While the rest of the world (or so it seemed) was out racing hard this weekend, I was secluded with a group of fellow athletes at Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club for some fun group training sessions at Pinnacle Camp. This is the second of the Next Step Triathlon Camp Series this year and was meant as a build weekend for those heading to Tri United 2 or Ironman 70.3 Philippines.
I felt very much the veteran at camp with so many new faces around doing their first long course triathlons in a few months’ time whether as an individual or as part of a relay. I’m still preparing for Challenge Roth; with Coach Ani doing the race this year and Coach Dan having done it twice before, I was eager to pick up any useful information. It would also be a good time to test-drive my new wetsuit, which had just arrived, in an open-water situation. I’d only used it twice before: once to learn how to put it on and take it off, and once at our condo pool.
The first day began with a long bike ride, approximately 3 or 4 hours long. I was at the camp with two of my Endure teammates, Kira and Edith. For Ironman 70.3 PH, Kira is the swimmer in a relay and Edith is doing her first half distance tri.
Anyone who’s been to Pico de Loro knows how steep the hills are heading out of the resort proper. I’d conquered those before, though, on Loki my old aluminium bike. I was confident that Mako my new Ceepo carbon bike would get me over those hills much faster, and yes we did climb quite well but it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt!
Coach Dan recommended a lap course that had some climbs, so I attempted to do one whole lap of it before I would rule the climbs out completely. It wasn’t that I was afraid of uphills; however, knowing those roads (technical descents) and knowing the kind of traffic that goes along them (fast cars and motorcycles), I was wary of getting into an accident so close to my A race. So after I climbed and descended one hill, I opted to cycle mostly along the flats instead — I would do my hill training on more familiar roads instead.
Dan advised me that Roth’s course is not flat and has sizeable elevation gain; the reason the course produces such fast bike splits is the excellent road surface, which allow strong bikers to maintain momentum going uphill and not much speed is lost braking down them. I’ve gone and read up on the course and it seems there’s a 5-kilometer climb at 3% (!!!) as well as the more well-known climbs such as Solar Hill. More strength sessions on the trainer and lots of hills are on the schedule over the next few weeks, then.
I didn’t get to do a really long ride, but I rode hard on the flats so it was a nice speedy session. The sun was out in full force, but humidity wasn’t that high so it wasn’t sticky. (The afternoon session was a different matter.) I also had been feeling flat the past week so let’s see if I can get some zip back after this weekend.
We climbed back over the resort hills as a final insult to the legs before taking a break for lunch. I snuck a 30-minute nap in before going for the day’s second session: a run.
Oh, we did have a short meeting before that to highlight the camp’s sponsors and give away prizes like Zoot shoes, 2XU visors and bottles, Multisport Philippines singlets and bottles, and the grand prize of 7 Timex Ironman watches! We also all walked away with Unilab goodie bags and Rudy Project camp shirts.
For the run session, Coach Ani emphasized the importance of cadence. She said, “Speed is a product of stride length and stride rate.” Mathematically, to increase speed you must increase one or both of those variables. However, stride length is limited by how long your legs are. So increasing stride rate is a more feasible way to gain speed.
After doing one round of the resort’s 2-kilometer perimeter road with 15-second bursts of high cadence (I was routinely hitting 100 steps per minute during them), it was time for some hill repeats! Coach Ani gave us some pointers on good running form: don’t bend over, swing arms for faster leg turnover. Then it was off up the hill.
It had rained during the lunch hour, but not enough to cool the ground considerably. All that had done was make the air more humid. Our sweat clung to our skin and even though my new Mizuno tank was very breathable, I still ended up in my bra top.
The beginner group was given 4 to do, while the intermediate and advanced would do 6. “Come on Noelle, it’s good for you,” Coach Dan said as I fake-grumbled.
I finished the session not feeling gassed out at all. Coach Ani said the next day’s Enduro brick would be tough, which is why they had backed off on this one. Uh-oh…
We capped off Day 1 with an attempted easy swim at the 50-meter pool. Unfortunately, this was the resort’s peak weekend because it was the last one before school would resume. So the pool was brimming over with vacationers and I could barely get in 500 meters not crashing into anyone before calling it a day.
On the schedule for Day 2 was an open water swim, which many of the camp attendees had arrived specifically for. Again, most of the people were new to long-course triathlon so it was nice chatting with them about little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years, most of which came from my earlier camp experiences.
I had donned my wetsuit for practice, and the two Australian guys at camp (Neil and Tony) quizzed me about how I would manage getting too hot in it. Good thing the swim was held early in the morning, so I was comfortable. I flushed the suit with water periodically to cool off, which Tony later on told me would cause chafing because the sand and grit from the water would collect inside the suit and around the neck. Oops!
I asked Coach Ani about the heaviness in the arms from the suit. She said you can’t really do a classic high-elbow recovery in a wetsuit, but what’s important is the pull underneath. Once I started swinging my arms (which caused way more splash than I was used to), swimming in the wettie became much less tiring.
While Coach Ani stayed with the beginners and taught them beach starts and sighting, she shunted me off to Coach Dan’s group, which was doing fast efforts. Well, I was glad I was in the wetsuit that day because it helped me keep up with those speedsters; I even got into a nice little drafting pod which made my day much easier.
I also practiced stripping off my wetsuit, which I am getting much faster at now! Underneath it I was wearing my cute TYR bikini just so I wouldn’t overheat.
After a nice buffet breakfast made of copious amounts of bacon, eggs, and tocino it was time for the last session of camp. The Enduro is a 10-kilometer ride and 2-kilometer run brick done three times. Since we were within resort grounds we were advised not to go excessively fast on the bike. It was more about teaching the body how to handle running off the bike. I’d never done a session like that before, so I was morbidly curious about how it would feel.
The first round would be done easy, second round moderate, and last round hard. We were supposed to do 5 loops for the bike and 1 for the run; I inadvertently went an extra bike loop on the first and second rounds, so at least I got a much harder session than I originally went in for. (I only found out about my extra loops when reviewing my Strava data.)
Thanks Coach Ani for this video!
What I liked about this session is how it forced me to adopt proper pacing. My legs were heavy on the first run off the bike. They were dead in the second run. But in that last run they miraculously came back to life, and despite the rising temperatures as it got later in the day I ran my fastest that last lap.
Based on this camp and last year’s Pinnacle Camp, I’m definitely fitter now physically — and it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to handle the intermediate/advanced sessions. Compare that to when I first started attending these Next Step Tri camps. On my first one back in 2012 I was afraid of open water and afraid of climbing hills. I was set to do the relay bike in IM70.3PH then so I was a saling-pusa (a little kid joining on a temporary basis) — I didn’t complete the swim or bike workouts but shone on the run as my strength.
At last year’s camp my goal was to finish my first half distance triathlon, and it was an exercise in building confidence that I could go the distance. I had improved my open-water and bike skills by then and was able to join all of the planned workouts.
The Challenger Camp early this year was a great way to prepare for what was my most challenging triathlon (at the time), Challenge Philippines. From tailing Coach Ani on the recon ride in Bataan I learned how to negotiate technical descents and not lose time on them, which really helped with my performance on race day itself.
What I gained from Pinnacle Camp this year was a mental boost. Look how far I’ve come! And look how far I’m gonna go, as long as I don’t give up on myself. Tell you what, I am now even more excited to tackle my first iron distance at Roth.
These Next Step Triathlon Camps have such an encouraging vibe around them. Based on what I observed from my fellow participants last weekend, they’re taking home the confidence they need to tackle their upcoming major races.
Thanks Coach Ani and Coach Dan for the opportunity to participate in this. I had so much fun!
*photo from Raceday Magazine
+photo from Multisport
=photo from Next Step Tri