Diabetes Training Camp – A Coach’s Review, Part II

“I’m heading over to the track for some 400s. Want to join me?”

I glanced at my watch. It was 9:30AM. I was scheduled to make up DTC camper beds at 10AM. I was dressed for the latter, not the former. My legs were heavy from the previous day’s twenty-one mile run and I hadn’t planned on running on this day, the day the campers would arrive after lunch.

“Sure,” I said. “Give me two minutes to change,” and a half hour later I was coming back from the track with two-time Ironman Lyndsay Riffe. We made the campers’ beds up, doing our best not the drip sweat on their clean sheets.

Immediately, I was brought back to one of the purposes of camp, which was to not let a moment, or thirty minutes in this case, go to waste. Lyndsay is one of the best I know at filling any vacuum of time with activity. The fact that her workouts didn’t often make sense (as the time I caught her inserting planks into a stretching routine) are more a symptom of her spontaneity than any lack of knowledge about how to break a good sweat.

On my own, I’m a curmudgeon about my workouts, making certain I have the right gear, the right nutrition, the right music, etc. if I’m going to head out for a run. Seeing Lyndsay reminded me that, for all intents and purposes, the only thing you need to do a workout is time, and not much of it at that. And if a plank isn’t part of a stretching routine, so what? They’re still good for you, aren’t they?

Though camper registration was scheduled to open at one, when I arrived to help with check-in (my job was to escort the campers from where they picked up their key to the dorm where they’d be all week), three to four were already waiting, a stark contrast to last year, when the first camper had rolled in about thirty minutes after we’d opened for business.

I said it several times that day, and it’s true: camper registration is one of my favorite parts of the week. Excitement and trepidation run high and I enjoy being one of the first staff members to meet and greet those who’ve travelled so far to get here.

It’s at these moments that the biographical sketches we’d read the day before become real and the responsibility and opportunity of the coming week makes itself known. I showed off my homefield advantage during the short walk from registration to the dorm, pointing out a few facts about the college and Lancaster, while asking where the campers had come from.

“I’m terrified,” one of them shared with me, though her smile suggested it was more like she was hopeful she didn’t need to be terrified and I told her she had no reason to be.

After dropping them off at the dorms, where they were warmly accepted by other team members, I jogged back to registration to do it all again. In general, I noted three types of campers. The alumni, as confident as upperclassmen returning to campus for their senior years, full of hugs, good natured ribbing, and overall elation about coming back. Another large group of newer campers, ones who thought they knew what they were getting into, but weren’t entirely sure. And as always, a small number, very small, whom you could tell that maybe were here because somebody else thought it would be a good idea for them. Perhaps a parent or a spouse. Perhaps in their hearts, they knew it was a good idea but wouldn’t have pulled the trigger themselves. To these people, I tried to walk a little slower and talk a little lower; to convey comfort rather than excitement. As the writer Richard Russo said, “Most people don’t want to be entertained. They want to be comforted.” I remind myself of that phrase at times like this.

After a first dinner together, we held our first meetings of the week. Make no mistake: the camp offers a full agenda, with workouts and programs that run from immediately after breakfast right up until bedtime. Participation for everything is voluntary, of course, but a camper not interested in downtime can accomplish their goal without much effort.

The staff all had the opportunity to address the campers and discuss their plan for the week. My goal in my presentation was simple: tell them they wouldn’t find the runs too hard or too long and assure them some of the most scenic routes available.

After we’d all presented (I preferred to think of it as lobbying, as I had no intention of letting this large group of runners spend their weeks on bicycles, much as I love my co-coaches), Dr. Matt Corcoran gave his first of many lectures that week designed for the diabetic athlete. These lectures serve as the key difference from anything many of the campers had seen before. Rather than discussing the disease or possible outcomes, these lectures were all about optimizing lifestyle and performance. And as I knew they would, the campers, tired as they were from a long day of travel, listened intently.

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