Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tucson Afterthoughts

Man, what's there to say?!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had reservations about going out this year. I had a very large group signed up for this camp. Part of the problem of offering multiple camps is that it gives the attendees lots of options. This is great for the attendees, but not great for those running a camp. In the last month before hosting this camp, seven athletes had to bow out due to legitimate conflicts. Many rolled their spot into one of the later camps I offer. So with a diminutive group, I pondered the worth of putting the Arizona camp on this year. I decided that even though from a business standpoint this camp would not make much sense, the group that I still had that wanted to attend would make it a plus. I have some very loyal, hard working, and extremely fun clients who have become close friends on this trip. They, along with the amazing area, made this such a worthwhile experience and one of the best camps to date. I know I say that about all of the camps, but honestly, they do just keep getting better.
When I put on my first camp back in May of 2000, I thought long and hard about what the athletes would truly want. First, there are a lot out there to choose from. I wanted to offer up what most would expect from a triathlon camp and then add the unexpected. Second, many of the attendees, if not all, are busy with families and careers, and for them to take vacation time and use it for themselves and put the cost into this is something that requires an extreme amount of thought and commitment. Most will at some point feel selfish about using funds and signing up for a triathlon camp. I wanted to make sure that at the end of the camp, they not only would never question the worth, but would carry a lot of energy and lessons with them back into their family and career lives. I wanted to be sure the accommodations are more than adequate, the courses are stunning, the training is precise so that they benefit and not get torn apart, that they are educated, that they get a lot of one on one time, and that they laugh. Laughter is a great sign of a successful venture. I'm not saying it's THE sign, but it is a great sign.
One night we ate dinner at our favorite Mexican place. There are quite a few camps and clinics going on in this hot area, and one of the more popular other camps came in to dine also. I witnessed our table laugh all through the meal, and even enjoy a beer or two after the hard days training, and their table sit quietly as though it were all business. Very different scenarios in which both can excel, but I love the fact that the attendees at my camp relax and have fun along with all the hard work.
I have been fortunate to train in some great areas around the country and Tucson is definitely one of my favorite spots. The city itself can be quite busy and crowded, but it is extremely bike friendly, and once you get just on the outskirts, the roads and trails are incredible. In particular, the Kitts Peak climb (that's with an "s" for you Jill), the Lemmon climb, the telephone line and the trails in Saguaro National Park East are now some of my absolute favorite places to train and should go on all endurance athletes must do lists.

The agenda we followed worked out perfect - it was the right volume and intensity to build your fitness and motivate you for the cold month ahead once you return home, yet not to much to fry you for the upcoming month(s). This camp is an excellent opportunity to test where you are with your winter build and to gain a lot of fitness quickly. Most importantly though, it's an opportunity to spend a week with great friends doing something that we all are passionate about and that's a rare opportunity that should be snatched when possible.
I'm more than glad I didn't cancel this camp and I will certainly be back in Tucson next March.
Thanks Brian and Jill - you two were a huge help and a lot of fun. I look forward to doing more tricamps with you in the future.
Thanks to the boys who attended - you guys made this trip more than fun and very memorable, even though Jeff and Gus may not have liked me to much after Kitt Peak. I hope to see you join me again next year.
To anyone that may be reading, think about attending a tricamp in the future (whether it's one of mine or some other). If you go into the right one with the right attitude, it could be an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself in one week than you may in a year.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 6 in Tucson

Hope the video didn't make anyone motion sick.

I decided that we would do our last run of this camp the same we started the first run of this camp – in Sabino Canyon traversing the telephone line trail. I described this trail in an earlier post, and how we’d run up the mountain and along the route until we descended and ended up at the trail end on a road approximately one hour later. From here, we would run the 40 minutes back to the start area on the road. Today, I turned everyone around and we ran back up the mountain and did the trail in reverse, making it a two hour run. The rain earlier in the week, combined with the sun later this week made the desert absolutely beautiful. There were blossoming flowers in yellow and purple all over the place. Bruce was especially excited for some reason about the beauty here. I swear I thought he was going to break into “The Sound of Music”. The views on the way out are amazing, however, the return trip was more spectacular. You could see the thin trail snake along the mountains edge, overlooking the canyon and river that were far, far below. Way off in the distance, you could see the city of Tucson in the valley.

My legs felt good and I was moving along at a good clip. The trail is rocky and you could easily become distracted with the views, not paying attention to the footing. The drop offs are more spectacular running this way as well, since you are seeing them directly in front of you on a descending grade. At one point, I stumbled just a bit catching my toe on a rock, but was able to secure my footing quickly. I realized that if I were to truly trip, I’d drop right off the cliff! So I backed off the pace a bit and made sure to pay attention to where my foot landed besides just the scenery.

The last few days of this camp, the weather could not have been better. The mornings were cool in the high 50’s to low 60’s and by 10am, it would be in the high 70’s to low 80’s. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was ideal for training.

I was soaking my ankle in the ice cold flowing water in the bottom of the canyon as the rest of the boys rolled in. They had just run six days straight, with the shortest run being an hour, yet the trails, the good weather and the scenery had them feeling good.

We drove back to our breakfast spot, and then went to suit up to ride – our last cycling session of the trip. Since we did the two huge back to back rides on Wed and Thu and since we just ran two hours, I planned an easy spin over to Saguaro National Park and back. This is the park that we often ran in this week as well. There is a freshly paved road that circumnavigates the park, you view part of the ride in the video above. In the first mile of the ride is a steep descent with an extremely sharp right hand turn. You take this one too quick and you’ll be picking cactus needles out of your ass. Jill descends like a demon and took this risky corner with ease. Even though everyone had ridden for six days straight with some huge ascents in there, they still opened it up a bit in the park. It’s hard not to on this road – this road is begging to be ridden hard. Everyone really paid attention at this camp. They started out the week easier, staying aerobic and in their B zones for most of the training. Because of this, everyone finished the week riding and running better than they were at the beginning. Typically people get a bit anxious early on and blow themselves up, struggling to keep it together the last few days.

We packed up the bikes after our ride to ship them home and later in the afternoon, went to the pool for a swim. There are a lot of professional athletes training here at the moment. At the pool was Spencer Smith. We also ran into Peter Reid, Samantha McGlone, TJ Tollackson, amongst others at some point during the week. After training here, you can understand why so many top pros gravitate to this area in the winter.

I don’t need to post how many miles we covered or hours we trained this week. I’ll leave that for the machoman camps that like to boast on such things. Instead I’ll comment by saying that we trained the right amount this week, given the time of year, the capabilities of the athletes, and the amount of time we had to train and recover. The athletes were tired, yet still doing well in their training sessions. They were laughing and having fun still. That’s how you know if it’s the right amount.

If you prefer to ride indoors on your trainer in March, run in tons of layers on frozen roads, and swim in an indoor dungeon… If you lack a sense of adventure, don’t like challenges, are turned off by nature… And if you don’t like laughing, or having great meals with likeminded people, and like the monotony of your typical training routes, then you wouldn’t want to come to this camp.

I’ll be back next year – and I’m making sure to bring Big Rocks and Baker. They need to experience this. You hear that Baker? Start formulating your sick day excuses now my man!



Day 5 - Mt. Lemmon

Once again, the day started with a run, this time in Saguaro National Park. Once again, we were running as the sun came up over the mountains. It's hard to have a bad day when you start it this way.
Everyone here is hooked on Jamba Juice which, combined with some Brueggers bagels, has become our standard breakfast.
After this, it was back to the hotel and change for the big part of the day - Lemmon. To ride Mt. Lemmon is a great accomplishment. To ride it the day after Kitt Peak, with more riding plus two 90 minute runs first thing in the morning is huge.
The spin over from the hotel took about 30 minutes and soon we were at mile marker zero. Only 27 uphill miles in front of us. I gave the advice to keep a steady tempo and not overwork it, at least until theres 10K left. These guys have put in some great volume and it's important to not fry yourself from this camp, but instead make sure you absorb the training. They are all listening which is odd. I always have a few who's egos get the best of them and they blast the first part of the week only to be spent midway through camp. These guys are getting stronger as the week goes by.
I was alone a few minutes into the ride - I wanted the guys to ride their ride today since everyone is feeling the fatigue from a full week and the last thing they want is their coach looming over them for a 27 mile climb. It was a perfect day and I settled into a comfortable tempo. I'll admit my legs didn't feel that snappy today, but they felt good enough. Afterall, it is very early and before this week, I hadn't ridden more than 1 hr at a time in a few months.
The weather was perfect - sunny, warm, and low winds. the views were spectacular and I stopped a few times to snap some pictures. There were some other riders going up that I came across, and quite a few heading down. Near the top, it was getting cooler so I put on a long sleeve jersey. There was snow at the top and many of the sightseers were out of their cars in their t-shirts, having snowball fights. From mile 0 to mile 20 is a steady grind, then it rolls until mile 25. Most stop here at the mountain top little town where there is this dirty little pie shop that we hit last year and that people rave about. The true ride though finishes at the ski area which is a right hand turn and two more steep uphill miles. In fact, these two miles are the steepest of the day. I made it to the top and gave John Brennan a call to see how the tracking went with MyAthlete. Gus came rolling up caked in salt and dazed! He did great though and said that he felt strong for the most part.
We rolled back down to the pie shop and waited in a very slow line, only to find out that they were pretty much out of pie. The pie might be good, but the place is pretty gross, so we shot a few blocks up the road to the Cookie Shack for a huge cookie and some fluids.
This descent is great. There is the climb back out from the small town, then you begin and the turns are big sweeping s turns with just stunning views. At one point, I was trapped behind two harleys and two cars, and when I found the opportunity, I shot around them. I had a blast although 20 miles of descending in the drops tightened up my back a bit, but the spin back to the hotel loosened things up. I reminded the boys that Mt. Lemmon is one of the most famous cycling climbs in the US, and that they just did it. Some of them have done it twice now since they were here last year. That's pretty cool.
Another amazing day - when you get the opportunity to do the things you love with like-minded people all day, how can it go wrong?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day four in Tucson

We once again began the day with a run. We went back over to Sabino Canyon, but this time to run the Seven Falls trail. It was a cool morning - perfect for running. The sun here is strong and as soon as it pops up over the mountains, you can feel the warmth. It would later heat up towards 80 degrees by the afternoon.

The Seven Falls trail is an out and back trail that heads right up the middle of a canyon, leapfrogging a flowing river. It's a bit rocky, and mostly uphill on the way out, and your feet will get wet at some point, but it's absolutely stunning. Because of the terrain, you aren't running at a fast pace although your heart rate is elevated the whole time. We put in 90 minutes, and finished near a flowing river gorge. When I fell on Sunday, I did a number on my right ankle. I didn't sprain it or twist it, but I banged it hard against a rock and cut it open. The wound doesn't hurt but there is a lot of swelling. I have the cankle working on my lower right leg. So at the end of this run, I took off my shoe and soaked my foot and ankle in the ice cold water. It felt great, and as I sat there waiting for the other campers to roll in, I couldn't help but think about how fortunate I am to have the opportunities to explore and see some of the places I've seen. I thought about how many run the same routes all the time, not venturing out or trying some different things, and about how they are truly missing out on a lot.

I picked up a pair of the new Zoot running shoes and I absolutely love them. I ran today with no socks for the 90 minute runs and had no blister issues whatsoever. They are responsive like the Newtons, but offer a bit more cushioning. Plus the drain holes really work, as I tested this out by putting my wet foot back into the shoe after soaking it and ran the last mile back to the car. They are better than the Newtons, in my view.

After some breakfast, we made the drive out to Kitt Peak. The road out is a straight shot right through the desert for 45 miles. There's nothing out there. Kitt Peak is a 12 mile climb up to around 7000 feet where there is an observatory. It's a great climb with an average grade somewhere between 8 and 9%. The weather was perfect - sunny and in the 70's! everyone did great, keeping a steady effort the whole way. After 5 miles, I suggested to stay seated for 3 min then get out of the saddle for 1 min and repeat this the rest of the way up. The great weather conditions made it perfect for bombing the descent, and after that, we rode back to Tucson and through the city. We arrived back just before dinner time making it a nice long day in the saddle.

At dinner, that fourth day of camp haze was prevalent. Campers get more quiet, yet they seem relaxed. There's a tiredness there that endurance athletes actually enjoy feeling - It's evidence that they have been working hard.

Tomorrow is Mt. Lemmon. We'll be sporting the myathlete devices again if anyone wants to check out how we're doing. Sign on to:

MY ATHLETE Tracking www.myathlete.biz/track ironman ironman123



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tucson 08' Day Tres

Today was a big day. I am in the process of turning Jeff into a Starbuck's addict. He placed his own order there today. This can be quite intimidating, but he handled it well. He was a bit nervous at first. I could see the beads of sweat accumulating as he rehearsed his order while in line. But he focused and came through, which was quite empowering for him.

The other big happening was that Bruce was the MVP. He's supposed to do a write up so I'll let him fill you in on the dirty details that earned him the coveted mvp spot. In the best interest of the campers, I won't reveal certain information without there consent. To be honest, I still don't know what the hell went on, but the imagined images are haunting.

We also trained quite a bit. We started with a run once again in Saguaro National Park. The sun was out and bright early on and it was absolutely amazing in the park. We ran on single track trail through the rolling desert surrounded by cacti with jack rabbits scurrying everywhere. Some mountain range was our backdrop. We covered a little over an hour of running, before hitting Jamba Juice and Brueggers. We did a great ride out to Colossal Caves on a rolling course. The weather was perfect today - sunny and right around 70. Returning from this, we hit the pool and swam. I videod the group in the water although they are not allowing me to post these videos on here.

It was another great day of training. Tomorrow we hit Kitt peak - an 11 mile climb that is a grinder. I'll be wearing a myathlete tracking device if anyone is interested in tracking me - so will one of the group. I need to get some sleep - the days are getting very busy and I'm beat. By the way, jeff had his garmin on for the ride yesterday where I mentioned in that blog that we did a climb that I guessed was 18%. Turns out it was 22.5%!!!



Tucson - Day Two

I'll post some more pictures and maybe some more video later today. We're in full training camp mode now and free time is scarce. We're having a blast here, even though it's been cold, but today it's going to be sunny and 70, and tomorrow through Friday it's going to be 80.

I'm still on eastern time and was up at 3:45am on Day two. We did a deja vu, heading over to Starbucks and then back to Sabino Canyon to run the telephone line trail. Jeff Molson didn't get here until Sunday, and I wanted him to start out the camp like the rest of us. Besides, I don't think I could ever get bored with this run. There's a road that winds through the bottom of Sabino Canyon which is beautiful and where you see most runners. Two days running the telephone line trail and we saw a few hikers, but no other runners. Maybe the mountain lion scare is the real deal? I'll take my chances - the trails are far more appealing to me then the roads. The run was just as exhilarating as the day before, and 1 hr 37 min later, we were done.

After some breakfast, we headed over to Trisports to do some shopping, then we got some more food and headed out for a ride. I want to keep things on the easier side since we will be riding Kitts Peak on Wed and Lemmon on Thu. We did find a nice steep climb though - probably an 18% grade. It was a short one though and the rest of the ride was rolling hills. Everyone is doing great at staying controlled and not cooking themselves for the next day thus far.

We changed quick and headed over to the pool for an easy swim. The pool is big and outdoors which is the best! They have a high dive board there and I gave the guys an option; they could do a double flip off the high dive and get out of swimming, since they weren't overenthusiastic about getting in the water. The air temp was cold, in the 50's, so I think they seriously considered the option, but no one bit.

I gave Jeff M. the mvp award. Besides the fact that he brown nosed all day, he really deserved it. He had a major low back operation in November. They surgically cleaned up a lot of fragmentation of his discs. His comeback is extremely impressive, even though he can get frustrated thinking back on what he was doing a year ago. I reminded him at dinner that he needs to focus on what he's doing and not what he isn't.

We found a great gelato place after dinner which I think we'll be frequenting each day for the remainder of this camp.

There is a lot of laughing going on at this camp, and even though we are training quite a bit, everyone seems relaxed. Bizarre how strenuous physical activity can be relaxing to some?! This makes it obvious that we are here doing something we love.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tucson Day 1

Many times you'll hear people comment that it takes them a few days to relax and adjust when traveling. For me, it takes one workout.

I was up this morning at 3:45am. My internal clock, although never quite right, was reading 6:45am. I did some computer work, adjusted my bike for the 40th time since being here, and soon enough it was 6:15 - time to round up the troops and head to Starbucks, then to Sabino Canyon.

It was a cool morning, yet the sun was coming up over the mountains when we started the run. There were some big signs at the Canyon warning about Mountain Lions. I told Gus not to worry - that I hid a big raw steak in the back pocket of Bruce's vest, so we were fine. We headed for the telephone line trail, a single track trail that snakes around 30 minutes uphill, then traverses along cliff sides following the ridge of the mountain range. We did this run last year but the upper part of the trail was closed at the time. Even still, I commented how this run was definitely one of the best runs I've ever been on, in terms of scenery, adventure, and challenge. This year the full trail was open and it reconfirmed that this really is one of the best run courses that I have ever done. With the sun peaking over the jagged mountain tops, it was really beautiful, and 10 minutes in, I was relaxed from the travels of the prior day.

Your footing has to be sure since you are basically running on the edge of a cliff. We kept the pace easy and chatted and enjoyed the surroundings. For a big guy, I'm pretty light on my feet. However, I was telling Bruce a story while bounding over boulders and I turned to see if he was behind me and my foot caught a rock. Down hard I went. I was carrying a small video camera in my hand that almost went over the cliff - I guess better the camera then me. Man, I wished I caught the fall on tape, it would have made for a good laugh I'm sure. Bruce took the camera and got the shot of me in the above video. Anyway, we ran on and the 1 hr 45 min later, we finished our first session of this camp. Sam Mcglone, second place woman at Hawaii this year, was just beginning her run on the road at Sabino Canyon as we finished up. There are a ton of athletes out here, many world class. This run was the perfect way to kick off the week, and it certainly allowed us all to relax and adjust and know that we were in for a great week.

After breakfast, we did a nice three hour ride out to Colossal Cave and kept the pace relaxed. I wanted today to be an easier day to adjust to the time change and travels. It was cold here today!!! It probably never went out of the 50's and it actually rained on us a few times. Must be one of my camps. The weather is supposed to get better each day though, so hopefully by Wed, we'll get some of that upper 70 to 80 degree weather. The good thing about the weather here is that these fronts move through so quickly. Last year I mentioned how I never rode longer than 90 minutes on the computrainer when preparing for this camp. this year, I never road over an hour. I did do a lot of strength work over the winter though and some great quality on the bike, even though I rode only two to three times per week, but I think it payed off. I felt absolutely comfortable on the ride today. The true test though will come on Tue or Wed when we ascend Mt. Lemmon. It wasn't bad enough that I crashed while running, so Bruce went down in the first 1/2 mile of the ride. He was wearing so many clothes that something got caught or tangled in the drivetrain and boom, down he went right on his hip. He was fine though. Amazing, first two groups of teenage boys that were walking by stopped to see if he was ok, then a car that saw it happen turned around and came back to check on him! This is a friendly bike town!

We went back out for Mexican food tonight and had a lot of laughs at dinner, and now it's time for an early bed. Gus is living up to his reputation for eating a ton of everything in site. I'm going to see if we can actually make him gain weight this week. Considering all the training ahead, this should be a fun task.



Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'm in Tucson!

Tell the average person that you are paying money to go to a location where you will be pushed hard, where you will run countless strides, pedal for hours on end and swim back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, ... I'm sure many that have attended a training camp have done so with their friends and family. They've tried to explain what they were about to participate in only to get the typical responses of "Are you nuts???" and "You're paying for that???" No worries - these people will never get it. And let's be honest, most of us like when people react that way.

I awoke at 3:15am today so that I could get to Laguardia on time for my flight out here to Tucson. My daughter was really upset about me leaving which makes me question whether this small part of my business is worth it. It also made the flight out here seem longer than it should have. As my plane was coming into Tucson, it flew directly to the south of Mt. Lemmon, giving me a great view of the one road that snakes it's way up this famous climb. Then, my mood started to switch. I was excited thinking that we would be riding up and down that road over the next week quite a bit. There's something about pushing ourselves through the simplicity of these three exercises that makes us feel more alive.

We checked into out hotel which is close to Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Canyon, a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice, a Trader Joes, and great mexican food. Now I'm trying to remember why I wouldn't want to be here.

This week, we'll train 6 to 8 hours per day, go out to great dinners, drink a few beers, tell some great stories, have a bunch of laughs and create some great memories. I'll offer out as much information as the campers can handle before duct taping my mouth shut. I'll go home reenergized and feeling fit and motivated and I'll feed a lot of that back into my family and business. Remember, this sport we do is just a metaphor of who we really are. Right now, who I really am is one tired sob who can't wait to hit the telephone line in Sabino Canyon tomorrow morning for a 90 min run.

Peace - and good night!


Friday, March 07, 2008

I got nothin.

I started my blog out of the suggestion of some clients. I found it kind of odd that people would want to hear about my happenings. It seemed like a very self-absorbed thing. I try to post at least one blog a week, in the odd chance that there are some people out there tuning in - for all I know it may be one person, but I have been getting some responses as of lately which is cool. But regardless of who reads this, I kind of enjoy it. It's become a personal journal of my past. Just keeping a personal journal on my computer may be the more modest, less self absorbed approach, but I know that I'd get lazy. The thought that maybe even one person out there may be checking this out holds me accountable to try and put something down here. Most of my posts are about experiences or thoughts that I come across, usually while training. I try not to force anything, which leads me to this post. This week, I've got nothing. I could make something up for the sake of staying on top of this weekly commitment, and try to inject some humor, wit, or something poignant, but I'm just not feeling it. So instead of laying out an opinion that I have to dig deep into finding, I'm just tossing out nothing instead. Sorry. I head out to Tucson next week, so I'll try to make up for it.