Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kona Training Camp

I can’t believe my Hawaii training camp is over. Although the training was long and hard, the days seemed to fly by and now what I was looking forward to for months, is over. I was definitely excited to see my hubby, from whom I hate being away for this long, when I got home last Friday, but I had mixed feelings about going back to the “real world”. For 8 days I had the amazing opportunity to train with incredible athletes and coaches and feel like a full-time professional, something I can’t get at home with my 45-50+ hour/week job and 10 hours/week of commuting. It’s stressful and tiring to focus 100% on triathlon for an entire week, but amazing at the same time. I feel like I am a different athlete than I was 8 days ago and I am so excited to start this season and see where all this hard work will take me. Here’s a quick rundown of the camp:

The training: In 8 days I swam 50,000 meters in the pool/ocean , spent 20 hours on the bike, and about 5 hours running – quite a bit more than my typical 17-20 hour training weeks.

Pool/Ocean time – We swam a LOT! I spent more time in the water this week than I have since I was in high school and I have an ear infection to prove it. The most challenging part of the swimming was our open water race simulations. I realized very quickly that although I was keeping up with Matt Lieto in the pool (well, for the most part), I was no match for him in the open water. While swimming in the ocean, my job was simply to get on Matt’s hip and stay there as long as possible. Matt was wearing his special unicorn speedo with a gnome on the butt – who wouldn’t want to hang onto that? Most of the time I failed to stay in my special spot – especially when Matt would do his best to drop me, but as the week went on I got better. Practice makes perfect, or at least improvement!
Mauna Lani Pool where we spent MANY hours

Bike – I love being able to put this kind of time in on the bike. We had a mix of aerobic riding, HARD interval sessions, and very scenic, fun climbing. Who knew Kona had areas so lush and green? I was so excited to be able to take the FUJI D-6 1.0 with me to Kona. Not only did it have DI2 (electronic shifting), which is AWESOME, it was pretty sweet looking as well. I did have to swap out the wheels after the first ride because while my bike handling continues to improve, I still wasn’t comfortable with 100mm rims in the cross winds! I think I might have shed a few tears on a big hill that first day :)

If you have been to Kona, you might find it hard to believe this picture was taken there! I would have!!

Run – While I felt like we definitely put in some good miles, we spent the least amount of time running. Coach Matt Dixon explained it’s important to limit the amount of running with our planned training volume, otherwise our legs would be trashed and useless for anything else. We did, however, put in a few key running sessions on the track working a little on speed, but mostly on pacing.
Stunning track at 2,500ft

That brings me to the coaching….AMAZING!

What an incredible coaching line up. Not only did we have the best triathlon coach, Matt Dixon, guiding the week, we also had access to Gerry Rodriques, the master of open water swimming, and Paul Buick, the bike whisperer.

I really felt like I was working with the dream team of coaching all week. Matt knows all the specifics of my training, and sometimes better than me, what I’m capable of. He was there pushing me and giving me confidence in my ability when it was lacking. He always knows just what to say to get me going. My favorite push was during my last swim of the camp. We were doing 10 x 300’s building each 2. The last 4 were supposed to be solid with the last 2 being pretty much all out. With 4 to go Matt says, “Jess, this is your last day…I’m just saying”. Of course I knew that actually meant, “Jess, this is your last chance to lay it all out on the line. You had better bust your ass and show me that you can work”. Good thing I speak Dixonese!

Gerry – I was amazed by Gerry when I met him last year in Tucson at this same camp and I was no less impressed this year. He has such a great way of explaining proper technique and has helped me improve significantly in a sport I have been doing since I was 3. I think one of the things Gerry stresses that stands out most to me is how different open water swimming is to pool swimming. The technique that works is different and Gerry coaches the open water swimmer, which is what all triathletes should strive to be.

Paul – I have never really had one on one cycling instruction so having Paul around for the week was great. He watched my pedal stroke, adjusted my saddle position, and talked to me about what it would take to get my cycling to the next level, while also giving me confidence in my current ability. My only mistake was telling him I am timid when it comes to cornering. No sooner was that out of my mouth than I was doing donuts around a round-about in the hotel parking lot. I’m surprised I didn’t fall off my bike from dizziness. I still have a long way to go when it comes to bike handling skills, but I was amazed at how much progress I made in 15 minutes. I’m still not ready to descend with my hands behind my back like crazy coach Paul, but maybe some day.

Paul and Matt giving instructions before a big group ride

Of course it was Hawaii and while it was MOSTLY hard training, we did have a little bit of fun, too. Here’s my top 10 for the week at camp:

10. Eating my first Chuck Norris Sushi Roll (with a small fear that it might roundhouse kick my stomach later)
9. Seeing eels, sea turtles, and lots of tropical fish during our open water swims. Somehow SP and I still haven’t seen dolphins, I think we might be the only ones. I guess that will be our excuse to get back!
8. Meeting Bill Walton, who is now an avid cyclist and was staying at our hotel. Yes, he is enormous.
7. Mauna Lani granola – which I not only added to my oatmeal every morning, but also took in cups back to the room for afternoon snacks. I don’t know what all is in it, but I will be missing it for sure.
6. Watching Sarah P. bring her walnuts, flax seed, and measuring spoons to the breakfast buffet every morning – hey, you gotta stay on the nutrition plan, right?
5. Realizing that I still haven’t met a Clif Builder’s Bar I didn’t like – my current favorite is the chocolate mint – it’s like eating a Girl Scout cookie without the guilt! Not sure how I could have gotten all my protein for the week without them.
4. Riding to and from the hotel pool on beach cruisers, which are actually a little more difficult to ride than you’d think.
3. Wearing matching Saucony outfits with SP every day hoping we’d win the coveted Purplepatch “Outfit of the day”, but always failing. Damn you Jesse Thomas and your aviators!

2. Seeing old friends from last year’s Purplepatch camp and meeting so many new, awesome age groupers. I can’t wait to see everyone tear it up this year!
1. Sharing Jesse Thomas’ 8th b-day and eating sushi w/ Matt Lieto, Sam McGlone, and Sarah Piampiano + maybe having 1 too many margaritas that were served by Faris Al Sutan’s identical twin (not really, but the resemblance was pretty uncanny)

Also, a HUGE thanks to Clif for keeping me fueled, Saucony for keeping me dressed in my best, FUJI for letting me take their new AMAZING tri bike, and Larry Rosa and the guys at Verdict Photography for taking video and pictures that I CANNOT WAIT to see!


My VIP for this blog definitely has to be one of my good friends and my roomie for the week Sarah Piampiano, another first-year pro. This girl is wicked fast (don’t they say that on the east coast SP?) and I can’t wait to see what she can do in 2012. She is also extremely down to earth and a super fun training buddy. We had a blast in Kona and it’s not going to be the same not seeing her shining face every day on the bike or in the pool! She might be the world’s worst cartwheeler and a lover of terrible rap music (Flo Rida), but I love her anyway!

SP – thanks so much for setting me up with a home stay, forgiving me for being terrible at writing down workouts, giving me advice on sponsors and training, making me laugh, pushing me on the bike, at the track, in the pool and being such a great friend!