Training Camp Day 4: Trail running, brick sets and Skyping with a legend.

The last day of the training camp is always the best. I save the toughest workouts for the last day, would love to say something truly scientific about it, but I am just a sucker for a last bit of torture. We made some adjustments in the week and changed the last run of the morning to an easy trail run on Nduna. We gave them the route (out and back) and told them that they just needed to be back for breakfast in 90 min.

There was a slight whiff of Tequila hanging around a few in the group (fines meeting…) but they all pitched up at 05:30 for the run. Ndunda is home to several species of deer and it is not every day that we get to run in their backyard, or so to speak. The change of pace and route gave time to reflect and forget about achy bodies and bad alcohol choices of the previous night. and it warmed up the legs for the brick sets that was coming.

Any triathlete will tell you that coming off the bike is a relief. That immense satisfaction getting out of a sitting position tends to make the race plan fly out the window. You dart out on the run at full speed… And then the proverbial crap hits the fan and you end up walking the run because your legs are done. BRICK SETS. Hated by many and valued by the minority. As an athlete I hated them too. Especially after a 4 or 5 hour bike set. I admit that I skipped a few when I was still young and ignorant, until I switched coaches (more on that later). Now as a coach, I value what brick sets taught me about my body and my mind and I want my athletes to learn that as well. Hence, brick sets at training camp.

The set was as follow: 35min of zone 4/threshold cycling (either HR or Power), then a 15 min run (7min 30 sec out and back). The run included a nice dragging hill and if you were a fast runner, you would crest the hill, go down a few 100 meters and then have to head back up again. Once you reached your bike again, 5 min for recovery and then get back on the bike to start all over again. The goal of this was to push hard on the bike and keep the run at a steady pace, not going out too fast and making sure that the same pace for each of the sets on the run were maintained.

A solid run after the bike is what most athletes want at the end of the day. The point of a triathlon is to swim, bike and RUN. Not to swim, bike and walk. The more brick sets get practiced, the easier they get and the stronger you will be on race day off the bike. If the program says brick set, just suck it up and do it (just don’t die doing it…#tequilman)

Late afternoon was spent skyping with my coach, Kurt Madden. I am privileged to have met him online on a coaching platform in 2016 and moved over to his roster within that same year. My racing and knowledge on triathlons was taken to a new level and that has filtered down to my athletes. Each year, he graciously agree to Skype in from the United States for about 90 min to talk to my athletes. He spends time answering each of their questions, giving them not only answer based on opinion, but on years of experience. What type of coach would I be if I didn’t add that opportunity to enhance their own knowledge of triathlons.

This training camp is the highlight of my year. I get to spend time with my tribe. Not via whatsapp, the odd training weekend or race. Actual face-to-face time with these people that trust me to get them to the finish line. I hope they got something from this week, even if it is just the courage to keep moving forward when the going gets tough.

As a coach, what do I get at the end of the day? I get a glimpse of the self-determination that a mother of three has to chase her triathlon dreams whilst juggling work and raising her kids. I get to see the world of triathlon opening up to a young trail runner with limitless potential to thrive in this sport. I got to see the true grit of an athlete chasing his sub-12 hour ironman goal, even when pushing him to the limit. I even made an unexpected friend in a woman who always smiles, no matter how her body aches (and she even has time for pranks). I also got to see how the fear of a race course get killed off with an incredible bike set…

This is what it is all about for me at the end of the day. Helping, pushing or even shoving athletes to not give up on themselves or their goal.

I love my job…

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