In 1980, when Mark Wendley first heard about Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon, he naively thought that the competitors had a break "for lunch or something" between each grueling portion of the contest. A well-conditioned swimmer, Wendley thought, "Hey, I can do that event." What he soon discovered, of course, was just how frustrating training for the disparate elements (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race, 26.2-mile run) of the Ironman can be. But out of Wendley's frustration came an idea, one that really took shape when he met Tom Peters and began training with him for the October 1982 Ironman: Why not start a training camp for triathletes, with topflight competitors as instructors?
One month after finishing 507th and 630th, respectively, out of 850 in the 1982 Ironman, Wendley and Peters started the National Triathlon Training Camp, with headquarters in Los Angeles. Now triathletes in search of expert help can sign up for one of the camp's regularly scheduled weekends of intensive education in the training tricks of the trade, e.g., "drafting" behind a competitor in the crowded ocean-swimming leg to avoid having to look up every several strokes to keep your bearings.
Participants are divided by skill level into three groups, so no one need fear being pushed too hard or not being pushed hard enough. (During the camp's inaugural weekend in May of 1983, 40% of the participants were beginners, 30% had competed in shorter-length triathlons and 30% were experienced triathletes.) The instructors also design a long-term training program for each camper.
The camp's $130 fee includes a dorm room, three meals a day, and two days of lectures, seminars and slide shows covering, among other things, race strategy, training techniques and proper nutrition. Also part of the program are actual training sessions—swimming, biking and running—with the camp's staff of triathletes, including Julie Moss, who crawled across the finish line for second place among women in the February 1982 Ironman; Annie Dandoy, seventh among women in the 1983 Ironman; U.S. Triathlon Series star Mark Montgomery; and Dave Scott, the winner of a record three Ironman contests.
The camp's next two weekend sessions are planned for June 29-July 1 and Aug. 17-19, both at the Irvine campus of the University of California. There are 42 places available for each. Contact the National Triathlon Training Camp, 1015 Gayley Avenue, Suite 217, Los Angeles, Calif. 90024.
Obviously, the camp doesn't promise to transform campers into contending triathletes overnight. Indeed, the experience may lead some to conclude that the path to success is too rocky. But, for those willing to accept the challenge, camps like this one may make the road—or water—a little smoother.