By ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp
Last week I had the privilege of joining the Marian University collegiate cycling team for their 5th annual spring break training camp representing ALP Cycles Coaching as a coach. Roughly 30 fast, young, and incredibly quick to recover collegiate athletes took to Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and rode 10,578 miles, climbed 899,792 feet, burned 413,915 calories, and ate 36 dozen (!!!) eggs.
This is the biggest camp I’ve been a part of and I learned a lot not only as a coach, but also as a working athlete. Good friend and head cycling coach Dean Peterson had already dialed in the logistics of getting all of the kids down to the Townsend, TN area, arranged lodging, picked up groceries and had someone create a shift schedule so that the kitchen wasn’t overloaded with dirty dishes and all the while keeping everyone well fed.
With a group this size, it’s important to lay some ground rules otherwise chaos ensues. For some kids, they’re still learning how to function without their parents cooking or picking up after them. (Wait - you mean dishes don’t just clean themselves?) Below are some of the highlights from camp that can be applied to both training camps and setting out for longer rides.
1. Be on time.
If the ride is scheduled to leave at 10am, that means we leave at 10am. Making sure you’ve got the appropriate layers, nutrition, hydration, tires inflated, etc. all needs to happen before the start of the ride. Cycling is a team sport and respect toward your teammates is demonstrated by your ability to show up on time.
2. Riding in the mountains can be dangerous.
It could be a sunny 70 degrees down in the valley and then have freezing rain on the mountain passes. If you’re planning on climbing to higher elevations, being prepared means taking a rain jacket and additional layers to prevent hypothermia. It’s easy to underdress and what goes up must come down. So while you’re comfortable on the climb up due to the heat you build, you can easily get chilled on the descent. Be smart - always take a jacket, especially in the mountains.
3. Eat and drink regularly.
I cannot stress this enough. Day one of the camp saw one of the kids with severe cramping to the point of where he had to back it off a lot and limp home. A great rule of thumb is a water bottle with some sort of electrolyte every hour (sipping every 10 minutes) and eating 100-150 calories every 40 minutes, accompanied with water/mix. This applies to all rides over an hour - and should continue throughout the duration of the ride. You’re not only fueling for that day’s effort, you’re also setting yourself up for the following days. Get behind on your calorie intake and you’ll quickly be off the back. (Speaking of, the day before our 115 mile ride, we made four batches of Benjamin’s chocolate chip, craisin oatmeal cookies. I prefer solid, homemade foods for the longer endurance miles. And any excuse to eat cookies is a good excuse to me! YUM!)
4. Research your routes.
Make sure your group leaders as well as the riders have a general idea of where they are going that day. Should an emergency arise, you’ll be able to make smart decisions knowing the group knows how to get back to the lodge as well as any shortcuts back to safety.
5. Tell stories face to face verses Chat Snap.
I know, I know. It’s SnapChat. There’s something to be said about social media having an impact on the art of conversation. I walked into the recovery lounge room multiple times to see about 10 kids relaxing next to each other but all on their phones. During our nightly meeting, phones were required to be piled on the coffee table, face down. We then shared our favorite scents, vacations, grade in school and more. The stories we heard said a lot about individual values and their dreams of who they want to become.
6. Go to sleep.
Getting 8+ hours of sleep is important for recovery. Everyone was expected to be in their room by 10pm each night and lights out by 10:30pm. Breakfast was somewhere between 7-9am (Dean put a big pot of oats on and athletes could cook their own eggs). Pro tip: Lodges tend to be loud - so make sure to pack some ear plugs to quiet out the creaky floorboards.
7. Have fun!
Training camps are all about learning about your teammates and continuing the foundation of trust. After spending six days with these kids, I know whose wheel I can count on to set a steady pace, who I need to be next to when the hills point up and who I can scare on the descents (sorry Blodgett!), and who I can count on to help with a cookie bake off (thanks Marta and Gabby!). I'm already looking forward to next year's camp.