I let out a sigh as my plane touched down in Tulsa at 10pm Monday. My epic journey was over. It had been a long trip and I was exhausted. I had lived the dream for eight days on the south island of New Zealand with some extraordinary athletes. Most of those days were in a fog of fatigue but I look back on them fondly. It was a tough camp but I really enjoyed it. I didn’t win the camp but I was far from being last thanks to my swimming skills. Albert Boyce told me during his first epic camp he had the thousand mile stare for most of it. I know what he means now.
I explored my limits and dealt with my failures. I think I gained fitness from it and I gained a mental edge as well. It’s strange, but I feel different. I can’t explain it. It feels like a calm confidence. I like the feeling. I came away with the knowledge of what it takes to bring me up a notch and how much time and effort that’s going to take me. I am happy with my decision to step back and take in the shorter distance races this year. It’s just not a place that I want to go now.
After day two of Epic camp when I shelled myself, I put it into this perspective. “This is my camp and I’m going to do it on my terms to my fatigue level. I’m not going to let myself get shelled by someone else‘s pace. I’m going to enjoy training in New Zealand and not get injured.” After I took this approach, I enjoyed it. If I felt like crap, I didn’t do a task, or I took it easy if I was tired.
I remember in the later days of the camp I was standing next to Gordo while he was tallying up the quantities of training for the day for everyone. It was 6:10 and training was not allowed after 7pm. I had missed my run and I was just going to blow it off. I was holding an unopened bottle of Corona beer in my hand. Gordo said “you still have time to get in your run….or you can have a Corona” You can guess which one I chose.
While I was in the camp I would often think “This is really silly, is all of this really necessary?” I’m just building my base. I would think back to the days when I swam as a kid. Our coach would make us swim twice a day. I didn’t know how much I was swimming. I just did what he said without question. It wasn’t until my dad mentioned “Do you know how much you’re swimming a day?” He added it up and it was over 10 miles a day. It was then I began to question the sanity of it all. Hell, I was just doing a 2 to 5 minute race. Why did I need to swim 10 miles a day?
The same topic has been brought up in the book “Golden Girl” by Michael Silver which describes the new swimming training methods of Natalie Coughlin by her coach Terri McKeever. McKeever questioned the methods of overdistance training for swimmers and instead concentrated on technique, strength, and speed with some extraordinary results. However, most of the swimmers Mckeever trained had large endurance volume bases prior to swimming for her. I have heard some folks respond to volume whereas others respond to intensity. Everyone is different, however I don’t doubt to be successful in Ironman you need a huge aerobic volume base.
The Brett Sutton technique utilizes huge training volumes and frequent racing. All folks can’t handle this method and can’t hang with it or get injured. The analogy “throw a handful of eggs against the wall….keep the one that doesn’t crack.” Some folks can train better than others, do huge volumes, but when the race comes around they’re flat. Others don’t do as much and with a well thought out plan can really execute and nail a key race with just the minimum.
So I came away from Epic Camp with some questions about the training methods but it is still too soon to see if I benefited from the approach. I have always wondered how some hard core athletes train when I am in my own little world here in Tulsa. I heard a lot of stories. Epic was something that I wanted to experiment with this season. Who knows, it just might be the right thing for me. It just is impractical with my time constraints due to family and occupational commitments.
By the way, on my arrival back to the country I was pleased to hear that my son had won 1st Place in the school science fair with a project that we both worked on prior to my trip. He also won the Cub Scout pinewood derby race with our top secret car. He really made me proud. I could have been training during the time that we worked on those projects but I chose to do something that would help build his self esteem instead.