11 April 2013

Tucson Tri Camp 2013!

Jen Harrison's Tucson Triathlon Camp is far and away one of my favorite places to go each year. Warm weather, challenging workouts, and a chance to make new friends while seeing old ones. In fact, I've met some of my favorite people through Jen's triathlon camp. 2013 was my third year going and the usual suspects - Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Canyon - were just as fun and challenging as I remembered.

I arrived on Wednesday last week, a day before camp officially kicked off. Instead of doing one big house for everyone, we were split into smaller condos in a condo complex near Sabino Canyon. While it was a little more difficult to get to know everyone using this setup (and we missed having a pool directly in our backyard - but that still didn't stop us from jumping into the pool in our nasty running clothes post-Lemmon Ride T-Run, I think we horrified all the retirees), it was nice to have a bit more space and a calm and quiet place to relax after the group workouts. We also had plenty of group dinners and everyone had a chance to chat with each other. I stayed in a condo with some of my favorite people from camps past - Julia, Sarah, Liz, Kate, and Melissa. Getting in a day early gave me time to get a leisurely run in AND bake up some Strawberry Bread and Pancakes for my ride fuel. One cannot live on gels alone.

Cactus view from my shakeout run

We are all super excited to climb Mt. Lemmon!
Day 1: Mt. Lemmon, T-Run, Lay on Concrete Drained of Energy
Welcome dinner was Thursday night and I went to sleep with more than a few butterflies thinking about Friday's Mt. Lemmon ride. Sadly, the ride did not have an auspicious start - my tube exploded and tire shredded 1 minute and 18 seconds into the ride. Fortunately, this turned out to be my only mechanical of the day (though it was the first of a few mechanicals for the group, womp womp) AND we were close enough to the condo that Jerome rode back and found a replacement tire for me and it was onward and upward to the mountain! When we arrived at the base of Lemmon, Jimmy Riccitello - super fast cyclist/triathlete and friends of Jen and Jerome - met us there and we started the 25 mile climb to the top. This is absolutely one of my favorite rides - I think I like it even better than Skyline. It is a steady uphill, not ridiculously steep, but with enough of a pitch that you are sending up silent prayers of thanks whenever the road levels out for even just a few seconds, allowing you to catch your breath. The views cannot be beat and there was absolutely nothing else I would've rather done last Friday morning than climb Mt. Lemmon. Liz and I started fast up the hill, and I felt like I was definitely working harder than in years past. We passed the time by chatting and joking and enjoying the scenery. The first 5 miles were not easy, but our legs were still fresh and I don't think either of us had thoughts of OMG ANOTHER 20 MILES OF THIS NOOOOOOO running through our heads. I just stayed focused on the here and now and whenever my legs wanted a coasting break, I continued to spin them instead - I think this was a harder task mentally than physically. I would say the toughest part of the ride was from Miles 12-14. It feels like the steepest part and since Mile 14 is Windy Point (also known as NUTELLA TIME with the SAG), it seemed like I would never, ever get there. There were a number of twists and turns in the road and I experienced a letdown no less than three times when I thought I saw Windy Point and I turned out to be wrong. Once I finally arrived, I took a short break and munched on some snacks before Liz, Erin, and I took off for the top. The rest of the ride was less steep, but still challenging. I don't know if I burned too many matches at the beginning of the ride, but my legs felt TIRED by the time I reached Mile 21 and began a rolling descent towards Summerhaven. At this point, I had made the decision that I would climb up to the Ski Lifts like I did last year, it was pretty and only an extra mile of up. It was around this time that Jimmy Riccitello came rolling up to me and said he was climbing to the Ski Lift too. As we turned around the last corner up the hill by the ski lift, my mind was already on the Cookie Cabin and how awesome it was going to feel to not pedal my bike for a few minutes. HOWEVER, there was a slight change in plans. Did you know that there is an observatory at the tippity-top of Mt. Lemmon? Neither did I until I reached the ski lift, all prepared to turn around, when I hear - Hey, the observatory is just another 1.2 more miles up the hill, let's climb there! And when Jimmy Riccitello tells you to climb up to the observatory, you do it, even if your soul cries out for the Cookie Cabin.

This was absolutely the steepest part of the climb and I swear there were points that I was swerving up the road just in an effort to keep moving forward. And if I thought the ascent to Windy Point was deceptive and rude, this was even more deceptive and vulgar. And slow - SO SLOW. I think he got bored riding my 2mph pace and zoomed ahead, under the guise of checking out how much further up the observatory was (very high and very far). When I came around the last corner and had less than 1/8 of a mile to go, my legs found new speed and I got to the top of the hill as fast I humanly possible. I didn't even take in the view, I was so done, I just took a few sips of water and headed down to the Cookie Cabin instead.

Melissa and I at the top of Lemmon, where we discovered that salty chips solve everything

The rest of the ride was uneventful - the descent down Lemmon is one of the most fun things EVER - wide and easy turns, a few flat sections to slow you down to a more reasonable pace, and the chance to really enjoy the sweeping views because you aren't busy pedaling and sweating your way up a hill. In years past, the rental house we stayed at has only been a couple miles from the base - this year we were 13 miles away instead. Julia, Liz, Michaela, Janine, and I all arrived at the bottom around the same time and we formed a paceline back to the condo. My legs were COOKED by the end of this ride and we all were doing some serious pep talks during the last few uphill miles. The T-run was painful but Melissa, Liz, and I rewarded ourselves for finishing by jumping into the condo complex's pool and then, when we were sufficiently cooled off, we crawled onto the concrete next to the pool and just laid there like wrecked lizards trying to soak up enough solar energy to walk the 100m to our condo. Hurt so good.

Day 2: Phoneline Trail, Local Bike Ride, Swim - and then eat everything
Saturday was a run up beautiful Phoneline Trail in Sabino Canyon. This is a good 10ish mile loop, with the first four miles being UP UP UP (especially that first mile - brutal). That first mile is my nemesis - I remember the first year and the second year feeling like my heart was going to explode out of my chest during the first steep ascent and this year I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I misjudged when thing leveled out - it was a bit later than I expected - and my legs were in full on protest mode by that point. It was around this time that a thought kept running through my head - when I'd had the tough ride out at SkyMass the weekend before, Kristin had reminded me that workouts that feel hard, that feel like they are going to break you, are the most valuable because they are the ones that are going to stretch your limits and help you become a better athlete. So I kept reminding myself of that during this run to just keep moving forward. I fell into a good cadence once things leveled out and immediately started to feel stronger and faster. The trail was technical, especially on the descents, so oftentimes safety took precedent over speed. The net downhill run on the paved road back to the Visitor's Center was a great reward for all the climbing - Jamie and I took off at a good pace and I made it my mission to keep Glen in my sights (the only reason I was relatively successful with this was because he spotted a snake - of course - and I found him taking pictures of it). I actually felt better on this run than I remember feeling in year's past and I ended up running back to the condo with Erin and Jamie to get in a few extra miles.

Ready to run up Phoneline Trail!

We had a couple of hours to refuel and rest up before heading out for a shakeout bike ride of about 20ish miles. It was a fun ride, two loops, and the first 5ish miles of each loop were mainly downhill. We added in a hill repeat on both loops for fun - the repeat wasn't long, less than a mile, but it was steep - around 18%. It was funny, I wasn't jumping for joy about getting back on my bike after the Phoneline Trail run, but as soon as I was pedaling, my head and heart were in it, I wasn't tired anymore, and there was nowhere else I wanted to be. There were a few times that I fell off Jerome's wheel and thought whew, this ride is hard work, and the biggest challenge was not giving into the temptation of coasting and taking a break from pedaling.

We ended Saturday with a swim OUTSIDE! Beautiful sunshine, warm temps, and a gorgeous pool! Lesson from the pool - I do not rotate AT ALL to my left side, any and all rotation is to my right side, obviously not a good thing and a quirk that needs to be corrected. Stacie showed us a great drill - put a kickboard between your legs and as you swim, make sure you rotate enough that it slaps the water on each side. This drill works your core like nothing else and it is harder than it looks, especially if you do it for awhile.

My sister Steph picked me up from the pool and we went out for frozen yogurt before heading back to the house to eat pizza, pizza, pizza! It was a great way to end an awesome training day!

Day 3: Gates Pass, T-Run, and the day I finally nailed my nutrition plan
Sunday AM we were all up bright and early for the Gates Pass ride! Besides Mt. Lemmon, this was far and away the prettiest ride I've done out there. And it was challenging too. We rode the 20-something miles out to Gates Pass from the house, it was a pleasant ride with few cars on the road and Julia set a good pace. We were on a bike path for awhile and then started gradual climb out to the main hill in the park. I completely missed the SAG vehicle at the top of the steep hill, but fortunately I realized my error before I went too far down the steep descent on the other side. Once we had all regrouped, we went screaming down that descent (SO FUN) and made our way to the 5ish mile loop where we could do some repeat loops in an area with little traffic. The park was beautiful, with lots of cacti and vistas. Glen and I took turns pulling each other around and then we picked up Liz before climbing back out of the park. The climb out is mentally daunting, as you can see how high up the road goes into the mountain and you think to yourself I have to climb up THAT FAR. But once you were actually doing it, it wasn't bad at all. Glen took off like his bike had a motor on it once we hit the steeper parts of the hill and Liz and I just opted for a pace that would keep us upright while still moving forward.

Liz and I at the top - steeper than it looks, I swear!

Liz, Julia, Melissa, Michaela, Janine, and Glen - all happy to be at the top!
After everyone did a few loops and made it back to the top, we cycled back to the house. My goal on the last few miles of the ride was to keep Glen in sight because he can climb like nobody else and it was ALL UPHILL those last few miles. I was successful until about the last mile or so, when my legs were just cooked. Once we got back to the house, it was time to do a T-run. I've often felt like pooo on my T-runs, mainly because I've either eaten too much, eaten too little, eaten the wrong stuff, drank too much, drank too little, drank the wrong thing, etc etc etc. But I felt absolutely great on my run - no sloshiness in my stomach, no bonking, no cramps. Just a beautiful run. I didn't wear a watch so I have no clue what my pace was, I just know that I felt good. I ate a mix of gels and solids on the ride, never came close to bonking, drank plenty of water and Skratch Labs hydration, and the result was magic. I think I'm going to continue that same nutrition plan in my training for now.

Day 4: Sabino Canyon again, a little swim, and bonus night in Tucson:
In year's past, we've run in Saguro National Park on the last day of camp. While it is a great place to do the last run of camp - nontechnical trails, nothing steep, it was on the other side of town. For the sake of time, we ran Sabino Canyon again. A few people - Mia, Janine, Michaela, Glen and Rich - were brave and headed back up Phoneline Trail. I thought about doing it for a hot second, I even did a few steps of the initial ascent, before pulling back and turning onto Bear Canyon instead. I was not mentally prepared to run Phoneline on the last day and I felt like I had worked so hard on Saturday going up that trail, I had no desire to do it again. I ended up tooling around the valleys in Sabino Canyon, climbing up this trail, going down that trail, running along the riverbed. It was beautiful and peaceful as I ran on my own and the time passed really quickly. Melissa and I met back at the car after an hour and then headed back to the house to get ready for the final swim practice. The swim was uneventful and short for me since I had to head to the airport (for my flight that ended up being delayed, offloaded, and then rebooked). I will say this - all flight woes were worth it to see Jen Harrison drink a margarita :)

Thank you Jen and Jerome for putting together yet another fantastic camp, I can't wait until next year's! This was such a great opportunity to kick of the season and test my limits and I like looking back at previous camps to see how my attitude and abilities have evolved. Everything was super well-organized and well-thought out, and it was great to have the chance to just focus on our workouts because everything else was taken care of. I already miss all of my fellow campers and especially my roomies - everyone made this camp so, so fun! I'm looking forward to seeing people at races during this season!


Beth said...

What an awesome 4 days! Camps are always so fun - despite all the hard work, the company always makes it feel like nothing! And getting to do it all in a nice sunny place is such a treat! Great job on all your training!!

Melissa said...

Love Love Love camp! It was so great to see you again, and you did an awesome job, roomie!

Katie said...

"One cannot live on gels alone."

Who are you and what have you done with my good friend Caroline????

Kim said...

It was great to meet you Caroline! You are one heck of an athlete! Any time I saw you it seemed you were off the front with Jerome kicking some serious tail.
Thank you for writing up the recap to camp. It's great to read your perspective. And, especially great to read this: "workouts that feel hard, that feel like they are going to break you, are the most valuable because they are the ones that are going to stretch your limits and help you become a better athlete."
That is so SO true! And, something for me that I need to work A LOT on. :)
I'm already staking out some places I can train for camp when we go to CO for next year's trip. ;)

Caroline said...

Beth - I completely agree, the workouts, the company, the warm weather just made for a fantastic vacation! It was so fun to just focus on being simply an athlete for a weekend :)
Melissa - I'm SO glad we got so many opportunities to catch up! YOU did a fantastic job at camp too! I can't tell you how super impressed I am with all that you balance in your life! And you do it so well!
Katie - HAHAHAAAAA I never thought I'd utter that phrase either! Strawberry bread - add it to your nutrition plan, it will change your life :)
Kim - thanks so much for reading, I'm so glad you enjoyed the recap! I wish that I had gotten a chance to chat and get to know you more, that was one of the downfalls of having the split between a few condos (but it was nice to share a bathroom with fewer people, heehee). Camp is a TON of work and you did awesome, pushing through even when you were sick! Hope to see you at camp next year for sure!!