It was considered a training camp but that sounds like it would be super structured which it wasn’t. It was more just, 50 some-odd Canadians descending upon the mountains of South Carolina and riding bikes. It makes me feel more normal to say it that way.
There were routes that were set out for each day and it varied in distance/elevation/time depending on how advanced each ride group was. I was put with a group of ladies of which there weren’t actually that many of down there. No surprises, I've been saying for years we need more chicks on bikes! These chicks were pretty tough and bad ass and I almost instantly recognized a couple of them from a 100mile ride I did last summer. That ride I did solo but found myself gluing my ass to random groups of people and these two ladies happened to be in that group. So in reality, I had already ridden a number of hours with these no-longer-strangers yet strangers.
Early in the week when the weather was actually WARM!
Day 1 had us heading out on some mostly "flat roads". I say that in quotations because there really was no such thing. Flat was relative to the rest of the week. It was ROLLY. Everything down there was rolly. We kept a decent pace and although I may have only actually pulled a couple of times I spent my time watching from the rear as is my usual view while cycling with a group. It's a good thing I like looking at bums. I was anxious about having diabetes and not knowing the style of riding whether we would be stopping for water or bush pees or anything so I ran my insulin a bit low. Meaning, I took a little less not knowing what to anticipate my output and input would be. Turns out I ended up a touch high the whole ride. I quickly learned to test my beeg in the spare moments girls were running into the bush to pee. I was thankful they were well hydrated (and I wasn't). About 2 hours into the ride I finally gave myself a wee shot of insulin. 2 units to be exact. I hadn’t consumed any carbs and was starting to feel it. Sadly my beeg didn’t come down to normal range until the ride was almost over which means zero intake of nutrition for the whole ride. This translates to quite the lack of necessary energy. I wasn’t THAT high, maybe in the 11’s (200ish) but I am not comfortable with consuming carbs at that number. By the time the ride was done I was already beyond the point of no return. Dehydrated and under caloried (yeah I just made that up). Which meant I was somewhat nauseous. I tried but failed to eat anything save 1/3 of a hemp protein shake before bed.
Day 2 had us climbing up a mountain. It was a 10k climb with about 2000ft in elevation gain which equaled a 5-6% average grade I believe. I was nervous. We all rode up at our own pace which meant I was dragging the rear. I didn’t know what to think of this or how to attack it so I just took it (a little too) conservatively. I rode it in about 45-50mins which was painfully slow comparatively speaking. I felt way too good at the top so I know I took it too chill. My low avg watts and HR attested to that. This day I was able to take in regular carbs which meant I finished the ride in a much better state. I even ate a little that night.
At the end of the Ceasar's Head climb day. Photo courtesy: Not me. I dunno, the photo belongs to one of these ladies.
Day 3 was probably the worst day of riding I’ve ever had. The whole world ended up knowing I was on my period. The pain in my murderous uterus woke me up at 6:30am. I took some painkillers and went back to bed read:laid in bed writhing in pain. I took more and then more painkillers. Normally at home I can’t exercise on the first day of my period, I've tried for years. I have absolutely zero energy because it’s all being stolen by my uterus! Within 15 minutes of starting the ride I was struggling up the small rollers. I was actually wheezing in the granniest of granny gears. Wheezing! Air restricted. Eventually I had to give up and the girls took off for a small loop. I literally CRAWLED back that day. The cramps were killing me, my energy level was FUCKING NON EXISTENT. I remember thinking the saddle was the last place I wanted to sit that day. I was in hell and in retrospect should not have gotten on the bike that day because I compromised the ride for everyone. I ate a wee bit that night again but almost instantly felt unbelievably sick to my stomach. I went to bed in nauseated hell.
My sick stomach, crampy uterus and guts in agony woke me up at 1am. I crawled down the ladder to the bathroom where I had some unpleasantries from the rear. I struggled not to puke, it took all my might. I choked back gravol and patiently waited for the nausea to subside while writing (bitching, complaining crying) to Ryan. I slept next to nothing. Day 4 was a rest day. I got up, drank a few sips of coffee and had a few bites of GF bread. Nope. Stomach turned like the plague. I held back exploding and spent the entire morning in bed drowning myself in gravol. At that point I got an upsetting message that left me in absolute tears. I was told I would be relegated to the beginner group for the following day. I nearly packed my shit up and left because my intuition told me to run the fuck away and fast. I didn’t want to be seen. I was sick and unhappy.
Day 5 (ride day 4) To save face and prevent myself from lashing out and pissing people off (which I do way too often) I rode with the beginner group. I sat quiet for the most part. It was too slow and unorganized for me and I was ultimately bored. There was no form or function and the riders were all over the place. Luckily there were a couple guys in that group (Hi HAMMER!) that were able to ride a bit harder and we took off to do some extra mileage at a much harder pace at the end. I was overall happy I sucked it up for graces sake.
After the 20km ascent to the Eastern Continental Divide on the last day of riding.
Day 6 (ride day 5) Back with my group of ladies we set off on our longest (and final) ride of the week. We collected ourselves in the morning and there were a few complaints of fatigued muscles and tired bums. I believe I heard “casual chill ride today”. Within the first 15 minutes I turned to whomever was beside me and said, “Is it just me or is someone putting down the hammer already?”. We headed to our mountain climb of the day, about 25mins away. The climb was long. 20km with a few downhills thrown in for good measure (which sucked on the way back down). I forgot to hit my lap timer so I really don’t know how long it was. It was awesome though. We all rode at our own pace which means I was alone. I was taking in all the gorgeous scenery knowing I was coming back to snow. I rode it a bit less conservatively than the climb 3 days prior. In my head I wanted to leave training camp knowing I left my all on the road that day. Near the end of the ride we missed a turn. I was already falling behind big time and not catching up anymore. This wrong turn added on a good 10k or so (OF HILLS). 10km isn't much but I had cracked, bonked, hit my breaking point where my legs were not spinning much anymore. I knew my way back by this point though. It was such a short distance but I swear I went through every emotion existent to a human being. I wanted to cry, scream, laugh. I reminisced on the weeks emotional turmoil, feeling like a failure and being worried about my health. I cherished the new friendships and daydreamed about what my future would be on 2 wheels. I stressed about getting back after the ride, packing and then driving 4 hours north to Missy Foy’s place.
More than anything I was glad it would be over soon. I went, I rode as best as I could and that’s all I can be happy about. The future is uncertain. The future of my health, riding and racing are all interconnected. I learned some major lessons down there. Firstly? I have a lot to work on with my lack of mental strength and poor self-confidence. A topic that deserves a post all to itself. I learned through watching others that I desperately need to get my health in check. It’s absurd to think I can train on empty day after day. I thought about hanging my bike up on the wall semi permanently. For the record it stayed hung up for 11 days and at the time of writing this I’ve been on it only twice since getting home.
Am I glad I went? Yes and no. If I was in better health I think I would have fared much better. Even now, weeks later, I still feel like a shell of a human since training camp and since coming home to getting’ skewered. (That too in another post – getting through a colonoscopy/endoscopy). It just brought so much stuff forward into the frontal lobe of my brain space. Health, Mental, Anxiety, Training, Confidence….
All that and more in another post.