It was absolutely everything I hoped it would be, and more and I don't think there is anyway to capture the experience or properly give justice to the epic 5 days, I'll do my best!
Michelle's theme for camp is simply, "you are stronger AND capable of more than you think." She is spot on. For the months leading up to this camp I was terrified. Not that I couldn't do the distance, or the volume, but of the epic swim adventure Michelle had planned for us. In fact, this first came up at IMCA over dinner, when she announced that it would be EPIC, and part of the camp. I'm not gonna lie, I was the only one at the table who was not excited. And, the crazy part is that I LOVE to swim! I'm just absolutely terrified of the ocean. Up until the past week I've had more negative experiences than positive and the thought of swimming over 6 miles in it scared me to death.
I'm happy to say that after 25000 meters of open ocean water swimming, I faced my fears, and while I'm still terrified of it, I was finally able to enjoy it and just swim! And with that said, here are some more fun details about the epic 5 days!
Day 1: 1 hour Hill repeats in and out of "the pit." Nothing like starting out a 5 day, 20 hour training camp with run hill repeats, right? Agh, who cares when the view is unbeatable, it's not 4am and 118 degrees. It was a great way to loosen up the legs and even chit chat with the other campers.
Next up our first adventure to test out the gorgeous Kona waters with a 1 hour swim in Kealakekua Bay. I had managed to get out of my head and not think about being scared. That lasted all of 5 minutes when we arrived at the park and one of the locals warned us about the man o war jelly fish that were stinging in the bay... Thankfully (or not) shortly after I had another problem that helped me forget all about the jellys! While Michelle was giving us a short brief about our swim, a lava rock fell from a nice big mound straight onto my foot. It took everything I had not to scream, but it hurt, like BAD hurt. I had so many thoughts going through my head, wondering if I had really done something bad to it, and just horrified that I might have really messed myself up. I suppose it was (at that time) a blessing in disguise as I completely forgot about my fear of the jelly fish and hopped right into the ocean.
The swim was nothing short of GORGEOUS. The water was crystal clear, and calm. I'm not going to say I wasn't still scared, but I was hopeful that I could get through it all :)
Post swim was where I had the chance to test out my foot with an hour run. I was quiet. I started out the run alone, and just slowly moved into my pace. The first few steps hurt bad, but I was bound and determine to make sure this stupid random rock falling on my foot was NOT going to mess up my camp! Thankfully, the pain did not get worse and I was eventually able to find my stride. One thing I noticed was that I think all the crazy bricks and training I've done this summer (so far) have helped me finally acclimate to the heat.
It was hot, and humid and we were running along lava fields, but I wasn't dying! I was super stoked :) 3 hours later, Day 1 was in the bank!
We were also treated to a evening swim clinic by the legendary Karlyn Pipes. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, it was awesome!
Day 2: 10k Ocean swim. The big daddy. I was scared from the moment I woke up, until the second I hit the beach. We were split up into groups of 2-3 with a Kayak escort to help us and provide us with water stops and gels.
Keauhou Bay Departing from the super calm waters behind us in the picture. I was really quiet and just tried to get out of my head as we walked into the water and started out on our adventure. The first 30 minutes were honestly the worst for me. Our kayak was a bit too far away and Shane was hauling ass. I was working way hard to stay with him and his nerves had him all amped up which was transferring to me. Finally, after I told him he was going WAY too fast, and we had a a talk with our kayaker, we were able to settle into a rhythm. The waters were super calm aside from the normal tide rollers, but no chop. We were given advice last night at the clinic to make sure to stay on top of our nutrition, because you never know what the conditions will end up and you don't want to bonk. I took this very seriously and kept Shane & I a strict schedule of stopping every 30 minutes for sips of water and some calories.
Unfortunately, every time we stopped I started to get a little bit more sea sick and nauseous. I tried to keep our stops short and sweet, but as the morning went on the water went from gorgeous and calm to some serious chop. I have to say I'm super happy that my energy levels never really got too low. Shane eventually slowed dramatically so I would pull away really quickly. As soon as I wouldn't feel his hands in my draft, I would flip over to check for him, then stop and do some treading. That too was making me more sick so I started alternating breast strokes. It actually felt fantastic to stretch out my chest, back and hips so I continued to do that.
We FINALLY made it to Kona Pier, about 3:45minutes of swim time later. Longer than I had hoped, but so incredibly happy to have made it. As soon as we reached the buoys I went faster, as I had started dry heaving and really wanted to get to the beach so I could puke! Thankfully, as soon as I got vertical and headed away from the crowds to let it all go... I managed to refrain ;)
Garmins said 6.3 miles for the total distance. I'm guessing somewhere around 6.4-6.5 for Shane & I as we had a lot of back and forth with our kayaker. Either way it's by far the most crazy swim adventure I have ever been on. It was awesome and terrifying all at the same time. The water was stunning and clear, but I'm not sure how often I would want to put myself through that nausea again? I love challenging myself, but feeling like crap doesn't make for the best experience. It was absolutely one of the most crazy and epic things I've ever done!!
As soon as I got some calories and a bottle of water down, I jumped on the celebration bandwagon and had a couple of beers at the infamous "dig me beach."
Epic. Epic. Epic.
Day 3: 6 hour ride out to Hawi and 40 minute brick
This ride was nothing short of AWESOME. I think I paced my day perfectly and never had a low or bonky moment. While my longest ride has been 75 miles in the past year, Michelle assured me of my fitness (trustthecoach) and I just made sure to stay on top of my hydration and fuel. I ate a TON of calories and just kept piling in the water. We had a mix of everything. Clouds, sun and epic winds (at one point almost to Hawi looking down at my Garmin wondering if I was even moving), but Michelle had mentally prepared us for it all so I was ready!
What an awesome way to tour Kona, right?
Day 4: Hill repeats plus brick followed by "social" ride.
Michelle found us a great hill to do some big gear strength hill repeats on. I think everyone surprised themselves with feeling great, despite a sore booty - and for the run we were treated with a nice cloud cover!
The afternoon ride went a little less, well chirpy we will say. I think we all had in our heads "social coffee ride, fluff." I can't speak for everyone, but I was less than perky. It wasn't the rain, or the 3500ft of climbing we did, but more my attitude and energy levels. I didn't do a good job of fueling for it, and didn't bring enough calories figuring I wouldn't need them and definitely paid for it. After finally arriving at the coffee shop where I was hoping for some sort of high calorie sugar treat to help my energy levels and much needed water, it was closed....
We did eventually find another coffee shop, but I think 10/12 of us had officially bonked by that point. This was definitely the low part of camp for me. That was until another camper and I found THIS sign on the way back and b-lined in for a sample.
From that point on I had a smile on my face and eventually made it home to start making dinner for the group!
Day 5. 20 mile run plus 1hr swim. Our group split into 2, those training for a full Ironman and those for a half. Logistically, this was a challenge, but Michelle had no trouble figuring it out. 4 of us started an hour before the rest running a 5 mile course down to where we met the others (Kona Pier) for our swim. We started out stiff and heavy, but by the last mile or so the legs had loosened a bit. My foot was still really sore, but I was determined to get in the 20 miles. A quick change and off in the water we headed looking for dolphins. We didn't find any, but we did see some cool fish and played around a bit under water.
After a quick rinse off, change of clothes we all headed out Ali Drive for the next 15 mile section of the run. The sun came out and we had an ice headwind, but it was never too bad. I again started off nice and easy, trying to find a rhythm and get past the initial pain and soreness in my foot. As the run progressed I just felt amazing. I was on the most amazing runners high that never ended. My last 6 miles were my fastest, and as I got back to Kona Pier I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was happy, I was tired, I was determined. I ran past the infamous sign pictured below (post beers and food!) to end at exactly 20 miles and stopped almost in awe at what my body had just done.
This experience was one I will NEVER forget. 5 days & 20 hours of ~ 40miles running, 15k swimming, 170miles on the bike, with some of the most amazing athletes and friends, lead by the one and only coach #BSC.
We finished up camp with an e21 sponsored Shane-tini celebration. Sore, tired, and now nice and buzzed was how we ended camp. All smiles from there on out.
Michelle you are an awesome inspiration and truly an incredible leader. I can't wait to hop on my bike tomorrow with this amazing gift and reminder that, indeed, I am stronger than I think.