Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tucson Training Camp with #DTD

In the midst of what appears to be the end of the world on social media, I thought I'd take a little time out of your day to discuss with you the past week I have just had.  You can continue to hate life and wonder where our country is going or you can take 5-7 minutes out of your day to look at some quality pictures and appreciate the great journey that endurance sports can be.  You choose.

Here at Quail Haven we have had a slew of visitors recently.  The Fillnow twins spent some time with us in early January then our (Christine and myself) coach and his wife stayed with us for a bit less than a week prior to the training camp he was hosting here in Tucson.  This has made home life a bit busier than normal but it's been nice having people around to talk and hang out with during the day.

Moving onwards to the training camp, I think I'll do this as a sort of day-by-day and then some recap thoughts at the end on training camps in general.  You'll - as usual - have to take my opinion with a giant grain of salt on that front as I've only ever done this one full-fledged training camp (the cycling club training camps in college don't really count) in my life, so my experience is...well...limited.


Misty mornings

8am - Swim Session at UA

This was a cold and bitter start to the camp, as it was cold and my coffee had been bitter that morning.  Walking out from the locker room onto a pool deck covered in mist and with concrete that must have been only 40 degrees was eye opening and ball shrinking. We warmed up with a standard warm up and then David casually announced that we'd be doing a 400 yard test, for time.  This was fun in a way, but it was mostly awful. I think my time was 4:42, which wass about 6 seconds slower than my 400 yard time from early December.  This didn't surprise me as I have been swimming but not swimming hard for the last month or so. We then did a 200 for time and I redeemed myself a bit coming in at 2:12.  I'm not sure what my "life time best" is for 200 yards but it's probably 2:09-2:11.

10:30am - Bike to Dove Mtn 3hrs

Christine and I met the rest of the campers a little north of our house after we headed north on the Santa Cruz Path to Silverbell.  The ride up Twin Peaks to Dove Mountain/Ritz was mostly uneventful and - little did we know - the warmest day of the week.  It was a nice glimpse of some of the desert scenery for the out-of-towners who had come in from Florida, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. I just wish the climb up to "Dove Mountain" wasn't so anti-climactic.  You kind of get to the "top" and think: "Oh." It's not really a mountain, per se.  Not in the sense we normally have around here...

4:30pm - Pima CC Track Session

I was honestly expecting something pretty light and more "drills and skills" oriented. Christine and I got there a little early and did a "warm up" that mostly included failed attempts at dancing. Unfortunately for everyone, none of this made it to phone storage. After everyone else showed up we engaged in some light drills which, I figured, would just about cover this track session.  Unfortunately, David had other ideas and sent us out for 6 x 1000m @ "just faster than 70.3 pace." Since I haven't done a 70.3 in just about forever, I figured that I'd shoot for 3:30-3:40/k and call it even.  Despite the incredible wind conditions (seriously, it was super windy) and half of the track being miserable as a result, I stayed pretty consistent albeit slower than Ben and Aubrey who ran 3:20-3:25 or so.


8am - Swim Session at UA

Warming up for the swim

This is going to be a recurring theme of this week, so get used to it.  I haven't been in the pool for 7 days in a row (since Christine and I also swam Sunday) in a LONG time (maybe ever?) so this was definitely a shocker to me. I'm going to assume it was a shocker for everyone else since it is somewhat unusual for triathlon coaches to prescribe 7 swims a week in a non training camp situation...  Be that as it may, we dove in to the warm pool out of the cold air (the seats on deck this morning had frost on them) and did a good workout of 5 x 400s.  I swam pretty quick today and was pleased both with my consistency and feel for the water. The best part of any swim workout was the hot shower afterwards to finally warm up after a freezing run between the water in the pool and the locker room entrance...

11am - Ride to Kitt Peak 5hrs

This ride involved Christine and I transporting all of the bikes in our two cars while David transported the campers to a parking spot at Brown Mountain on McCain Loop.  Our plan was to head west to Sandario where we would turn south and get to Ajo, then taking that all the way to Kitt Peak.  The goal of this route vs. simply riding from home to Kitt was that we would avoid some of the bad construction on Ajo between Sandario and Kinney Rd.

David and Janina got some great shots; this is me showcasing a TriSports.com water bottle kindly provided to the camp by TriSports.com!

This plan was successful, as our trip to the base of Kitt Peak was mostly uneventful. As we turned up the road to head up the mountain it became increasingly windy.  Kitt Peak is a GORGEOUS climb, but very "stark." There isn't a whole lot out there which makes it a completely different animal than, say, Lemmon. The wind was ripping pretty good and it was only maybe 50 at the bottom so by the time we got a few miles up the climb I was getting pretty cold. Around mile 7 or 8 or somewhere there was a big patch of ice across the road.  It was technically ride-able, but I decided at that point to turn around. I think in hindsight that was the right idea.  Ben, Aubrey, and Sue continued upwards a bit as Christine, Kelly, and myself got down to the bottom.  Aubrey was able to descend from however high they climbed but Ben and Sue had to get a ride back down in the car (Sue because she got a flat up on the mountain and Ben because he was becoming hypothermic on the descent).  I've been there too many times in the past (see reference to January cycling training camps in Virginia...) and have no desire to be that cold anymore.  Unfortunately at the bottom Christine and Kelly were both having trouble getting warm so had to ride in the car for the next 30 minutes to warm up while Aubrey, Sue, Janina and I rode back east on Ajo and through the Border Patrol Checkpoint.  We all eventually made it back to the cars, a bit later than we expected but all safe and (mostly) warm JUST as it began to rain.  Phew.

Headed up Kitt Peak


A hearty breakfast is key to good performance
8am - You guessed it

Back to the pool, back to the pool.  All of us were pretty wore out from yesterday (there's a southerner expression for you) dealing with the cold and the fact that we had all ridden about 5 hours, so the swim session this morning wasn't too bad.  Our only solace was the fact that the water was 81ish degrees and David looks freezing standing on the pool deck.  Unfortunately he then reminds us of our stroke issues and technical corrections and we realize he has the better end of that deal... Damn. This swim was mostly "skills" oriented which for me involved lots of snorkel and tempo trainer time.  One of the ''flaws'' in my stroke I've had pointed out to me as a result of this camp (thanks a lot...) was that the "gallop" in my stroke is a result of my low stroke count/25yd and somewhat poor rotation onto my left side.  I breathe to me left exclusively, and as a result leave me left arm dangling out at the glide phase for too long and fail to "roll" enough to that side (because I don't breathe to my right).  This has been solved from a drills standpoint by sticking a tempo trainer under my cap at 72 strokes/minute and I no longer dangle that left arm out there, that's for sure.  I can barely/rarely keep up with 72 but it's a good cadence to keep in my head and hammer in from a muscle memory standpoint.

11am - Trail run Phoneline

I've now run Phoneline a few times; once with Christine early in our time here in Tucson (she hated it, I enjoyed it), once with Jesse and Ben last month (I enjoyed it), and then once this week at camp (I enjoyed it, she hated it).  It basically goes uphill for 4.5 miles and then downhill for 4.5 miles. It was definitely an eye opener for a lot of the out of towners, as the trails here are quite different than most people are used to.  Unfortunately nobody had brought real trail shoes, so the rockiness was tougher to deal with for those with road shoes.  Only a couple of tumbles and scratches resulted from this 1.5hr run, which I call a win!

David caught us coming back down to the end of Phoneline Trail


8am - ugh

"Skills" 50s followed by fast/threshold+ 100s, times 3. This was one of those workouts that doesn't look too bad on paper but by the time you finish it you are pretty darn tired.  I was swimming pretty quick today though, so I can't complain.  Most of my 100s were 1:12, which is a nice pace considering the general fatigue we were all experiencing at this point.

10:40 - Shootout Loop 4.5hrs

Christine pulling me up Helmet Peak Rd, captured by David. Never knew this road was so scenic because it has always hurt so bad!

We started separately from the group today and just headed to Mission and the planned loop (same as the Saturday Shootout) hoping to meet everyone out there.  Unfortunately most of the group got quite lost navigating the Rillito River Path and Santa Cruz and ended up in Oro Valley, so we didn't see them for a while.  I broke out my tri bike today for the first time in a couple of months as if I'm going to get back on the road this year I need to follow my own advice in the many bike fits I gave back at IOS: PRACTICE.  Christine and I made our way around the loop pretty quickly and she almost dropped me a few times.  Unfortunately for her, I am much better at going downhill and returned the favor on those sections.  As we came up Helmet Peak Rd we got back in touch with our group who was coming the other way.  We all regrouped and rode back into town together before heading west and returning back to our house via Gates Pass.  That was a nice finish to a tough ride.

#AEROAF caught by David


8am - Just about done with this crap...

Just kidding, swimming is awesome. This probably wins my award for the hardest swim of the week.  It was a standard warm up moving into:

6x100 "skill" on 1:30
2x200 fast on 2:50
5x100 "skill" on 1:30
2x250 fast on 3:20
4x100 "skill" on 1:30
2x300 fast on 4:00

The "skill" 100s involved a tempo trainer, some Finish thumb paddles, and a snorkel.  Keeping my tempo up that high and focusing on rotation was difficult from a cognitive standpoint but I was coming in on 1:15s or so with relatively little effort (thanks paddles, even though you are annoying thumb paddles).  The longer intervals were basically threshold sets, and I came in on 2:23, 2:21, 3:00, 3:00, 3:36, 3:35 respectively.  I was very pleased with my effort:pace ratio for this swim and it showed me that even this week I had made improvements to my ceiling insofar as swimming goes...  All that being said, I was definitely still tired from this.

11am - Bike West Tucson Loop 2.5hrs

This was a fun loop that wasn't too long (just under 50 miles) and without too much elevation change.  Aubrey, Ben, and I rode pretty steady and traded pulls the whole way and arrived back at the house (we all rode from our house in Starr Pass today, which was really nice!) and had a somewhat quick transition into...

2pm - Starr Pass Trail Run 1hr

Running on my "home trails" is always fun for me and we got to enjoy some great weather (shorts and t shirts) and good trails.  I think our legs were all pretty tired but being in great weather outdoors makes at least some of that fatigue melt away.


8am - Last one, thank baby Jesus

This one involved some "all out" efforts in both kicking and swimming which, by the end of the swim set felt neither "all out" or "good." I think everyone was a bit over reached by today and this swim showcased it for me.

12pm - Bike Mt Lemmon 2hrs

Today was the first day that Mt Lemmon/Catalina Hwy was open after the snowfall.  As a result, the queue to get up the mountain was very long.  I was skeptical of how high up the road we'd be able to go before cold weather or snow/ice forced us to turn around.  I resolved to not go any higher than I felt I had to in order to stay mostly warm and made my way up somewhat slowly after being dropped by Ben and Aubrey and having Sue and Christine ride by and away from me.  Once everyone turned around, however, it was my time to shine.  I do thoroughly enjoy the descent of Lemmon and managed to get my HR higher on the descent (150s) than the ascent (120s-130s).  Once back down and everyone finished with their respective rides we met at Le Buzz before heading back to the camp house for showers and dinner.  Most were leaving early the next morning so we said our goodbyes and headed home for much needed sleep.


12pm - Road run 1:10 hours

Christine, Sue, and I all ran on the road for a little while (them a little longer than me) to Sentinel Peak which we climbed.  I made a run at the KOM on the road, which is - oddly enough - held by Howard Grotts (professional mountain biker).  Unfortunately, the Sunday after a week of training camp is not the best time to go real fast up a 1.2mi climb but I still managed to snag 3rd place while Christine and Sue took the ladies' QOM for the same segment.  They both ran a slightly different route home while I decided to take the manly route and cut it shorter.

Week over.

Now for some thoughts:

I've heard of quite a lot of training camps, quite a lot of which are held here in Tucson.  Christine's introduction to Tucson was last year at just such a training camp.  Most of these involve a "showcase" athlete who sells high dollar spots to an "exclusive" training camp that involves relatively little to no real instruction and is simply a chance for an athlete to get to a warmer clime and hob knob with people from around the country and stellar athletes.  There is definitely value in that, no question.

But the REAL VALUE that all of David's athletes got from this camp was both literal and figurative.  David didn't charge a premium and, in fact, the payment for camp was just for lodging and food and the rental vehicle.  So the camp was, by all accounts, extremely inexpensive. 1/3rd of the cost of many of the aforementioned camps.  The REAL value, however, in David's camp was that David got a chance to look and see and help his athletes.  A masters swim coach isn't really providing you swim stroke analysis and instruction, sorry.  That doesn't count.  A bike training studio is giving you no real personal input on your season's goals and periodization efforts as it relates to your year's training. Most of us just run by ourselves anyway so I have never really received any sort of run stride analysis.  All of that was "included" in this week's camp.  Athletes got to chat, face to face, with David and discuss their seasonal plans both in the short term and long term.  They received ON-DECK pool instruction, drill workouts, and "friendly" reminders of the things they were doing wrong.  Stride/gait analysis was done for everyone as well as bike SAG support and...encouragement. Most of the stuff I hear about other training camps are the coaches are basically acting like athletes to a degree as they all want to get in workouts themselves.  So how can a "director" of such a training camp provide real VALUE to the athletes that attend these camps when they're really just trying to get in a workout themselves...?

Beats me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Really, what's triathlon for?

You may think this title is a bit fatalistic.  I agree that it certainly comes across as being that way.  Let me provide some context:

As Christine and I were circling the track this morning doing intervals at 6:10 pace (humblebrag on her behalf alert) I found myself watching the (I assume anyway) Pima CC football team doing some sort of drills or dynamic warmup series of movements.  Most of them did this somewhat halfheartedly and honestly, who could blame them? It was cold out (45) and the sun was barely rising over the rooftops of the buildings to our east. As they grunted and grumbled their way through warm up, we merrily lapped the track for the roughly 4 times 2k+ intervals.

I thought to myself: in the zombie apocalypse, who is better than triathletes at survival?

Certainly not football players who are, for the most part, overweight.  They are nimble and quick but in a long, drawn out chase with a group of hungry non-dead they will inevitably succumb.

Crossfitters could potentially throw big tires at the zombies, but they can really only do that type of AMRAP for about 5 minutes.  If there's a pull up bar nearby they can definitely gyrate themselves up and out of the way with ease but unfortunately a pull up involves going up 1.5-2 feet and then - sadly - coming back down again.

American Ninja Warrior contestants might actually do ok for a while if they are in a city, as their parkour-like abilities would enable them to escape the undead horde for a while as long as they were near buildings and had things conveniently placed on which to jump and twist and hang onto as they ran from the masses.

Mud runners and Spartan "racers" would do well, only if there was mud. Sadly, however, the likelihood of a mud-filled escape route with entrenched obstacles over which they could climb quickly and exert their skills of playing in the mud would leave them breathless quickly and eventually their lack of aerobic fitness would "catch up" to them. (get it?)

I could go on and on about the pros and cons of various athletic pursuits and their viability during the age of zombies, but let's just assume I've already done that.  Well, let me add a couple more options actually, now that I think about it:

Cyclists: they care too much about how they look and will inevitably get eaten before they line up their bib shorts with their tan lines and get away from the flesh eating were-humans.

Swimmers: they can't float forever, can they?

Runners: inevitably will get injured in some way and after realizing you can't continue with a pelvic stress fracture they will get ate.

But you know what pursuit combines ALL of the strengths and NONE of the weaknesses of zombie evasion??


Going in a straight line for a really long time at slow to fast paces along varying terrain challenges using various methods of transportation is kind of what triathletes do best.  The triathletes able to survive the longest will also have these qualities:

1) Gun ownership
2) Off road capabilities

So yea, I'm gonna outlive all y'all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Titillating Tucson Tidbits

One of the things I have noticed about Tucson that is different than any other place I've lived is the unique phenomenon of everybody being a pro.  I don't really mean that in a literal sense, but let me briefly explain:

In Charlotte, if I saw an athlete riding their bike around in a cycling kit of a professional cycling team (say, team BMC or Optum Kelly or Garmin Sharp...etc) I would - naturally - assume that the athlete wearing such a kit was a fred before even getting close enough to see whether the athlete in question might actually be an athlete on that team.

In Tucson, however, if I see a pro kit riding around (triathlon or cycling pro team) my first assumption is that the athlete actually IS a pro. When you have legitimate domestic and international pros making the city in which you live a "traincation" destination the likelihood of seeing world beating level athletes is pretty high.

We live three doors down from Todd Wells, probably the greatest off-road cyclist America has ever produced (3 time Olympian). Travis McCabe lives here and enjoys showing up on Tuesday morning and Shootout group rides to make everyone else look like lowly Cat 5s.  There are so many other Cat 1/Junior Elite/U23 Elite cyclists that I could get dropped by basically anyone.  Pro triathletes are here left and right, and luckily I get to ride and run with some of them. 

So yea, when I see a pro kit I basically assume that whoever is wearing it is liable to kick my ass up and down the road or trail.  It's both an amazing feeling because of the endless potential of ass-kicking but also kind of sad because of...well, the endless possibility of ass-kicking.