Welcome to Tucson!
Jen and her husband Jerome put together another AWESOME triathlon camp down in Tucson this past weekend. I was among the lucky 13 campers who got to spend four days biking up and down (and up and down) Mount Lemmon, run through Sabino Canyon, swim outside in a beautiful pool, and eat my weight in Hammer gels. Yum. This camp is truly one of my favorite vacations - the other athletes are so incredibly nice and supportive, the workouts are always challenging yet fun, and it really gives you a chance to push your limits past what you thought was possible.
Ready to climb Mt. Lemmon!!
First up - the athletes. I was so excited to see familiar faces from last year. Mia is going to have an amazing season, you can tell what a hard worker she is. Stacie always, ALWAYS was saying something that was hi-larious, and she gave me a pair of fast feet to (try) and chase in the pool. Kate O and Bethany, my fellow Virginia brethren, are two of the sweetest most determined girls ever. Bethany pushed on during the run in Sabino Canyon, even after a nasty fall, and Kate did multiple repeats up Mt. Lemmon - hardcore! Since we all live in the same state, we need to see each other more often. Jen M was the quiet, determined one who never once complained and totally kicked butt up Madiera Canyon. I also had the chance to meet some other campers for the first time. Julia is so focused and dedicated to the sport - watching her focus and determination as she KILLED the repeats up Mt. Lemmon and her dedication to being properly recovered after every workout shows me just how much I have to learn. Sarah was a first time camper who worked so hard and also made sure I always had sunblock on (my skin thanks you!), had my belly full of peanut butter cups (YUM), and made sure I had a ride everywhere. I found out that Stacey and I both grew up a few towns apart from each other in New Hampshire!! She is such a strong athlete and I can't wait to watch her have an awesome race at Eagleman! Julie and Lindsay were both super nice and amazing athletes and I really enjoyed getting to chat with them. Ben and Glen were INSANE on the bike and it was fun trying (and failing) to chase them up Mount Lemmon. They passed me like I was standing still! Glen was also our resident snake wrangler.
The workouts! We rode Mt. Lemmon twice-ish. This is such a fantastic ride, with lots of climbing and snow and cookies waiting for you at the top. Unlike last year, I knew what to expect from this ride and tried to work harder right from the start. The boys dropped me like a bad habit and I watched them disappear from sight by Mile 7. Russ, an uber-biker in town to train and join us on this ride, nicely pedaled up to Windy Point with me. It was nice to have someone to chat with and keeping up with him gave me something to focus on. With vision's of my last foray up Lemmon and bonking at Mile 12 in my head, I made sure to stay on top of my fueling and hydration. I think I had at least 5 gels by the time I reached the top. While I didn't love the additional 1+ mile climb to the ski area while I was doing it, it was well-worth it in the end. The top of Lemmon had more snow than the entire DC Metro area got all winter.
Cookie Cabin at the top!
The second ride up Lemmon wasn't to the top - thank goodness, because it was windy!! We did time-trial hill repeats up to Mile 5. Each time we were supposed to get faster, but I didn't get that memo. My first two took about the same amount of time and my third one was a little bit slower. The wind was fierce enough on the way down that I actually had to pedal to keep my speed up. Thank goodness it was a tailwind on the way up and a headwind on the way down - otherwise this workout would've been REALLY ugly!
View from Windy Point. Halfway up Lemmon!
We rode Madera Canyon on the hottest day of camp, led by a few Tri-Sports cyclists. They paced us out the busy roads for about 20 miles until we got to the park area. I'm terrible about riding in large groups, close to other cyclists, it freaks me out, but I tried to hang on to the pack anyways. Once we got out to the park area, we split into smaller groups and were able to settle in to a rhythm. This ride was slightly demoralizing because it has a MAJOR false flat for about 10 miles. It doesn't look like you are climbing, but when you look down at your speed, you feel like you should be going WAY faster because of how hard you are working. Towards the end of the false flat, I started to fall off pace and watched as those in front of me pulled further and further away. Jerome nicely came back and tried to help me keep up, I was huffing and puffing and I don't even want to know what my heart rate was - EEK. And this wasn't even the hardest part. We were told that the last couple of miles were a bit steeper. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but with legs already tired from 10+ miles of false flats, once the steeper stuff started, it was all I could do to keep moving forward. All I kept thinking during this part of the ride was, "I wish I was riding Mt. Lemmon, I wish I was riding Mt. Lemmon, how is it possible that Mt. Lemmon feels easier than this?" Apparently the grade on this part of the road was about twice as steep, even though Lemmon looks much more daunting to the eyes. Ben Lin had given some sage advice - Don't Stop - and that kept running through my head those last two miles. If I stopped, I wouldn't be getting back on my bike. The road kept turning and around every bend I thought, "aha - we must be almost done!" And every time, I was wrong. When we finally did make it to the top, I felt relief, happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, and thirst. I don't know how many bottles of water and how many NUUN tablets I consumed, but it was ALOT. After a much needed break at the top, we headed back down - the ride back was mostly downhill and you felt like a rockstar as you screamed around corners and blew past bikers going (slowly) in the opposite direction. The fun on the ride home more than made up for the mental and physical challenge on the ride out. Glen and I rode together most of the way back, taking turns pulling. It was fun just to bury myself in my areobars and just go.
Top of Madera Canyon!
Camp was full of more than just great bike rides - we had some awesome trail runs and outdoor swims as well! The U of A pool is a fantastic venue and I was so excited we got to use it twice during our trip. Jen wasn't too cruel in her swim workouts - both of which were done later in the day after some other hard workouts. By the last swim, I was convinced my arms were going to fall off, however. I don't think I've ever done so much IM in my life (and really, there wasn't that much IM, it just goes to show how little I do besides freestyle. I need to get over myself and do more butterfly and backstroke, even if it isn't pretty). Stacie, Julia and Ben were great lanemates and kept the swim on task. Jen and Jerome were helpful in helping me figure out how to improve my stroke - I over-rotate when I breathe (if I don't, I am convinced I will swallow too much water) so I focused alot of my efforts in not looking up at the sky every time I took a breath. I still need to figure out how to do this without drinking half the pool.
Trail running in Tucson is amazing! We did Phoneline trail in Sabino Canyon again this year. And it was just as difficult as I remember it being last year, especially those first few miles when there is so much UP, it's hard to find a rhythm and get your heart rate out of Zone 6. Most of my attention was focused on not tripping and falling down the side of the mountain. I eventually made it to the paved road in one piece and finished off my run on the road and then onto some easier trails. The last day of camp we ran in Saguro National Park. This run has a false flat on the way out, which makes for an easier run on the way back. I remember feeling TERRIBLE on this run last year because of the sheer amount of work we'd done on the previous days and how tired my legs were. I felt better and stronger on this run this year and I don't think I uttered a single dying animal noise until... I had a run-in with a cactus. Again. Sigh. Just like last year, cacti needles needed to be pulled out of my elbow. Unlike last year, the needles were in deep this time and Jerome had to pull out the chunk of cactus (lucky him). I couldn't even watch, I hate anything and everything having to do with needles. Thank goodness I was wearing arm warmers, otherwise I think my arm would've looked much worse for the wear. Only regret - I wish I had a camera on me, it would've made for an impressive picture.
What's worse than a cactus? A rattlesnake. IN OUR DRIVEWAY. Ew, Ew, EW!
Doesn't look like much, but don't be fooled! Gross.
Jen and Jerome - thanks for putting on another amazing camp! I had so much fun - it was challenging, it was hard, but most of all it was rewarding. A great way to start off the season and I'm all fired up to race! Thanks for making sure everything went flawlessly - from good meals, well-planned rides, and fun places to run, you guys took care of all the details and all we had to do was show up and work hard. Loved it and can't wait until next year! And I promise I won't run into any more cacti. Bleck.