Camp CHICAgo has come and gone. 13 women, 3 coaches and about 100 percent humidity all weekend long. Add to that 8 months of pregnancy and you get a mighty nasty case of heat rash on your thighs and a set of cankles (true, someone pointed them out on Sunday).
When I planned camp, I wasn’t pregnant. As camp got closer and I got more pregnant, I knew I would need help. So, I brought in Cat from California. Cat and I have synergy, we’re on the same page, she anticipates what I'm thinking before I even say it. Without her help, I would have perished in the heat this weekend and lost my social skills by Saturday at 8 am. I can’t thank her enough for being here. My dog also enjoyed 6 nights of conjugal visits with her. He's smitten.
Friday, the first day of camp, seems so long ago. We started with a welcome dinner at Jen’s house. The women were of all ages and abilities – from beginners to Ironwomen. We handed out a bag of goodies from generous supporters of the camp (thank you to TriSports.com, Recovery Sox, Velotak, Shape, Power Bar) in Lululemon bags. Everyone had to choose a saying from the manifesto that connected to them and tell us about it. Dinner capped off with delicious homemade cookies from The Cookie Drop. If you like cookies – you need to try this level of cookie yum.
Saturday started off with a swim at a lake. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to participate or even instruct in the water. But then I had an idea – using one of my husband’s wetsuits.
I know, it's so sexy that it hurts my eyes to look at it. Honestly, though, it's a good thing I didn't do any butterfly in the lake or else one of the residents would have reported a whale on the loose and the police surely would have kicked us out then. While Jen led half the group around the lake to swim, I led the campers in open water skills and drills – how to handle different race starts, drafting, sighting.
Next up the campers transitioned to a bagel breakfast and then a 60+ mile bike ride. Meanwhile, I was driving the van. You’d think driving the van would be the easy job but I know from Ragbrai that driving the van is actually the hard job. Everyone else is out there having fun on their bike while you’re driving and then waiting. I found a road to sit on about 18 miles out at the intersection of Nowhere and Possibly Hell It Was So Hot. Sure enough, as soon as I got there I needed a bathroom. None around. Not even a tree. I then did my hardest pregnancy workout ever – holding it for 3+ hours.
The campers hit my aid station twice during the ride. Everyone was chipper on the way out. Everyone was not so chipper on the way back. Entire a headwind on the way back with temperatures in the high 80s. But like any successful athlete, when conditions got tough, these women got tougher. It was inspiring.
Back at the lake, they got ready for a transition run. It was hotter than hot at this point and the course was hilly – enthusiasm for this run was not incredibly high but the women got it done. These are the days that you want in training. You want conditions to be tough and uncomfortable so on race day no matter what happens, you have the confidence to deal with it.
A long snack break then yoga followed while Cat and I took a swim back and forth across the lake a few times. The water had warmed up so no wetsuit was required. It was just me, my swimsuit, my big belly and Cat. It was one of those perfect swims where your mind wanders, the water is calm and you are totally at peace, a relaxing way to end a busy day.
After some quick showers at Jennifer’s house, I could sense her food meltdown was approaching as she started talking about needing a “proper” dinner. This is her way of saying “the elderly cannot live on sports food alone.” The entire group went out for a proper dinner at Pinstripes. At dinner I sat next to Molly who was in her 10th Lululemon wardrobe change of the weekend (it’s like she just walked in the store and said “I’ll take one of everything in size extraextrasmall.”). I yelled at Cat for touching the cookies. Molly may have eaten an entire cheesecake. And I think I caught Lauren dozing off across the room.
Sunday morning started in the pool. The day was heating up into the 90s but little did we know it was already 212 degrees on the pool deck. I did some swim analysis while Jennifer led everyone else through a swim workout. Next the group went outside for some small hill repeats then ran back where I led them through running drills. After some lunch, we headed to a park for strength. TRXs hung on soccer goal posts for half the group while the other half did some strength work with me and stretching. If these women weren’t heat acclimated before camp, they are now. We were struggling to find any sliver of shade available out there.
I used to think Kona was hot. Then I stood in a soccer field at 8 months pregnant on a 93-degree day trying to hide in the one inch of shade from a soccer goal post.
The day finished up early. Later that evening, the Multisport Mastery athletes joined me back around my house at the Arboretum for a leisurely ride. Sara and Kristin from New York, Kris and Molly from California. I can proudly say that after about 30 minutes I was dropped by my athletes. I felt like the slow out-of-shape kid chasing them down. When I did catch up, I was able to chat with each of them. It was great! We went back home to find my husband in the lead for the husband of the year award – he had prepared a feast of steaks, grilled vegetables, bread, cupcakes (!) and also assembled a cheese tray that had Cat wanting to steal him back to Los Angeles.
Monday morning, we left the house around 6:20 am and headed up to Elgin. All weekend we have been driving 45 minutes both ways from my house to the camp activities. And, in over 350 miles of driving, it was bound to happen – I got caught by the popo. Turns out you need to follow the posted 45 mph speed limit in a construction zone even though in the past 4 days you have seen not one minute of construction happening. One speeding ticket with double the fine and a mandatory court appearance later…I was back on the way to Elgin.
The campers were set to do a local run race, either a 5K or 10 miler. Cat and I were set to stand on the sidelines and cheer. Yet again it was hot but you could tell a storm was brewing. The campers pulled off some great efforts out there – Sara placed 3rd in her age group, Lauren came within 30 seconds of a PR, Molly and Kris listened to their body and just ran easy, Tiffany had one heck of a finishing kick...there were many other strong performances out there! After a weekend of hard work and many miles – we wrapped up. Just in time because the minute we finished, the skies opened up with a storm.
Nothing gets me more fired up than sharing the sport with others – teaching them from the over 10 years of training lessons, races, successes and failures that I call my experience. But I think what’s most important to share in a camp like this is that whatever they are feeling – whether it’s doubt, fear or fatigue – we’ve all been there. No matter what they learned this weekend, I hope they learned that while we are all at different speeds, chasing different goals or at different levels in the sport – we’re all pretty much the same. And that’s what makes getting together for a weekend of camp so fun. You get to do what you love to do with others, you get to spend a weekend in a place and with people with whom you belong.