Breaking Through In Madison – 2011 ET Summer Camp Recap

Breaking Through In Madison – 2011 ET Summer Camp Recap

by Drew R.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the highly popular ET Summer Camp, and once again the Experience Triathlon athletes and coaches made the journey up to beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, for three days of workouts, seminars, and camaraderie.  The theme of the 2011 Summer Camp was “breaking through,” and Coach Joe made sure that there were plenty of opportunities for the ET team to challenge themselves on this sunny – and very hot – training weekend.

Friday evening we gathered at the hotel to meet our fellow campers, and were greeted by Coach Joe and Coach Suzy.  It was a good opportunity to meet some new faces, have a bite to eat, and relax before the festivities began.  Coach Joe kicked things off with a presentation on breakthrough performance, to help motivate and prepare us for the work to come. This included some powerful videos, including a very inspirational compilation of scenes from Ironman Wisconsin.  Laurie, our team dietitian, followed with a great presentation on hydration, which was a topic of great interest to every athlete whose training has been impacted by the extreme heat this summer.  Finally, Coach Suzy led a lively and informative discussion of USAT race rules, and the penalties for breaking them.

Saturday morning began with a casual group breakfast at the hotel, before we all packed into our cars and headed downtown to the Monona Terrace, on the shore of Lake Monona.   This location is the starting point for one of the hardest races in the world – Ironman Wisconsin.  After the video we watched the previous night, it was easy to imagine two thousand swimmers treading water in the middle of this lake, waiting for the starting cannon to fire to signal the beginning of the biggest race of their lives.   We were doing a much more relaxed swim, however, and we got to enjoy a beautiful morning with calm waters.

After the swim, Coach Joe demonstrated a fast wetsuit peel for the team.  For those of us who prefer to swim with the extra speed and buoyancy provided by a wetsuit, it is a good idea to learn how to get out of that wetsuit with minimal time and frustration.  You don’t want to give back all of that time you saved on the swim, after all!  Then it was time to head out for the run portion of our day’s festivities.

We headed over to the University of Wisconsin Student Union for the start of our run.  Not only would this be an easy landmark for our start and finish, but it is also a very attractive location, with food and beverages available afterwards.  We ran along Lake Mendota on part of the Ironman run course, with several people taking a side trip to scenic Picnic Point.  All in all, this day was starting off great, and the views along the lake shore were excellent.  As we returned to the Student Union for a much-deserved break, Coach Joe was there with his ever-present camera to help capture the smiles.

Next up on the agenda was the most challenging part of our training, and in fact a signature component of ET Summer Camp – a long training ride on the famous Ironman bike course.  The heart of the IM bike course is a forty mile loop through the hills of rural Wisconsin.  Our planned route would incorporate this loop, plus some extra miles (and extra hills!) to get to and from the loop from our hotel.  With the large number of campers, each with varying levels of comfort on the bike, the coaches set up multiple bike groups to make sure that every athlete was part of a group that would challenge, but not overwhelm them.

The sun was hot, the hills were many, and the group was already somewhat fatigued from our earlier swim and run.  This was the time when the Friday night seminars were driven home.  Laurie’s hydration seminar helped everyone to be properly prepared for the tough conditions.   Coach Joe’s emphasis on embracing the pain to achieve breakthrough performance, as well as his advice to use positive affirmations to help push through challenging workouts, was in the forefront of our minds as we climbed, and sweated, and endured.  For many of the athletes, it was the toughest training ride of the year by far.  But working together and supporting each other, and with the encouragement of the ET coaches, we all successfully completed the ride – tired, maybe a little sunburned, and looking forward to some well-deserved relaxation!

After the ride, and a seminar by Coach Suzy on transition area setup, it was time to chill out in the air conditioning before heading back to downtown Madison for the team dinner.  This year, we headed for the Capital Tap Haus on scenic State Street, just a short walk from the state capitol building.  After such a long day of exercise, the meal was wonderful, as was the opportunity to kick back with our fellow ETers and talk about our different experiences on the day.  Funny stories were shared, and there were smiles all around.  After dinner, many of us wandered down State Street to find some dessert, and to enjoy the pleasant evening.  But all too soon, the yawns were starting, and it was time to head back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Sunday morning was the last day of the camp, and as always, it came too soon.  Despite the hard work of the previous day, everyone was looking well-rested at breakfast.  This was a good thing, as we were not done quite yet!  We followed breakfast with a leisurely ride through Madison, back to the Student Union, where we enjoyed a peaceful rest break on the terrace by the lake.  On our ride back, we had an impromptu tire-changing clinic, because you can never have enough learning opportunities!  And then it was back to the hotel for the camp wrap-up.

Another successful ET Summer Camp was in the books, and it was time to say our goodbyes and head back home.  This year’s edition of camp was the biggest and best-organized one yet.  Big thanks – and congratulations – to the ET coaches and all the Campers for a job well done!

Enjoy all the photos from our 2011 Summer Camp at our Photo Gallery!

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