January 2006 - By Edward 'Rocky' Ovadia
"A weekend training camp?" you say. "Only one night? That's easy!"… Well, not exactly, especially if it's run by Sean Williams. His motto 'train hard, win easy' takes on a new meaning, especially the former part; just ask the twenty-odd runners who attended. If they started tired, they had reached a new level of exhaustion by the end.
An early morning was on the cards for Saturday 28th having to get up at four a.m. to make the seven a.m. start at the camp, which was, after all, ninety minutes away. After a mostly uneventful trip something very unfortunate happened; Sean's car hit a young kangaroo. After some discussion it was decided to take it with us to the nearest Wires centre, with Alexis keeping it company on the way. The rest of us began our session on the Sylvan Glen Golf Course. And how could one start such a camp with anything less than eight kilometres worth of fartlek over the hilly golf course, along with another eight clicks worth of warm up/warm down. After initial explanations of what a fairway and green were - "if your feet and ankles are getting soaked from the long grass, chances are you're not on the fairway anymore" - we were on our way for what can only be described as a serious session, with Vlad, Alex, Chris, Damien and Sean all pushing the pace. By nine a.m. we made our way the couple of minutes drive to the camp. The poor kangaroo had to be put down.
Breakfast was the first port of call for everyone, and varied depending on what people had brought. Only then did we stop to see where we actually were. The Kirrikee Outdoor Education Centre, usually used for school camps, has a main living area with pool table, and several rooms with bunks attached. There are toilet and shower facilities both inside the main area as well as in a separate shower block. There is a large kitchen next to the living area, and an outdoor seating area with tarp cover. It's in the bottom of a small valley, with fields of grass and trees on either side, and completely isolated from the outside world, including a lack of television, which all but the tennis fans praised.
Now by this time it was judged that we'd had enough recovery - i.e. two hours - and thus the strength session began. Still think it's easy? A strength session with Sean consists of drills, body weight exercises for both upper body and lower body, and medicine ball exercises, including the infamous 'gut-busters'; finishing with endless ball throws. (Feeling pumped as well as tired we compared our muscles to those in Mohammed's 'Muscle and Fitness' magazine. And failed. But what's their 10k time?...)
It's about one p.m., feels like the end of the day; and for some of us it's indeed time to sleep. Lunch, some scrabble, a game of pool, or a relaxing massage from Greta. By five it's time for the second run of the day; eight to sixteen k's through the nearby forest, and a chance to check out parts of the course for tomorrow's long run. A nice steady-paced run to the twenty or forty minute turnaround turns into a race in both groups. In the eight k group Josh makes a gallant jump for the lead after OJ is forced to slow down with shoulder pain, who in turn is caught by Ed. Chris, motivated by the thought of sixteen k's, races away from the other sixteen k-ers, not to be caught again.
Some serious stretching follows the realisation that with the completion of that run we're only half way through; and that there's between sixteen and thirty-one k's in tomorrow morning's long run. Sounds like fun. No, really. It's definitely time to eat now, and the golf club-cum-guest house is perfect. Having done a very nice job, the ladies set the table elegantly in a slightly Victorian room. Everyone gets into the bolognaise, garlic bread and salad, and ice cream. Not bad for fifteen dollars. There's even the option of an open air movie, even if it is Tom Cruise, but everyone seems more worried about "what's going on in the tennis?". Finally everyone falls asleep.
The Sunday morning long run follows a wonderful dirt road, interspersed with some rocky gravel or bitumen. Everyone does either thirty-one or sixteen k's, with some people adding to their sixteen k with an extra out-and-back at the end. The groups started off together before splitting after four k's. Unfortunately Greta slipped into a grate after about a minute and badly grazed her shin. She waved away calls of "stop and ice it" to continue boldly. The sixteen k group was led early by OJ to the turn around, but Josh took over after not stopping for a drink. Alexis, Greta and Josh led much of the way back with OJ gallantly fighting on behind, followed by Ed who had stopped for too long at the turnaround; and Cindy, Lowana and David, Lucy and David, Naomi, and Kulinda behind. Ed finished first in 1:07 after having re-caught the leaders with three k's to go. In the thirty-one k group Alex was followed by Sean, Vlad, Chris, Damien, and Mohammed. Alex finished first in roughly 2:05, accounting for the numerous u-turns he did, followed closely by Vlad then Damien. The return took its toll on many; with Chris and Mohammed feeling it after yesterdays run, and Sean cramping up in his back after an earlier fall and a hard eight k race on Australia Day.
In the meantime those who arrived are stretching and thankfully eating breakfast. We decided that Chris' trouble is caused by the two days off he took before the camp; his first after 395 consecutive days of training (395!). "Yep, that must be the problem." Cindy goes to collect Sean who is sensibly sitting by the side of the road after many of us worry why he hasn't turned up; and we all collapse for the next hour.
But only an hour. Because after that we have a pool session at Bundanoon Pool (where talk suspiciously turns to triathlon), with deep water running, drills, underwater swimming, and races, which helps to get out the lactic acid and soothe our legs. As does the slide. And lunch, where everyone polishes off the rest of their food.
We've now got a couple of hours where some get a massage from Greta, and others tidy up. About half are leaving before the last session - "We'd really like to go on the last run, you know, definitely, but we just can't" says Chris winking. "What a shame". In the end Mohammed, Alex and Ed are the only ones who do the last eight k run, while Sean collects the bottles from the morning's long run. Josh having just showered doesn't appreciate our company in the car on the way back - "Eww, they're all sweaty, and they're touching me!" So what else can you do but hug him.
Finally we're on the way home late in the afternoon (decided against Vlad's idea of a push up competition); having run between fifty-five and seventy-five k's in the last two days. We're all shattered for the next couple of runs the following week. And at only thirty dollars for the opportunity, it's well worth it for anyone. You'll definitely reap the benefits in the next race. The people are friendly and a wonderful group to spend the weekend with. Now all we can do is look forward for the next camp, which is on March 17-19 in Stockton near Newcastle. That, and sleep all through Monday, of course.