The Cyclist Returns to Boot Camp

I spent most of 2007 waking up between 4:30 and 5:10am and heading off to Portland Adventure Bootcamp.  I’d found the program by doing an internet search after hearing about the concept from a midwestern cyclocrosser.

When I went that January, I was at the end of my rope.  I was working 70-80 hours a week on a product launch, sleeping like shit, and feeling something more than disillusioned by the future that presented itself to me as a “marketing manager” at a small software company.

I felt exhausted and out of control.  Desperate.  I could not stand to listen to myself complain about my situation for another single day.

In boot camp I sought structure, discipline, meaning, direction, and pain.  And understanding.  Of self.

I was looking for something.  And it wasn’t rippin’ abs or screamin’ glutes.

I wanted answers.  About me.

It was a last ditch effort.  As a life-long athlete, I was dubious about joining a group fitness setting.  I was skeptical about the warm indoor facility and the chipper man named Daniel in the track-suit standing at the front of the room.

Two things tipped the scale and finally convinced me to give it a shot:

  1. The camp began and ended with a physical test that consisted of a timed mile and push-up blowout.   As a classic over-achiever personality, I love tests.  And I love track-able progress. It also did not hurt that I absolutely love to run.
  2. The camp started every morning at 5:30am.  Miraculously, it fit into my completely insane schedule. Sold.  Period.

What happened after I pulled up the anchor and committed was miraculous.  You might measure success by bodyfat percentage, mile times, or push-up records but the real beauty revealed itself in other parts of my life.

My gamble was paying off.  My last-ditch effort was delivering.

Suspended there holding a plank in isometric agony, with sweat dripping rhythmically from the tip of my nose, I remembered things about myself. When I thought I couldn’t hold a plank for 90 seconds, I held it for 2 minutes. When I thought I couldn’t do 35 pushups, I did 50.  When I thought I couldn’t handle one more hill sprint or one more bone-chilling morning on Tabor, I did.  And more.

I woke up some mornings so sore that I was sure I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone report for duty to execute an endless stream of lunges and half-jacks and burpees. But I still went.  And I surprised myself.  Again and again and again.

I tapped on Daniel for guidance and got control of my nutrition and started eating whole food that would actually fuel my body, instead of sending me into a constant series of spikes and crashes.  I learned and read and showed up.

Every small physical battle won made me a little braver, a little more bold, a little more willing to risk.

In March, I took the leap that had been too long delayed.  I quit my job and started the marketing consulting business that I’d been thinking about for a year. I started writing- for real.  I started making photographs – for real.

And things kind of exploded for me.  In the good way.

Along the journey, I met some seriously inspiring women and we spent summer mornings kicking each other’s asses in the shiny dawn light. There were mornings when those particular women were the only reason I got out of bed.

I finally left boot camp in late fall of 2007, when my bike racing addiction began to take too much of a toll on my body.  I committed to cycling for 2008 and spent this year figuring out how to get speed out of a  bicycle (still working on that part).

I rode centuries and 200k randonneuring rides – setting distance records and destroying perceived limitations.  I raced cyclocross every weekend for three solid months – spending 45 minutes of every Sunday with my heart threatening to blow into a billion bits while I rode over gravel, through hub-deep mud, and over kidney-rattling meadows.

It’s been a good year.  But it’s time to go back.

The bike is all-consuming.  It demands everything I can give.  I write about it, talk about it, plan for it, spend money on it, and generally obsess about it more often than I’d like to admit.

Boot Camp presents new challenges, a different brand of structure, and a break from the frantic pedaling that has characterized the past 11 months.

I don’t expect it to change my life again, but I do expect pain, doubt, camaraderie, small victories, and renewed discipline. And I expect my body to reward me with soreness, and all the muscle-changing glory associated with that sweet aching agony.

So, from here until December 19th I have only one thing to say:

Bring the hurt, Daniel. Bring the hurt.


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  1. Time for you to check out Crossfit.

  2. ah yes…i’m not exactly doing boot camp, but something similar…it hurts like hell; and it is good. Cheers and good luck!

  3. When I read this I thought exactly what Barry posted.

    Looks like you’re in luck too:

    Oh, and congratulations on making the leap of faith! (I found you through a comment on PDXCross btw).

  4. I’d really love to, but CrossFit is too intense and not cycling-specific enough to fit in with my 2009 racing goals.

    Boot Camp is a finite, three-week program so after December 19th my weight-training will be 100% cycling specific as dictated by this dude I’m paying money to tell me how to be faster on a bike (my coach!).

    I’m looking at boot camp as a jump start for my winter cycling weight training. I only know one guy who does crossfit and also race bikes, but I don’t think I have the same kind of time or recovery to pull it off.

    If I ever take a longer break from racing, crossfit is the first thing I’ll do, trust me.

  5. Cool cool. Well, the interesting thing about this is that I found CF through mountain biking (in a round about way). I’ve been racing mtb for years, and through introducing a friend to the sport was, in return, introduced to a guy who trained people in a way that was completely new to me – not CF, but very similar, a few more kettlebells perhaps.

    According to my friend ‘some of them ride bikes’. It turned out that ‘some of them’ included the Australian 24 Hour solo champion and a couple of national elite-level racers. I was absolutely DESTROYED for a few weeks, but the impact on my riding has been huge. Technical climbing is like never before and I could suddenly hold better lines and ride a lot longer and harder without feeling all beaten up. But really, it’s just super great for durability. I tend to get up much less injured these days.

    And I’ve learned a whole world about recovery and over training from CF. Namely that most ‘over training’ is actually under-recovery. A much more serious look at sleep and food as recovery tools rather than just ‘days off’. And besides, it’s just big fat gobs of fun, and can be scaled down to suit.

    In fact, here’s a good place to start:

    I haven’t tried the endurance protocol ( yet but if it works, it could well be my best hope of getting back to decent race form with post-baby amounts of time…

    Although that PDXC post about Rhonda, Eric and Gus was super inspiring. :))

    Anyway, whatever you decide to do or don’t do, good luck with it and ride hard!

  6. Yep – that all makes sense. Unfortunately, I’m so new to the cycling game that if I’ve only got 12-15 hours to train every week, I really feel like they’re best spent on the bike. I’ve only really been at this for a year and I simply don’t have the base in my legs that I need. And handling skills. And all that stuff. I’m a rookie, man. I need to see saddle time.

    I did lots of similar types of training (to CF) when I lived in the Bay Area, oddly enough leading into a pull up contest with my sister (which I won with 10!)

    I also did P90X last winter and found the plyo and lifting were beneficial, but it took a lot of recovery and I wasn’t able to ride as much as I’d hoped. It’s all about balance, I guess.

    I’d love to try CF (you guys really don’t need to convince me how great it is :) I have been looking at the program for a couple years) and maybe I will next year. For this year, I’ve already got a cycling weight-lifting plan all laid out moving through the recommended phases leading into spring races, so I’m set for the time being!

  7. Oh also! I want to know what you think about crossfitendurance if you try it!

  8. Cool cool. I will come back and let you know later in the year (or at least, I’ll try to remember to).

  9. I have a blog documenting my training as a cyclist using Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance. You may find it helpful.

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