Wednesday, March 16, 2022

NYX Camp, and Dissolution

Julie, Alison, and I were a bit nervous heading into our first ever triathlon camp. Aside from the logistics, we wanted to be able to provide value for all of our athletes, who cover a full spectrum of fitness, speed, endurance, and experience. Ever since the 3 of us originally came together to form NYX, we've been focused on weaving together the unique ways in which we coach, race, and embrace the darkness. 

Camp Day 1: Arrival day started off with a quick welcome-to-camp intro, followed by an open water swim and a shake-out run. For 2 of our athletes, it was the first time putting on a wetsuit and getting in open water, complete with that panicky breathless feeling to round out the experience. Since the coaches can't be everywhere at once, other campers gave them pointers, calmed their nerves, and helped them through. 

I asked the athletes to be intentional about what they each bring to the table and to share it. Whether you bring drive, intensity, lightness, joy, beginner's mind, or anything else, we want all of it. Then at the same time, be open to what your teammates are bringing to the table and see where you can create space to integrate something new. 

One of our athletes brought a NYX colored pompom and it was quickly evident that I was the coach who identified most with the pompom. 

Each coach was staying in a house with our own athletes and dinner that night was in each of our respective houses. At my house, we talked about what we wanted to get out of camp and started to build bridges. (My athletes knew that convo was coming.)  

It has been 2 months since I moved to southern California and I imagine it will be much longer until I feel completely settled in here. I'm still floundering around without specific goals for this upcoming season. My old methods and foundations for setting goals have decomposed and the new ones have not yet emerged from the compost pile. I was hoping that I'd find something at camp, with my people, that I could grab ahold of. 

Camp Day 2: We split into 3 bike groups to arrange for a 4ish hour ride with some elevation, followed by a 30 minute run off the bike. Unfortunately midway through the ride, one of my athletes went down on his bike and one of our SAG vehicles took him to the hospital for what he already seemed to know was a broken collar bone. True to triathlete form, he completely protected his bike with his body and the bike is completely in tact. 🙌

Since I was responsible for a group of athletes, I finished the ride with them before heading to the hospital. After stopping by our house to bring him some food, I found each of my other athletes piling themselves into my car. I didn't ask them to come to the hospital with me and they didn't ask for my permission to come. This is just what we do. 

We made it back from the hospital in time to see the sunset on the beach.

Camp Day 3: Day 3 would obviously be the best day of camp because we had our strength training session! The first session of the day was a 90 minute swim, where each coach took turns pulling athletes out of the workout to get some individual stroke instruction. 

This is a pic of me being a totally normal sized human.

Showing athletes how strength training can be doable and FUN is one of my most spirited life goals. Our bodies are the amazing vehicles through which we get to do this sport that we love... blah blah blah. If you know me, you've heard the rant. 

This session was the moment of truth where I got to find out whether my athletes had or hadn't been doing their strength training workouts. I'm happy to report that their technique was indicative of their compliance. (Also their lack of injuries is indicative of their compliance.)

This is how you recover from a meniscus injury in record time and dominate the 70.3 WC with only 1 run under your belt. 

And since this is camp after all, we finished the strength workout with some bear crawl relays where this competitive crew launched themselves through the grass as quickly as their arms and legs would carry them. 

After lunch, we got back on our bikes for either a 3 hour hilly ride, or a ride down the coast to work on bike handling skills.  

Camp Day 4: Palomar Mountain is one of the iconic rides of San Diego. It's 12 miles of relentless incline, climbing from the base to over 5k feet. One of the bike groups rode a little bit longer so that we could all get in about 5 hours, followed by another run off the bike. Going into the day, I encouraged my athletes to find an edge and to be curious about what goes on there. There's a threshold somewhere between "can I hold on" and "do I have more" which is begging for exploration. Camp is the perfect environment to get up close and personal with the voices that pop up on that threshold, trying to convince you that you can't do what you've never done before. And at the same time there's the feedback from your body, which if you take away your fearful interpretations, is simply providing you with information. If you listen closely and objectively, your body is almost always telling you that it's ok - that you got this.

Not that it's a competition, but I'm pretty sure my athletes won this workout (in addition to everyone else also winning). My injured athlete got up early and came out with us to ride in the SAG vehicle and cheer us on all day. The 2 in the longer ride group absolutely flew up Palomar, complete with a showing on the Strava top 10 list. But I was most impressed with my athlete in the back of the group who knew he might be the slowest one up the climb and heading into the day, was unsure of his ability to make it. Since I was riding with the back group that day, I spent time going back and forth from one athlete to another, and every time I checked on him, I couldn't even sense a hint of quitting. He was clear on his mission - all the way to the top. 

At camp and as a coach in general, I am trying to carve out spaces for my athletes to pursue endurance in their own specific way. The athletes I work with are compelled to find another level in themselves. They understand that not everything that has gotten them this far will be what gets them to where they are going next. But the path through these waters is dark and irrational and can only be navigated through the senses. No one has ever been on your path before and therefore you must learn to trust your own ability to see, feel, and know in the darkness.    

Camp Day 5: We finished out the last day of camp with a long run along the coast. The light came up over the ocean and we collapsed onto the grass of the park before we said our goodbyes. 

It has been 2 months since I moved to southern California and I've spent most of it in what has felt like a hazy dream. I've wondered if my goals have been eluding me because I've all but melted into California's tan muscular arms - and not the kind of muscle that comes from doing bicep curls in the mirror at the gym, but the kind that comes from carrying surfboards around and possibly using their spare time to advocate for rescue dogs or pick up trash on the beach - but you know, heavy trash.

In much the same way that I try to create containers for my athletes to navigate the depths of their undoing - which by the way is a process we go through continually, whether we choose to engage with it or not - community is what holds the foundation for me as I stretch further into my dissolution: losing myself in order to find myself. By the end of camp, I still don't have goals for this season. All I can find is a familiar call to keep dancing along the edges: between holding on and letting go, between pushing and allowing myself to be overtaken; knowing that the path to radical wholeness weaves through the murky undisturbed wetlands of radical emptiness.   

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 2 years, the world has not been an easy place to inhabit. As the camp bubble of support and camaraderie was about to burst and disperse us back into the world, I wanted to make sure we left with as clear of an intention as we came in with. The campers had each brought and shared a piece of themselves, as I had invited them to do on day 1. Now it was time to bring what we cultivated at camp back into the world. We come together, we fill up. We disperse, we give out.

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