Friday, 21 March 2014

Exmoor Training Camp 2014 - Part 1 "Hills and Hot Tubs"

For the first time since the spring training camp tradition began in 2012, we were finally in Exmoor, in March, without ice, flooding, torrential rain or gales. This year there would be no excuses, and with six months to go until I attempt my first iron distance triathlon, I was itching to get some quality training in.

I was keen to ride the Wimbleball course backwards, just for a change. Emma and Susan decided to join in the adventure and as the bikes were being set up, I couldn't help being surprised by the topic of conversation. It wasn't the usual "Ooh, LOVE your new helmet, totally matches your bike!", but an insightful discussion about mechanical components. It turned out everyone else was riding a triple, the smallest ring on the front being known as "the granny ring"; a get-out clause that wussy cyclists have for when they get all scared on a tough climb. I smugly declared that I was riding a double to which Susan replied, deadpan, "Life's too short for a double". Life is too short for this discussion to go on any longer, so we set off.

A lovely, quiet 8.5 mile stint on the 'main' road led us straight to the bottom end of Telegraph Hill; the ascent from the other side is like cuddling a teddy bear compared to the normal way around. After a blast down the steep side and a few miles through the valley, we hit the wall that is Bury Hill. On the Wimbleball course, this is the most technical downhill bit of the course and the only section of the route where you're not allowed to overtake. It was a steep start but wasn't as tricky as any of us thought, and with that out of the way the rest of the loop was a dream. A short, sharp rise out of Upton led us easily to Haddon Hill, and from there you felt like you got a whole lot of downhill for your efforts. The conclusion was that doing the loop clockwise was much nicer, and that is probably why they don't.

Susan, who is a speed machine training for short distance races (and had originally intended only to join us for about ten miles), had done remarkably well, but was starting to tire on the final stretch. I tried to make the impending roads sound a bit friendlier for her, "That's not a hill, the road just goes up..", but this wasn't met with an entirely positive response so I just gave her some food and stayed quiet.

Pre-Wimbleball loop, all fresh faced
The next morning, Emma  - who I have successfully indoctrinated Emma into the parkrun family - and I left everyone still in bed and went in search of Longrun Meadow parkrun, near Taunton. With the previous day's ride in our legs and a full Wimbleball course recce on the schedule for afterwards, neither of us intended to run hard. However, we both got a bit carried away on the flat and un-crowded course.

I didn't glance at my watch until 3km by which point it was too late to consider slowing down because I was in PB territory. I came through the line nearly 40 seconds quicker than my previous best from this year, in a time that I hadn't been close to since 2012, so I was on a high. We shot back to the cottage where we had set up transition; we had a 30 minute window to eat, change and sort the bikes out.

The full Wimbleball course felt harder than I remembered and took us a fair bit longer than usual. But it was a beautiful blue-skied day to be out cycling so I didn't mind ticking away at 3mph up the hills. We returned to Wimbleball Lake, victorious, only to discover that everyone else had bailed after one loop and had been enjoying a relaxing little picnic by the lake.

Thankfully, Holly was the Queen of the selfie
Here's where it all went wrong: on returning to the cottage, we opted to get straight into the hot tub. Instead of refuelling properly and rehydrating ourselves like sensible triathletes, we popped open the champagne and subsequently remained in the warm, bubbly water drinking cold, bubbly stuff for nearly three hours. After this time spent breaking every rule on the 'Spa Rules' list, we finally decided it was time to eat dinner. When I emerged I had nearly lost the ability to walk and almost completely lost the ability to speak, the latter of which I could sadly not blame on two hard days of cycling.

Booze sweats were not conducive to a triumphant long run the next morning. But I managed to jog, run, walk and crawl my way over to Clatworthy Reservoir and back whilst munching many 9bars. The afternoon was spent not training, but cooking an enormous roast dinner to pre-fuel for the next day, where I had planned to take Ruth on some proper miles, and up some proper hills..

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