I came back from my Tucson camp into a busy life that included catching up on my PT business, working with some new athletes to the EH coaching group, my kids busy schedules amongst other things and before you know it, over a week has passed. I wanted to get down my final thoughts on the Tucson Camp since this camp not only went off really well, but I also had a hell of a lot of fun.
Five years ago I put on a camp in Palm Springs/Joshua Tree National Park area. Brian Grasky from Tucson was there and asked if I'd be interested in putting on a camp in Tucson - in which I did the following year. The very first time I rode up Mt. Lemmon, I knew that this was the place for my winter camp.
Day 5 of camp began with a swim session. The group was in the pool at 7am and I put them through a short yet challenging session, banging out a bunch of fast, descending 50's. Big Leo did most of them under 30 seconds! Quick breakfast at Jamba of course and then we all prepped to ride up Lemmon. I broke the camp into three groups, leaving at staggered times from the hotel, with the idea to get everyone to the top of Lemmon around the same time. It was in the mid 70's at 2500 feet as we spun the 30 minutes over to the base of the climb.
Once you hit "mile 0", the constant elevation begins. The first seven miles are probably the most challenging on Lemmon. There are some steeper gradients higher up, but the first seven miles is a very constant climb. The temperatures were still warm during this early climbing phase. At my camps, whenever we have a big challenge in front of us like Lemmon, or Whiteface in NY, or the Saturday CT Camp ride, I can tell right away that most of the campers really want to do their own thing for the session. The fact that everyone shows up with their ipod headphones in ear is a subtle hint that says "leave me the f'k alone today!" So as we started to climb, I settled into a rhythm and just rode, instead of worrying about spending time with each camper. I did ride up on most and spend a few minutes with each one, gaining a sense of how they were doing and if they did indeed want some company. But for the most part, everyone was focused on doing their own thing and probably solving life's problems as they climbed and climbed listening to whatever it is that adds that touch of rhythm or motivation.
About half way up, I was alone and so I turned on my Oakley Thumps and the first song that pops on is ironically the Foo Fighters "Times like These". I'm riding in shorts and a sleeveless jersey in March up one of the best climbs one can do, pedaling my bike on this gorgeous sunny day and thinking it doesnt get much better.
I had good legs this day, yet kept the pace controlled and aerobic, reminding myself often that it's only March, and so I just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. At about mile 20, the climb descends for a bit then rolls. Now you are up over 8000 feet and there is a few feet of snow on the ground and the temperatures were in the low 50's. I'm still in shorts and no sleeves and I felt fine except for my hands which were getting numb from the cold. I hit the right turn for the ski area at the 25 mile mark in two hours flat and climbed the last two miles - the steepest two miles out of the 27. People were skiing at this small ski slope on top of this mountain!
A quick descent and we all gathered at the cookie shack for a snack, before adding a bunch of layers of clothing and descending back down. There were lots of cyclists riding Lemmon today, including a few from the Garmin Transitions squad.
Over two hours to climb, and maybe 45 minutes to descend. The descent is a blast, with big sweeping turns and nice roads. You barely have to touch your brakes. Some of the snow run off up top did make me a bit nervous, but otherwise, it was let er rip.
These days, the ones where you do something that you can only do at certain places in the world, are the ones that mean something. These are the days that make these training camps memorable and that give you confidence to carry into the big training towards the season when you get home. On December 31st, 2010, when one is reflecting back on what they did in 2010, this is a day that will stand out.
We all regrouped at the hotel and did an easy 30 minute brick run, and followed this up with some great food from Zona 78 including some great beer and wine.
The camp wasn't done however. Friday, we awoke to make the short drive over to Sabino Canyon to run the telephone line once again. I gave the campers three options, all which would take somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. The two hour option was to run the telephone line trail up, over, and down to the road, then turn and head back up, over and down, traversing back the way we came. This is a grueling yet beautiful run. Kerri from last years camp and a friend of hers joined us for this run. The sun pops up over the mountains sometime between 7:30 and 8am and seems to warm you instantly. Sabino Canyon is just incredible - I sat next to a guy on the flight home who's lived in Tucson for 18 years now, maybe 5 miles from Sabino Canyon, and yet he's never been there!? That's just pathetic, and I told him this.
Molson was heading out Friday afternoon which meant he'd miss the last long ride. Jeff, who has had his share of back issues, did amazingly well with the training this week. He seemed to get stronger each day as well. But where he really shined was the energy he added to the camp. Jeff seems to really embrace the experience and enjoy every moment of it. This enviroment - this is where he shines. He had us laughing all week, so thanks for that jeff! He and Gus have become very frequent campers. These two have attended almost every camp I've hosted over the last six or seven years, and as much as I appreciate their loyalty, I appreciate their friendship more. Enough on them though because they may actually read this and I don't want their heads to swell.
The final camp ride left from the hotel and headed west on a bike path through town to Gates pass, climbed over Gates pass and then did the McCain loop through Saguaro Park west. Very solid ride, everyone held up really well and yes, it was sunny and in the 70's. I could elaborate more but this post is already lengthy and I'm getting a bit bored with it, so until next year, adios Tucson!
OK, the other crap is going to have to wait until my next post.