Training cAmped!: Wattie Ink Elite Team and Black Dragon Racing pull off the first annual SoCal training camp.

Last weekend, a big group of friends –er, Wattie Ink. teammates, sponsors, professional triathletes, coaches, and associated foolios— met up in Carlsbad, CA for a training camp. There needs to be a better word for such a “camp,” as it evokes images of canoe trips, arts and crafts time, and bonfires. Nope, nothing could be further from this “camp,” which involved approximately 25 hours of swimming, biking, and running over five days. The program was set by Coach Robert Flanigan of Black Dragon Racing (and founder of Central Virginia Endurance in Richmond), whose athletes have been kicking ass coast-to-coast under his tutelage. Eric Limkemann, pro triathlete and fish, was on deck to design and supervise our swim sessions and join us for training too.


I’m going to refrain from using terms like “epic” or “smashfest” to describe our activities between Thursday morning and Monday night: a) that’s annoying, b) it was just good old-fashioned work toward getting better at our little hobby. It was fun, if exhausting. It required many calories, early bedtimes, and positive self-talk to get ready for the next session. More than just a bunch of volume, though, it was well-organized and smartly planned. We had goals for each training session, be it establishing a pace, finding consistency, or a matter of recovering in time for the next session.

I mention the existence of PURPOSE in everything we did for two reasons:

1) Coach Flanigan (aka “Flabby”) let everyone know what was planned for the weekend well in advance –before we even registered. This allowed me to communicate with my Coach Steve about how to prepare for the big bump in volume.

2) in my experience, the standard “let’s get out of town and train together!” “camps” tend to be relatively less regimented and more about “WHEEE LOOK AT ME, I’M DOING MY FIRST OUTDOOR BRICK OF THE SEASON!” (why?) or “high-five, we all did the exact same two workouts a day for four days straight, and didn’t swim at all! Hot tub time!” (…who’s coach decided day after day of the same thing would be a good idea for everyone?). A change of scenery is great and all, but call that what it is: a vacation.

Anyway, on with the reca(m)p:


After a healthy dose of early morning yawning and SoCal traffic, Dusty, roomie and soon-to-go-pro Sarah Beth Barkley, and I arrived at Base Camp (the Ramada in Carlsbad) to check in and flash our USAT cards. Workout #1 of 3 that day was in the water, a gorgeous new facility with a 50 meter pool, which was mercifully set up for short course. We did several warm-up sets, which helped get our heart rates going as well as shake out who should be in what lane, then launched into our main set of 10x100s at “sprint triathlon” pace. Our pace, we were told, would be used for another set at a future workout.

After swimming, we checked into the house that Dusty rented for a group of us, shoved some food into our faces, and rallied for a two hour ride with a 40 minute run off the bike. I like San Diego as much as the next triathlete, but I have to say the traffic along the kinda-standard Coastal 101 route is hair-raising. It reminded me of Chicago, what with the parked car, stoplight, and pothole danger. Still, it was semi-scenic as we cruised south past my aunt’s house in Del Mar (sorry I didn’t stop in and say hi!) and up to Torrey Pines. I was a little geeked when we turned around at the Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn. I’ll have to tour that next time I’m in town and not in head to toe lycra. So then we rode back to Base Camp and ran off the bike. Dusty and I went 30 minutes instead of 40 because pottybreak.


That night, Nytro Multisport hosted a public event featuring a Q&A with Heather Jackson. She talked a bit about her race and everyday nutrition strategies (lean protein is good, gluten is not entirely off limits (cheers for beers!), and something from Herbalife’s 24 product line is always in a bottle within reach). She also spoke about her experience at Panama 70.3 the previous weekend. Did you know it was 109 degrees? Did you know they changed the previously scenic course to a four-loop bike shitshow (my words, not Heather’s)? It was highly informative and more importantly featured beer and cookies. Then there was much-needed food shoveled into our faces and bodies collapsed into bed.


I’m a little biased, but Friday started out with a 90 minute swim session and was a blast. Heather Jackson joined us and jumped in my/Dusty’s lane, then proceeded to make me swim ahead of her so she could push off right on my feet. I was slightly motivated to remain ahead of her, which was tough at times! The main set consisted of multiple ladders, which are brilliant ways to sneak in a ton of yardage without making it too tedious. So three times through a 100-200-300-400 set, and we quickly racked up close to 4000 yards including warm-up… and THEN…

Dusty had cooked up the idea of a 200IM race for BIG prizes at our little triathlon camp. He had announced it months in advance to give campers enough time to work on ALL FOUR strokes in their private pool practice. The whole thing was kinda genius in that it encouraged everyone to participate and to try something new, and it was EXTREMELY entertaining to watch.

Prizes were like this:




1st – Garmin 500 bike computer

JJ Brandstratter

Me, rolled to Heather Jackson, rolled to Carly Johann, rolled to Erin Green

2nd – pair Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires and latex tubes

Tim Wood

Heather Jackson, rolled to Carly Johann (who wanted the tires, not the Garmin)

3rd – Speedfil z4 bottle cage with built-in computer mount

Dusty Nabor, rolled to …Dillon Hollinger (aka “DillHole”) I believe?

Carly Johann, rolled to Erin Green, rolled to Yvette Irons McGue

To clarify the Women’s side, I placed first and Heather placed second, but we let our prizes roll to the next fastest women. That was Carly Johann, who wanted the second place prize, so Erin came in fourth but picked up the first place prize. Participation pays off, people! And in case anyone was wondering, my time was a mere 20 seconds slower than my PR, set 20 years ago in high school. Hahahaa…aaaaaaaaaaw, Jesus Christ I’m old.


After swimming, Wattie took us on a tour of the Wattie Ink. sweatshop, where Wattie-wear will be produced. We got to see the fabrics that will be used for our tri kits and the sublimation and laser-cutting technologies that will be employed, as well as a number of designs for casual wear. It’s going to be awesome!

That afternoon we rode bikes through Camp Pendleton on the Oceanside course for a total of almost three hours. There was a good amount of wind and road debris, and I decided I’m really not interested in doing Oceanside, like, ever, but it was a fun ride with the whole group.

That night we went to Pizza Port in Carlsbad for PIZZA and BEER. Roommate Carly Johann is something of a beer expert (@tricraftbeer on Twitter), so suggested the contents of most of our pitchers that night. Well done, Carly.



Saturday would consist of a 90 minute run on a trail followed by a 60 minute swim and a 90 minute optional recovery ride. The run was on a trail like the one Dusty and I run on all the time, but in reverse: ours starts out with a “flat” steady grade section, then gets a little gnarly after about four miles from the trailhead. This one started out with some nasty grades peppered with huge river rocks –making for interesting footing— then evened out to a really great shaded section.


The order of the day was to warm up for 20 minutes, then build in 40 minutes of progressively quicker tempo pace. Well, I’m not really built to be running at 10k pace an hour into my longest run in 16 months, so just ran at a steady state. It felt pretty amazing, like I almost didn’t want to turn around and head back.

Wattie snapped a pic early on this run with teammate Laura Sand on my heels (I’ll insert it if I can figure out how to…). She was my shadow for most of the bike and run workouts, and eventually she nicknamed me Metro; something about having a steady, metronome-like cadence, and how she hops on my train? I don’t know.

here we go!
here we go!

I opted out of the recovery ride for a smidge of down/alonetime. Mental health counts toward recovery too! Erin Green, a dietitian and professional triathlete, gave a talk about nutrition in the evening before coming home and cooking fish tacos for everyone in our house.


Arguably the biggest day of camp, with a 5 hour ride and 40 minute run on tap. It being February, very few people had done such a long ride in recent training, if at all. I had already consulted with my Coach Steve to complete the ride –not cutting it short at all—but skip the run afterward. Aaaand that’s what I did.

The route we took was roughly lollipop-shaped, and brought us through Oceanside before veering far inland for a loop, then returning home. The big-deal climb of the day would be Couser Canyon, which is only about four miles long, but climbs 1000 feet in that time. It wasn’t a long grinder like we have around here, but rather a deceptively tricky thing with false flats where, unless I looked at my speed, I couldn’t tell whether I was heading uphill or downhill.


We had dialed in our group riding dynamics by this time, so everyone stuck together pretty well. Wattie and Heather joined us again, and we enjoyed amazing SAG support provided by Shelly Driscoll on behalf of Reynolds Wheels. Those guys take such great care of us it’s ridiculous. At the end of the day, we covered about 84 miles together, and must have been quite a sight.


That evening we had a chat with a rep from our new sponsor, SpiderTech about the possible benefits of using their precut “kinesio” tape. Did you guys know that the colors don’t mean anything in terms of elasticity or adhesive strength, but are based on Japanese healing traditions? True story.

reed comes to practice

We started Monday at the pool again, and, as promised, made use of the pace we set a few days before. After another 1000ish warm-up we went after 10x150s (odds 50fast+100pace, evens 100pace+50fast).

OK wait, let me back up. Matty Reed came to our workout.

You guys.


Matt Reed.

So there I was, swimming in the fast lane with MATTY REED (you guys, seriously!) and nothing else about this swim actually matters.

Then we headed to the trail for another 90 minute run. I only ran 40 because I’m not ready for double long-runs within three days. I was also feeling really uncoordinated after our swim so have figured out that, for my training, swimming AFTER running is a little more optimal.

After packing up our rental house, we gathered one last time for a 90 minute (cut down from the planned 2 hour) ride. The plan was to ride south for 45 minutes, turn around, and stop at the other Pizza Port location in Solana Beach on our way home. We raised a celebratory glass there to a camp well swum/biked/run.

pizza port #2
Blinking. Of course.

(skipping the part about the crash 10 minutes later and 10 minutes from the end of camp, here)

Anyway, I had permission from Coach Flabby to say “whatever” I wanted about his camp and workouts, and I only have positive things to say. Big thank yous to the sponsors who partially underwrote our costs and came out to support and educate us, including BlueSeventy, Speedfil (especially David Dietterle), Reynolds (especially the Driscolls), PowerBar, Spidertech, Herbalife, ISM, and Rudy Project. More big thanks to the people who made it really special, including and especially Coach Flanigan, Wattie, Dusty and his stable of pro girls and his evil plan to get triathletes to practice strokes, pros Heather Jackson, Leslie Patterson, Eric Limkemann, Erin Green, and Matt Reed. As always, it was wonderful to meet and hang out with other crazy tri-type pokemon!

I made you scroll for this!

2 thoughts on “Training cAmped!: Wattie Ink Elite Team and Black Dragon Racing pull off the first annual SoCal training camp.

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