What is it like being a resident triathlete at the Olympic training center? That is what I, Kevin Collington, a member of USA Triathlon’s Project 2012 National Team and OTC resident athlete, am telling you about today. I know what you’re thinking: “Hmm, this could be an interesting topic. I’ll read on and see exactly what goes on in the life of an aspiring Olympian.” It’s true – training for the Olympics as an OTC resident athlete is a wonderful opportunity that I am lucky to have. But I must warn you now – I have more habits than the average octogenarian nursing home resident! Read on at your own risk!
A typical day starts out at 7:00 AM. I wake up in my dorm room on the third floor of the east resident wing, grab a snack and a water bottle, and head down to the aquatics building. Swimming is offered Monday through Saturday at 7:30AM but since everyone has his or her own coach it is never mandatory. With such a great group of athletes training at the OTC, including 3 time Olympian Hunter Kemper, and Beijing Olympian Sarah Haskins, it’s always better to swim with the group if only for the fact that we challenge each other. Our swim coach Mike Doane usually gives us 4500 to 5500 meters total with a 1500-2500 meter main set.
Brian Fleischmann, Hunter Kemper, Ben Collins and Joe Umphenour getting ready to swim.
After swim there is only one thing on my mind: breakfast! The dining hall at the OTC is an amazing place – the food tastes good and is healthy (although as with any dining hall some choices are healthier than others). It opens at 7:00 AM and closes at 8:30 PM everyday, closing down for only two 15 minute windows to switch meals (10:45 to change over to lunch and 3:45 to change to dinner).
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day at the OTC. After swimming I make the 200 meter walk from the aquatics building to the dining hall and head straight for the grill. The grill is where it’s at: fresh made omelettes! Two eggs with onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach is my favorite. Sometimes I ask the grill chef if they have any fresh avocados in the back. Luckily today they do. Here is the finished product:
After breakfast I generally relax for awhile – this is a good time to get some work done. It’s amazing how much work is involved in being a professional triathlete outside of training. I use this post-swimming time everyday to trim the weeds of my inbox, i.e. emailing sponsors, booking flights, analyzing training sessions. After an hour or so my breakfast is digested, my inbox is under control, and it’s time to go run.
Since it’s still winter as I write this, I’m not doing very much fast running. In fact today I will be lucky to break nine minutes per mile! I hop in my car and drive to my favorite running destination in Colorado Springs – Palmer Park! Palmer Park is best described as a sheer cliff face that rises quite unexpectedly out of suburban Colorado Springs. After a rocky, steep climb I make my way to the Templeton Trail. Palmer Park rates its many trails as either ‘green,’ ‘blue,’ or ‘black.’ Templeton is a black trail – the most difficult. In fact it runs right along the edge of the cliff face, twisting and turning over boulders and steep, rocky climbs. The first time I ran out here I averaged 10:05/mile. After two months of training here on a bi-weekly basis a combination of increased trail running skill, increased running fitness and memorizing the trail has greatly decreased my pace. Today was my fastest day in Palmer Park at 8:27/mile. It’s not fast but it is great non-rhythm running – you can never just zone out and get into a groove in Palmer Park.
Palmer Park. The trail is up on that cliff face.
After running, I head back to the training center and it’s time for lunch. There’s nothing special today so I eat and get out quick so I can start my last workout of the day – a bike ride. It has only been two hours since my run but the weather has taken a turn for the worst. Snow! Colorado is the definition of unpredictable weather patterns. This means I will be riding inside but I’m prepared. I grab my bike and head down to the basement of my dorm building where the USAT training room is. I throw my bike into one of the eight waiting Computrainers and warm up. Again, it’s still winter so my ride isn’t challenging. After a 45 minute warm up I get into the main set of three rounds of ten minutes at a zone two wattage, keeping my cadence under 50. It’s a definite strength set – simulating the mountains I would be climbing had I been able to get outside. For entertainment I turn on some NCAA basketball and hook my iPod up to the stereo system. Having these entertainment options makes winter indoor riding a lot more bearable.
Riding in the USAT training room.
At this point the swim is done, the run is done, and I just finished my bike. So I’m done for the day, right? Wrong – it’s time for some recovery. Tonight I have a massage scheduled in the recovery center. Each resident athlete gets 90 minutes of massage per week. I usually break my time down into a 30 minute session and a 60 minute session. We have the choice of several massage therapists but I always choose Robby Dolby. He is certainly the best massage therapist I have ever worked with. After a session with him I’ll definitely be ready for tomorrow.
Robby Dolby – the best massage therapist I know!
On the few nights a week where I don’t have a massage I will still find time to use the NormaTec MVP for 30 minutes. The NormaTec is a compression device that goes over your legs and fills with air to your desired pressure – I usually choose 80mm Hg. Once it fills up I look like I’m wearing hockey goalie pants. However, despite looking a bit odd these things really work!
After yet another glorious trip to the dining hall for dinner I usually start to wind down for the day. I try not to do anything stressful like answer emails or the like after dinner – sleeping at altitude is not always the best so for the few hours after dinner I do my best to completely relax. I’ll usually watch whatever movie I recently got from Netflix. Alternately anything on the Food Network is usually good. After that a couple of chapters in whatever book I’m reading (currently the Twilight series) will get me ready for bed and each night at 10:30 I call it a day.
So that is a day at the training center. Yes, it is very predictable. In fact after 72 days straight (the length of my latest altitude training block) I would even describe it as boring! But the truth is that this is what is required of me to be the best I can be – complete and total dedication to training. The best part is knowing that next week I will hop on a plane to Australia where I will open up the season at the Mooloolaba World Cup and then the first race in the World Championship Series in Sydney. There is nothing predictable about those trips and if I get a good result I know all of my training will be worth it!
Good Luck, Kevin! We are pumped to see you tear it up on the ITU circuit this year. Keep gunning for London.