here. Why am I alive. Lunch afterwards saved my day. It felt like a Monday burger special at Spur as I shoved everything there was into my mouth at once. We closed the days’ training schedule with a few belly flops from the diving board (thanks for the entertainment guys), a pool swim set and a core strength session. Brett then used the remainder of the day to brief us on how to do DIY bike maintenance and waxing bike basics. Sleep.
We were lucky to have a bit of a breather on Saturday. Well, relatively. The hours clocked were made up of a group long ride, some more twists and pikes from the diving board followed by swimming technique and drills. By Saturday lunch, the group was pretty much pulp. The highlight of the day however was a lecture by Dave Vaughn on mental fitness – the very thing that would make me win an exact replicated copy of myself in any race on any day.
The party moved to Blouberg Beach on Sunday for a long run along the seaboard and a wetsuit legal bodysurfing competition for those who were brave enough to take on the cold. The remainder of the group then gathered for a Kauai lunch and some ice cream sin to wrap up the time together.
All this being said it wouldn’t have been a training camp if I didn’t learn anything. If you are anything like me, then this is what you would have learned about yourself and (any) race day through the weekend’s training sessions, lectures and conversations:
• Potty train or take anti-motility pills (and toilet paper) when you know you’ll spend some time out. No jokes. Apparently number twos are a common problem amongst endurance athletes. I’ve heard of “letting it rip” in your tri-suit, but if you are like me that do not like prairie dogs then train your stomach to obey orders.
• “Oaks got to be having the bonk banana”, says PE coach JD Marais. Value. On longer sessions, make sure to eat yourself out of trouble.
• A flat tire can be changed in sub 60 seconds. No excuse.
• Don’t feel intimidated by other athletes’ equipment. I struggle with this. Daily. But disc wheels are empty carbon frisbee’s. It is all about your legs and your focus. Keep your head in your training- or race plan!
• Swimming sucks. And when planning on doing so at Riebeeck Kasteel, remember to pack black acrylic paint, lane ropes and your own pool water or you are bound to “cross-over”, “over rotate”, “lift your head”, “sink” or any such phrases I heard coaches throw at me.
• The bike is the most important because the run is the most important. It’s like a steak. Rather have it undercooked than overdone. But you don’t want it blue either. So even if it feels wrong, carefully undercook your legs on the bike.
• Build your run to a climax pace in the last kilometers. I reckon the big oaks with the big space ships that probably flew past on the bike can’t run on Ultegra and their deep section wheels. Smoke ‘em when their down!
• Hydrate! We all sweat away more than we realize. So consume sufficient fluids. Ask Flip, he’ll tell you.
• Enjoy it at all times. Contrary to popular believe this is why we do it! But, always keep that thought fresh in our mind and let that fuel your quads and glutes.
One thing is for sure. The sport is all-consuming. It is addictive. It’s a finance disrupter. It fiddles with relationships. But, it keeps me going. It gives me freedom. It motivates me. It sets my alarm. It makes the week’s hard leather at work worthwhile. And I close my rant with a quote from Danielle Doby (whoever that is): “Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers. They challenge you, break you open, uplift and expand you. They don’t let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people. These people are your tribe.”
Cheers to the addiction and many more triathlons my fellow tribal Martian Training Dudes – may it become habitual!