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.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 1 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
“If I Die, Make Sure To Upload My Garmin Data.”
Carol looked around the table. Tired athletes laughing, after a long pause brought about by the effects of a day of training, a very hearty meal, and a number of North Carolina micro brews.
Day one isn’t the most intense training day of triathlon camp. But it’s a good start. To start the morning, there was optional running on the trails of the Bent Creek Research and Demonstration Forest. Maddy’s Loop heads out from Trail’s End, climbs for about two kilometers of rough trail, and then descends along a Forest Service fire road back to the house. Geri’s and Maddy’s favourite moments of the day were flying down that fast descent.
A good mechanical check on one’s bicycle is a good idea before tackling a week of century-plus rides, 6000-foot climbs, and high-speed descents. Head Coach Mike Coughlin gave a talk on bicycle safety, and the athletes had a chance to make sure their bicycles were in working order. Sometime in here Carol came back from a mountain bike ride. I was busy typing away on yesterday’s report. “Mike! You have to drop what you’re doing and go for a mountain bike ride right now! It’s too much fun to miss!” I went. Carol was right.
The Arboretum Ride is a bicycle check and cycling skills ride designed to check both rider and bicycle, polish any rusty skills, and provide the opportunity to practice tight turns and fast cornering before hitting the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s good practice, as there is a good tight turn on a hilly loop, providing the opportunity for athletes to build speed before taking the turn. This was Carol’s favourite moment of the day.
Carol also had the opportunity to practice 180-degree turn-arounds, looping the median and practicing a sharp entry, clipping the apex and accelerating out of the turn, without braking too sharply on the way into the turn. Carol ripped her last turn, braking smoothly, carving smoothly in to clip the apex and pedaling as soon as the banking angle of the bike allowed pedaling. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and watching it was Mike Coughlin’s favourite moment of the day.
My favourite moment of the day was blowing the yellow on the skills ride. It’s a sneaky one, with a slightly sharper jog near the end, and after a long winter on the trainer, I clipped the apex at max speed but just edged an inch over the centre line on the exit. That’s why we do skills rides.
The Arboretum Ride is followed by a social ride to Liberty Bikes in Asheville, where athletes can pick up nutrition, fix last-minute problems, or trial a nifty Trek full-carbon bicycle. (Wicked, BTW.)
On the way back to Trail’s End, Coach Mike called for the athletes to open it up and spread out as desired, then take a few timed repeats of Arboretum Hill on the way. My max speed in kilometers on the way back? 70.3 baby!
A final run on Maddy’s loop and Wolf Loop completed the day’s training. The descent on Rice Pinnacle Road was fast and fun.
At a self-catering camp, dinner is half the fun. After a grocery shopping trip, dinner was Coach Coughlin’s chicken stir fry with pasta, tomato sauce, salad, and baguette, accompanied by discussion of tomorrow’s training, doping in cycling, the possibility of a sub-two marathon, and everyone’s favourite moment of the day. And one request to save Garmin data in case of death, of course.
by Mike Coughlin
Spring is a wonderful time of year for endurance athletes. Here at Discomfort Zone, spring is especially exciting because it marks our annual training camps in the mountains around Asheville, North Carolina where the scenery is spectacular and the cycling and trail running are world class.
But no matter where you are doing your training in the springtime, one thing is likely – your routine is changing. Warmer weather and longer days mean more time and energy for most of us, and the opportunity for cycling and running outdoors without dressing up like an arctic explorer. Motivation is usually increased as well, which has benefits as well as challenges. Here are a few tips to making your transition from winter to spring training a productive one.
- Dress appropriately: It may feel warm in your car or through the picture window at home, but spring air is COLD and will make the under dressed athlete sick very quickly. Breathable layers plus vests and jackets that cut the wind are an essential part of the spring training wardrobe.
- Don’t overdo it: It is very easy to get spring fever, particularly after a long winter. Make sure your training load does not increase by more than 20% per week on the bike or 10% per week on the run. The exception to this rule is the spring training camp, where the reduced life stress and extra time available to recover allows for bigger increases, particularly on the bike.
- Get a tune-up: Your bike may have been sitting idle or been bombarded by sweat on the indoor trainer. Either way, tuning up your bike is an important spring task to ensure safe and efficient operation.
- Be patient: Outdoor training takes time to adjust to. That speed and power on the trainer and treadmill may not be apparent on the first few hilly outdoor rides and runs. Take your time and trust in your fitness, and within 2-3 weeks all will be well in the world.
Living and training in a place with four seasons is a lot of fun, particularly when the seasons change. Embrace the change and let it fuel your energy and enthusiasm.
See you out on the trail!