After returning from racing in Galveston, it was time to put final preparations on the 2014 Team Red, White and Blue Triathlon Camp. This year was the third year of the camp and would be the biggest yet.
On Thursday, April 10th, the athletes began to arrive. This year there would be 41 athletes and lots of volunteers. This year we moved the entire camp to Lake Pflugerville so that we wouldn’t have to worry about driving across town in rush hour traffic. The locale was perfect, but for the first time, the weather didn’t really cooperate. The wind was extremely strong (and would stay that way for the entire weekend) and the temps were cooler than normal for April.
As everyone arrived at the lake, we made sure those that needed to be fit to their bikes were taken care of and gave the athletes their “goody bags” full of gear. We fed the athletes a steak dinner and had a short round of introductions before transporting everyone back to the hotels. We had a few glitches with paperwork, etc. but finally managed to get everything taken care of and set for the night.
Friday morning our awesome van drivers picked up the athletes and had them at the lake for the bike skills clinic. This is always a fun time as some of the athletes have never been clipped into their pedals. Even the more experienced athletes fall sometimes. And everyone learns something. After the bike, the athletes got ready to swim and had a great swim clinic. Then it was time for a much needed lunch. After lunch was a run clinic, short run and then a functional fitness session. A lot gets squeezed into each day, so the athletes are always ready for a shower and nice dinner.
Saturday started out with a group ride. Since the athletes would be doing a mock tri on Sunday, the group ride Saturday was on the route. I was asked to lead one of the groups and it’s always awesome to see the teamwork, the encouragement and the fun had by the athletes. Back at the lake it was time for another swim. And let me tell you, these athletes were getting a true lesson in swimming. The wind had the lake making small white caps. If these athletes could swim in this, they will be fine at any race. After lunch and a short nutrition clinic, it was back to the hotel for showers before dinner.
The Saturday night dinner is a special one. Attendees are asked to bring an item that means something to them. During the first two days, these folks form bonds and learn about one another. They see strengths and characteristics in others that they appreciate. At dinner, they have the opportunity to express that to the others by sharing their special items. It is a VERY emotional time. As a volunteer, I just sit back and watch, but this year, Jamie surprised me. He was one of our athletes the first year and stayed at our house with us. He became part of the family. He raced with me at Galveston and then came back to stay at the house and volunteer at camp. At the Saturday night dinner, he presented me with a shadowbox of pictures from camp, pictures of him at races, and……his Ironman Florida medal. Unbelievable. That’s the kind of bond that gets formed at these camps.
Sunday morning was the icing on the cake, though. This was the first year we were actually putting the athletes through a mock tri so that they could put it all together. We had transition set up, we body marked them, we put them in waves, and off they went. It was so awesome to see them put into place all that they had learned throughout the weekend. There were many who were doing their first triathlon ever and it was exciting to see them cross that finish line. Each athlete also got a finisher medal. The first of many, I’m sure.
We had lunch brought in, debriefed about the race, packed bikes in boxes to be shipped home and wrapped everything up at the lake. Then we headed back to a gym near the hotel where I was lucky enough to lead the athletes through a yoga session. It was nice to see so many of them enjoying the stretching and relaxing after the race.
After a yoga and a shower, it was off to the final dinner. The final dinner is presented as a roundtable with the pros and a few awards are presented. Another emotional night. The bonds that are formed during the weekend are incredibly strong and it’s awesome to know that these veterans go home knowing they have a support group – one that includes the pros. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I am honored to be a part of the group and to be a part of the third triathlon camp. The coach, the volunteers, the pros, the athletes all make it a highlight of my year.