An Epic Experience – Summer Camp 2015
The 2015 edition of the very popular ET Summer Camp returned for the second year in a row to the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. This site is of course right next to the transition area for Ironman Wisconsin, and connects to the striking Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace, on the shore of beautiful Lake Monona. This makes it an excellent staging point for a triathlon camp, especially for athletes who have their sights set on tackling the race affectionately nicknamed “IM Moo”.
Friday afternoon started with an optional swim clinic hosted by Coach Darryl, for those campers able to arrive a bit early. Winds were strong and the water was rough, which increased the challenge and made the swimmers appreciate the varying conditions you can encounter swimming in open water. Following the swim, everyone gathered in the lobby of the hotel to meet their fellow campers and head out for an easy, chatty run along the lakeshore. A relaxed dinner of pizza gave us a chance to socialize and recharge before the big weekend of workouts got under way.
Our camp Director, Coach Suzy, had a few surprises in store for us this year! The first surprise was learning that the Saturday morning swim was in fact going to be an open water swim race held for the first time this year in Lake Monona. In previous camps, our Saturday swim consisted of swimming along the shore, watching out for fishermen, water skiers, and lake weeds. Fun, but hardly a challenge for most of us. This year we would be swimming one or two loops on the “old” IM Wisconsin swim course, for a total of 1.2 or 2.4 miles (athlete’s choice, of course). The extra wrinkle of a competitive swim among strangers, and getting to really swim in the middle of the lake without worrying about traffic was great and really helped a lot of us to get a better read on our open water swimming ability.
Once everyone finished the swim and congratulated each other, it was time to prepare for the long course bike ride. Traditionally, ET Summer Camp includes a ride over part of the Ironman course. Our location right at the terrace allowed us to ride the course in its entirety, including the “stick” portion that runs from the transition area out to the start of the main loop in Verona. We split into three groups based on target distance – 112 miles for those wanting to ride the whole course, 72 miles for those wanting to do the loop only once, and 56 miles for those who wanted to ride part of the course, but did not want to tackle the entire stick + loop.
The ride distance – as well as the many rolling hills for which this course is famous – is always enough to challenge even the most fit riders. Throw in very hot and humid weather, and not a cloud in the sky, and we quickly realized this was going to be a challenge. This is where we benefitted from another new surprise at camp this year: an official ET sag wagon, driven by none other than our Team Dietitian Dr. Laurie Schubert! On a super hot and sweaty day, being able to refill bottles along the route and grab some snacks was a welcome addition to the camp experience. Laurie did a fantastic job of juggling the many groups spread out over such a long course, and helped a lot of us make it through one of our most challenging rides of the year.
After the ride was done, some of us went out for a short brick run. And then, it was time to relax after a hard day of training with some dinner and drinks! We returned to the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, where we had some recovery food and adult beverages while comparing stories about our rides. For dessert, we strolled down State Street to the Chocolate Shoppe for ice cream before heading back to rest up for Sunday.
Sunday morning, as we gathered around Coach Suzy’s sunrise lakeside breakfast spread, we each discussed our plans for the day’s activities. Some campers chose to do a recovery swim while others just enjoyed the beautiful sunrise. This time the water was much more calm and peaceful, and there was no race involved, so the tempo was much more relaxed. After the swim, we met back in front of the hotel to divide up for the planned long run options. As with the long ride, multiple routes were available to suit the individual needs and desires of campers. For those desiring a course preview of the Ironman run route, both 13.1 and 8 mile groups were gathered. And anyone who preferred to do their own thing took the option of running along the Lake Monona path, which circles the lake and provides space for bicyclists and pedestrians alike. It was a cooler day than Saturday, and after the long rides we were all in the mood for more casual and chatty paces. Coach Joe even managed to take a selfie with his group by one of his favorite University of Wisconsin landmarks!
All good things must come to an end, and soon it was time to say goodbye. Camp was over for another year, but most of us will be back in Madison in September for the Ironman, either to compete, to volunteer, or to join the World Famous ET Cheer Crew. We will look forward to reuniting and to the great support we give and receive on the day of the big race!
Enjoy all the photos from our amazing weekend in Madison on the ET Photo Gallery!