Epic Italy – Part I


Just read my previous entry ahead of writing this and knowing how quickly I got involved in the Epic Camp Points competition it seems rather amusing that I was stating I wouldn’t ! Yes, Jo and I are back from Epic Camp and it was awesome. What an experience – 8 days of hard training with like minded individuals, in awesome scenery and with 3 excellent coaches to gain wisdom from.  Almost tempted to go back to work so I can afford to do these camps regularly !

Must admit to having pretty severe post camp depression and writing this will hopefully be theraputic. Be warned …. This could be very long – I made a lot of notes for this during the camp.

Will start by giving the raw stats on what I did each day and then give a day by day account of the camp.


Sunday 8th June

HR: 48, Sleep: 7.75hrs, Motivation: 7, Fatigue:3

Swim: 3k, Bike: 120k, Run: 25m, Hours: 8:03

Jo and I had done a nice 10k (ish) run round Verona yesterday so we were asked to lead the first session of the camp. We were slightly nervous about this not knowing what everyone was like, what sort of pace we should run at, would they like the run etc etc… at least I was confident I could repeat the route without any mistakes. Probably some of the nicest weather of the camp and a nice conversational pace allowing us all to get to know each other a little.

Next was a swim session in a lovely open air 50m pool – we had the whole pool and what a pleasure to swim long course, outdoors with great views. We did a 1k warm up before the 2k time trial. The pool was cold and most had warmed up in wetsuits but when told of the 6 seconds per 100m for not wearing a wetsuit I took mine off. With it being long course my aim was about 1.30 100s. I knew Scott was quick and hoped to keep him within 125m which would probably make my time quicker ! It’s good to hope but when he lapped me at the 1km mark I knew there was no chance. What I hadn’t noticed was how quick John Newsom had gone finishing a further 100m ahead. I managed to get 4th in 29:41 and was first of the none coaches so was happy.

The ride today was along Lake Gardia with a ‘neutral’ zone to the lake. This neutral zone meant cruising at 20mph and on the decent to the lake Jo popped off the back. We  regrouped and headed off along the lake – now not neutral and the fun started. Bursts and people trying to jump off … I say people, probably just Gordo. My aim was to just follow any move and stay in the front pack. The camp is advertised as including everything but mercy … when there was a pee stop I saw this in action. I luckily, didn’t need to pee so just went on easy. When Gordo came by I thought he’d slow up to get everyone to regroup but when another rider went through and I saw they were not slowly I decided to push to get back on. There was no easing up and everyone had to work to come back together. All great fun, we averaged over 21.5mph to the stop for the TT

The final bit was a 11km uphill time trial. In my previous post I’d commented on not chasing the pink points jersey. I felt that my speed in events would not be sufficient for me to have a chance. This was the first chance to test this theory – the ride to this point hadn’t revealed much. We were going at 30 second intervals based on the swim TT. This meant I was going 4th from last with Scott, Gordo then John chasing me down.

Initially I thought I’d just go steady and not trash my legs. Hoping to catch my 30 second man before Scott got me.  I started steady but once I saw someone ahead I started to build and soon was really pushing the throttle. No sign of Scott and I’d passed someone. I started to move through the field with no one catching me. I saw Jo ahead and she was proving more difficult to reel in than the others – she clearly was going well. Finally got her and got to the line without anyone catching me. I managed a little in 24 minutes and was second to Gordo. I was very chuffed when Scott commented on my speed on the flats and how his aero bars were giving him 2-3 kmh but he couldn’t get me. Also it showed I was relatively strong on the bike and having made some points back on John I thought perhaps give a push to get the Pink Jersey today. Jo had come in 5 th fastest, I believe, and proved though she was getting dropped on the flats once we hit the hills she would kick some ass !

We got Trento with loads of time and I decided it was a good chance to get a long run in (ie over 2 hours) and get some bonus points. My thinking was later in the camp such a long run may be more difficult. Decided to go for 2h30 to get 5 points. It was a lovely afternoon, Jo and I ran along the river. Jo was flying and after about the first hour I couldn’t match her pace – I’m sure she must have enjoyed having to turn and run back to me. Unbeknown to me John was out tacking on 30km on the bike and doing another swim session. I got the the Pink Jersey by 0.5 of a point and was very pleased I’d stayed firm about doing 2.5 hours rather than just 2 !

Gordo said our run was a ‘Bold Move” … we didn’t think so – in terms of volume it wasn’t that unusual a day but his comment certainly made us wonder about whether we would crack later in the week due to the pace on the rides.

Monday 9th June

HR: 47, Sleep: 7.5hrs, Motivation: 8, Fatigue:6

Swim: 6k, Bike: 180, Run: 5.5m, Hours: 9:22

Pink fever hit pretty quick. I didn’t sleep well from thinking about ways to gain points. It seemed a pretty clear approach – the bonus points for sets in the pool, 2 hour runs etc… just need to amassed over the course of the camp as they could only be got once. 200km ride seemed pretty unlikely in this terrain but I would grab the chance if possible. The key seemed to be a few things – perform well in races, place high in the King Of The Mountains since these came in to general classification at the end and tack on whenever I was close to an extra point as these were points you only had one chance to get.

Thus plan today was to get in a 6k swim as we had the pool for 2 hours (I didn’t know how often this would be possible) and as part of this get a set done. Decided the easiest one would be 10 x 200 on 3.05 for 2 points. I managed this reasonably comfortably after the first few as I got into a rhythm and just came in on around 2.55 for each of them. I’d run to the pool with Jo to get the run done.

The ride today was going to be tough and I decided I should try and meter out my effort as I could whilst keep towards the front for KOM points on the first climb.

We were climbing almost immediately and Gordo jumped off the front. I decided to stay with the bunch and Scott, John and Jo and I rode away from the pack. Jo hit the front and worked her butt off trying to pull us back to Gordo. She reported later of a HR of 175 for huge periods. John, Scott and I were shameless in following her wheel and following this Jo and I got some ribbing about me being my own ‘domestique’ along – it made me smile. Scott took the front and pushed it on a little, John was second wheel, Jo third and then me. I could see a gap appear and moved round Jo to fill it and try and pull her back up but she wasn’t able to come with me to bridge back. I managed to bridge back briefly but then dropped off again. The rain started and Scott stopped for a jacket allowing John to get to the top 2nd and me 3rd. We offered him the 2nd spot as it was a hollow victory over him but he was having none of it.

Awesome decent to lunch and the weather improved. Over lunch before the others arrived there was some great banter between the coaches:

•comments on how tough Jo is

•Jo very good on steep climbs and Gordo saying that he’d have to make sure she was dropped before any steep clim s

•Gordo said that the thing with newbies is you don’t know if they’re gonna be freaks and not tire ! I thought – there’s a good chance JO and I won’t !

•More about jo being my domestique

•Mike comments that jo just needed to take a deep breath and she’d float up climbs.

•Ribbing about our rainlegs … they may learn how good they are at some point

•Scott noticed my lack of VMOs and was shocked that I beat him on an uphill TT without VMOs !!

Jo and made an impression with her guts and her climbing ability. I was really pleased after the first day when staying with a group of strong guys on the flats was so difficult.

I was keen to get on as I wanted to tack on to 180km and knew there wasn’t much time. I headed out with John, Scott and Gordo and we worked quite well together to the climb. At the climb I pushed for a couple of reasons – I wanted to show I was still strong (this felt like a bike race which made it so much fun) and I needed to be quick to get the 180km within the 12 hour window (you have 12 hours to train from the start of your first session). I had to TT along a road outside Trento to get it done and got home with 5 minutes to spare ! It’s great that gaining these extra points is not just a matter of pootling along on the bike … I had to work hard to get them done in time.

Great dinner – Jo got a special commendation from Scott for dragging us up the first 20km !! Gordo said I’d kept him honest on the final climb.

Felt strong and still fairly fresh as I went to bed but still mind racing which made getting to sleep difficult.

Tuesday 10th June

HR: 48, Sleep: 7.5hrs, Motivation: 10, Fatigue:6

Swim: 3k, Bike: 180, Run: 6m, Hours: 8:59

We started with a group run to the pool. Was fun, easy paced and a chance to chat. I had hoped to run back as well but John wasn’t keen as we were tight for time to leave with a big day ahead on the bike. As it happened we had a slightly delayed start and with the morning traffic I would have easily got a run in after the swim.  The swim went really well – did 20 x 100 on 1.30 (long course again) – I was swimming strong and coming in on around 1.23 – another 2 points !

Each bike stage I’m thinking like it’s a race. Today decide that with the long gradually uphill approach to the two climbs I should go with any break and aim to get to the climbs ahead of the group so I can do a steady climb up, get good points without trashing myself.

Early on Gordo makes the jump and I manage to go with him but no one else does. We work together for a while and gain quite a lead before he makes another move and I don’t go with it. Content with my position I time trial along heading towards the aid startion. It’s not where it’s meant and I’ve done a big detour off route to get to it. I decide I should check the map and just get on with it unsupported. My map is gone ! It’s hot, I have no water and can only remember the next town on the route. I head there looking to get water and a map and push on. Nowhere is open as it’s round lunchtime. I call Ian and start riding up and down the road in Pedrozza to make sure I at least gain KMs whilst I’m waiting. I ask loads of locals and they consistently point down the road for the marmalada but I really can’t focus on pushing when I believe there’s a chance I’m going the wrong way. I notice the Tourist Info and slow down to move in, I here a call from behind from a cyclist and pull out of the road to see John and everyone else fly down. Apparently John puts the hammer down at that point and I have to work hard to catch them. I’m none to happy that my efforst of the morning were for nothing. Scott kindly offers me some water. Then Ian comes by, I chuck him my bottles and get them later. Then they go ahead to give me a banana and a new map. Once I have fluid and have got my breath back I decide to jump the group. I get away with Gordo who then jumps by me. I work my arse off to get back on his wheel hoping he’d be up for working together for a while. I can’t mask my breathing when I bridge – I’ve redlined for a period to get there, he immediately moves across removing the draft and sprints, looking over to see if I’m coming. I look back see we’re away from the group and leave him go … though I’m flattering myself to suggest I could have done anything else.

The Passo di Fedaia proved a lot easier that expected and a pretty conservative effort got me to the top in Second. Jo came up 3rd !! We stopped for lunch and though I was keen to get going (largely so I could tack on at the end) Gordo said we should wait for the others. Great lunch and awesome decent. The next pass was the Passo di Giau – this was seriously tough.  There was a climb then decent before the main climb started. I got clear into 2nd place on the first ascent but second guessed myself on the route and decide to turn round only to meet up with Jo going the same way. We agreed to work together to try and get a gap on the others by the bottom but just as we turned onto the climb we saw Scott had caught us. I pushed hard early in the climb to try and pull away and then settled but Scott slowly reeled me in and then easily went by gently spinning the pedals. It was only later I discovered he’s packing a triple !! Jo came strong later in the climb and was closing in on me and made me have to work hard. I managed 3rd to the top.

Jo and I descended together and both planned to tack on to 180km but soon Jo realised she didn’t have the extra mileage I’d done in Pedrozza so knocked it on the head. I had to TT hard to get it done with literally seconds to spare. Ian and John were checking their watches as I came in.

Jo really showed her strength today and hopefully it’s making her realise what I really believe – she can be damned good at this Ironman Malarky !!

Mike Peters made some comparison of me to some guy from a previous camp. He said something about it’s the body that;ll have to break cause the mind won’t … I rather liked that.

Wednesday 11th June

HR:51, Sleep: 7 hrs, Motivation: 9, Fatigue: 8

Swim: 6km, Bike: 153km, Run: 5.5m, Hours: 9:06

Felt pretty tired this morning. Still not sleeping well.Went for 50 minute run with Jo first thing before breakfast and the legs soon eased off and I felt strong.

The planned stuff for today was pretty easy so I was hoping to get some extra done and definitely intended heading along on ‘Scotts Surprise”. First thing was to ride the 56km down to the pool. After a climb for about 10km it was all downhill. John Newsom pulled on the front the whole way. At times Jo was struggling to keep with the pack so I would ease back and try and pull her back on. When we got stopped at some lights I discovered she was dropped and the helmet I was glancing over my should was Russ’s … no idea how long I’d been making this mistake. John towed us there in 1h45 – good going !

This was another chance to get 6km done so I was taking it. There was also the 400 IM race ! I got in quick to try and get ahead on the distance. The 400IM was great – luckily I got in the heat with Gordo, Scott and John. It was such fun, taking me back to my youth and swim racing. As usual (I always did this in swim events when I was younger) I went down the first 50m fly fast and suffered a little for it on the 2nd 50. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Scott, Gordon and John weren’t demon fly swimmers and I was in contention after the fly, Gordo and scott got away a little on the backstroke and then on the breaststroke I gained something back and was ahead of John heading into the freestyle. John is fast so I pummelled it to stay ahead of him – luckily I finished within 4 seconds of Gordo so when his wearing of a Blue Seventy pointzero7 suit was taken into account I was second in 6.32. Very pleased.

I raced through the rest of my 6k and had a very swift lunch to be ready to leave with group along this excellent cycle path back towards Cortina. The weather was great as we went along the cycle path but looked slightly more threatening when we got to the decision point to do “Scotts Surprise”. Jo, myself and Mike decided to grab all our bad weather gear and join Scott to climb the beer mountain – Tre Cime di Lavarado.

This did not disappoint. I was almost happy as the weather got worse. First rain, then thunder, lightening …. Then simultaneous thunder and lightening and torrential rain. It was even cold ! Character building stuff. Stuff u can draw on when the going gets tough. All the time Gordo’s words ringing in my ears “never climb into lightening” but Scott was ahead and not for turning round I certainly wasn’t gonna bottle it. The road was pretty unrelenting and even with 34 x 26 I spent much of the time out of the saddle. I was slightly gutted when I saw Scott go by the turning to the café and head to the higher car park. I did the same and it was worth it. We regrouped in the café – had coffee, beer, soup and huddled round the wood burner with various items of clothing being wrung out onto it and then turned rapidly to avoid them melting. We knew we had to warm up before the return. It was really fun, some good banter. The weather cleared slightly so we took the opportunity to descend and climb over Passo Tre Croci back to Cortina. On the ascent Jo, (I find out later) thinking Scott has his iPod on, says she’s looking forward to a cuddle. Anyway … coming back to the hotel Scott and I have dropped Jo and I tell him I’m gonna wait and see if Jo wants to tack on to 150km. Scott says he thinks the cuddle would be the better option ! Anyway – Jo of course wanted to  get the extra mileage.

Thursday 12th June

HR: 47, Sleep: 6 hrs, Motivation: 8, Fatigue: 6

Swim: 3k, Bike: 169km, Run: 12.5m, hours: 10:16

This is an “easy day” … a ‘regroup day” but you can see from the above that it was the longest days training I did. The camp is 8 days so I felt I didn’t want to waste one with rest… I can rest when I get home.

So… Jo suggested getting up early and doing a long run. I didn’t need asking twice it was precisely want I wanted to do. The mountains here look great and running a little into them would be a shame to miss. So we got on the road at 5am and headed along the path for a little over an hour. It was really nice – saw some wildlife and had a good natter.

The plan was to drive to the pool but that just seemed a waste of training time, the 12 hour window had started at 5am for me. Also – the 56km to the pool was largely downhill and was fun yesterday so I decided to ride. Mike was going to join me but as we collected our bikes he found he had a puncture so I was on my own. I decided to see if I could match the time we managed yesterday – so I pushed along and managed 1h45 again – very pleased.

In the pool I did 1km bands only for a point. Then I waited for Jo who was getting 6km in. We cycled a little together, had a coffee but Jo just wanted to ride back. I didn’t want to miss the chance to ride more in this area so decided that a loop round the ‘beer mountain’ looked good and though there were 3 passes for some reason I decide that the climbing wouldn’t be that much. With hindsight I’ve no idea why I felt this perhaps tiredness was making me delusional. I headed off confident I’d be back by 5pm at latest and have time to hang out before dinner.

First pass was over Krauzbergpass – pretty steady pass. On the descent it started to rain and I got cold. The descent was long which wasn’t a good sign and when I got to Padola it was miserable weather and the place seemed desserted. I felt a long way from home but by now reasonably committed to the route. Next came Passo de Antonio – shame these maps don’t have contours … this was a pretty decent climb and at the top I was totally committed to continue the route. It was also pretty clear I was not going to be back by 5pm. I started the descent and below me opened up a massive valley – it was way way down. Then the first hairpin was numbered…. All bad signs. Bad enough that at turn 5 I turned back to check my route. Surely I didn’t have to descent that much. If I did was had one hell of a tough ride ahead of me. At the top I asked a couple of workmen – yes that was the right way. It was a long descent and I got down to 800m … this meant I had a 1,000m ascent to the top of Passo Tre Croci. This was tough and by the end I was pretty wasted (and this was a rest day), I’d managed 169km the second hard tough going and having to push not to be too late. I also went over the 12 hour window but luckily I hit 150 in the 12 hour window and was given it by Gordo.

I felt trashed and tomorrow is no rest day. I needed good food, good sleep and with luck wouldn’t completely crash tomorrow.

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