With the end of the road cycling season, everyone is thinking of moving training indoors as the weather starts to becoming variable and colder. While training can happen in the cold in the winter, training at -10C is much harder that at 20C. Nevermind the difficulty of getting movitated, but getting up to threshold in the cold is just plain harder. Some are starting to think ahead and get set for the training camp in February and/or March. This fact reminds me of my experience of the last two seasons and the real purpose of the training camp.
For some reason, people think training camp is about riding hills, drinking beer, and have a good time. I find that hard to believe because it doesn't - or shouldn't - be the way one trains normally. Is it really supposed to be a vacation? I think most forget that training camp about bring back the form you had the year prior. So, to that end, what do climbing 20km climbs have to do with it? What part of climbing for over a hour resembles the type of training and racing one does here in Ontario? I can ride up Grey Rd #19 in Collingwood,ON in 16 mins and do Scenic Caves Rd is 11 mins. Effingham Rd in St. Catherines, ON on the Niagara Classic Road Race is what a 3min climb? Where is there an hour climb? For the most part, racing in Ontario is flat with some bumps in them. In my mind, it would be far better to train in a location that better simulars the normal racing environment - and I do mean train. What does everyone do the first ride in North Carolina? Drop the hammer and try prove themselves. We shoot for strava segments, etc.. Why? What part of this strategy is about training? I have always wondered what the point of training camp was when there wasn't really any training.
In February 2014, I arranged with Eon D'Ornellas, owner of the D'Ornellas Bike Shop, to stay with him in Clarmont, FL. I had arranged to stay for a week and race the Swamp Classic on the weekend following. The idea was to get some miles in the legs and some idea of what is was like to race again before having to do that in Ontario. It was doing the week while riding with Eon that he gave me the best explanation of what the purpose of training camp in the early season is for: re-learning how to ride your bike outside again. I know the first ride outside in the warm weather felt completely strange. It took 30 mins to get use to riding a bike not attached to a trainer. It was the first time someone was able to give me good explanation of the purpose of training camp. Eon should know because he has been to the Olympics a few times.
It did not take long to love the area. People think the only hills in Florida are the overpasses on the highways - and this is dead wrong. In the Clermont area, the terrian ressembles Ontario. Flat in some areas and rolling hills in others. Sugar Loaf Mountain Rd is a 3min climb that tops out around 12% - good practice for the Niagara Classic in May. Most of the hills in this area hit 7%...and after spending a winter indoors, they feel like mountains. When I arrived in the middle of Februray it was 25C. It was 25C all week except for one rainy day where it was 14C. What was in Brevard, North Carolina that week? 5C in the afternoon. When I was in North Carolina, the year prior it was 10-12C at the start of the ride. In Florida, it was 18-22C - and even got up to 30C in the afternoon. Where would you rather be training?
I think what most people miss that racing in Florida also starts in JANUARY. Yes, JANUARY. The Tuesday night time trial at the Orlando Airport starts in January and runs to May. Racing happens every weekend with a Crit, Road Race, or a race weekend. So, one can do training during the week and racing during the weekends. What does the Good Friday road race need to be the first race of the season? That, to me, is crazy.
Eon also showed us what training outdoors is like. He basically continues his weekday rides he runs all summer in Toronto down south at his Florida home. We were doing intervals - you know, doing training, not just riding around. Recovery ride days involved an easy rides to the coffee shop. The pre-race day ride was a recovery pace ride with 5 sprints for road signs to wake up the legs.
After that trip, I decided I'm no longer interested in North Carolina. If I do training, it will be in Florida. It's just warmer. Sorry, after last winter, I want nothing do to with the cold when it comes to training. So, for 2015, the plan is to rent a house in Clermont, FL for the month of March. One house in the area sleeps 14 people. We would sell out rooms by the week training rides during the week and racing during the weekends for those that are interested. Tuesday we would drive out Ornando airport for the time trial. This arrangement would be a training camp with all rides that have a purpose. Because of the location to Disney, people would be able to bring their families if they wanted. Rides would happen in the morning leaving the afternoon to see the attractions in the area. Downtown Disney is a great place to hang out in the evenings. (If you are a tri-athlete, keep reading....)
There are some things that have to happen to make the march training camp a reality, but that process will be started in October. Anyone that knows me knows I have been talking about this camp idea for months. So, if you are interested, please contact me if you are interested, and I will add you to my mailing list. You can ride around some mountain passes in North Carolina in the almost warm weather, or you can come train and race with us in Florida and never have to deal with cold weather.
BTW, for those that are not into bike racing, but into Trialthon, the area is host to the National Training Center which a pool and a running track. There is also a dirt running track useful for trail running. It is a good place for all kinds of training.