It was a late winters evening that we decided to book a training camp. I’ve always wanted to accomplish one when I used to coach middle distance athletes back in 2015, but it didn’t materialise. We wanted something different, something rare, something more than the customary Majorca. I then had the idea of Campania, Italy; my brother lived there for a short period of time, and I remembered that the towns surroundings were nothing but hills. Ricki analysed the climbs and was more than happy with the destination. I explained in the meantime that he was to achieve three x long steady aerobic rides, three x specific hill sessions ranging from Training HR Zone (% of maximum heart rate (HRmax)) 4 to 5, all being of mixed ascents.
Ultimately, we headed to Sapri, Campania via Napoli.
Day One - Steady State
The first session of the Italy Training Camp was a four hour ride with two rather steep climbs. The goal was just to get a sense of the surroundings and register some steady cardiovascular activity. We were up at 05:15 for breakfast consisting of barley, bananas and almonds. This was no ordinary breakfast, as we each consumed at least 100g of barley and a litre of electrolyte enhanced water. We left the apartment around 06:00, at which point the temperature gauge was already at 27 degrees celsius! The cycle route was exceptionally quiet as we pedalled through some idyllic medieval towns, namely Caselle in Pittari and Morigerati. Ricki did an extra loop as I waited happily in Caselle in Pittari, admiring the buildings and Italian culture out in the sticks.
Total Duration – 4:20hrs / Total Miles – 48.4 miles / Fatigue Level = Low
Day Two - Hill Specific
The day of the first specific hill session had arrived. Again we were up at 05:15am, and I briefed Ricki on the session ahead. The session was 3 x 5-minute repetitions off 10-minutes recovery, up an average gradient of 9.7%. This sounds like a fairly moderate session, but I assure you, the location did not fail to deliver. I wanted an area of coastline where there would be crosswinds up high, and what a crosswind there was. Ricki covered 410ft inside each of the 5-minute repetitions, achieving a maximum heart rate of 191 bpm. You can see the heart rate rocket up on the image to the right, which is highlighted in red.
Total Duration – 2:00 hrs
Total Miles – 22.2 miles
Fatigue Level – High
Day Three - Steady State
Today’s ride was another blissful journey, this time from Sapri along the coast to Maratea. Even though it was meant to be a steady state ride, we achieved a total climb of 5100ft. Ricki’s average heart rate during this session was 128bpm, and if we compare this to yesterdays session which recorded at 180bpm, you realise how high intensity specific hill sessions are.
As we ambled back to HQ, Ricki then had to take another 1500ft climb up to Medichetta and back, in order to ascertain his daily goal.
Total Duration – 4:00 hrs
Total Miles – 51 miles
Fatigue Level – Moderate
Day Four - Hill Specific
The second specific hill session consisted of 3 sets of 4 x 100ft repetitions, up an average gradient of 12-13%. Recovery was set at 90 seconds between each repetition, and 10-minutes between each set.
- 1st set – 43/45/47/59
- 2nd set – 55/55/55/59
- 3rd set – 55/53/54/53
Ricki said he felt fresh after the first couple of repetitions, I said “just wait.” And then lo and behold, BOOM. He hit the lactate turn point quite quickly after the third repetition. You can see here to the right, how he dropped almost a quarter of a minute on the last repetition of the first set – A key reminder of pace judgement!
Fatigue Level – Very High
Day Five - Steady State
Probably the most toughest ride of the Italy training camp, because of a fantastic, but equally frustrating late night. My brother had organised a splendid evening of Italian wine and food with our Airbnb host. And as you can imagine, it dragged on and on into the early hours. Safe to say our alarms were not set for 05:15am. We left the apartment at 07:30am, and this had a detrimental effect on the duration that was covered that day. Ricki covered a total of 3500ft, but could do no more as it was 34 degrees celsius. Continuing the ride would have been severely dangerous, so it was a good shout to stop. We still had one gruelling hill session to complete.
Total Duration – 3:27 hrs / Total Miles – 41 miles / Fatigue Level – Moderate
Day Six - Hill Specific
Final Hill specific session: 20 x 1-minute efforts up a 4% gradient. It might sound easy, but at 7am and 29 degrees, its a different story. The main objective wasn’t to tank at the beginning of the session, and he accomplished just that. It was his best session to date, and hit 189 bpm on the last rep nearly passing out.
ITALY TRAINING CAMP COMPLETE.
To conclude, Ricki has a better understanding of how to judge hill specific sessions. He trained to the best of his ability and knows what improvements need to be made. And as for me the coach, I can now see what sessions will suit him in the months leading up to the hill sprint season, and what areas he needs to work on. Overall it’s nice to visit an environment that’s cycle friendly, and offers everything an athlete needs to achieve their potential.
We accumulated three hours of yoga whilst on the trip to help return the working muscles to their original state.
As a rule of thumb, one minute to maintain or two minutes to progress whilst holding the static poses.
To follow Ricki’s progress, please follow @Ricki Ellison on Strava, or alternatively the Simon King Fitness Instagram Page
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