Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 16 – Best Memories Come From the Hardest Things

I got bored on recovery week, so I researched what comes next after Ironman. I’ve found it – Epic Camp! ‘Cause really, the hardest things we do in like also generate our most cherished memories.

Click here to read other journal entries and articles by Andrew Read, and look for his new journal every Monday as he trains for Ironman Melbourne.

Journal Entry 16 – Best Memories Come From the Hardest Things

What a difference a week makes!

If you haven’t read my last journal entry please do so now. This time last week I was in struggletown. But after a week of recovery work, roughly sixty to seventy percent of what I am used to doing, I feel great.

The keys to my recovery this week have been the reduction in volume, of course, as well as a massage to get everything loosened up again and feeling right. One of the problems, though, has been with less work being done I find myself awake later at night. Usually I’m just about out on my feet by 9:00pm but this week it has been more like 10:00pm. Despite getting an hour less sleep on average each night the reduction in volume has been a relief.

One of the mistakes people make with recovery work is that they reduce volume and intensity. That can actually lead to big drops in performance and a detuning of the body. A much better idea is to reduce one or the other. For me, I always choose to reduce volume so on my easy weeks I do faster work and much higher intensity sets than usual.

For running or riding, for instance, I may choose to do either a time trial (TT) to accurately assess my ability to hold or reach a certain pace. Even a short 3km run flat out is hard. I remember a 3km bike TT I did a few years ago that left me feeling drained for a few days after. But these short fast sessions are important to keep the fire burning hot and stop the weird stagnation and lethargy often felt when you go from a high volume of training to less. Remember – when volume goes down for recovery it’s okay to have some higher intensity work just don’t overdo it and turn your rest week into a race week.

While I’ve had a bit more spare time I was cruising the Internet looking for an ample challenge next year – something suitable for after the Ironman in March. And I think I found it.

It’s called Epic Camp. Anything called Epic Camp must be great or else it wouldn’t be called epic with a capital E, right? In a sport that is filled with hard training and OCD masochists who love to crush themselves in training, Epic Camp may well be the Holy Grail of suffering. When I got accepted into the small group of twenty sociopaths I was told of the week’s basic plan – train to near the edge daily and finish the week with a no-taper half Ironman race (1.9km swim, 90km ride, 21km run). Here’s what I was told to expect:

Day 1 = 180km, day 2 = 115km with long climb, day 3 = 160km with a lot of climbing, day 4 = easier but tack on options, day 5= 120km with lots of climbing, day 6 = options but most people will take it easier, day 7 Kona 70.3) – that’s just the biking, we swim and run every day as well.

It’s that last bit that is most telling about exactly how Epic with a capital E the whole thing will be. With bike distance over 600km for the week plus running and swims of up to 4000m on days it really is going to be a big week.

Oh, and did I mention that somehow you compete the whole camp? Every session has points attached to it and there’s a friendly competition going on between all members at all times. I’ve read stories of people on other camps walking into a gas station, buying two bottles of Gatorade and a four pack of Red Bull. They then proceeded to drink two Red Bulls and split the rest into their water bottles and keep going! I’ve used the Tucker Max Death Mix Lite before and know that while it is gross and much like pouring petrol into your veins and setting it on fire, when you’re really deep in the hurt locker it will get you home for the day. What it does to your pancreas I have no idea but I’m sure it’s not healthy.

Somehow my recovery week seems to have turned into a thirst for suicide by Epic beatdown. But something weird has happened to me since turning forty and I just want to have some fun with training and adventure. I’ve got the confidence in my fitness and strength, after nearly three decades of training history, that while I may not be the fastest I will survive anything. One of the reasons has been that I wanted to inspire my clients, and readers, to get out from the safe confines of the gym and actually play and use the fitness you’re working so hard to build. Do an adventure race, a trail run, or take on a sport. The only difference between you starting a sport or not in five years will be you have fewer fond memories.

Get out there and do something. Quit being scared of the world, or a little bit of pain. The memories I have of the hardest things I’ve ever done are my most cherished. Trust me, when your heart rate returns to normal and the muscle pain clears, you’ll thank me for suggesting you go do something dumb.

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