Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Training camp in Cuba

From February 27th- March 6th I was with the velo quebec training camp in Holguin Cuba. Training camp means 4 hours on a bike in Cuba learning different peleton formations. The peleton means you can go much longer and sustain speeds in headwinds.

Holguin has a lot of hills and headwinds. On day one, I made the mistake of wearing a heart rate monitor and scared myself, the combination of heat and hills made me think I was dying so I slowed down. On the second day, I left it in my room and had a wonderful tour. It all was going so well, I was in the pack and paused to have a drink. In a flash, the peleton was gone. No worries, there is a bus to follow. There was no bus, I was convinced I was on the wrong road so turned. The roads in Cuba in this area are well maintained, I rode past houses, and bus stops and fruit sellers until finally I asked a man on a horse who told me indeed the peleton was on another road. I went on that road and saw them coming back to me. I went ahead of the peleton towards the end.

The hotel we stayed at was Costa Verde hotel in Playa Pesquero. It was the standard Cuban hotel with little villas for the tourists, entertainment but this one had fabulous food with argentinian beef. There is nothing like a good meal after a hard and hot ride and a swim in turquoise waters. I was with a French group and noticed stark differences between French and English. The most obvious is that the French relish their meals and their food. It is a passion for them. I can not eat before riding, but they can and enjoyed every morsel of the succulent sausages, or omelettes or crepes with fruit.

While on the bike, we were taught different peleton formations and I learned that the secret is rapid rotation to avoid getting tired. This is done by the team leader whistling. After you ride for about 80-100km in the hills you are tired although you dont feel it. I did yoga in the morning and was never stiff or sore. By 9pm I was in bed however.

The beach is pristine with thick white sand and a beach bar. It was relaxing to sit and watch the ocean waves and swim although the good reef swimming was further afield. Although I had my mask and snorkel and fins, I only used them twice because of the distance required to have access to the reefs. I did try the catamaran and of course swam,

The hotel also had a pool which we used in a spirited game of volleyball. Our ball sailed out of the pool and onto the laps of many surprised guests sunning themselves like beached whales poolside. Our side lost!

I spent a week with what is best described as iron men and women and a few olympic hopefuls. By the end of the week, I could easily keep up but day one was a shock. I was champion of my basement after all and master of my training..but this was another level. As our coach said to improve you must crack and break and push beyond all limits of pain. Hitherto, I had pushed but not as hard as I did for this week. Try as I may there were some passes that were just too difficult and like many, I took the bus, which I called the "room of recovery" to the next section of our route.
There is something very challenging and at the same time inspiring to ride with people who are a LOT better than you. I was also somewhat annoyed that on day one, they did not wait, nor did they on the second day. By the last day I was using my large gears which gives me a lot more power and speed.

This season I will sprint and do interval training, which I am convinced is the secret to improving as a cyclist. We must leave our comfort zones and push.

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