As I became more of a Professional Amateur, the need to find newer and better ways to train has been a mission. As a Christmas present several years ago, my wife signed me up for what I called Fat Camp at the time, a 5 day training camp. I have been doing the camps ever since, and it has lead to some great discoveries and experiences not just for myself, but also for the family who has been along on the traincation ever since that first year.
The camp I attend is in Lake Placid, one of the best places in the US for an active outdoor lifestyle. Each day you are pushed a little further than you think you can go. This is some of the best training and personalized coaching you will get. You actually feel like a Pro when the camp provides SAG and follows you around the huge bike loop. Being out with fellow triathletes in beautiful scenery also sure beats the day job.
I have seen alot of camps in the Lake Placid area over the years, and I have even stopped at other camp support tents to ask for water. They have always been very friendly, and I was happy for the help when it was needed. So what are a few things to consider when you are taking off time from work to go and train, and what can you expect out of a 4 or 5 day camp? What are some of the things you should look for and think about?
I can only speak from my own experience, and what I have seen that works, but consider a few of the following points before you sign up for a camp.
Your level of experience should not detract from your ability to get in good training nor should you feel as if you are holding others back. Inevitably camps will have people with many different goals and fitness levels. Not everyone is training for a full and not everyone is training for a half. The camp organizers should have a plan for the different abilities, or explain what the groups will look like beforehand.
The camp coaches should be experienced in the area and the different strategies for performing well. For example on the Lake Placid course, once you turn left in Wilmington on Route 86, there will be wind until you get back to the village. There will always be wind. You can also count on climbing back, because you know, the terrain doesn’t change much.
Trust the people in charge, but also be ready to self rescue. Just like any long ride, I take a phone, ID, and money. There may be support along the way, but stuff happens, and sometimes it isn’t enough. Always be prepared to take care of yourself in the event something goes wrong.
A good triathlon camp will cover swim, bike, and run each day, but should also have some breakouts for things like nutrition, injury prevention, stretching, etc. These are just as important as pedaling the bike, and if you have ever locked up because of dehydration you know that to be true.
Expect long days for long course training. There are not a lot of times where you can train with the volume and intensity as there are at a dedicated camp. This means that you will be pushing beyond normal limits and putting a lot of hay in the barn. That will tire you out, and you may need a solid recovery week to get back at it.
Food can be hard to get to when you are moving between three sports all day long. Preparing ahead of time is a great way to save time, and make sure you are fueling properly. We have been staying in a house for most of the training camps and long sessions in Lake Placid, and I find access to a kitchen, fridge, and supermarket is far better than dining for all three meals.
Don’t race. At least not on the first day. Sometimes, especially around new people, we want to establish an order of strong to weak. This means people will go out hot and fade quickly. The whole point of the camp is to train hard the entire time, not just on the first day. So pace yourself and keep the nightly recovery going.
Get a good sleep, stretch, and if possible use massage guns or compression boots. Rollers and Normatec’s are my goto after a longer session when I have a chance to sit and relax. Lot’s of hydration during this time helps too.
Just have fun. These experiences are blessings for many. The chance to go play outside for a week, not worry about work, get fit and meet great people is worth recognizing. Sometimes we are too wrapped up in shaving seconds off a 12 hour race and wind up missing the best parts staring right at us.