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Noosa Triathlon Camps - Through a "Campers' Eyes




Noosa Triathlon Camps - Through a "Campers' Eyes

Article written and supplied by Peter Degnian, Toowoomba Queensland

I arrived in Noosa on Tuesday in time to have my bike checked at the local bike shop, sort out my gear and find my bearings around the area. Tuesday evening was a great way to connect with a few mates I had brought with me and stash away some quality carbs in preparation for the next five days.

The camp kicked off with registration and check-in at 6.30 on Wednesday morning. Unusually for the Sunshine Coast it had rained heavily the previous night and continued with sporadic showers and overcast skies for most of that day. Qu’estquec’est as the French would say. A quick meet and greet with friends from previous camps and soon-to-be new friends and we were off.

A hardy bunch of almost thirty camp participants, along with coach Nick Croft, the lovely Jess and our ride marshals Greg and Jules, rolled out at 7.00 sharp for a 140 km ride to commence proceedings. We left suburbia behind and were soon riding through the lush hinterland enjoying spectacular views and rolling terrain up to the picturesque village of Kin Kin. So far the weather had not been kind to us and bikes and riders were beginning to settle in to the slightly trying conditions. Smiles broke out though as we paused briefly to refuel on the first of many batches of home-baked muffins, which were to magically appear from the support vehicle, driven by the eternally cheerful and enthusiastic Bardie, throughout the rides during the camp.

Sadly we had to leave the muffins unfinished and proceed back to Noosa via Pomona and Cooroy townships and the aptly-named Sunrise Road. There was a little spill for a couple of riders on the slippery descent of the Cooroy hill but the wet surface and damp conditions meant only a graze to the unlucky, and just a hint of a grin perhaps to some in the group. Everyone soldiered on back to Noosa, where some took the option of shortening the ride and running off the bike at that point, while the ambitious amongst us headed into the brisk SE wind for a charge down to Coolum and return to round out the 140 km for the morning, followed, off course, by our run off the bike.

Everyone dispersed to their accommodation to lick wounds, wash bikes and eat. No time for too much rest as we were due at the Noosa Aquatic Centre for a recovery swim followed by an introduction to Deep Water running. Many of the camp attendees found DWR a new and strange experience, but all agreed that the benefits of simulated running activity in a non-weight bearing environment were self-evident, if just a little tedious after a while.

Good news after that though with a scrumptious and nutritious barbeque dinner and the handing out of camp gear including the camp riding jersey and commemorative camp shirt, vouchers for discounted equipment from the camp sponsors and plenty of goodies to take away from the camp. A quick nod to the main sponsor of the camp, Le CycloSportif, which is the premier bike shop in the Noosa area and were very generous suppliers of discounted equipment, free mechanical advice and assistance and, in the case of Greg, co-owner of the business and one of our ride marshals, encouragement and riding tips during the morning ride.

Dinner was nicely rounded off with, dare I say it, more home baking. This time chocolate brownies which melted on the palate. We seemed to be eating our way to Ironman but I heard no complaints, nor did anyone miss out on a second helping when offered.

The day was not yet done though, a Nutrition seminar with Gary Slater was to follow before we could lay weary heads to the pillow. Gary is a sports nutritionist with a wealth of experience working with elite athletes across a variety of disciplines and gave us a very detailed overview of the nutrition and hydration strategies available to us in preparation for, and during, our Ironman race. Despite an early start and a solid workload for the first day not one person was ready to leave before hearing every thing that Gary had to say on the topic. We came away with evidence-based information and the tools to devise our own individual race plan for nutrition and hydration.

Day two commenced with a long run of two and a half hours duration. We were ready and willing at 5.30 in the morning and jogged off with Jess to navigate our way through two laps of a 12 km course through the ‘burbs and into the Noosa National Park, emerging to quickly refuel and drink before going around again. It was a little damp underfoot but the light showers were quite refreshing and the trails through the Park provided a compliant surfacefor tired legs.

After an enormous group breakfast of cereal, fruit, toast and juice we charged off to shower and change for the next session, a seminar with another leading sports guidance professional, psychologist Lisa Fraser. A practicing sports psychologist and academic, Lisa has worked with athletes in swimming, tennis and surf endurance as well as our own sport and has a deep understanding of the powerful potential of mental training to positively influence the performance of athletes competing in ultra endurance events such as Ironman. Once again we came away with worksheets and handouts to allow us to practice the techniques for training the mind as we prepare for and race our goal events.

Never a dull moment though as we were straight back on the bike for an easy roll out through Tewantin to Boreen Point and return to flush out our legs from the morning run, and give us an appetite for lunch. Add another 50 km to the logbook for that day.

A nutritious lunch, and a quick nap for some, saw the group of happy campers down at Noosa main beach for an open water swim skills session run by Nick, with Jess and Jan demonstrating some techniques for us to practice. The water was delightful and what a spectacular venue for a training session. The late lunching holiday crowd were entertained by our antics as we swam with eyes closed, porpoised off the beach, swam around buoys and generally had a fun time while practicing these skills and knocking out a two and a half km swim session in a very low stress environment. We washed off the salt and headed back over to the Noosa Lions Park for a discussion on hydration and nutritional recovery from training with Duncan Inkster from PureSportNutrition. Duncan has been involved with triathlon for many years as a professional athlete, coach and training director for Triathlon Queensland and is passionate about the opportunity to bring PureSportproducts to Australian athletes. These products represent the cutting edge of research into hydration and nutrition for training and recovery, having been developed in close concert with the US Olympic swim team in their preparation for the Beijing games. Seemed to work for Michael Phelps, anyway.

That wrapped the day and we were left to our own devices that evening to dine at our choice of the many eateries in and near Noosa, and then to prepare ourselves for the next day’s long ride.

Now I was really looking forward to this ride. This is my third Ironman distance camp with Nick and Jess and I had ridden the course in those previous instances. Both times I was carrying injuries of some sort and had struggled a bit with the distance. Not this time, I was feeling as fresh as a daisy for this one.

An early start saw us congregate at 5.00 then we were split into three groups based on the strength shown so far in the camp. Our group got a head start and Jess steered us out along Sunrise Road, living up to it’s name on this particular morning, The sun was just peeking over the horizon as we spun up and down the rollers along Sunrise Road and in to Cooroy. More rolling hills out the other side as we made our way to the water ( and muffin ) stop at 45 km. We had increased our lead on the other two groups due to their mild misfortune so only paused to fill bottles, mouths and pockets and headed out to the Mary Valley Way up to Gympie. This country is just beautiful, there is no other way to describe it, lush green valleys punctuated by stands of eucalypt forest with flowing creeks and gullies teeming with wildlife. What a way to train.

Soon enough we were motoring into Gympie courtesy of a little tail wind pushing up the valley and launching ourselves at the Tramcar Bakery for coffee and refreshments. We had maintained the advantage and were back on our bikes as the next group arrived to take our places at the tables. Now the fun was about to start with nearly 40 km to Kin Kin but from the other side this time. We would push into a light headwind up and over two small ranges, traversing a short section of gravel road being re-surfaced, and arriving at Kin Kin still with a lead of ten minutes.

The second group rolled in again as we were leaving and we bid them good day but knew we were going to have to work over the climbs in the next section through to Boreen Point. The weather this morning was brilliant; the wind had dropped by now and the sun was starting to build into late Summer intensity. It was warm but this is the Sunshine Coast after all. The fast guys from the chasing group blew by us on the penultimate climb and promised to leave some crumbs for us at Boreen Point. Fortune favours the brave so we took up the chase and enjoyed the flowing descent off the last climb of the day and, lo and behold, somebody had punctured in the fast group. It was head down and backside up for us as we pushed the last five km into the town and, yes, the muffins were ours. Time for cold drinks and fresh muffins while we waited for the three groups to join up before the last blast back in to Noosa along McKinnon Drive. We dispersed at the Lions Park with 180 km in our legs and spent the afternoon relaxing and rehydrating. Then it was off to our fantastic sponsor Le CycloSportif for Friday evening drinks and nibbles and some super special deals on bike and run gear before heading down to Hastings Street for a beautiful meal at the laid-back Café le Monde before calling it a night.

Saturday morning saw the entire group assembled at Main Beach again for a long ocean swim out to Tea Tree Beach in the Noosa National Park and return for a distance of about four km. We were shepherded by some volunteers from the local Surf Life-saving Club on paddle skis and a jet ski and had what can only be described as a brilliant swim. Conditions were calm, the sun was shining and the water was the perfect temperature. A real confidence building session for those inexperienced in open water environments and a solid training hitout for the better swimmersamongst us.

Swimming in the ocean certainly gives you an appetite. We devoured a hearty breakfast and kitted up to be back at the Lions Park venue for a bike clinic with the guys from Echelon Sports. Chris had the latest Zippwheelsets there for us to ogle and, for a lucky few, to test ride as we headed out for a light spin to the base of Gyndier Drive. On the way back into town the guys with demo wheels let it rip to see just what the wheels felt like. The cheesy grins faded a little when the wheels had to go back to their rightful owner but it would surprise me if there wasn’t some hard bargaining with spouses over the necessity for a new wheelset come race day.

Next up was a light session of Iyengar Yoga to stretch our limbs and backs which were starting to feel the accumulated load of the last three and a half days. A light lunch followed then we reconvened for a recovery session with Cory and Dirk from BodySpanner. What a great little device for inflicting pain on our tired muscles. I guess we could expect a little tenderness after what we had been doing to ourselves. The group was meeting later that evening for dinner so we had the remainder of the afternoon to prepare our bodies, minds and equipment for the grand finale to the camp. Yep, tomorrow we race a half ironman distance triathlon.

Dinner, again, was delicious and healthy and it was obvious how well everyone had bonded during the camp. There was a very supportive atmosphere as some contemplated the longest distance they had yet raced while everybody knew that it would be a challenge to back up after all the training. However it would be a great opportunity to implement the things that we had learned and practiced and, for those of us racing at Port Macquarie on May 1, a good guide to our preparation thus far.

Sunday dawned bright and clear as the local tri club volunteers erected bike racks and generally got the show on the road. This was a local club event and the camp contingent swelled the ranks to about eighty participants. Without going into every detail of the race I will say that the warm conditions made it a great test on the day. Several camp participants PB’ed over the distance and some completed their first attempt at the distance. Well done indeed to all.

The entire camp assembled for lunch to celebrate the achievement, enjoy Nick and Jess’ hospitality again and to exchange contact details for the next time we might meet at a race, or organize to train together, or perhaps even to return for another Noosa Tricamps Ironman distance camp.

This was my third Ironman distance camp and I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of the experience. It is a huge workload with plenty of activity designed to present content that is relevant, current and real world. Every attendee left brimful of personal confidence after tackling and completing a challenging and thought-provoking endeavor.

The camp staff are all vastly experienced and successful athletes themselves and just really genuine people. Head coach Nick Croft has been there and done that in every aspect of triathlon over much of the last three decades. To be able to train with, and absorb knowledge and advice from anyone with such a wealth of experience is a privilege and well worth the cost of the camp fee. Jess makes sure it all happens and is never without a broad smile.

Considering the training, support, meals, venue, free stuff and the home-baked muffins it is fantastic value in my opinion. Get on it, people.

Peter Degnian, Toowoomba Queensland

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