17 April 2014

JHC Triathlon Camp 2014

Swimming outside, weeeeeeee!
My Tour de West Coast came to an end earlier this week, capped off with sitting on my bike for HOURS and getting stuck with a cactus in Sabino Canyon (sigh), all part of the fun at Jen Harrison's annual triathlon camp. This is my fourth year going to camp (2011, 2012, and 2013) and, as always, it was one of my favorite vacations. We had the condos for a week, from Tuesday to Tuesday, and I drove out from San Diego a few days before camp began so I could soak up all the warm Arizona sun, ride my bike, and hang out with my friends who were also arriving a few days early.

Pre-Camp. I had a long-ish ride on my schedule for Wednesday so I decided to ride out to Mt. Lemmon and go up it a few miles. I made the mistake of going mid-day (and let me tell you, riding Lemmon mid-day in the heat is a different experience than riding it first thing in the AM when the sun is low and it's still cool). I figured I'd go up to the mile 6 or 7 marker and then turn around to come back to the condo. Somehow I lost count of the mile markers as I climbed and when I arrived at the mile 8 marker, I was CONVINCED it should've been the mile 9 marker and someone was playing an April Fools joke on all Mt. Lemmon cyclists. To prove I was right, I climbed up to mile 9, fully expecting it to say 10, so imagine my disappointment when I realized I was wrong and nobody was playing an April Fools joke. So I promptly turned around and headed home to do my t-run where my legs felt like lead weights. The upside of my t-run? I did get to see Stacey and Julia fly by in their rented minivan (poor Stacey is on vacation and was still stuck with a minivan - bikes don't fit in Mustangs as easily) on their way to the condo, which gave me a good dose of "hurry up and finish your t-run so you can go hang out with some of your favorite people." Thursday morning was an easy ride with Julia, Stacey and Michaela along the bike path and an easy swim with Melissa when she arrived in town. I also dropped a paycheck or two at Whole Paycheck, buying enough strawberries and guacamole to almost break my shopping basket (true story). Can I tell you how much I loved the girls I stayed with? They brought me CANDY! Mini eggs, peanut butter eggs, SALTED NUT ROLLS. I LOVE YOU ALL.

Day 1: Getting Lapped on a 25 and Baking in Gates Pass. Normally we start camp by climbing Lemmon on Day 1, fresh legs and lots of motivation. This year we changed it up and did a swim and the Gates Pass ride on Day 1 instead. We got to the pool by 7ish and Jen gave us our lane assignments, somehow throwing me in the same lane as superswimmers Melissa and Stacey. Surely there was a mistake? Nope. Be prepared to be lapped on a 25 (and I assure you, when you swim with Melissa, this is a feasible possibility, defying the laws of physics). Dan and I hung on for dear life in that lane and I counted my 1650 time trial laps based on the number of times Stacey passed me (lots). I think we managed to put in 4000yds and, to be honest, it all flew by so quickly that it felt like little more than 2000. It was really, really good for me to swim with the fasties - it made me work HARD, even though I knew I had no chance in heck of actually staying on their feet. Post-swim, we went back to the condos and demolished a carton of eggs before hopping on our bikes at 10:30am and heading out to Gates Pass. We took the bike path over, mostly staying together and stopping once to refill waters at the bike shop on the path (brilliant idea, opening that shop). We got a little more strung out once we hit the roads a few miles from Gates Pass and I popped off the back of the Jerome-and-Dan train while we were riding on a rough pavement road. Once we made a turn onto a nicer road, I tried like heck to catch back up, eventually succeeding. The day was all about working hard. We climbed up to the top of Gates Pass, stopping only to refill our bottles at the sag, and then Julia and I bombed down the other side to do some McCain loops. This was my first year doing a super early-season Ironman (a month from today, eek!) so I knew I would have to put in extra time in the saddle and I was hoping to hit 100 miles on at least one of the rides. I squeezed in three McCain Loops, each one feeling a bit easier than the previous one, and they were a perfect mix of rolling hills and flats. I was drinking fluids like they were going out of style and chowing down on French Toast cakes (these would start to lose their appeal by Day 3) and Salted Nut Rolls (these NEVER lost their appeal). I refilled my bottles again at the top of Gates Pass before heading back out towards the bike path. Jen came whipping by me and I made it my mission to try to stick on her wheel until we got to the bike path. It's all about shameless drafting. We regrouped at the bike path store and headed back towards the condos. I ended up adding in an extra River Road loop so I ended up with 93 miles for the day and then a short 15 minute t-run. The only thing that got me through that t-run was some good old country music. We had dinner at the Abbey that night where I ate a salad that had peanut brittle on it. Perfection. I also had a chance to catch up with some of the other campers staying in the other condos, so that was super nice.

Dinner at The Abbey!
Day 2: Implosion on Mt. Lemmon and Pizza > Cookies (not kidding). Saturday was Mt. Lemmon Day. We were starting early and, since I needed the extra miles thanks to IMTX coming up, I rode to the mountain from the condos. I shamelessly drafted off of Jerome and we made it to Le Buzz, the coffeeshop near the base of Mt. Lemmon, in about 30 minutes. We assumed everyone else had already begun their ride so we continued to haul ass to Mt. Lemmon, trying to catch up. I swear to you I've never worked harder climbing that mountain. The first 6 miles weren't terrible, I was able to hold a conversation and around every bend, we both assumed that some of the other campers would come into view and we'd catch up. Then we got to Mile 7 and that's where things started to get steeper and I quit talking and pulled a Jens Voigt (shut up legs!) and retreated inside my head, only looking at the ground and the wheel in front of me, NOT at the hills and turns that awaited me, and telling myself to just keep pedaling and DON'T STOP. Normally when I ride Lemmon, I'm going at my own pace and not trying to stick on someone's wheel, as Jen and Jerome loop back and forth between campers, and I really only need to make a valiant effort for a mile or two before I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm being left to my own devices again and can drop back to a more manageable pace. Not this time, which I suppose is a good thing because what doesn't kill you does make you stronger. I finally cracked at mile 12, my legs refused to turn over any faster and Jerome's wheel pulled away and I was left, draftless and facing the wind until Windy Point at Mile 14.

View from the Bike: Windy Point.
We regrouped, I ate a ton of grapes and gummy bears at the sag, and then we continued up the mountain. Around mile 17 is where I completely imploded. Hot Mess Central. I definitely burned up a whole box of matches during those first few miles and was paying for it now. How in the heck I rode up Lemmon those first few years, taking pictures of every elevation sign (nerd alert) - I obviously wasn't working hard enough. This time around I was so focused on trying to keep up, I barely remembered to eat my French Toast Cakes at regular intervals. I was so relieved when Mile 21 came into view and I was rewarded with a few miles of downhill respite. I still forced myself to bike up to the Ski Lift (but NO further) before turning around and descending down to the Cookie Cabin. Did you know the Cookie Cabin's pizza is even more fantastic than the cookies? It is - I felt like a new person after inhaling my pepperoni pizza dripping in cheese and grease while tossing back a gigantic hot chocolate (it was chilly, chilly at the top!). We met up with everyone else as they arrived at the cabin, most people feeling chilly as well - and there seemed to be an equal ratio of pizza to cookies this year, a first. I was sort of dreading the descent because I figured it would be cold and I was SO OVER being cold, but it turned out not to be too bad. And even the climb out of Summerhaven was a blessing in disguise, warming you up for the descent. At the bottom of the mountain, Jen C. and I made a mini locomotive and zipped back to Le Buzz while I continued back to the Condos. I refilled my bottles, grabbed some more nutrition, and it took alot of willpower to get myself out the door again for an additional 19 miles so I would hit 101 for the day. I did a 30 minute t-run (again, thank goodness for Eric Paslay, Andy Grammer and Salt n' Pepa) and then laid on the condo floor for 45 minutes because I was too sweaty and disgusting to sit on the furniture, but too lazy to actually shower. Stacey took pity on me and fed me mini eggs (she is the best). Any training day that ends with you being fed mini eggs is a darn good day. My sister Steph came over for pizza and gelato, which is always one of my favorite parts of visiting Tucson.

Day 3: Sabino Canyon Cacti run-in and Mt. Lemmon Time Trials that Ended with a Slurpee. We did Sabino Canyon, a trail run where I have miraculously not run into any cacti - that all ended Sunday. Julia and I ran to the Canyon from the Condos to get in a few extra miles, it was so nice to run with her! Then the group ran Phoneline Trail, which is a gorgeous and challenging trail with alot of technical parts and ALOT of up and ups. I usually start this run WAY too fast and I'm making dying animal noises by Mile 1, so I was determined to pace myself better. I never looked at my watch while on the trail (because I would probably trip and fall) and just ran on feel. Once the trail leveled out and the climbing wasn't so bad, I felt like I was in it, just completely thrilled to be trail running and while things didn't feel effortless, my legs were going with the flow. I didn't trip or fall (oddly enough, I only seem to fall on stable ground, like sidewalks right next to red lights with lots of stopped traffic/witnesses), but somewhere in the first mile my left foot slipped off the trail and got nailed by a cactus. Le sigh. When I made it to the end of the trail, I busied myself with pulling out the needles. This one had alot of soft needles that broke off and stayed stuck just underneath my skin. Lovely. It has been almost a week and my ankle still itches and looks like about 10 kittens tried to feast on it. Everyone did an awesome job on the trail, there was a little blood spilled, but nothing some stitches (and a really expensive Lululemon tourniquet) couldn't fix - Bart was a trooper! I ran back to the condo for some extra miles before inhaling the best egg sandwich the world has ever seen (thanks Julia!).
Next up - Mt. Lemmon time trials. My crotch had tried to forget it had to sit on the bikeseat again for awhile, complete denial until 11am rolled around and I determined the bike was not going to move on its own accord (and one of those banana seats had not magically appeared). I rode from the condos and met up with everyone at Le Buzz and we all pedaled over to the base of Mt. Lemmon together where we started the 5 mile repeats. I am terrible about gauging my effort and really crossing that line and acutely suffering for time trials - I really need to learn from Julia and Dan who NAILED this workout. They both passed me like I was standing still and I'm sure they were in zone 8 while I was piddling my way along, unable (or unwilling) to go there and suffer and make it count. This is why they are such great athletes. It was really impressive. I found myself working harder (but not hard enough) on the second TT. But then I was cooked by the third repeat, fluids were running low and I briefly entertained the idea of cutting it short and turning around at Mile 3. Thankfully I stuck it out and I was so happy to make it to Mile 5 for a third time. I bargained with myself, promising that if I rode to Mile 5 I wouldn't make myself ride back to the condos, I would hitch a ride. By this point, I was out of water, my nutrition was completely unappealing, and I was toast. On the ride back to Le Buzz on the Catalina Highway, pictures of frozen drinks and waters were repeating themselves in my head. Jen and Jerome took pity on me and picked me and my bike up just as I arrived at Le Buzz and we made a beeline to a gas station, where I emerged victorious, clutching a water, a Fanta, a blue Slurpee and a double-caramel Magnum Bar. I consumed the vast majority of it all before we got back to the condos and felt like a new person. Never underestimate the power of ice cream.
After we all showered and cleaned up, we went to YOGA at Lululemon. I should do yoga more often because it felt AH-MAZING to stretch out like that. It was also humbling because I am NOT that flexible.

Yoga before Mexican Food YES!
We topped off Sunday with burritos, guacamole and chips at Blanco. I tell you, I thought about that burrito with every single pedal stroke during those time trials. Not an exaggeration. Dinner was also another great opportunity to chat with the others staying in the different condos and relax.

Day 4: Hilly Run and One Last Hang-On-For-Dear-Life Swim. The last day of camp dawned with a slightly later workout time (7am!) and a hilly run from the condos. Jen said she likes to time trial this route and break her PR every time she is out in Tucson. That was not going to be happening on Day 4 of camp, let me tell you. The first mile, even though it was downhill, felt ROUGH and my legs were feeling the volume of the 240ish bike miles the previous three days. Once I warmed up, I felt a bit better, even as we started going uphill. I miscalculated how many hills we had to climb, thinking we would get to the Craycroft intersection sooner than we did, but no matter. The run went by really quickly and before I knew it, we were back in the condos eating second breakfast. I had a 1:30pm flight out of Tucson and some time to kill in the morning post-run, so I decided to drop my luggage off at the airport before our last swim so I wouldn't be in such a mad dash post-swim. Good decision. I swam with Melissa, Stacey and Jen and the wheels completely fell off, but it was good to work hard. It got to the point that the only way I made their easy interval was to keep swimming with zero break, ha! Swimming outside in the sunshine was the perfect way to end camp, like always. 

Thanks Jen and Jerome for another stellar camp! With IM Texas sneaking up and scaring the crap out of me, I haven't been feeling super confident - but after a solid training weekend in Tucson, I feel much better. The workouts were challenging and I actually really enjoyed adding in some extra miles. Thank you to all of the campers and my roommates for making this one of my most favorite vacations (but we missed you Mia and Sarah and Angelina - it wasn't the same without you three!); catching up with everyone is the best part of the weekend, hands down. I love that, as a result of this camp, I have triathlon friends from all over the country. The only sad thing is, I'm terrible about saying goodbye and I absolutely hate it. 

I know when I was at camp I said I wanted my superpower to be able to take a shower without getting up off the floor and then make dinner magically appear in front of me. I take that back - I'd much rather have a superpower that let me bring together everyone I care about and put them all in one place so goodbyes would be nonexistent. Cheers to great friends, bikes, running shoes, outdoor swimming and, of course, MINI EGGS!


Gina said...

I've missed your blog posts, Caroline - you are so inspirational! And I always enjoy reading the tri camp one!

B.o.B. said...

dude! how awesome! I'm exhausted just reading this though. you're in for a kick ass season miss thang. ;) xoxo

Jennifer C. said...

Ditto what Gina said. I've been checking back compulsively for a new entry. You Re my favorite and most inspirational blogger! Great post!

Jennifer Harrison said...

You did great at camp! We had fun and it was a GREAT block of work for IM TX!! :) Hopefully you are feeling OK later this week - almost there!

PS. And yes, my legs feel like that with Jerome all the time. Ack!

GoBigGreen said...

Aww you are the best:) Loved hanging with you and love that you have Texas so soon on the horizon. So glad we got to run together and thanks for cheering me on for those TT's, you silly goose you.

Jennifer Cunnane said...

I found your blog! So happy to meet you at camp Caroline! I am so impressed by your athleticism and toughness - I see great things in store for IM TX!

Anonymous said...

Awesome fun at camp!!!! Miss you xoxo