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Day 7 - triple cols


From here on in we have a big day followed by a shorter, harder day

  • Bike 122km with 3k climbing incl Cormet du Roseland, La Saises & Col D’Aravis
  • Swim 1hr
  • Run 10km incl 7x1km @ 3:50/km with 1min Rest interval.

As per yesterday I felt much better, perhaps the best of the camp as we set off today. I was determined today to be more competitive in the KOM’s as we had 3 big climbs.

After a 20km descent we were into the first climb the Cormet du Roseland which was 20km long. From the outset my legs felt so much better than every other day of the camp. I was able to climb with the same sort of power I showed back home. Adam took off from the outset but myself, JB and Walter were keeping him in check and as we were able to bridge over he punctured. I pushed on for a short period but decided it would not be right to take the KOM when the leader of the comp had punctured. It wasn’t going to effect the overall KOM as Adam has won every climb thus far but it would not have felt right. I was frustrated as I felt so good. There was certainly no team orders for others to stop and the others had every right to push on. When Adam caught back up I only held him for a short period but still managed to claw back most of the others by the summit.

For many of us this first climb today was the most stunning and enjoyable of the camp. The grade was nice, we had some shelter from the forest on the lower slopes then at the top the outlook over the snow covered mountains was just incredible.

Our 2nd climb up to Les Saises ski resort was not a KOM so we all dialed it right back and enjoyed an easier intensity on some lighter grades. Some more food at the top and it was all on for the final climb of the day the Col D’Aravis.

I had not looked at the profile of the Aravis climb so was going to take it km by km but I could tell from the map it was shorter than the others so far today and did not get as high. Immediately as we kicked off the pace was strong and power was up but my legs felt strong. Adam broke away earlier and I initially climbed on Walters wheel with Peter Mills on mine. Then after a few km we had some respite with a gentle and technical downhill section. It was time to attack and put my good feeling to some use. I bridged over to Adam but kept several bike lengths as the grade went up again, regrouped then pushed past and kept going. I kept my power in check and always felt I had another gear to go to if required.

It was good to finally find my climbing legs and rough things up a bit. My average power for the climb was 278w despite some downhill sectons - that's much higher than anything else I've acheived on the camp to date. Adam was 2nd up, Peter rode well for 3rd, Walter 4th and it was good to see Phil climbing better too in 5th. I don't think anyone was too displeased that the mapping software I used overestimated the total climbing meters today but we still got 3000m of gain!

Our accommodation is just down the road from Le Grand Bornard at Chalet 4. The chalet is owned and run by Piet and wife who know exactly what we need as Piet did Epic Camp 2009 in NZ. They have done a incredible renovation on the place with an endless pool, gym and beautiful interior. It’s well suited for families for winter or summer breaks.

Today’s swim for me was a 1 point bonus for doing the continuous IM set for 3km (12x 100 IM / 150 free). It was done at an easy intensity but I made a complete meal of counting as I still had my watch set to 50m and we were in a 25m.

Finally I knew Adam wanted to do the 7x1km @ sub 3:50/km pace run main set for points so I joined him for that to ensure I stayed ahead in yellow. We did the reps out and back on the flattest section of road we could find but each interval was basically 500m gently downhill then 500 up. After working hard to find our rhythm from a very short warm up during the first 1-2 reps we soon realized that opening up the legs in the first 500m and being well ahead of pace was the best strategy then slowing as we went up the incline. The set ended up being pretty straight forward – hot and hard but not too taxing. 


Day6 - regroup day


Today was a bit of a regroup day to give the body a break. There are several broken, sick, saddle sore infested athletes who will benefit from a chilled day to ensure we all enjoy the following 4 days of camp. That being said I still did 4.5hrs of training!

Run / Hike – 2hrs

Bike to the pool 15-20kms each way

Swim – 50m outdoor pool. 1000 bands only, 10x200 on 3:00, 200 fly

On my goodness did I feel better after today’s run. The pressure valve in my guts was release after 5 BIG toilet stops before, during and after todays run. As gross as that sounds it was a huge relief and I felt sooo much better.

Our running today kept with the theme of the camp and was breathtaking. It was more of a run/walk/hike up the ski slopes, through some villages then back down again. It was very easy going. Some did 1hr, myself, Phil, Adam, John B and Murray clocked in 2hrs. 

It was great to see a 50m pool all to ourselves at Bourg Saint Maurice. I was looking for maximum points in the 1hr time slot we had so went straight into a 1km continuous bands only. Next up was 10x200 on 3:00 which in our fatigued state was a really hard effort (that set was giving me 2 bonus points). There were a few touch turns but I made it, just, with Shannon keeping me company. Finally I had a 200m continuous butterfly (remembering this is a 50m outdoor pool). That was by far the deepest I’ve had to dig on this camp thus far. I was blown by about the 40m mark and it took every ounce of effort to make it to 200m.

That swim set was enough to get me back into yellow.

Our afternoon was the first downtime I’ve had all camp. I got my first massage, watched a little Tour de France (falling asleep on the couch), did a few interviews for imtalk and generally regrouped. It felt good for my brain and body to slow down for just a short period!


DAY 5 - The Queen Mountain stage


Run – 10km easy

Bike – 167km Le Grave to Sainte Foy Tarentaise incl Col du Galibiere & Col D’Iseran (highest pass in Europe) incl 4000m elevation.

Today is what epic camp is all about. Going very very deep when carrying fatigue. It’s like being in the back half of an Ironman run where you have to make choices to push on (or give up). You can't really simulate than in training but you can on Epic Camp. 

I, like everyone I think/hope, was more than aware that today was going to be insanely hard. Whilst we had a KOM late in the ride I went into “conserve and preserve” mode from the get go. My plan was just to sit at a nice comfortable 180-200w on the flat and keeping it 200-220w on the climbs where possible.

Out the door we had 10km climbing up the Lautaret which is not that steep then carrying on to the Galibiere which was another 7-8km @ 7-10% with a strong kick at the finish. Obviously whilst we climb a huge amount that we all go on about we also have to descend. There are some on this camp that need some serious brushing up on then descending but others like myself, Phil, Adam, Julian Stockwell etc that enjoy nothing more than ripping it down the mountains touching the brakes as little as possible. When we were not held up by traffic today we had some classic high speed descending – awesome. Nobody seems to be taking any life threating risks but Phil did crack the 100km/hr barrier coming down Ventoux the other day. 

After the drop down the Col Du Telegraph we were going to spend most of the rest of the day climbing up to the peak of the camp the Col D’Iseran - the highest pass in Europe. I decided to change my nutrition today taking just water for the first few hours then adding in some nuts, 90% dark chocolate, some fruit and one em’s bar. That was pretty much it for the day and it worked much better than previous days.

It was another hot one today with my garmin getting up to 35c (believe it if you will). I knew that I needed to keep my effort in check. So if I was not at the front I had no hesitation in letter others push on if it took me out of my comfort zone. It was all about survival. 

For some reason I had in my head that the Iseran was just a gradual climb. Oh how wrong I was. Certainly the 40km approach is up and down but once onto the final 20km it was relentless with km after km of 8-9%. It was so cool as we rode into the snowline by which time I was solo and happy enough just tapping out all I had in the tank. The 2nd to last km kicked to 10% and as caught and passed Julian, who had left earlier, he suggested I look out for the marmotte (small beaver like anaimals) off to the right. I didn’t even reply as the only think I could focus on was the tunnel vision that was taking me to the top. The air was thin the grade was steep and whilst I was loving where I was I had just one focus which was getting to the top. 

To close out the day we had a long descent with a 5km climb up to Station du Sainte Foy Tarentaise. All done I had 7hrs47mins moving time on the clock. It was very very long and hot and I was totally done. Our accommodation c/o Preiere Neige was simply stunning. We have two big chalets with hot tubs, sauna’s, our own chef and some stunning views. I'm going to enjoy some downtime here tomorrow!


DAY 4 Le Triathlon du Alpe D’Huez

  • Bike - ~30km to bottom of Alpe D’Huez, TT up
  • Swim 1.5km timed swim
  • Run – 10km run race
  • Add the times together for a broken triathlon competition
  • Bike home (down ADH then 30km up the Col du Lautaret.

Yesterday I helped Walter over the Col du Lautaret. He thanked me with a beer and a couple of wines last night but I felt mostly ready to go today and was looking forward to arriving at a key climb fresher given the downhill approach.  The key thing that has been bugging me is my guts. I often don’t handle altitude well when doing long haul flights and on camps at altitude. I remember back to our Italy camp where one day I literally could not walk more than a few hundred meters without crushing pain in my guts. This time around  the altitude, combined with the BIG increase of carbs and the hot weather has my guts not in their happy place but it’s still manageable.

Today was a broken triathlon with the winner would take home 6.3 points with each subsequent place dropping by .3 of a point. My plan on the bike was to ride by feel but hopefully sit ~270w and just do my thing. I remember from last time that the grade was a nice steady 6-9% and the hairpins give you some welcome breaks, it’s also nowhere near as long as the big brutes like Ventoux, Izoard etc.

Shortly after we kicked off we had our first rain of the camp which was heavy at times but quite welcome. I was happy tapping out my target power and feeling pretty comfortable……until about 3km to go and my guts went south. I would have loved to have a light saber and open my stomach up to release some tension like Han Solo did in “the Empire Strikes Back” with that big beast to put Luke Skywalker in to keep him warm. So I did fade over the final section but still seemed to be gaining on Shannon. Meanwhile Iain Wood had found his legs and unbeknown to me was bearing down along with John Ballard. All in all I had not dug too deep and felt OK about the ride. Best of all the weather had cleared up at the summit for our swim and run. My time for the climb was 58mins which ranked me 4122 on strava (better than my 6500 on Mont Ventoux)

I’m trying to find some good words to describe the pool at ADH. It’s a funny set up with 2 lanes on each side @ 25m long with a bulkhead that goes out a few meters. It was nice set up  but what was not nice was the service. It was like we were walking into a sterile laboratory with the staff upholding the law with great vigor. No shoes or socks on pool deck – fair enough. No short (togs) allowed in the pool – it was strictly speedo’s only. Guys that were wearing tri shorts had to roll them up to trick the staff. I wanted to put my bike shoes in the sun to dry – absolutely not. Then despite them being late letting us in they gave us a 7min warming to get off site when our scheduled time was done. Unbelievable!

We broke into 2 groups and for most it really was a case of just banging out the 1.5km. Many struggled with breathing at altitude but I seemed Ok with it. For me it was not a great swim at 22:28 (so just a tickle under 1:30’s), that was a fair reflection as I really did not put in a huge effort as well as the altitude effect slowing us down. Every length I was put off with Phil lying side on his side looking over the pool with his big hairy chest out so I blame Phil for my poor time.

Next stop was the 10km run which was 2 laps covering much of the ADH triathlon course. Off the line I knew I was in trouble hardly being able to breath with the altitude and my guts churning. Thankfully after a couple of km’s I was able to settle things down and just ground out the 10km. The legs certainly were not hurting but the lungs were not capable of any more. Rob Mohr ran a good strong effort to take out the 10km with a negative split.

Overall Adam K took out line honours with relative ease from myself. There were some other good battles with the swim often being the decider

  1. Adam K
  2. Me
  3. Shannon
  4. Rob Mohr
  5. Iain Wood

To finish out time at ADH we sat at an outside café with burgers and pizza before rolling down the hill and back up Le Grave with a 30km climb. All except the Holy Hammer Murray Lapworth who extended his run to 2hrs while we ate. 


Day 3 - Embrun to Le Grave

Finally some time to breath and we did not need to extend the time cut today.

Run – 2.5km warm up

Aquathon race – swim ~1.5km / run ~5km

Bike – Embrun to Le Grave 112km (plus 8km tack on) incl Col D’Izoard + Col Du Lauteret.

Racing is always a fun part of Epic Camp and no mater how tired athletes are they always can lift for races. That is where the real mental strength comes from these camps.

Poor Adam K still does not have his bike (he’s be using a loaner) or his wetsuit and given he is fighting for yellow I wanted it to be a fair fight. Especially as he had already lost out on points from the swim race on day 1. So I decided to go non wetsuit for the swim. There was no issue with the temperature of the water but obviously without a wetsuit you are around 10sec/100m slower. Thankfully Lou was bang on the pace I could hold and I stuck to his feet like glue until he decided to go awol and turn at the wrong marker point (a jetty). He chased me down though and passed me so I got back on for the tow. Then it was decision time, Lou was going awol again. The sun was right in our eyes but I could still just see where we were supposed to be heading and it was not the way he was going. I decided to go solo without the draft and swim the best line. We came out together but had a massive deficit to Shannon. The run was 2 laps of the lake on a nice shingle track. I backed myself to catch Shannon no problems but she was not even in sight. After finding my feet in the first 1km I though I was running well and was working hard but the 2nd km I didn’t even crack 4min/km pace. As I passed the finish for the 2nd lap I think I was still 50sec down so I really upped the effort and started running ~3:50/km and I finally caught sight of Shannon but it was still a big gap. In the final km I put in a big effort and probably caught her with just a few hundred metres to go. I reeled off the last near 1km at 3:35/km pace. Far far harder than I had anticipated running. Shannon was 2nd and Adam 3rd. It sounded like Peter Mills has a blistering run average 3:45/km which is impressive.

Our ride today was shorter but more or less climbing all day long. The Philinator Phil Paterson made a suicidal move at the first roundabout of the day to attack on what was a 40km approach to the bottom of the Izoard. It was his only chance to get a KOM but he paid for his efforts on the main section of the climb.

There was some dubious behavior before and at the base of the Izoard which meant I was starting the climb well behind all the contenders. So I had two choices, get angry and chase them down or settle in and enjoy the climb. I chose the later and really had a nice time on what is a brilliant climb with lots of changing scenery, cool villages and a spectacular summit. I wasn’t really focusing on power at all but it ended up being similar to Mont Ventoux but how I got that power meant I was pretty fresh at the top – at least as Fresh as you can be after a 14km climb to ~2300m. It  was another stunning day on the weather front. Probably mid to high 20’s and hardly a cloud in the sky.

The decent was just awesome. Nice wide smooth roads and not much traffic. I had a blast and caught up to one of our granny descenders Walter McCormack. He is one of several athletes on this camp who almost go uphill as fast as they go down. He’s a big strong guy though and has been 2nd on both KOM’s so far. We teamed up for the climb of the Lauteret which was a good 30km long.

For almost the first time of the camp we had some tail winds which was nice. So whilst the gradient was low we were tapping out a nice pace for not much effort. However once we got to the final 10km the wind turned slightly and the grades increased to mostly 5-6%. I was happy on the front just sticking to a comfortable effort but I can’t say I was suffering in silence. Every few minutes Walter would let out a groan of the slow torture he was going through. When I asked if we could stop so he could take a picture of me with the amazing snow capped mountains in the background he looked at me like I was some sort of nut job. He said if he stopped he seriously didn’t think he could get moving again. Finally we rolled over the top and our legendary support crew of Oli & Tim were waiting with refreshments and a nice piece of quiche. All that was left was a 10km decent to Le Grave where I blitzed past an entire tour group of ~30 who were clearly not allowed to pass their tour leader. It’s obviously different rules to epic camp.

Our accommodation at Auberge Edelweiss has the most amazing outlook over a glacier & rock face. We’ve just finished one of the best 3 course meals I’ve had in a long time.

Tomorrow is a broken tri up Alpe D’Huez. I’m looking forward to it.

The Bellwether performance of the day goes to Julian Stockwell after a bout of GI issues was back on his bike doing today’s ride solo and unsupported.

I’m still in yellow with the Holy Hammer Murray Lapworth in red for the over 50’s

Our internet over here has been very patchy to put it mildly but I have finally got some files up on Strava.