Thursday, April 25, 2013

Epicicity in the Desert: Tucson Training Camp 2013

Everyone has a few special dates a year that they get really excited about. For some, it’s birthdays; holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, New Years Eve, etc; that big camping trip to the cabin or to that place near the beach. Yeah, I get excited about all those too, but one of the few things that’ll get me up damn early in the morning is my big training camp of the year; generally somewhere hot, dry, with endless roads and awesome people. So basically, a triathlete Nirvana. Last year I went to Tucson, Arizona, and found the perfect training mecca. This year, I was going back.

Common interest? The LOVE of Powdered PB. Friends for life.
Jesse being a Paleo Athlete, we made
'Paleo-Pancakes' all the time!

Lucky me, I found two of the most awesome people in Tucson to stay with: fellow professional triathlete Jesse Vondracek, and his girlfriend Amy Cole (an elite runner who can run like the wind, and I’m pretty sure can out-eat even ME.) I also made a new best friend, their pup Addy (who I attempted to fit into my bike bag and bring home, but she put me over the weight limit so I had to leave her.) One of the best things about my adventures and endeavours (whether good OR bad) in triathlon is meeting all the fun and amazing people I do. There isn’t a nicer bunch, and the global networking I’ve done in my relatively short time in the sport has astounded me. These guys were no different, and they made the camp at LEAST 48% better than it would have been alone. We had constant laughs, made enormous meals, and had more fro-yo than I can recall; they taught me how to be much more efficient with my time, and eat more than I ever thought I was capable of (I knew about breakfast #2, but when we got into breakfast #3 and #4, and dinner #2 though 4, I was trekking into uncharted territory.) Their absolutely awesome coffee machine (that pretty much sounded like an airplane taking off when it fired up) made the best black-gold I’ve had in a long time, getting me through a few early morning swim sets and being a daily focus of excitement (especially when you use that delicious lactose-free coffee creamer, that definitely isn’t the best for you but it tastes like magic in a cup! Almond Joy flavour anyone?)

Organice Chili anyone?
The three amigos….Beer Can style.
Wanna scoot?

They also have the most kick-ASS scooter that I used to scoot for pretty much any reason I could possibly find (“hey guys, I think we need some Kombucha and soy sauce, I’ll be back in a scoot.”) It was ALMOST as cool as the coffee maker, which sounded like it was working harder while brewing than we did while climbing Mt Lemmon.

Amazing pre-master's-swim sunrises!
Like a present for getting up remarkably early, when
you really don't have to.

Ah, good old Mt Lemmon. 

Cookie Cabin Cookies. More epic than
the climb itself.
It’s a highlight of Tucson, and if you go there to train, you just HAVE to make the climb. Not so much for the health and fitness benefits, but more so for the enormous cookies and pizza at the Cookie Cabin, located almost at the top of the mountain (if you’ve climbed that high and think you’ve climbed all the way, you still have a fairly steep 5 miles to go!) I made good work of my share of cookies, always remembering to bring some extra down for later (except that time when, to my utter horror and disappointment upon returning home, they had ejected somewhere during the descent, leaving me cookie-less and deeply saddened.) Jenn was my saviour when I lost my load of precious cargo that day, climbing up the next day (solo) to bring me back a monster cookie. 

Jenn, on her solo 'Get Nathan a Damn Cookie' excursion
I’d say that’s solid grounds for ‘Best Girlfriend of EVER’ award!

Our Mt Lemmon climb. Perfect day for it too (not that
every day WASN'T!?!?!)
Ski Valley, Mt Lemmon

Jenn was in Tucson for just over a week, to escape the standard crappy Vancouver weather and enjoy some mileage in the sun and heat of Tucson. We managed to get some training in together, including a ride up Mt Lemmon for (what else,) some cookies. That would be one of my finest hours at camp, breaking my Cookie Cabin record by eating three whole cookies. What can I say, they’re damn good cookies! She made me proud, toughing it out twice during her short stay to make it ALL the way up to the Observatory (the REAL top of Mt Lemmon.)

Yeah, I ate them. Along with 'Professional Triathlete,'
I am also a self-professed 'Pro Eater.'
Top of the world!

One of the many, many, many, MANY, outstanding views you get to see coming down the mountain
Champion System got me kitted out with some cycling gear for the camp (luckily the designers created the pockets the perfect size for carrying giant cookies,) and I used and abused it for a solid 16 days. There were some epic rides, including the famous Tucson Shoot-Out, a local Saturday ride that is essentially a big informal bike race through the outskirts of Tucson. I was one of two people riding TT bikes, (Tj Tollakson was the other, and did he ever take the boots to the peloton,) which may seem a bit faux pa, but when it’s all you got, you make do. It certainly saved the day when, after the Shoot-Out, Jesse and I decided to ride a loop out to Arivaca.

With headwinds.

A good portion of the way.

That entire ride was my most epic ride to date, logging 7.5hrs in the saddle and 240kms. What better way to spend a Saturday than to tear your legs off in a bike race, and then put out your biggest ride to date? Sounds perfect to me. The new Teschner 703Aero handled the ride like a champ, cutting through the winds pretty damn well.

The perma-smile that never left my face the whole camp

I know I'm pretty reserved, but topping Mt Lemmon 4 times
this camp had me a little excited. Just a little.
Tucson 2013 was the best camp I’ve had yet, (although I pretty much say that after every camp,) putting down some rides that make this season’s outlook incredibly positive. Everything seems to be coming together, and spending a few weeks in the heat (the temps during the day averaged from 20-30C,) just seems like the perfect way to kick off the race season. The desert is a perfect training spot, and I’ll most certainly be back to visit those three next year for more training (although I’m trying my damnest to convince them to come out to Vancouver during the summer!) I find that the most incredible thing about a training camp, is that no matter how hard I go, how sore my legs feel (just to the TOUCH,) day-in, day-out, I just seem to get stronger and stronger. It’s a very odd phenomenon, but it’s a good feeling.

Some of the oddities on the road; I saw four quads driving around
while at camp (on the ROADS,) and a few dune buggies. They roll
by different rules in the desert.

It’s back to Vancouver now for some recovery time, and to build up for the next race of the season, the Subaru Shawnigan Lake Half Ironman in a month. I’m hungry to race again, and it should be a stout season. Let’s just hope summer arrives good and early in Vancouver this year, as I’m not even home yet and already missing the heat!

7 Falls trail in Sabino Canyon, probably the only water in Tucson.

Chasing Jesse through the Sabino Canyon, 20 miles of trail bliss.

Standard issue 'Being a Dork'; trying to video and photograph
WHILE running. Along a canyon ledge.

The totals from camp training breakdown a little something like this:
- 16 full days of training, plus two travels days and two rest/recovery days (with very minimal to no training);
- 42.2 kms swimming (a lot of it long course, which I used to have quite the aversion to but have fallen in love with it again!);
- 1800 kms spent on the bike;
- 320 kms of running (whether it be stand-alone running sessions, or brick runs);
- Just over 100hrs of swim/bike/run FUN!

The final climb, taking out a pizza along with cookies.
Last day on the bike, suffering like
it is going out of style.

Happy training everyone, get out there and enjoy the sun, and be safe!


My new best friend Addy; wish I could take her home! (I tried,
she didn't fit in the bike bag.)

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