After a great race in Atlantic City, I was home for only one day before heading to Charlottesville for the second annual East Coast version of Team HPB training camp over July Fourth weekend. I did the camp last year and was excited to see how I would do this year, with another year of training with Alyssa under my belt.
Like last year, Leslie and Nate joined Alyssa as camp coaches. I’ve become better friends with Leslie over the past year and was excited to get to train with her. I also knew a couple of other campers from working with Alyssa, and I was looking forward to getting to train with them and having company during camp this year (last year, I was by myself a lot, being slower than the other campers).
I arrived in Charlottesville on Thursday night and started camp off with an intense sports massage. I had one before Monticelloman and I thought it really helped me in the weeks afterward, so I knew I wanted to get another massage in while I was in the area again. After the massage, I checked into my
sketchy wallet-friendly hotel and said hello to two of my Team HPB teammates, Megan and Bri, who were staying in the room next door. They are also training for their first Ironman (both doing Lake Placid later this month).
After we unpacked, we drove to the UVA track to meet up with the other campers (most of whom I “knew” from the Team HPB Facebook group) for a shake-out run. It’s always a little bit weird when you meet social media “friends” in-person for the first time. I spent a few minutes trying to figure out who was who and put names with faces. Everyone was super friendly right from the start, which is always a good sign.
I wasn’t feeling 100% (perhaps I caught a bug at one of the casinos in A.C.), so I knew this run wasn’t going to be easy. Thankfully, Leslie took pity on me and ran with me at the back of the pack. She just raced IM CdA, as did Nate and Alyssa, so I think she welcomed accompanying me for some slower-paced sessions over the course of the weekend.
After the run, we had pizza (thank you, Alyssa, for getting vegan pizza!) and watermelon and got to chit-chat a bit with the other campers. It was clear from the very first night that we were all going to get along very well. We laughed a lot at dinner! After we finished eating, we headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime, since Friday was our big bike day.
We woke up early on Friday morning for our long ride, which ended up being just under 105 miles. This was the longest ride I’ve done so far this season by quite a bit (I’d done one 70 and two 85 mile rides prior to camp). I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel riding so far so soon after the race, and being on my road bike (my tri bike was in the shop), which I never ride for more than 90 minutes at a time anymore.
Ready to ride Skyline, wearing my MooMotion kit & socks that say “You Got This” (a gift from Megan). Photo credit goes to Leslie.
Leslie, Megan, and I rode together for the first half of the ride. I’ve ridden with Megan before, so I knew we were around the same pace and expected (hoped!) we would ride together during camp. It wasn’t really hot, but it was super humid. Luckily, we had SAG support which helped ensure we were all on top of our fluids and nutrition throughout the day. I carried two bottles on my bike (one with The Right Stuff, which was a lifesaver in that humidity) and two Bobo’s Oat Bars in my jersey pockets, and I had two more Bobo’s bars in the SAG vehicle.
The toughest part of the ride was the climb to get up to Skyline Drive and while it was still hard this year, it felt SO much easier than last year. Once we were on Skyline, there was a lot of gradual climbing. We were working, but also did get to chat with each other a bit which was really nice. On Skyline, we stopped at a little store with a lunch counter. The lead group was already there and we got to eat lunch together.
Once we started riding again, Bri and Nate joined our group, so the five of us did the second half of the ride together, including the descent down Skyline. I tried to be braver than last year (I’m kind of a wimpy descender) and followed Nate’s every move on the way down.
I definitely started feeling a bit uncomfortable and antsy toward the end of the ride, but overall, I was quite happy with my day. I really had a lot of fun, too, getting to chat with the other campers. We really lucked out with having such a great group this year.
I ended up finishing the almost 105 mile ride in about 7:15, as compared with finishing just over 98 miles in 7:30 last year (I had forgotten to start my Garmin at the start of last year’s ride). So, definitely some improvement there. Leslie and Nate said they could see improvement over my riding from last year, which was great to hear!
After the ride, Leslie (at Alyssa’s instruction) made Megan and I race against one another to change flats (don’t ever tell Alyssa you asked a boy to change a flat tire for you!!).
After quick showers, Megan, Bri, and I made a trip to Whole Foods to fuel up after the ride (one of many trips to Whole Foods over the course of the weekend). I remembered Saturday being a shorter, but for some reason tougher, day last year and knew fueling on Friday would be key to getting through the following day. We got back from dinner and I watched TV for a bit before falling asleep early.
We were up early again on Saturday for a bike->swim->bike->run->bike, just like last year. The one difference this year was that the swim was a lake swim (last year, we swam in a spring-fed pool).
We started with an easy, just over 11 mile ride to the lake. We made sure we hydrated and fueled up – I ate half of a Maple Pecan Bobo’s bar – changed into our bathing suits/swim skins/wetsuits, and then headed down to the beach for some race simulations. We practiced several different race start scenarios, practiced sighting, and also exiting the water. Even though we weren’t swimming continuously, all of the sudden bursts of activity were really exhausting. I remember feeling the same way about this session last year. It was surprisingly taxing.
At this point, everyone had gotten to know one another pretty well, so we joked around a lot and kept the mood light, which is really necessary when you’re working this hard and feel this tired!
In any case, we finished up at the lake, had a snack (I finished the rest of my Bobo’s bar), and then got back on our bikes for a 26 plus mile ride to Ridge Road for an 8 (ish) mile, very hilly run.
If you read my post about camp last year, you know I really struggled during the Ridge Road run. In my mind, this year was going to be easier because of all of the work I have been doing on my run and fitness, generally. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Ridge Road continues to be my Charlottesville camp nemesis!
Leslie ran with me and really kept pushing me through the run. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have stopped to walk up some of the larger hills if she wasn’t running beside me. I can’t thank her enough for getting me through that session.
Finishing up the Ridge Road run with Leslie. Photo credit goes to Alyssa.
As if this wasn’t enough, we finished up the day by riding about 8 miles back to our starting point. Luckily, everyone took this easy.
After quick showers, it was off to Whole Foods again for a late lunch/early dinner and then I spent the rest of the day laying in bed in compression socks (hashtag wild Saturday night). Bri and Megan asked if I wanted to go out for ice cream a few hours later and I couldn’t even muster up the energy to join them!
Sunday was an easy ride, long swim day (with lunch at Whole Foods in-between, of course!). I ended up swimming 75×100 for the long swim, which is what I did at camp last year. More importantly, Leslie gave me some things to work on with my stroke and at this point, that is really more important to me than setting a new distance PR in the pool.
During the long swim, I definitely felt the accumulated fatigue of Atlantic City and two days of camp. I was really happy when I finished that last 100!
After the swim, we went to Alyssa’s house for a barbecue. It was really nice to sit and chat with everyone and get to know each other more. We even had birthday cake to celebrate a couple of upcoming birthdays.
On Monday, we were up early again for a 15 mile run. It was very humid and the run was quite hilly and, honestly, I struggled. It’s hard when you are running in a group because on the one hand, I knew I wanted to take it nice and slow and steady (I knew I had to really, if I wanted to survive the entire run), but on the other hand, there is a fear of getting dropped by the group. I spent most of the run running with Bob from Chicago behind the main pack. We were both working hard, so we didn’t talk a ton, but did exchange comments/jokes a few times and that always helps.
After the run, we said our goodbyes and camp officially came to a close. While my very tired body was happy camp was over, I was definitely sad to say goodbye to my friends. I do most of my training alone, so it’s really a treat to spend four days training with others who are going through the same things I am. Ironman training is tough, and it’s nice to talk to people who can relate to the stresses and uncertainties that this level of training brings.
The group also had a great chemistry this year. Everyone had a good sense of humor and we really enjoyed spending time together. I am so glad I got to meet more of my Team HPB teammates in person.
While I was at camp, I definitely started thinking about whether I will be back for a third year next year. At this point, I’m leaving all of my options open, since I’m not sure how I will feel or what I will want to do after Chattanooga. But I know if I’m not there, I’m going to miss not only a lot of miles, but also a lot of laughs with some really great people.
If you have been thinking about trying a training camp, I highly recommend this one. It’s a great mix of work and fun and is very affordable for what you get!
Huge thanks to MooMotion for keeping me in comfortable gear during camp and to Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me well-fueled. Thanks again for a great camp, Alyssa, Leslie, and Nate!