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The Next Step Triathlon Series Pinnacle Camp

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The Next Step Triathlon Series Pinnacle Camp
by: C. Mendoza | Photos c/o: The Next Step Triathlon Camp

Last weekend, June 7-8, I was fortunate to have participated at The Next Step Triathlon Series Pinnacle Camp, held at Pico de Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast. With my upcoming races, the Century Tuna 5150 in Subic and the Cobra Half-Ironman in Cebu, I immediately grabbed the opportunity to participate at the camp. After all, it is conducted by two of the most prominent coaches in the sport today, Coaches (and spouses) Dan Brown and Ani de Leon.

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The call time for the first day of the camp was at 6:30 a.m., so I had to leave early from my house in Pasig for an early 80-kilometer drive to Pico de Loro. I arrived at the venue fifteen minutes before seven, which was fine because I knew that the morning long ride starts at 7:30 a.m. When I arrived at the lobby of Pico Sands Hotel, I immediately spotted Coach Dan, already talking to some participants. Before the ride out, Coach Dan explained the bike course, which is flexible to cater to the different fitness and skill levels of the athletes. We were given options to (attempt to) conquer the hills along Nasugbu-Ternate Hi-way, the road going to Punta Fuego, or to do several loops and gain some quality mileage on the flat terrain on the hi-way. However, regardless of what the athletes’ skill and fitness levels were, everyone had to confront the grueling climbs on our way out to the gate, and later back to the Hotel.

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Out from the gate, I did several loops on the flat portions of the course. In one of my loops, I had an opportunity to ride alongside Coach Dan for a good couple of kilometers. He was very easy to talk to as he was very willing to discuss the sport and everything related to training. During that four or five minute cruise, my takeaways are 1) the importance of proper nutrition before, after, and during training, given that we are subjecting our bodies to long hours of endurance work, and 2) the need of strength training to complement our swimming, biking and running. We did a short stop in front of the gate to get some hydration and fuel, and also to say hi to Coach Ani who had joined us by that time.

After more or less four hours on the saddle, including the final and very enthusing (not!) climb to the hotel, athletes were asked to run off the bike for a few kilometers inside the compound. It was then when I realized that I forgot to pack my running shoes. After the run ride, I had lunch with a couple some new friends, and we talked about a lot of things, multisport and training related and otherwise.

We reconvened later in the afternoon for the heart-rate spiking portion of the camp, the raffle. Oh and of course the run clinic.

Three lucky participants each won a new pair of shoes from Zoot. I was really, really, hoping and praying to win a pair at that time since I was wearing a pair two sizes smaller. I forced my feet into a pair my roommate, Tom Kuhne, lent me. Maybe as a universe’s way of rewarding his generosity, Tom would later win a new pair of running shoes. In addition to the shoes, Timex also gave seven sports watches to lucky athletes. Other accessories were also raffled off. I did not come home empty handed as I won a running visor from 2XU. This is in addition to the goody bag we got from the camp sponsors.

After the raffle, we proceeded with the run clinic. It was Coach Ani’s turn. She emphasized the need for a good natural running form, one with high cadence (90 strides per minute). This one is particularly helpful to me since I have been running (on and off) for over a year without any proper coaching. We then did a 2-km run around to practice. The run clinic then proceeded to hill repeats as a strength training specific for running. At this point, I knew that my feet cannot handle the discomfort of being forced into a pair of shoes two sizes smaller, so I had to call it a day for myself. Everyone else did four (or six) repeats of climbing on the hilly portion of the road, and walking back down afterwards to recover. Hydration and recovery drinks were also available to the participants during and after the workout.

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The following day, we met at the beach for the open-water swim session. The open-water session is the main reason I joined the camp. I feel the need to gain more confidence and experience in open-water. I only recently overcame my fear of open-water after I joined a training camp of my swim coach a few weeks back, enough to assuage any fear of drowning. Despite this tremendous breakthrough, the upcoming 5150 will be my first open water race and I am still not very thrilled about it. I need all the help and push (figuratively, of course) that I can get before I swim my way through 1.5km of the salty waters of Subic.

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We were grouped into two — the intermediate and more advanced swimmers swam with Coach Dan, while the beginners, including myself, went with Coach Ani. Coach Ani did an excellent job motivating and easing the fears of my peers who are trying the open water for the first time. She also taught and stressed the importance of sighting, and that we need to do it at least every 6-10 strokes so as not to veer off course. We also simulated beach starts, discovering for ourselves the fastest way of getting into and out of the water (run until water is knee-deep, dolphin until the water is hip/waist-deep, then swim). There was also an opportunity to experience a hint of a mass start — which comes with getting punched and kicked in open water while trying to get a better position and rhythm in the water. This, I think is most crucial since getting punched or kicked in open water can cause panic, increasing the heart rate in the process, and could possibly disorient and overwhelm someone who’s only swam peacefully in the pool. After everyone went out of the waters, I stayed to get a better feel of the water and to swim a few hundred meters more. Several athletes, similarly situated struggling swimmers I presume, likewise stayed for more open-water time. Luckily, Coach Ani stayed with us for additional minutes of coaching.

As a fitting conclusion to the camp, everyone gathered for the bike-run brick session an hour after the open water swim. That morning’s brick workout consisted of 10k bike and 2k run for three times. Since I was not able to join the fun for lack of a pair of running shoes, upon suggestion of Coach Ani, I headed out (by car) to Nasugbu-Ternate road to do some race pace-easy pace repeats on the bike. Coach Ani also gave me a run workout that I can do when I get back to Pasig later that day. Hence, to make up for the run I missed, I did a one and a half hour easy run that afternoon.

Overall, the Pinnacle Camp was great, coaches were encouraging and accommodating, athletes of different age and gender were inspiring, and the location majestic and breathtaking. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to do the camp again. But maybe next time, I’ll make sure to bring my own pair of running shoes.

The Camp is sponsored by Unilab, Gatorade, Rudy Project, Wheatgrass Max, Glucosamine Max, Timex, Zoot, Multisport Philippines, Raceday Magazine and finally Pico De Loro Beach and Country Club.

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