Vertical Camp has been an annual camp that Jasper Blake’s B78 and Human Powered Racing have been running for 7 years now. One of (and probably the only) upsides of the drought that they had been having in California is that we were always treated to great weather. Dry roads and plenty of sunshine were typical and the 2016 camp was the first time we were hit with any rain at all (and it was very brief).
“No Rain! No Rainbows!”
Fast Forward to 2017. As the camp weekend approached the forecast just kept getting worse and worse. Heavy Rain and temperatures topping out in the low 50’s. This was very similar if not worse than the weather we were trying to escape. For once the forecasts were bang on and we were subjected to some of the worst weather that southern California had experienced since the 40’s.
Day 1 – Friday’s early ride was swapped for the afternoon trail run and the group ended up running in gale force winds with rain coming down sideways. A small stream we easily jumped over on the way out was a river on the way back that we had to wade through. Surely it would pass and things would be better in the afternoon for our ride. This is when the flash flood warnings appeared on all of our cell phones. Considering we had just finished a run in a canyon with hills on either side I would say that we dodged a bullet on this one. Afternoon workouts were switched to a trip to the outdoor pool at CLU for a swim or a trip to Camarillo Outlet Mall (a much different kind of workout).
Day 2 – The one day that was forecast to be sunny did not disappoint. This was our big ride day. Two epic climbs. Piuma up over to Malibu (obligatory stop for coffee) and then up Latigo to get back to our hotel in Thousand Oaks. This is probably one of the best rides in the world and we were very fortunate that the weather co-operated enough to let us get this one in. For those that made it back in time it was a very quick change and then over to the pool once again for a recovery swim.
Day 3 – Another wash out of a day. As quickly as the nice weather came, it went! Once again we were subjected to flash flood warnings and torrential rain. Instead of the planned “Rock Store/Mullholand” ride another run was substituted. Mini Vans were loaded and the 30 of us took the trip over to Zuma beach for a great run along the ocean. Trying to dodge massive puddles was soon forgotten and runners were plowing through ankle deep “rivers”. It was an epic run and made more epic by our decision to see who could get really car sick by taking one of our twisting riding routes up and over the Santa Monica Mountains.
Luckily CLU allowed us to book the pool again today and we were able to get in for another great swim where even rainbows made an appearance. Athletes at the camp came with the right attitude and wanted more. Quickly a second run was planned for the afternoon for those that wanted to get in another easy 30 minutes while a second group of athletes went in search of heat in any form they could find. In this instance it was Bikram Yoga at a studio right in front of our hotel.
Day 4 – Once again we awoke to rain and cool temperatures. Fortunately the rain was forecast to subside in the afternoon so another trip to the pool was quickly organized for the morning and then we were able to finally get on the bikes once again at 1pm. Today’s ride took us down the PCH with a massive tailwind until we hit Mullholand then it was the last big climb of the camp. Usually riders are pretty smashed by day 4, but with this being only our second day of riding everyone was in great spirits on the climb and even enjoyed a great sunset on the way home. The temperatures were still pretty chilly, but the riding was spectacular and everyone finished the camp in great form.
To run a camp like this takes a lot of organization, a lot of improvisation and a lot of support. We were extremely lucky to have two great support vans along on all of the rides. Our support crew of Rob Dibden and Tony Parks did a fantastic job of keeping everyone safe, on course (even though some people liked playing hide and seek with Tony) and fueled. Without them some riders might still be out there.
Most importantly, running a camp such as this takes great athletes. Everyone at this years Vertical Camp came with a great attitude. As coaches we had to make some very tough calls on dropping rides and replacing them with other workouts. This wasn’t easy. What was easy, was having athletes that adapted to every change and every challenge with an open mind and a positive outlook.
While the weather might not have co-operated this year, it was still one of the best camps yet and you can be sure that we will be back in 2018 to search out sunny skies and dry roads.
Photo Credits: Jasper Blake