by T.J. Murphy
(A 6th is that it won’t be tough talking the family in coming with you. See the sidebar at the end.)
Newly created in 2016, the “Dave Scott Triathlon Experience” is a triathlon camp based at the Four Seasons Hualalai resort on the Big Island of Hawaii in Kona.
Scott, the six-time Hawaii Ironman champion and Boulder-based coach, has been putting on clinics and camps since the early 1980s.
This past July, I was invited to join in his latest iteration. I have a vivid memory of buying a copy of Dave Scott’s Triathlon Training, published in 1986. It was a tri-geek’s dream: The second chapter was on physiology. The ninth chapter was a detailed look at what what he called “A Champion’s Diet.” In between was an extremely in-depth, detailed explanation of how to plan and execute a scientifically-tuned multi-sport training schedule.
I was a little rattled by the fact that 30 years had passed since I bought the book. In the course of a few days at Scott’s new camp, and my first time ever being coached by Scott, I would realize two things: His passion in searching for optimal ways to train, eat and live has not tapered off. He’s the same mad scientist of yore.
Secondly, although he has always been a fan of precision with training and nutrition (as evidenced in his 1986 book) his core ideas have been overhauled. If you want to drive Dave crazy, bag a lot of low-intensity training mileage, routinely skip mobility and strength work and chow on 300 grams of carbs a day. He would stop you in the street and drag you to his camp.
The camp started with a meet-up for dinner at the resort’s Ocean Grill restaurant. Joining Scott was his partner and fellow coach, Christine Bell. We talked about triathlon, training, nutrition, his race history, his thinking on the upcoming Hawaii Ironman, and then we all just got to know one another. We would have several dinners with Dave like this throughout the week. Let me cut to the chase of what the Dave Scott Triathlon Experience is: If you want to know what it’s like to be coached by Dave the way someone like Chrissie Wellington may have been coached by Dave, this is pretty close. The camp is limited to 10 people. There’s no getting lost in a crowd.
In fact, this depth of contact was prefaced with a pre-camp phone call with Scott. He wants to get to know you and assess your current fitness and goals. In my case, it was embarrassing because I had just emerged from a three-month period where work and a nagging Achilles tendon took over my calendar. “I might as well be a complete beginner,” I admitted to Dave. But as he listened to my litany of woes about being a 52-year-old out-of-shape triathlete, he told me the camp is designed for all—beginners to advanced. His only concern was figuring out how to scale the camp training for me.
After the opening dinner, the next morning we gathered in a Four Seasons conference room that had been converted into the resemblance of a tri club HQ: tri bikes, a long table stocked with fruit, nuts, all things coconut, and an array of dream food and coffee. Another table was stocked with recovery and protein supplements and assorted swim and bike gear. After breakfast, we started the day’s training with a mobility and strength session in a yoga studio. This is where we began to tunnel into Scott’s 2016 thinking on how to approach the sport of triathlon.
It starts with a foundation in mobility, specifically developing and honing the body’s ability to recruit muscles that surround and support the trunk and core. Without adequate mobility and the capacity to recruit and fire muscles in a balanced way, Scott said, we will be incapable of producing good form, biomechanics and technique, resulting in a power loss as well as increasing the risk of injury.
Scott and Bell moved around and worked with each of us, showing us how to perform the initial set of exercises designed to help us activate the transverse abdominis muscles.
We weren’t using weights of any kind. The only piece of equipment was a foam roller. It was rather sad how difficult and exhausting it was to perform and hold the simple positions. This weak link, Scott explained, resulted in (for example) not being able to fire the muscles in both hips when running. It wasn’t just age-groupers. “Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington struggled with this as well.”
The mobility and strength session set the tone for the camp: Using a hands-on, one-on-one approach, we were being taught the set of principles that Scott considers priorities, tailored to our individual strengths and weaknesses. The camp was not an endless slog of long training bouts on the Queen K. Rather, each session in the pool or on the road running or riding had a series of target lessons for two primary areas. One area was technique and biomechanics, and the other area was implementing the workout templates that we would learn about in the lecture parts of the day.
I would tell anyone considering the camp that this is what the Dave Scott Triathlon Experience delivers:
- An education in Scott’s thinking on pursuing optimal biomechanics and position for swimming, bike and running. Videos are recorded during the sessions and analyzed at the HQ.
- A blunt evaluation, followed by coaching in swim technique as taught by Scott. A couple of us who had learned the Total Immersion “fishlike” swimming technique were read the riot act and taught a more limited version of body rotation that almost instantly produced more power. (Perhaps worth the price of the camp alone.)
- Similar evaluations in bike handling skills and running form, often with Scott or Bell running or riding alongside offering feedback.
- An open-water session, interval workouts, bike rides on the Queen K, hill training, resistance training, and lectures on programming and adopting a low-carb nutrition strategy.
- An indoctrination into Scott’s “less is more” brand of workout design, staked in designing training sessions that targeted specific energy systems in very precise ways.
Punctuating the sessions, lunches and dinners was the open access to one-on-one questions and answers with both Scott and Bell. Each camper had opportunities to bring up specific problems. For example, my Achilles tendon. I raced my first triathlon in 1983. I don’t even want to guess how many times I’ve injured my left Achilles tendon since then. If one can figure that out by measuring the depth of the calcium deposit I have on the heel bone—like measuring rings on a tree—well, I don’t want to know. To be honest, I was starting to give up on it. But Scott and Bell teamed up to get a fix on the source of the problem and prescribe some exercises. It’s worked out well: I’ve been running without pain since the camp.
Personal prescriptions are the end goal of the camp. After the week of training and coaching, Scott assembles a training program for each camper, including a recommended set of mobility and strength exercises generated to address specific issues and weaknesses. This is accompanied by a follow-up phone session with Dave.
If you’re interested in a camp that emphasizes training volume, I’d suggest the Epic Camp series or something similar. But if you’re interested in a reboot of biomechanics, nutrition and a high-precision/low-volume training approach, this is it. Also—if you drag along family, they won’t mind (see sidebar).
A final word: The 2016 camp was priced at $2000, plus accommodations at the Four Seasons. No small investment. My advice to those making the plunge is to go in with a level of preparation. You’ll simply get way more out of it. A month or two of yoga or pilates will probably help you pick up more from the strength and mobility sessions. And you’ll absorb more from the lectures on energy systems and nutrition (in particular the ketogenic diet) if you have the vocabulary down. Scott’s website and blog are good places to read up on these topics. For the nutrition, I’d also visit eatingacademy.com, the site of Dr. Peter Attia, an MD who Dave is a fan of when it comes to explaining ketosis.
2017 Dave Scott Triathlon Experience camp dates:
Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5
Monday, August 28 – Friday, September 1
For more info and pricing, visit http://www.davescottinc.com or http://fourseasons.com/
Monday, August 28 – Friday, September 1
For more info and pricing, visit http://www.davescottinc.com or http://fourseasons.com/
By Gretchen Weber
A feature draw of the camp is, unsurprisingly, that it’s in Hawaii at a Four Seasons resort, from the airport a left-turn off the Queen K. Trying to sell a spouse or family on coming with you? Clip this sidebar and stick it on the fridge. While athletes attend the sessions from 6 a.m. to early-to-mid-afternoon, loved ones who have come along for the ride will have myriad options. Here are a few cues:
Snorkeling at King’s Pond. Of the resort’s seven pools, King’s Pond is probably the most interesting. Make your way here early in your stay for some snorkeling without the waves and extra salt that comes with the open ocean. This man-made pond is modeled on the natural pools found throughout the area, and is home to more than 4,000 fish from more than 75 species. Check out the Fish Circus (think fish “kicking” a soccer ball and retrieving objects) or sign up to hand feed Kainalu, the friendly resident spotted eagle ray. For kids who want to go more in-depth, the resort offers a junior marine biologists program for ages 7–13.
After snorkeling, explore the other resort pools. Have a relaxing lunch by the Beach Tree Pool, the resort’s “quiet” pool, lounging on a chaise lounge or daybed with a view of the ocean, or decompress in a hammock at the adults-only Palm Grove Pool after a trip to the swim-up bar. If you’re with the whole family, make your way to the infinity-style Sea Shell Pool located right next to the children’s Keiki Pool, which has a graduated white sand bottom designed for little feet. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more active, head up to the spa for a workout in the 25-meter lap pool.
Stand-up paddle boarding at Kukio Bay. Head out early to the Kukio Bay at the southern end of the property for a stand-up paddle board session. Daniel, or one of the other alaka?i nalu (leaders of the waves) can show you the ropes on land and then you can head out on your own. If you’re lucky out there, you might find yourself surrounded by a pod of acrobatic spinner dolphins on their daily romp through the area. Don’t forget to bring a complimentary scuba mask with you out on the water so you can watch the Hawaiian green sea turtles along with a diversity of brightly colored tropical fish keeping busy along the active reef just below the water’s surface.
Tip: Do the stand-up paddling boarding early in your stay because once you’ve had the orientation, you’re free to return and paddle as many times as you like.
After your paddle, stay and relax a bit on the sandy beach, snorkel some more in the shallows, or sign up for one of the other ocean activities based here: outrigger canoe paddling, scooter snorkeling, and ribcraft rides. If you’ve got a little energy left, decline the ride back to the main resort and opt for a stroll along the gorgeous mile-long seaside path that takes you past lava beaches, the resort’s oceanfront golf course, and traditional fishing coves and other historic sites.
Ukulele lesson at the Cultural Center. After a poolside lunch, make your way up to the resort’s Ka?upulehu Cultural Center, which is an on-site museum offering interactive programs and other resources aimed to create a living picture of the traditions and culture of old Hawaii. Classes include star navigation, hula dancing, quilt and lei making, as well as Hawaiian language. Don’t miss the ukulele lesson, which you should definitely sign up for in advance. Auntie Halani or one of the other staff members will have you strumming and singing within minutes and able to actually play “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” before the end of the hour.
Day at the Hualalai Sports Club and Spa. Start your day off with some physical activity. Head up to the resort sports club and take a group exercise class (yoga, spinning, barre, pilates) or simply work out at your own pace in one of the training studios or outside on the deck. Strength and resistance training equipment, cardio machines, and all kinds of stretching and mobility props are available both inside and outside so that you can tailor your workout to your needs and the weather.
After your workout, treat yourself to a massage, facial, or other treatment at the spa. If you’re looking for an “only in Hawaii” experience, opt for a lomi lomi massage. It can feel akin to a Swedish massage, and uses traditional Hawaiian techniques employing forearms and elbows for a deeply relaxing experience. For the best of both worlds, request a waiea hale (water of life house), which is an air-conditioned room with large open doors that allow you to enjoy the fresh air during your massage while still staying relatively cool. Relax after your treatment on a lounge chair in the garden, listening to waterfalls and watching the fluorescent green and yellow geckos climbing all over tree trunks and tropical ferns.