Part 1: Arrival and Day 1
I’ve made one or two reference to attending a camp organized by my coach and a friend of his. After weeks of anticipation, the event finally happened this past weekend. There’s much to convey so I am breaking the experiences into to two posts.
My brother and I left my home in Parker a little after 1:00 on Thursday afternoon. Our destination was the ski town of Steamboat Springs which is three hours away in the best of conditions but can easily be four hours when factor in traffic, road construction and weather. Suffice it to say it took us a while to make the trek.
After an obligatory stop at a local bike shop we found our way to the condo that my coach and his counterpart had rented for the weekend. It was located near the base of the mountain near an area called Ski Time Square. From our fifth story balcony we could see various chairlifts and the gondola running up the hill. Like much of the state, the Yampa Valley has been subject to a very wet spring and the entire area was as green as I’ve ever seen it.
After dinner and lots of discussion about the race and the upcoming weekend, it was time to hit the sack and rest up for a full day.
Early Friday morning, we made our way to the Old Town Hot Springs which is a hot springs, but is also an outdoor pool with 25 yard lanes. The local triathlon club was having their masters practice and we were invited to join them. Unlike a traditional practice, however, this one was changed up a bit. The lane markers were hauled out and in their place were three red buoys like you would see on an open water swim course. We used these for a variety of drills and a relay race. We also practiced throwing our goggles out into the water and then attempting to find them and put them back on without touching the bottom of the pool.
It was not the most physically demanding swim workout I’ve ever encountered but I did pick up some good techniques for sighting and making turns around buoys.
Considering what was coming up, it was probably a good thing not to have expended too much energy.
After a hearty breakfast, we took a little time to let it digest and rest before starting out on the second half of the day. Around 11:00 the two coaches, my brother and I were in our running gear ready to start what I can only describe as an epic ascent. As someone who grew up in Colorado, I’ve hiked countless mountains in my life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever run up one. That was about to change.
My coach walked us through a series of dynamic stretches and neuromuscular activation drills and then we were off. After a short run up a single track trail, we opened onto a wider stretch that I would guess is a “green” run used by skiers to access the base of the mountain. In the summer time, it just looks like a steep dirt road. This initial mile or so was done without any pace or heart rate targets. Primarily, it was just a warm-up for what was ahead. We spent a few minutes after the first mile recovering our heart rates before it was time for a series of three intervals each consisting of a two minute run at around the Z4 heart rate and then a walking recovery. The first of these continued on that same ski trail. About halfway into the second one, however, the trail ended and it was time to start very steep climb on a single track section. The third was entirely on this section and in addition to the added steepness I also found I had to focus on tripping over rocks, stumps and roots. My heart rate spiked up to about 160 bpm by the end of the sets.
We took a few minutes to pause in a clearing around the halfway point of the gondola run. It was getting warm but not scorching. After plenty of time to catch our collective breath and let our hearts slow down a bit, we started out next round of sets. These essentially doubled everything we had done previously. In other words, four minutes of running followed by a two minute walking recovery. There were just two of these, but I was really gassed by the time I reached the end of the second. We took an even longer break now and just admired the view of the valley below us. On the far side was the mountain that would form the eastern side of our bike ride the next day.
For the time, being, our next task was to reach the summit—or at least the end of the gondola run. It was only about 1.2 miles away, but it was also 521 feet higher! The route was not a straight one and we wound through thick forest until eventually reaching the clear area around the mountain house that was the top of gondola station. We got some water, stretched and recovered before the coaches told us they were taking the gondola back down but we were to run back to the condo.
Heading down was not demanding from a cardio standpoint, but it did require a lot of attention be paid to the trail. We saw a hiker who was being taken down in ATV after falling and apparently spraining something. Despite the technical challenges, the descent went quickly and in short order we were back at the same spot where we had been doing our dynamic stretches a couple of hours earlier.
Trail running is not a clean sport. That’s dirt on my leg, not a tan!
We were done for the day. A hearty lunch and a nap were about all that I had remaining in me before we headed downtown to have some dinner.
More on the second day in my next post.