What do you call it when 15 or so high-level athletes commune for the week, eat more than a Russian military outpost, come in at various dates as strangers and leave as family?? I call it team camp. Camp was only a couple of weeks ago in Redlands, CA but looking back on it now, camp seemed like months ago, and it also felt like the real start to 2018. The idea was simple, get the riders together for 10 solid days of training, breaking bread together and bonding in a way that'll impact the way we race as a team and individuals. Sometimes the logistics were complicated and it wasn't always comfortable, but then again nothing worth doing is easy and discomfort builds character; needless to say, I had a blast.
Bringing a group of individuals together that all possess different traits, characteristics and unique backgrounds can be really challenging, so the main hurdle at camp was simplifying the process. We trained together and raced some hard races (one of which we won!) and sure, we bonded on the bike to become a cohesive unit, but the most impactful moments of team camp came off the bike. Rather than talk strictly about the riding, the intense training and racing, I want to highlight the other side of camp from my perspective.
From the outside looking in, it is easy to say on any given day we were either racing (competitors or each other), working on communication, lead-out drills and what to do as a unit in a plethora of other likely scenarios. What wasn't easy to spot was how the team tackled situations not pertaining to spinning legs in circles for hours on end. Feeding a whole team of hungry bike racers every morning and evening is no small feat. Seeing how the team came together in the kitchen was compelling and even though resources and space was limited it seemed as though we always set up the perfect lead-out train to our guts.
Another impactful moment of camp came in the form of our team meetings, whether dissolving the day of training or formulating a plan of action for the following day, the end of the day discussions always felt insightful. Apart from our team manager, Nicholas, and team director, Drew, being present, Brad Bartz was also present. Brad has a multitude of titles from life coach, sports psychologist to just all around great guy. Brad also played an integral part when dissecting problems. However, his realm of knowledge was utilized in our meetings unrelated to the bike. As he phrased it, like many sports psychologists before him, "you are not just a body, but a body, mind and soul. If one suffers, the whole system suffers." His focus set out to help all the riders learn to train mind and soul. Everyone on the team knows exactly how to train the body, how to build it stronger, knowing when to back off when tired, but rarely do we as athletes pay the same attention to our headspace. Personally, I was going through some non-bike related strife and hearing what Brad had to say helped me to refocus and become more in tune with other facets of health that didn't just encompass training the body.
Apart from the mental and physical training, I also want to highlight getting to hang out with the Redlands High School mountain bike team. High school mountain biking is blowing up at the moment and being able to see the enthusiasm for cycling firsthand from the next generation caused a single tear of joy to run down my cheek. One major goal for The 303 Project is to bring cyclists together. We strive to improve others health/well-being and promote the cycling community not just in Boulder but wherever our travels take us. Getting schooled by those high schoolers was the most fun I've ever had losing and even though the sport of cycling has had its fair share of ups and downs, I think the future is looking very bright.
In contrast to hanging out with the future generation of shredders, on the last day of camp we were privileged to join the OC Velo club team out of Huntington Beach. The demographic of the club was much older than the high school team which was super cool to witness as it felt as we were bridging the gap between both cycling communities. Being able to swap cycling stories and experiences was enlightening and it was very empowering to realize cycling can truly be a lifelong sport.
By the end of camp, I was exhausted. We accomplished a lot in a short time span, smashed some quality KJs, raced as a unit and shared some great times with many different members of the cycling community. Camp is one of the only times during the year that the full team is able to come together and at times it was pretty stressful. However, I think we can all agree we came out of it stronger, but most importantly, we came out of it as a family.