Photo at Vertical Bike Camp at top of Piuma Climb with athletes and horse

Vertical Camp 2018 – Building a Base in the Santa Monica Mountains

For the past nine years, fellow coach and training partner Jasper Blake (B78 Coaching) and I have been coming to the town of Thousand Oaks the third weekend of January for a training camp. Thousand Oaks is located in California about one hour north of Los Angeles on the east side of the Santa Monica Mountains. The first camp here was back in our racing days and it was just the two of us going out on our own into the mountains to get in some early season miles.

Our camp was mostly based around biking. The roads were dry, which is a nice change from Victoria in January, quiet and there were endless climbs up to spectacular views of valleys and ocean. A few short runs and swims were thrown in as well, but the main purpose of the camp was to RIDE.

Athlete riding bike at Vertical Camp

After that first camp we both remarked that we should have a camp and bring people down for the same four day training weekend that we had just experienced. Since that time, Vertical Camp, as it has been dubbed, has become a weekend that many athletes put on their calendars.

Unlike the sold out camp of twenty five athletes that we had this year, Vertical Camp did not start out big. Year one we had one athlete attend: Karyn Kowal is forever a legend. We didn’t care. We put on the camp anyways. We had retired from racing, but we still wanted to train. After Karyn’s glowing reviews of the riding we had another seven or eight athletes the next year and we actually had a support vehicle. Since that time the camp has grown and we have refined our routes and our support strategies.

This year we had amazing athletes from all across Canada as well as international athletes from Belgium and Bermuda.

One of the great things about the camp is seeing athletes from all over the world come together and experience some of the most amazing riding, but also some of the most challenging riding TOGETHER. Each of the four days we tackle at least two good climbs, with four proper climbs on the longest day.

The athletes at this camp test their limits. Whether it is a 15 km climb or a winding, twisty 15 km descent that the athlete fears, it is a chance to overcome both physical and mental limits while getting fitter and stronger with each revolution of the pedals. Quite often individual fears are collectively shared and it makes for great camaraderie as the camp goes along.

Each year has a different dynamic, but the one dynamic that is constant is the friendship and bonds that are formed over four days of suffering together. Handshakes are replaced by hugs at the end of the camp. This is perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of putting on this camp year in and year out. Plans for 2019 are already underway. In the meantime, check out and register for our next camp in Whistler (May 18th – 21st).

Group Photo at top of C Group at top of Latigo Climb at Vertical Camp