Long Course Triathlon Camps - Are they worth it?


Posted by Coach Brad Noble

The 2012 IMFL Long Course Campers and Coaches


Much of the apprehension many first-time IRONMAN participants face stems from an innate fear of the unknown. The prevailing question on every first-timer’s mind is to wonder if he or she has done enough. This question is often followed by a series of subsequent questions about how to handle unexpected weather, blown tires, and cramps. Have they adequately prepared a contingency plan for every plausible situation?  In truth, the mental aspect of training for the full distance is equally as daunting as the physical aspect.

When I was training for my first full distance triathlon in 2012, I wanted to make sure I thought of everything. I scoured social media for information, trying to sift out the facts from all of the hype. I was lucky enough to meet Team MPI's Coach John and Coach Mark in August of that year, about 4 months from the rapidly approaching race day.  They mentioned there was an upcoming Team MPI IM Florida Long Course Camp and invited me to participate.  I didn’t know what to expect. I had practiced the Gulf swim. I’d driven the bike course and run the run course, so I wasn’t sure if the camp would be much of a benefit to me. Those ever-present questions about the unknown were looming in my mind. Therefore I ultimately decided to come down from Atlanta for the camp.

What a great experience it turned out to be!

Three of us loaded up my little SUV and made our trek to the beach, each with one of everything a triathlete could need. The trip down was not too different than the movie National Lampoon's Vacation, but that’s another story. Needless to say, it was an awesome adventure with a few surprises, not unlike IRONMAN itself. (All photos in this post are from that particular camp)

When we arrived and introduced ourselves, we found that we were three among many first-timers facing similar nerves and asking similar questions.  We were all in the same proverbial boat. Coach Mark and John made us feel at ease.  Almost immediately, they tasked us with a light jog down the run course.  Mark offered tips and tricks at nearly every turn.  He shared everything he knew about aid station locations, great spectator areas, mileage, nutrition and how to plan a good run strategy. He made us all feel much better and definitely more comfortable with our date with destiny. 

Early Saturday, we all arrived for our swim in the big, scary, Gulf of Mexico, complete with swim buoys and lots of surf.  Again, those who had apprehensions of open ocean swimming were soon put at ease by being immersed in what could be a very real race day scenario.  Coach John was nothing short of an amazing, calming presence in the water. He prepared for a “mass start” and taught us about sighting the turns, swimming in a large group, even offering stroke corrections.  Who couldn’t use that?

Once we left the water, we completed an invaluable walk through of the transition area. If you’ve ever been rushed, soaking wet, freezing cold, excited, nervous, and surrounded by hundreds of cheering friends and family members, then you may understand what an IRONMAN swim to bike transition is like: chaos! We walked the entire exit to entrance to exit area. They showed us where to look, which door to go in, and how to find less crowded spots inside where you could change in relative peace. This was a HUGE help and again put our worries mostly to sleep.

After the walkthrough, we headed out to the bike course and nearly every triathlete is guilty of driving the bike course to see what’s ahead, but nothing can prepare you like riding the course for yourself. One never knows how hilly a road is until you’re on a bike and IRONMAN Florida is NOT a flat course, it’s “flatter than most”, but NOT flat! Seeing for yourself is the BEST experience, and again Team MPI coaches offered expertise on riding in traffic, nutrition, hydration, electrolyte intake (it was VERY warm), aid station locations, even landmarks that were to be remembered on race day. Sunday brought more of the same expertise from Coaches Mark and John while riding the back half of the bike course and facing the headwinds and heat, something to remember for race day.

So, the question remains, is it worth it?

ABSOLUTLEY! As a first-timer with many questions, lots of apprehension, and an unclear vison of when, where, how, my answer is overwhelmingly YES!  My camp mates and I left on Sunday with new confidence, a clearer plan, and most importantly new friends. We all came in with a different idea of what we had signed up to do and lots of fears and questions.  We left with smiles, less stress and the thought of YES, we can and WILL do this


~ Coach Brad Noble


For information on the Team MPI IM FL Long Course Camps scheduled for September 9-11 and other camps, see http://www.teammpi.com/camps/

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