Becoming a Champion in Madison – 2012 ET Summer Camp Recap

Becoming a Champion in Madison – 2012 ET Summer Camp Recap

by Kelli Z.

Well, it is Sunday night at 8pm and I am ready to head for bed. Yes, it is a pretty early bedtime but you have to understand what I have been doing all weekend. I was at the Experience Triathlon Summer Camp in beautiful Madison, WI. I had never been to camp but I had read Drew’s blog post summing up the camp experience from last year. Everyone that I had asked about camp always explained how much they loved it. I never want to miss out on anything so I started prepping my husband for this in January. He was very supportive so I wasted no time signing up as soon as registration opened in June.

So, what do you do at tri camp?

We arrived at our lovely hotel on Friday evening. I was excited to meet up with the team and catch up with my roommate, Tanya. Coach Joe was greeting campers in the lobby and everyone was happy to be there. I met lots of new people and saw quite a few familiar faces. We all bonded over pizza and salad and got to know a little bit more about each other. There was a great cross section of athletes. Some, like me, were fairly new to the sport of triathlon. Others had lots of experience but were looking to achieve new goals. We talked about our past races but mostly our next adventures. I was excited to hear how many of our group were competing in Ironman Wisconsin in September. Even more members were volunteering at the Ironman this year with sights on competing in 2013. All I can say is WOW.

After our pizza social, we went into a conference room where Coach Joe kicked things off. He said that the theme for our camp this year was “Becoming a Champion.” It was pretty timely to have the Olympic starting ceremonies the same night. We drew inspiration from those Olympic athletes who were getting a chance to live their dreams. We watched some awesome videos about the Olympics and one on Ironman Wisconsin. I have to admit, I was feeling pretty inspired and maybe a little emotional. After that, we had a nutrition seminar from our team dietitian, Laurie Schubert. She educated us on combating GI tract issues and had some really blingy props to tell the story. But really, Laurie did such a great job talking about food and performance and drawing the connection to the GI tract. I got some really helpful pointers and started to think about how I would put them into practice that day. Next up, Coach Cathy presented on Energy Management. We all got some good laughs from her video clips; it was a fun way to end the night. She gave us some great tips on staying relaxed, mentally focused and positive. I did not realize how much I would be drawing on those tips in the next 48 hours. Before the serious training started, most of us headed to our rooms for a little rest and quiet time. Tanya and I spent some of that time assessing the vending machine and “carbing up” aka “electrolyte loading”  aka “eating Cheetos and chips” in preparation for our big day.

Saturday morning, 6:30 am: We were all in the lobby having a little breakfast and wearing our ET best. We kept Laurie’s presentation in mind and steered away from those foods that might cause GI distress. Those who chose to disregard this information were subject to some good natured poking from the rest of us.

We piled into our cars and headed to Lake Monona for the open water swim. We started our swim from the same spot as the athletes in Ironman Wisconsin! There were three groups based on distance and speed so everyone got the workout that they needed. It was a beautiful morning and we all enjoyed the swim. It was the first time I had swam a mile in a consistent, open water setting and I loved it!

Coach Joe did a “fast peel” wetsuit demo for all of us and gave us lots of pointers for when, where and how to remove your suit. There was a lot of good information for all of us. We headed to our cars again and made our way to the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union for a run on Lake Mendota. Conditions were perfect for a run and we all took off onto the Ironman course. It looked like everyone was in the zone as they returned to the Union for some stretching and nutrition (for me, that means coffee). We soon headed back to our hotel to prep for the bike portion of the day but not before getting some team pictures where we would all have an opportunity to make fools of ourselves.

On to the bike… We broke into two groups (based on distance and speed) and were specifically instructed not to try to keep up with Jim L. OK, that would not be a problem for me (anyone who knows how Jim rides understands why this is funny). We rolled out on the bikes and were immediately acquainted with the reason that people come to Madison to ride: HELLS, HILLS. Boy, oh boy, those are hills! I have never climbed or ridden down hills like that in my life. I laughed that at one point I was climbing a hill on the Ironman course and my speed was 4mph. I thought I might tip over! I also got to test my threshold for speed. I broke 30mph which for me is blinding, light-speed fast. As exhilarating as the downhills feel after a brutal climb, there is this little fear voice that I have to suppress. Jamie H. and I discussed this often. We were using Coach Cathy’s positive mantras on both the ups and the downs.

Coach Suzy made sure we were hydrated and Jim R. was happy to share his salt tabs. We discussed water, Gatorade, gels, carbs (ex: Pop Tarts and Bomb Pops) and Clif Bars. We were lucky to have our team nutritionist, Laurie, with us on the ride. Once her tire exploded and she went for repair we sneakily ate some beef jerky. At the end of the day, our group completed over 40 miles and the other group more than 56 (you will have to contact Jim L. if you would like to get his mileage).  I was in a little pain on the last few miles and we joked that I literally “busted my butt” on those hills. I was amazed at the strength I saw out there. Most of us struggled at times but we all did it. WE ALL DID IT!!!!!! Before this weekend, I never knew it was possible.

We rode back to the hotel to get cleaned up (believe me, that was one amazing shower) and headed out to our team dinner. We were all smiles at Francesca’s al Lago, which is located right at the Ironman finish line. Coach Joe and Coach Suzy arranged an amazing dinner for us. We all ate well deserved meals and reflected on our day. There were so many highlights. I hope I captured most of them in this post. After dinner we walked down State Street for a stop at the Chocolate Shoppe ice cream shop.  It was such a perfect cap to a great day.

The next day we had a nice breakfast at the hotel and rolled out one more time toward the UW campus on our bikes. We all rode together and chatted it up the whole way. It was a nice recovery ride. Another picture perfect morning in beautiful Madison. There is something really neat about riding in a big group like that. People would stop to look at us like we were famous. Little kids waved at us. It was a cool experience and the group represented ET well.

Thanks, Coach Joe and Coach Suzy, for a great camp experience. It was incredibly well organized, we were well fed and we had SO MUCH FUN! ET Summer Camp reminded me why I enjoy this sport. When you gather a group of people who are competitive by nature you might wonder how everyone will get along. Well, the people that make up Experience Triathlon are like none other. It was such a positive experience, you couldn’t help but be inspired. I loved that everyone on the team was very supportive regardless of level of expertise – it didn’t matter if you were a newbie or a veteran triathlete. This group of people celebrated each athlete’s individual accomplishments.  I felt very safe to break out of the mold and try something new; test my limits. The biggest thing for me was that I was in a group all weekend that had the same priorities and agenda. There were no distractions to keep me from my goals and that is the awesome, intangible part of the camp experience. I am so glad that I went and look forward to doing it again next year. I busted my butt and I made a bunch of new friends on top of everything else. I learned firsthand that even though something may be difficult, nothing is impossible.

See you next year!

Enjoy all the photos from our 2012 Summer Camp on the ET Photo Gallery!


Share this post