In 24h time, I will be on a flight bound for Mallorca, and the 2011 PBscience Spring training camp. This is the second year that I have travelled out a couple of days earlier than the main group – no, not to get some sneaky riding in (!) but to prepare for the arrival of everyone else. This year, Dan and I also have chef Pete for company. Thursday and Friday will be spent planning meals, shopping...and ok, getting a couple of sneaky rides in, 15 degrees and sunny...bring it on!
This morning, I washed the bike, packed the bike and made a list of all the other bits and pieces I need to take. I have a good feel for camp life now, this being my 7th trip to Mallorca, as well as 7 other trips to Lanzarote, main land Spain, the French alps and Southern France. No excuses for forgetting anything! My best excuse yet was how my cat Ernie had ‘stolen my pedal’ one year...I spent a week of riding up and down the best Alpine climbs in borrowed pedals – I learnt my lesson very well (keep cats away from packing!)
Preparing as a camp leader is very different to getting ready to go as a rider. I’m probably the least stressed I have been pre-camp ever – mainly because I know the area well now, and also we go with a nice compact group. The smaller group is perfect for us to test our new format: self-catering apartments. Pete, our pro chef, is on hand, and I know he has prepared 5 great lunch ideas and the same number of delicious evening meals*. We’ve talked a lot about the best ingredients to use for priming athlete recovery (protein requirements, anti-inflammatory foodstuffs) so this is an exciting development to watch unfold. Something else Dan and I have changed has also contributed to a lower stress: rather than prepare presentations for each evening, we’ve come up with some ideas based on data we will collect during the group rides each day. I won’t reveal the plans now (or some riders might be dropping out when they know what we have in store for them...kidding guys), but watch out for an update post camp. I will reveal that each exercise we are going to do is in order to help the riders understand their training more, why we do what we do with them. Providing that knowledge has become very important to me – as self-awareness on the part of the athlete really adds to them ‘buying in’ to what we do in their preparation. I imagine the camp format this time around is going to be a little more like pro camps run: we ride debriefs, using the power and HR data we collect to assess how the groups have performed together.
*The sharp eyed will do some maths and wonder "what about the other meals?"....don't worry campers, all will be revealed
Each year, I encourage riders to come to camp with a few goals of what they want out of the week. It is easy to see the camp as a ‘fix all’ week – a week to pile in loads of training stress to make up for a poor winter (because of colds, weather, injury etc). Thankfully, I don’t think any of our riders think that way, but even then, there will be a slight pressure to do a little more than sensible, just to make the most of the week. On average, the riders going are sitting on a 12h training week as their norm. There is no sense in having them suddenly double that and ride at higher intensities to keep up with the group pace. “Coming home in a bucket” is NOT an aim of the camp – so one of my goals is to prevent that...and I hope they share that one with me. Other rider goals need to think about recovery, nutrition and other aspects of cycling preparation. I know in one conversation with my athlete Sara, we have talked about how we will look at gear changing over varied terrain. Juggling heart rate, cadence and power is really tricky, so its nice to know I will be on hand to give her a ‘1-2-1’.
I have learnt to also travel with my own goals. When I first made the transition from athlete to coach on these camps, I found myself stressed about my role. Did riders want me to ride with them every day? How would I cope with high riding hours AND be on duty for the rest of the day (rider interviews, presentations, organisation etc). Basically, I learnt I can’t do that all. It helps to have Dan with me on camps now, so we can share following car duties and hosting talks on ride data in the evenings. I am really prepped this year to be Coach 100%. This is reflected in my camp goals...
Goal 1: To spend time with all my riders, deepening my understanding of them and their training. I would like to ride with them all on at least one day, but at the very least, we’ll grab some “1-2-1” time over coffee so that we can talk about camp life and the season ahead
Goal 2: To ensure I am in daily contact with my riders who are left back in the UK (and France). This is part of the balance of camp life, and makes for long days. I will still be doing daily file analysis, and will be on hand over Skype and email to keep in touch with them. Looking to future years, I would love for ALL of my guys to be on camp with me each year.
Goal 3: To keep time for me: reading, meditating, some yoga. Regardless of what people think (“aren’t you lucky going ‘on holiday’ as part of your job”) this week is NOT easy for Dan and I. It is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, we love camp – but it is normal to be doing 14h days for 7 days straight. The riders are having leisure time, enjoying their hobby – for Dan and I, this is our professional life. It has worked out well that Dan, Pete and I are in a separate apartment – this will help us close down, shut off for the day...preserving energy to stay on top form for our athletes every day.
Goal 4: Time for reflection. I could combine this with above, but it is really to give myself time to think about the business and plans ahead. I have some ideas for PBscience, and how my role might develop within that. It is also my intention to take time explicitly to share some thoughts with Dan and Oli (who is starting to come on board as a coach and writer for the cycling media).
Goal 5: Enjoy some bike riding – this is not training, it is me enjoying being out on my bike in the sun. I have a photo stuck to the boiler in my kitchen at home. It is me, all smiles reaching the top of the Lluc climb – beautiful sunny day, deep blue sky – it must have been warm because I am in shorts (the pasty white legs suggest I hadn’t been out there for very long!). I’m keeping that image of me, hopefully this week will make it all the more vivid.
Knowing I have these goals helps me keep focus. There is a temptation to try and do too much: but if I come back having hit these, Coach will be happy with how things have gone.
OK, time to finish packing my bags...