Five days after Epic Camp I find myself with quite a different perspective on the whole thing. During the camp, it was difficult to think of anything except the suffering, the fatigue and the reality that most of the campers were way out of my league. Yet, as I said from the beginning, I went there not to compare myself to the pros and to the top age groupers, but to push myself beyond where I had ever gone in training. By my reckoning (and that of my Polar watch), I did 34h 17m of training in the first 7 days of the camp — easily double my biggest-ever training week.
Immediately after the camp, I couldn’t feel any difference other than fatigue. I got home and reassembled my bike, though, and got on the trainer last night after a heavy meal that included a couple of glasses of wine.
At first, I just wanted to see how things went. My CompuTrainer allows me to set the wattage I want to ride, so I moved up through my usual curve of very easy (100 watts) to easy (130-140) during the warmup. But a funny thing happened — my heart rate was still really low, and I didn’t feel as though I were working at all.
I decided to do the equivalent of the blood lactate test they do at Endurance PTC. This involves 3-minute sets of step-ups of 3o watts every 3 minutes; I did this test a year ago to determine my Ironman and lactate threshold values. The year-ago values were 190 watts @ 128 bpm for the steady-state lactate value and 230 watts @ 146 bpm for “threshold.”
I didn’t have anyone measuring the actual blood lactate, so I just used the heart-rate values as a guide, approximate though they are. At 190 watts, I would have expected to hit 128 bpm by the end of the 3 minutes; instead I was only around 110 and still felt really easy. I moved up to 220 and only hit 120 bpm by the end of the 3 minutes, and then I moved up to 250. It took until the third minute when I finally hit 128 bpm, and I still had plenty in the tank. Anyway, I estimate the equivalent value to be 240-250 watts — at least it was last night. That is a significant improvement.
Moreover, I didn’t reach 146 bpm even by the end of the third minute @ 280 watts; after that, I decided to warm down just because I got the advice not to push it too much after the camp. But I am really encouraged by the numbers and wonder whether they’re real. If so, it really supports the volume theory over everything else.
The other thing I can say is that despite being the camp slacker, I really did do what I could every day, knowing of course that I could only go so deep and still be able to do anything the next day and the day after that. So I did “pace” myself. But I also endured many moments when I didn’t want to be on the bike and still got on, whether it was general fatigue or my butt really hurting or whatever. The point is, I stretched myself way beyond my previous limits, and I see signs that it will pay off.