Over the past week and a half, I was fortunate enough to be invited and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the 3rd annual Collegiate Recruitment Camp. The camp boasted Olympians, world renowned coaches, informative speakers, and swimming, cycling and running specialists. Oh and not to mention, the BEST cafeteria food on earth! Prior to camp, I had heard great things about the Olympic Training Center and was very anxious to experience them for myself. Similar to most competitive athletes, training and living at Olympic Training Center has always been a dream of mine.
I arrived in Colorado on Friday the 13th and immediately emerged myself into the elite athlete lifestyle. First on the agenda was to meet my fellow collegiate campers and staff members. Along with myself, there were 12 athletes (6 males, 6 females) and their coaches who were granted the unique opportunity to learn from the finest in USA Triathlon while training at the OTC. My fellow athletes and I were in for a week of workouts, lectures, observation, analysis, and correction with regards to our swimming, cycling, running and overall triathlon ability.
In the pool, we had the pleasure to work with Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas, swimming specialist, and Mike Doane, OTC Resident Swim Coach, throughout the week. Dr. G measured our stroke by analyzing our power through each phase of the swim, which easily identifies areas of improvement. Dr. G recorded and examined our speed in meters per second and then compared it against Olympic greats such as Michael Phelps. Unfortunately, I currently do not create as much power as an Olympic swimmer, but at least there is room for improvement! Next, Coach Doane used above/underwater swim videotaping to critique our stroke efficiency and mechanics. After a few sessions with both coaches, we were able to identify specific drills and cues to allow me to swim quicker. I was astonished to see the difference between my mental perception and the actual footage of my swim stroke. I am definitely looking forward to much more yardage and improvements in the near future.
Moving onto the cycling portion of triathlon, we had the fortunate opportunity to learn from USA Cycling coach, Neal Henderson, just prior to him departing for the Olympics. Neal gave us a crash course (literally) on cycling 101. First we lectured on draft-legal racing, and then we moved onto a grass field where we played games involving biking as slow as possible, intentionally bumping, elbowing, and leaning on other riders, and a game of knockout which forced riders to ride within a close proximity to each other and at speeds of 1-4mph only! Once we learned to ride slow, we shifted gears (no pun intended) and practiced riding in large groups, double pace lines, and even had a couple fixed gear races on the local crit course.
Toward the latter part of the week, the campers and I began to focus on the run portion of triathlon. We had the privilege to work with run specialist Bobby McGee as well as USAT’s Resident Coach, Jacob Smith. First, Bobby McGee worked with us in small groups viewing our natural running mechanics, and then he taught us individual specific active release stretches and drills that will enable us to run faster and more efficient! Coach McGee also took the time to sit down with us separately to speak about mental preparation with regards to competing and triathlon. Next, Coach Jacob Smith took the time to video tape our running form while we ran at current 10k race pace (12mph). The overall theme for me from each coach and video analysis is to improve my overall flexibility and range of motion. Simple flexibility exercises could shave off crucial seconds for my swim and run splits.
Most of the time at the Olympic Training Center the athletes and I had a full schedule packed with lectures, workouts and one-on-one review. These aforementioned opportunities were instrumental to my development as a triathlete and I think everyone can appreciate the details of our schedule for the week, but what I really wanted to share in this blog was the bond that was created amongst the athletes. With the minimal amount of free time we were allotted, the athletes managed to use the friendly competition and close proximity to create a sense of belonging and brotherhood. Each one of us has the common goal of making U.S. National and Olympic Teams, which often can create a bit of competition and/or dissention, but the athletes utilized this common dream to strengthen one another’s weakness and form lasting friendships. I definitely feel a sense of pride being part of such a great group of humble athletes. With athletes such as the ones I had the honor to train with, I feel USA Triathlon is heading in the right direction and will soon be on the top of many podiums to come.
I want to thank USA Triathlon and the Collegiate Recruitment Program for the opportunity to train, learn and socialize with the best athletes in country. Also, thank you to Barb Lindquist, Joe Umphenour and Jocelyn Buras for your time, energy, and enthusiasm spent scheduling and leading the 3rd annual camp. It was a success!
For more on the trip and additional updates on my training, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. My handle is @justin_roeder.
Still living the dream!
Photos by Victor Plata and Tim Josephs.