XTERRA athlete and coach Mimi Stockton mountain biked in college but then took a long break.
"After about 15 years I got back on my bike and went for a ride with some guys who were really good," she remembers. "I thought I was going to die. I was crashing everywhere. I thought about how great it would be to have someone take me out and show me the basics."
This desire is part of what drove Stockton to become a coach herself. Together with SherriAnne Little, she has created NextLevel Endurance, where they train XTERRA and multi-sport athletes.
"XTERRA is such an interesting sport. There is always something new to work on. Mountain biking takes skill, but once you get over your fear, you can barrel down anything. Swimming, on the other hand, is super technical, and requires constant work on stroke and efficiency."
Stockton had her own experience with swimming last year.
"I thought I was a good swimmer and I had a strong stroke, but I was always coming out of the water exhausted," said Stockton. "I finally had my stroke analyzed and the guy was like, 'Oh my god, you need to start over.'"
Stockton spent much of last January working on her stroke, which was often frustrating.
"There were many days I left the pool crying. I thought I'd never figure it out. But now I'm faster. The key to getting faster is getting more efficient. And the key to getting more efficient is learning how to swim correctly."
Because Stockton had to start from scratch, she began looking for programs that offered off-road triathlon basics from stroke analysis to running drills.
"I knew that road triathlon camps exist, but after looking far and wide, I couldn't find any off-road triathlon camps."
So Stockton and Little decided to start their own camp.
"We wanted something to tie it all together. Skills on the mountain bike, swim analysis, and how to get really fast running trails."
Nico Lebrun - 2005 XTERRA World Champ, coach at Organicoach, and technical director of XTERRA Europe - has run camps for his own athletes.
"Camps like this are always good," he said, "Because you can teach a lot. Technical skills on the mountain bike are hard to teach a single athlete. But when you are in a group, you use other athletes to demonstrate and break into groups to practice. It's the same with trail running and swimming. Both benefit from video analysis, drills, and practice. When you have three days to dedicate to a certain skill, you can get so much accomplished."
Stockton's inaugural "Off-Road Blast" Camp will take place this April near Scottsdale, Arizona. The days will focus on technique, video analysis, and trying out new skills, while the evenings will include lectures on training, stretching, and diet.
"We chose the Phoenix area because it's warm enough to swim outside, and the trails there are great. We want to appeal to beginners who want to do their first XTERRA as well as experienced athletes who want black diamond trails. The Phoenix area has both."
Stockton plans to run her camp with the structure of a traditional triathlon camp but with an emphasis on the skills necessary for off-road racing. Even better, it will be designed to be fun.
"Remember what a blast camp was when we were kids?," asks Stockton. "Whether you are new to the sport and don't know where to start or whether you are already good and you want to get better, camp is just pure fun."