Summer Camp 2010

Summer Camp 2010

by Drew R.

The 2010 edition of the Experience Triathlon summer camp was held in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin – home of brats, beer, and Ironman Wisconsin!  In the midst of a brutally hot triathlon season, this year’s summer getaway training camp was a welcome respite from the daily high temps and humidity, as well as a great change of scenery.

Friday afternoon the team met up on the lakefront terrace outside of the University of Wisconsin Student Union for a short, relaxing run along Lake Mendota.  As twilight descended, we ran along the lakeshore path past the Allen Centennial Gardens, the UW marching band’s practice field, and out towards Picnic Point.  Madison sits on an isthmus between two lakes, of which Lake Mendota is one.  This gives the town quite a few scenic areas to enjoy, and made for great scenery throughout our weekend.  We finished the run back at the terrace, and enjoyed dinner with a view of sailboats and students.  All too soon, we were headed off to bed – we had a big day coming up!

Early Saturday morning, Coach Joe started us off, appropriately enough, with a seminar on mental toughness.  Whether it was the inspirational words, or the convenient supply of hotel coffee, we were soon fired up to head over to Lake Monona for an early morning swim.  Ironman Wisconsin begins with a 2.4 mile swim right next to the Monona Terrace and Convention Center, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in downtown Madison.  That was where we began our swim, zipping into our wetsuits and getting into the spirit of the upcoming Ironman race.  Of course, we were not planning to swim quite so far, but we saw plenty of other athletes in the water preparing for the big race.  The water was beautiful, and the smiles were plentiful.

After the swim, we doffed our wetsuits and prepared for a long run through the UW campus.  We passed along parts of the Ironman run course, and also through some of the scenic residential neighborhoods of Madison.  We even paused for a group photo near one of the statues along the way – it’s always good to capture the moment with friends. 🙂  Later during the run, as the group spread out a bit, we got split up, and some of us took a bit more scenic route towards our starting point.  Remember when I wrote that Madison is on an isthmus between two lakes?  Well, we ran along the wrong lake for a while before realizing our mistake.  Whoops!!  Fortunately, it was a beautiful morning for a run, and everyone was still smiling when we returned from our little detour to the laughing applause of our friends.

After our little misadventure, we were just a bit behind schedule.  So we piled into our cars and headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next event of our big day – the bike ride along the Ironman Wisconsin route!  The race route is built around a forty mile loop through the countryside; a course filled with the kinds of steep hills and scenic overlooks that we just do not get to see in our normal weekly rides around the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  The skies were clear and the winds light- perfect conditions for a bike ride!  We organized into two groups; one group that would tackle the entire Ironman loop and another that would do a bit less.  Both sets of riders enjoyed a challenging ride, made more enjoyable because we were staying together and chatting while taking in the scenery.  The ET coaches, Joe and Suzy, did a great job of making this whole weekend enjoyable even as we pushed ourselves with three quality workouts on Saturday.  The folks on the shorter bike ride even had the opportunity to stop off for an outdoor lunch along the way – a nice little break!

After the rides, it was time to give our bodies a rest and train the brain a bit instead.  Coach Joe was prepared with seminars on bike cleaning, tire changing, transition planning, and for the more daring among us, flying mounts and dismounts.  The tire changing clinic was popular as always.  With so many of us doing 20-40 mile rides on a regular basis, occasionally in the middle of nowhere, it is always surprising to find someone stopped on the side of the road with a flat tire and no idea what to do about it.  Preparation is the key, and Coach Joe is all about keeping the ET athletes prepared!  After the seminars were done, several team members took the opportunity to practice their flying mounts and dismounts, with great success.  For those who don’t know what a “flying” mount or dismount is, it refers to getting onto and off of your bike without stopping first.  With practice (and the right kind of tri shoes), you can really speed up your mount and dismount on the bike during a race with this technique.  I expect transition times will be improving for many of our athletes next year!

At long last, the “work” part of our day was done, and it was time to have some fun!  Coach Suzy had a pleasant surprise for us – reservations at Porta Bella in downtown Madison, an excellent Italian restaurant just off of State Street, the main thoroughfare from campus to downtown.  The meal was fantastic, and just what the body needed after a very long day.  One of the features of the restaurant is a well-designed outdoor dining area that could have been transplanted from a rustic village in Italy.  It was a perfect night for dining outdoors with friends, and we enjoyed it thoroughly.  After the meal, many of us then headed back to the terrace at the Student Union, to enjoy the bands that play there every weekend and to spend more time getting to know one another.  It was a nice, relaxing evening, but soon enough it was time to finally call it a day.

Sunday morning came, and we headed out for another bike ride.  This time, our destination was University Avenue, riding along neighborhood streets and bike trails.  Madison is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, and there are plenty of trails and bike routes to choose from.  We rode from our hotel into town, and arrived at a Starbucks for coffee.  Laurie, the Team Dietitian for ET, gave us a seminar on nutrition and hydration for triathletes.  It was an informative session, with plenty of good questions and answers.  Laurie gave us plenty of food for thought!  Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel to wrap things up.  The ride back was short, but had its moments – especially climbing a hill with an 11% grade!  As Coach Joe always likes to say, “The hills are your friends!”  That was one friend I was happy to bid a fond farewell!

Soon enough it was time to bid farewell to all our friends, as we came to the end of yet another excellent ET summer camp.  Thanks again to all of the coaches and athletes that made this a challenging and fun event.  Year after year, this summer camp is a great experience, and it seems to keep getting better and better!

Enjoy all the Summer Camp pictures at our photo gallery.

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