Junior Endurance Camp Report-Alfa Mar Portugal
Athletics Ireland held their annual junior endurance camp in the wonderful surroundings of Alfa Mar Portugal over Easter. Carded athletes and those on the National Junior XC panel attended the 8 day training camp to aid them in their preparations for the up coming track season. Alfa Mar provides an ideal setting for the camp with two tracks, gym, nature reserve trails and the XC course that hosted the European XC Championships a number of years ago. The athletes stayed in chalets directly across the road from the XC course & track and had the added bonus of being grouped together around one courtyard to allow for plenty of social interaction.
When the planning process for this camp began in December and due to the numbers attending, collaboration with the personal coaches was critical for the smooth and efficient running of the camp. All the personal coaches were extremely open to the plans for the camp and their willingness for their athletes to engage in daily group runs and workouts together allowed for a more productive and successful camp. We would like to thank all the coaches for their openness and flexibility around this as it made for a very successful camp and fostered an environment of togetherness and teamwork. The culture has spread and will continue to spread to our international XC teams for the championships at u20/u23/senior levels.
Our focus for the camp due to the time of year was on conditioning and laying a good base of endurance, speed and strength work before athletes get more specific with their training into the competition season. The athletes bought into this as what typically happens is that people many travel to foreign camps and want to run fast everyday, which isn’t always beneficial to the season as a whole. Without these foundations, in place the faster work has little benefit in the long run during the season. The athletes specifically focused on doing the little things right, nailing the basics like nutrition/sleep/hydration/mobility/stretching etc. Each morning they filled out a monitoring sheet taking their resting heart rate to monitor their recovery from the previous day (s) training and also looking at other markers such as appetite/mood state/motivation/sleep quality & quantity/muscle soreness etc. This provided valuable information to the coaching & therapy team around what training or treatment was needed for that day.
I would personally like to thank the Aldeia da Falesia Hotel for their accommodating manner, our coaches Annette Quegan & Collette O Riordan for their brilliant support with the athletes, our two therapists Aisling Fahey & Paul Gallagher for their support work with the athletes in managing injury issues and keeping them healthy and also to senior endurance athletes David McCarthy/John Collins/William Hughes who were staying at the same location and really integrated well with the group and provided many insights into their experience as athletes. It was also fantastic to see Matt Lockett (Connacht Junior Squad Coach), Pat Hogan (Munster Junior Squad Coach) and Mark Kirk (Ulster/NI Junior Squad Coach) out in the same location with groups of Irish endurance athletes and many athletes working together in training. The power of group training and Irish athletes/coaches coming together for training is critical to our future success and long may it continue.
Finally I would like to thank they athletes at the camp, they were a credit to themselves, their coaches and their parents. It is always a pleasure to work with this group and a great honour watching them develop. At a camp like this for juniors especially, it is important to find a balance between creating a high performance environment & culture but also having down time for the athletes to switch off, enjoy each other's company, relax and of course have some time for their study's. To the athletes - Your passion, attitude, drive, enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge was a motivating factor for us the staff. In that kind of environment coaching is a joy and a privilege to be part of. Continue in this vein on a daily basis over the coming months/years and you will make us proud as a nation. Believe in yourself, keep working hard but smart, be open and honest with your coach, create a team of people around you that you trust, always aim high and continue to raise the bar. We asked you all to maintain a high standard from the start and you did, we asked you all to work together as a group and you did, we asked you to "Normalize Excellence" daily and you did.
Now the attention turns to the track season with many of the athletes dreaming of success and achieving the lofty goals they have set for themselves at the beginning of the year. We asked the athletes at the start of the camp to bring a positive ‘all in’ altitude to the camp and they did, we told them it was about action and getting the work done and they brought that action and that when they brought the attitude and the action that it will eventually lead to achievement in time. We wish them all the best of luck for the season and hope they all achieve what they set out to.
Endurance running is not an easy game, it takes time, patience, consistency and effort - some deep habit forming actions - with a strong degree of resilience to plough through the many failures on the path to mastery and success. Hopefully this camp has taught the athletes some of these traits and Ireland will continue its proud endurance tradition and continue to raise the bar.
Steve Macklin National Junior Endurance Coach Athletics Ireland