What Is A Triathlon Training Camp Anyway?

Can you tell which one is me being "crazy."
Can you tell which one is me being “crazy.”

 

Whenever I’d mention to normals that I was going to team camp, they wouldn’t nod in understanding like I expect. Instead they had all these “questions” and “confusion.”

So, an explainer:

Team Camps started with actual teams — cycling teams, primarily. They’d gather in the early season (like now) to do some base, intensive training. But, also, to get to know everyone, do sponsor photos, test each other out, etc. Those teams usually have everything taken care of: housing, coaches, cooks, masseuses. It’s part of the job.

The idea obviously got picked up and grew, except triathlon teams aren’t quite the same. They don’t have the same team managers and the same team strategy, since triathlon is an individual sport. (There are also all kinds of team camps, from the local cycling team crashing at one person’s house all weekend to hyper-intense triathlon teams like Timex gathering everyone from around the country in one place.) Team camps are, understandably, relatively organized. You have a schedule and a team van and places you’re supposed to be at specific times. You test out products from sponsors for the year. And, for all that I kept saying, “No one wins camp,” people definitely want to prove they’re fast — to themselves and to directors.

The PacWest team.
The PacWest team.

 

The second camp I was at in Arizona was the PacWest team camp. It was a fun mix of people from the race team and from the general public team. We’d have a team meeting each morning in the lobby of the hotel everyone was staying at and we’d get loaded into two vans to head out for all the days workouts. We tested out Finis products — I’m into the strapless paddles right now — and Newton shoes and Muscle Milk recovery drinks, took lots of pictures, went out for dinner and got to know everyone, which was cool. Also, you know, we got in a decent amount of training.

Newton-sponsored running clinic.
Newton-sponsored running clinic.

 

Training Camps are versions of team camp. Basically, all the people who weren’t on teams were like ‘man, we should get to go on a training vacation too.’ There are lots and lots of variations on this. Some are just a group of friends holing up in a hotel for a long weekend, some are organized by one person, some are paid training camps, put on by big pros or coaches or organizations.

The thing that made me nervous about training camp #1, which was an organized training camp by Hillary, was that I didn’t know people there. Usually you’d do training camps with friends or people you know or with a team for team camp, obvs. Most of the people at Hillary’s camp were coached by her, so it was sort of a team camp, but it was open to everyone (and they said it’d be cool if I came) and it didn’t have all the regular markings of a team camp (no sponsors besides lots of Powerbar product). Everyone, mostly fast women, was actually really cool and fun to talk to and dealt with triathlon the same way I do — the stop stressing about stupid things way — but if you can’t figure out who the weirdo of the group is that means it was probably YOU!

Proof that I was, at one point, at the front of the group. Before I definitely wasn't.
Proof that I was, at one point, at the front of the group. Before I definitely wasn’t.

 

The main difference between the camps was that at training camp (v. team camp) you were relatively self-sufficient. Get to where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there; leave when you’re done, feed yourself, do or don’t do what you want on the schedule (or, maybe that was just me because I’m self-coached). It was supported by a friend driving a SAG car and three group leaders who all knew the area, but otherwise you needed to make sure you could deal with things on your own. Also, the weather was crazy, so we kept revising — but never cutting workouts. NEVER. It was about the same amount of training and as hard.

This picture cracks me up because it was after we had biked up Mt. Lemmon and then done a fast four mile run descending to like 6:30 pace and I had one of my “episodes” after the run. So, they were like ‘hey get in the picture’ and I was like ‘yeah, if I stand up, I’m going to pass out.’ Good times.

Oh, poor me.
Oh, poor me.

 

There’s lots of reasons people do these camps: because they have to, because it’s fun. At first I was sort of ambivalent on going to Arizona when it’s been 70 and sunny all winter here. Fortunately, it rained while I was gone, so it wasn’t a total waste. There’s also a benefit to going anywhere just to have uninterrupted focus on training. I was completely able to handle the load because I wasn’t trying to rush around to meetings and offices and appointments. The few hours of work I did each day did nearly kill me, however.

There also can be big fitness gains from a “crash week” — or loading a bunch of intense training back-to-back — as long as you follow it up with a good amount of recovery. It’s a high risk, high reward strategy. I’m not sure how it’ll work out in the long-run yet. I definitely got stronger, even over the course of the 10 days, and I feel much more confident about my ability to do that kind of training now, but I also hurt the arch of my right foot, so we’ll see. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to Arizona next year, but I do think I’ll definitely do another focused training getaway/weekend or camp — possibly even before IM Canada.

I'm eh about the desert, but this is sort of pretty.
I’m eh about the desert, but this is sort of pretty.

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