by Mike Mahoney
Day 6 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
“There Are A Lot Of Canadians Around Here!”
First, I’d like to apologise for not posting every day the way I said I would. No excuse, but the reason is that training camp turns out to be tiring. I have been faithfully taking photos every day, but going through hundreds of pictures, processing them, and posting a blog post turned out to be too much. I’m behind on the writing and posting parts. Have no fear, I have been getting caught up, and there will be a post for every day. Let’s see how fast I can get back up to speed.
Day 6 started with a swim. I will now confess that I did not want to swim. At all. Late night up trying to get cell data to work, tired from Pisgah yesterday, all the usual reasons. But I dragged self out of bed and made it to swim.
Geri, on the other hand, has some serious ability in the recovery department. She was up and ready to go with time to spare.
In addition to drills and distance sets, as well as some stroke adjustments per Coach Mike, the swim included a drill I hadn’t done before: “Around the Blocks.” This involves swimming a length, hauling self out of pool, running around the starting block in one’s lane, and diving back in for another length. It’s a good workout. Geri beat me.
One thing I often notice about swim is that I learn when I’m tired, and often when whatever modifications Coach Mike’s been trying to get me to do really ome together, happen when I don’t feel like swimming at all. Today was such a day. Right off the bat, the early catch I’ve been working on started to work with the breathing, rotation and body position. The result was that Coach had me practicing the changes on my own while he worked with Geri. I hope she had as good a swim as I did. Funny how the worst days turn out to be the best.
James has arrived! When we returned to Trail’s end from the swim, James was already there, having made excellent time, as usual. He was in time to join us on the Assault on The Carolinas social ride, preparing for the big race tomorrow.
The ride was fun, allowing us to find the start, pick up our race packets, and practice our cycling race skills, which are a bit different from triathlon race skills.
We’re all ready for the race tomorrow!
by Mike Mahoney
Day 5 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013
“Look! It’s My Friends in Latex!”
Day five. The Pisgah ride.
The big day of camp is a ride and run to summit Mount Pisgah – 5,721 ft (1,744 m). It’s usually the longest day of training.
The Pisgah ride is 40 km or so each way, made up of of beautiful rolling countryside followed by a solid, unrelenting climb up US Route 151 and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Pisgah Inn. The plan was for Coach to drive the vehicle to the Inn with the Mighty Cross Bike, then descend and meet Geri and I on the way.
Once at the Pisgah Inn, it’s only a short run to the summit. Short, but also one hell of a climb on very technical terrain. And at 5000+ feet, it qualifies as an altitude workout. I found that it took some time to get used to running at this altitude: at first, I was more winded than I should have been, but I found that I adjusted as we climbed.
The trail is technical: trail-runner-speak for rocky, uneven, and steep; with obstacles, branches, and loose footing on trail that often runs along a drop off where it would be unpleasant to fall. We took the trail carefully and hiked the steep parts. Along the way, we met an interesting character: a very friendly former marine hiking his way up with a good 30-pound backpack. He was happy to take a few pictures for us. Today we matched in our new DZ triathlon and bike gear.
The view is just plain spectacular from the top of Mount Pisgah. It’s interesting to look out and see just about everywhere we’ve been training the last few days.
On our way back to the Inn, we ran across a fellow stranded in the parking lot a mile from the Inn. He’d left his lights on and needed a boost. As Coach had the support vehicle at the Inn, he said he’d return in a few minutes and help the fellow out. One mile to go!
The Pisgah Inn opens in early April. It’s a great place for lunch, with huge picture windows so we could enjoy the view with our lunch. Geri and I ordered lunch while Coach Mike went to boost the stranded motorist.
Coach Mike had food waiting for him when he returned to the Inn, and he came back with a story or two. First, It’s a small world: the stranded motorist is a friend of a friend from both spring and fall camps last year. Second, as Mike pulling out the booster cables, our friend from the Pisgah summit hiked by. “Look! It’s my friends in latex!”
I love to descend. And the best place I’ve found is US Route 151 from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather having held off through lunch, I got the chance to descend the 11% grades, wicked blind switchbacks and decreasing radius corners. On a map, this section of US 151 looks like a piece of wet spaghetti. It’s wonderful.
With recent events on my mind, I was nowhere near the fastest descent time for the US 151 descent segment on Strava. But I did find that a clean and controlled carve, neatly and professionally done, is in its own way just as satisfying as a wild, max-speed descent. To quote Coach on descending steep twisty roads in the mountains: “…it’s the funnest thing in the world!”
Geri joined me for the return to Trail’s End: fast, with some solid climbing. We cut through the Arboretum but missed the closing time for the back gate, so we got some bonus training as we went around the long way. There’s a rather fun section of Wesley Branch Road that was worth the detour.
Tomorrow: Swim, James arrives, and the Assault on The Carolinas pre-race ride.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 4 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013
“The Tour Rolls On”
Day four, and Carol’s leaving us, but not before we swim “The Carol Set.”
The Carol Set is a modified swim set Carol suggested to Coach Mike. It involves swimming multiple sets as follows: swim, get out of the pool, do pushups, get back in the pool, swim, get out of the pool, do situps, get back in the pool, swim… You get the idea. It’s killer.
There was training on day 3 prior to the crash. Carol and Coach Mike did some mountain biking, then some hill repeats. Geri and I did some trail running to warm up, followed by hill repeats and a coaching session on ascending and descending hills. Maddy had a series of loops, each involving–you guessed it–hills.
The Ox Creek ride had been going well. Geri and I started the ride from Trail’s End, while Maddy ran. Coach Mike and Carol staged a ride from the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Geri and I would link up with them, then head down Ox Creek to Weaverville for lunch, then the killer climb part of Ox Creek on the way home.
Geri and I had a chance to get reacquainted with our climbing gears on the way along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Ox Creek Road. It’s a legitimate ride. By the time we linked up with Carol and Coach, we were feeling the 25C degree heat and going through fluids. Carol and Coach had been riding the Parkway and become separated. Not to worry, Carol left Coach a big survival arrow next to the support vehicle to show which way she’d gone. We all linked up, did a descent briefing, and headed off down Ox Creek Road.
I’ve already covered the crash itself, so back to day four. After the Carol Set swim, Carol’s husband Rob came to Trail’s End to pick her up. She’s in for some time recovering, but we hope she’ll be back next year.
There’s a converted speedway in Asheville called the Melodrome. There’s racing most evenings, and cyclists are welcome to ride during the day. It’s worthwhile to get some track experience, and circling a track gives a coach the opportunity to see the cyclist repeatedly. Maddy went along for a serious run- the inside track is for runners. I chose to stay at Trail’s End to blog and cook dinner: stuffed avocados, cedar plank salmon, mint quinoa, and home made apple pie.
Maddy’s also leaving today. No, she’s fine. She had a prior commitment and arranged to stay for just the first part of the camp. No problem! Coach dropped her off at the airport: it’s only 15 minutes from Trail’s End. Good luck Maddy! We look forward to seeing you rip that goal race!
On the front porch this image struck me as I was taking off my running shoes. The athletes are getting a lot of training, and all the shoes tend to pile up as we try to get cleaned up, put some calories downrange, and have our gear and nutrition ready for the next training session. It kind of summarizes what triathlon training camp is all about–getting in some good training.
Tomorrow, Mount Pisgah ride.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 3 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013
“Help The Helmet Help You.”
I’m sorry to report that Carol crashed and broke her collarbone on the Ox Creek ride.
I was riding behind her and saw her go down. There was a huge branch on the road, all the way across the lane. Because I saw Carol go down, I was already on the brakes and able to get over it. Had I been cornering at speed, that probably would not have been the case. Carol told us later that the branch had actually fallen right in front of her.
EMS responded to our call very quickly and took Carol to Mission Hospital in Asheville. We’re very happy to report that except for that broken collarbone and some road rash, she’s okay, in remarkably good spirits, and home with her family.
This could have been a lot worse. I’d like to share some reasons, from first hand experience, why it wasn’t.
1. Helmet. Carol was wearing her helmet. She took a blow to the head in the crash, and the helmet was scraped and the structure was cracked.
2. Group ride. Carol wasn’t riding alone. The rest of the group was there to stop traffic and call EMS.
3. Cell phones. In our group we had multiple cell phones, and were able to call EMS right away.
4. Skills. Carol has good bike skills and was able to react, going for the smallest part of the branch. She still crashed, but it might have been a lot worse.
The lesson learned here is that one can’t predict every eventuality. No matter how skilled you are, cycling is a sport that carries some risk. No one could predict that a branch would fall right in front of a cornering cyclist, so it pays to be prepared. Carry a cell phone, ride in a group when you can, carry your emergency contact info, insurance, and RoadID if you’ve got it. And always, always, always wear a helmet.
Carol told me later that when a rider crashes on the Tour De France, the Tour rolls on, so we shouldn’t miss any training.
We miss you, Carol. Your spot in next year’s camp is waiting for you.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 2 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
Every Triathlete Needs a Hero Shot.
Day two, and it’s time to up the training load. It’s best to have one’s swim gear staged and ready, because roll out for the pool is at 08:00. The water was on the cool side, but dryland stretching and a pull-heavy swim warm-up took care of that. Then it was drill- head lead rolls followed by switch, and switch three, to be precise. This drill is intended to train the triathlete to balance and rotate during the stroke, achieving a better position from which to recruit larger, more powerful muscles to the swim stroke. After extensive drill, the set finished with a series of 50′s–yards, in this case–in sets of three, getting faster (descending) with each 50-yard swim. Easy, steady, fast, easy, steady, fast, and so on.
After some free time, Coach Mike briefed everyone of the afternoon’s workouts. For Maddy, a “doozie” of a run consisting of increasingly fast 2k repeats. For the rest of us, a solid ride in the rural areas followed by the “Tunnel Hill” climb: a conveniently close section of the Blue Ridge Parkway polite enough to have perfect pavement, long sweeping turns, and a more-or-less constant grade, as well as a really nice view. And a tunnel. It’s a great place to get used to both long climbs and serious descent speed.
And after that, a run off the bike, of course, on the trails of the Bent Creek Research and Demonstration Forest.
As it turned out, Geri has a need for speed–in the upward direction. She wasted no time showing me who was boss on the climbs, starting with the very first hill and shredding each uphill after that. I can usually catch up on descents, but not enough to make it to the stop sign first. Call me schooled.
Meanwhile, Coach Mike and Carol were practicing working as a team, each taking a pull at the front, then falling back and drafting. If one can stay close to the cyclist to one’s side while passing or falling back, there’s energy to be saved, so good skills are paramount. They must have got it right, because they were moving fast.
Then it was time for Tunnel Hill. Unsurprisingly, Geri spun away and I never saw her until the top.
Coach Mike passed me a little while later, spinning away on the Mighty Cross Bike, in a bid to catch Geri. His lack of success may have been my fault: For reasons too long to explain here Coach Mike has to do pushups whenever he mentions not training enough. I take this to mean whenever anyone mentions not training enough. Once he passed, I naturally chirped a guy passing me on a steep climb about not training enough.
Yup. Sure enough, Coach stopped, hopped off his bike, and started doing pushups. He may have said a bad word, I was too far away to be sure. Now to be fair, whenever I do this I do the pushups too. It’s an army thing: if one member of the team is doing pushups, everyone is. So I had to hop off the bike and suffer through pushups while out of breath. But it was worth it.
Tunnel Hill has a great overlook, one of many on the Parkway. It’s a great place to regroup after the climb, talk a bit, get some nutrition, and naturally, get a few pictures. Everyone got a “hero shot” –another army tradition–but in the Discomfort Zone our hero shots have their own style. When you get a photograph just having completed a significant climb, you get the bike-over-the-head shot. Here you see the athletes’ hero shots.
More to come. There are quite a few mountains here with our names on them.
You might thing we had had enough climbing for the day, but no, a time trial up Arboretum Hill is de rigueur on the return from a DZ ride. A short spin and it was home to Trail’s End. Time for a hilly run.
Tomorrow, more climbing.