When I signed on with my coach in December, I noticed that she was hosting a triathlon training camp in Tucson at the end of February. I glanced at my work schedule and determined that I would be free that weekend. With visions of kum-ba-yah and roasting marshmallows by the fire I immediately signed up. And then I got the weekend schedule....
I hitched a ride with fellow Team HPBer down to Tucson. On the way we shared stories of training and the things we have learned about ourselves during this process. He's been with Coach for 5 years, and it was nice to know that the things that I have been going through over the last 8 weeks he also endured. We arrived in time to unload our stuff into our Casita before meeting the rest of the gang poolside to start our journey.
The first two days went as planned, before the weather intervened. We enjoyed an hour get-to-know-you run around the complex which served as our home base for the weekend and then rendezvoused in town for a dinner at La Cocina. The scent of orange blossoms filled the air as we enjoyed good food and great conversation.
Day two began with a ride on the infamous "shoot-out" course with a loop of Madera Canyon added in the middle, a total of about 95 miles. Immediately there was carnage everywhere. If you've never enjoyed the pleasure of biking in Tucson.... the roads SUCK ASS. And that is an understatement. Fellow campers arrived from out of town and assembled their bikes from travel. Within 3 miles of hitting the roads, bikes were falling apart, screws not tight enough allowed handle bars to drop, and one unlucky camper hit a massive pot hole and crashed. It was going to be a long day...
Once we got everyone put back together, we took off again only slightly delayed. I was riding with the "B" group, a nice intimate group of 4 plus Coach Hillary. As is typical for me, I struggled a little in the first half and my legs felt better, stronger in the second half. At that half way point we made a 3 1/2 mile climb to the turn around point. I had heard stories of this climb and was sufficiently frightened. I heard things like 14% grade, people falling off their bikes on the climb, etc. I was convinced there was no way I was going to make it. When we started the climb, Coach came with me and chatted, distracting me from the fact I was going 5 mph. The hardest part is that the surrounding terrain looks flat. Pancake flat. It doesn't look like you should be climbing, but the number on my bike computer was not lying. I was barely moving.
We progressed through the miles and past some of the camp sites of Madera Canyon. The road pitched upward. Straight up. "How much farther?" I shouted. "Not far", Coach replied. "NO! I need a number! Like quarter mile??!", I'm panicking now. "Something like that," she laughed. In reality, the climb was no where near as bad as I had built up in my head. I had thought the whole 3 miles was as steep as the final climb. I was happy to pull into the parking lot at the top to the cheers of my teammates.
|Half way through the long ride. Tucson Tri Camp.|
High fives all around and then we headed back down the hill for the ride home. I enjoyed a little paceline work with a fellow teammate and overall finished feeling better than when we started. We had time for a recovery shake which I promptly whipped up in my Vitamix and a quick nap in the Recovery Boots before hitting the pool for afternoon our swim session.
Saturday morning dawned cloudy and gray. On tap we had our long swim.... 100 x 100 yds in the University of Arizona rec pool (a beautiful facility!!). We were split into lanes based on our swim speed and given specific intervals to do. We made it through 1000 yds before lightening cracked across the sky causing all of us to scramble out of the pool. We killed a little time at Starbucks before deciding that the lifeguards were looking for reasons to take the day off (they are supposed to let us back in after 45 minutes of no lightening), and decided we'd be better off trying again later.
Many of you know that I am kind of a control freak, and lack patience. This "killing time" was a real test of my ability to adapt and go with the flow. We decided to take a quick lunch break and then hop on our bikes for our "easy" ride before heading back to the pool in the evening. We broke up into our ABC groups from the previous day to tackle Gates Pass with a McCain Loop. The "B" group was assigned to Coach Alyssa but since we all took off together, we approached the climb pretty much together.
|Return trip over Gates pass. In the distance the climb is visible.|
My legs felt decent, I dropped into my granny gear and spun up the hill, passing Coach Hillary (leading the A group) along the way. We regrouped at the top of the climb and proceeded down the back side to through the loop before making our way up and over Gates pass again on the way home.
An hour later, we met on the pool deck to tackle our 100 x 100 swim (Yes, we had to start over. Duh!) Coach gave us our assignments for the following morning's Mt. Lemmon ride before we jumped in the water. I'm not sure if I was being punished for passing her on Gates Pass, or if she just thought my legs were not trashed enough from our 100 mile ride on Friday, but she announced that I would be riding with the "A" group on Mt. Lemmon. WHHAAATTT??!
I am back pedaling. No, I can't ride with the A group. They'll be waiting for, like, an hour at the top for me! I'm not that fast. I promise.
But my fate was sealed. Now I had one more thing to stress about during my 10k swim. I love to swim. I do. But when I am chasing some fast girls in front of me, trying to make every interval... it's not all fun and games. I was being pushed outside my comfort zone. By 3000 yds, I was tired. By 6000 my arms wanted to fall off. At some point the sun began setting and cast a gorgeous shadow of palm trees against the block wall on one end of the pool. The rain stopped, and a double rainbow graced the sky above us. We paused for a moment between sets to appreciate the view.
|University of Arizona Rec Center. 10k baby!|
I began counting down the final set of 30 x 100 before the 10 x 100 cool down. As I neared 8000, with the end in site, I got a second wind. My arms felt stronger and my pace quickened. This didn't last long, however, and by the time I finished the main set with only 1000 to go I just wanted to be done. I hauled ass through the cool down and jumped out of the pool. 2 hours and 49 minutes my final time for the 10k. My fastest by about 30 minutes, and my arms felt every second of it.
Coach pulled me aside after the swim and gave me specific directions for my Mt. Lemmon workout. I was instructed to stay on the wheel of my teammate (MR) for as long as possible on the climb. If I fell off, I was to stand up and sprint to get back on. I was to kill myself holding on until I couldn't do it anymore and she slipped away. And then I was to recover and wait for another camper to pass me at which time I would repeat the process.
Did I mention that my teammate finished Kona in 10:23? And that she's really freaking fast? And that she's probably going to get her pro card this year? I was fucked.
On the night when I needed sleep the most, it evaded me. I lay in bed with my arms aching so badly that I couldn't sleep. Damn lightening, I cursed at the ceiling. If our day hadn't been rearranged, I would have had time to recover from the swim and my arms would feel like death right now. And I would be SLEEPING!
I was uncharacteristically quiet as we prepared for our bike ride on Sunday morning. I was secretly freaking out about the task set before me. We arrived at the parking lot of Le Buzz (our starting point) to more bad news. Due to the overnight hurricane, the road up Mt. Lemmon was closed until the sun had melted the ice enough to make it safe for cars/ bikes to pass. So we found ourselves drinking more coffee, and eating more breakfast while we waited (patiently??) for the road to re-open.
At 11 AM we were on our way, and I was huffing and puffing along behind my designated rabbit. All was cool until mile 5 and then I started to wish death would come swiftly. I made a goal to get to 8 miles. With each passing mile, my effort level increased. There was grunting and groaning as I dug into my suitcase of courage. As mile 8 neared, I began to think that maybe I could hold on till mile 14, Windy Point. Shortly after that thought crossed my mind we hit a few dips in the climb. I'm OK with constant pressure on my legs. But throw in a little decline- like 10-15 seconds worth-- and my legs were screaming. With each little break in the climb, the girls would gain a little space and I would stand up and do my best to hang on. Finally, just past mile 10, beginning to weave a little from exhaustion, I cracked. It was amazing how quickly they disappeared from sight as I was spit off the back.
|Climbing Mt. Lemmon. Doing my best to hang on!|
I spent a few minutes spinning my legs and recovering. But then fear set in again. I still had two A group members behind me on the climb. They could catch me at any time and I would be forced to respond. Rather than risk a repeat of the first 10 miles, I kept the pressure on and continued to work hard toward the top. It was not until Palisades at about mile 20 that I was caught by BP. By that point, it was not much trouble to stay with my teammate for the final mile of the climb. Just beyond mile 21, there is a descent into Summerhaven where we were regrouping at the Cookie Cabin.
With about 2 miles to go, the SAG van passed us coming out of Summerhaven. They handed us our winter gear and told us to get warm and wait until they got back to the CC. They were going to head off any other riders as the conditions on the top were not ideal and anyone who had not made it past Palisades was going to be turned around.
A dense mist covered the roads, at 8000 ft the air was quite cold, and we were frozen by the time we hopped off our bikes. We stumbled into the CC and sat, almost stunned, shivering by the fire. A teammate handed us a hot cup of apple cider. I was happy to have grabbed my bag from the SAG van as I had a complete change of clothes - dry and warm. I peeled of my sweaty, wet jersey and replaced it with dry layers becoming warmer as the fire heated us through.
|Cookie Cabin at the top of Mt. Lemmon.|
On one hand, we wanted to stay by the fire and catch a ride back to the bottom. Being Team HPB this was NOT an option, so we eventually began gearing up for the descent. BP had raced IM Tahoe with me in 30 degree temps and we kept looking at each other like, you ready? We began putting our shoes, helmets, gloves back on and when the SAG van arrived back at the top of the mountain, we headed out the door and grabbed our bikes.
Ironically, with all my layers on, I didn't feel cold at all on the way down. And eventually as we dropped below 5000 feet, I got too warm. I was proud of my descending skills. I took Coach's words to heart and really practiced watching where I wanted to go to allow myself to efficiently take turns without having to brake hard on each switch back. About half way down I suffered a flat on my front tire as I failed to dodge a huge rock that was in my line. Thankfully I was able to get myself slowed down enough before my bike began to shimmy and I hopped off. After my fastest tire change ever I was back on the road heading toward Le Buzz.
Once off the bike, we were each assigned a transition run. My goal was to run strong for the first 2 miles, and then crush it coming back, sub 7. Again, I wanted to laugh. Sub 7? Who did she think I was?
I took off with a group of girls who quickly dropped me. I didn't worry about the fact that I couldn't keep up, I had to just do my thing. I ran out through the first two miles and then turned to come back, picking up the pace. I didn't look at my watch once during this run. I just ran as hard as I could in the final 2 miles. After the turn, I passed my teammate heading up the road with Coach Maik. He nodded toward me and told Maik to run with me on the way back.
It was nice to have company, and Coach Maik kept encouraging me quietly along the way. Good pace. Form looks good. We cheered for each runner headed in the other direction. Maik's easy loping stride reminded me that I was running with an Ironman Champion. When I hit the 4 mile mark I slowed to an easy jog for the final minutes back to the car and Maik turned around to run the next camper in. When I stopped, I reset my Garmin and looked through my splits. I hit my warm up miles in 8:10 (for both miles!) and mile 3 at 6:56, mile 4 at 7:11. I was THRILLED. Who is this girl? And whose legs are these? I relayed my splits to Coach and she validated my excitement with high fives.
|Celebrating being done with Mt. Lemmon!!|
At this point, we had one day left of camp. A long trail run followed by a technique session in the pool. I am a runner, specifically a trail runner, so I was really looking forward to Monday and not stressed about it even though my legs were trashed.
The trails were rocky. Like a good chunk of Pass Mountain if you happen to be from the Valley of the Sun. My legs were toast, and picking up my feet became more and more painful. We ran about 7 miles up, over and around the trails to where a SAG car was parked on the other side with fluids and nutrition to refuel on for the run back. I did a pretty good job of holding on to the group until we stepped off the trail and on to the asphalt for the final two miles (uphill). At this point, I fell apart. My legs would not move. I had no turnover to speak of. I just had to gut it out and get back to the parking lot where we had started the run.
I've never been so happy to be finished with a run. Not even after 50 miles. I. Was. Done. I drank my recovery shake and waited for the rest of the crew to finish running. I was actually looking forward to getting in the water to flush my legs out a bit.
I kept waiting for Coach to pull me aside and tell me all the things that were wrong with my swim stroke. I am probably crossing over too much with my right arm. I know I pick my head up too much to breathe. Not enough rotation. But she never did. Instead she hooked up a little torture device to the side of pool and calls us over one by one to take a turn. With ankles attached to a stretchy cord, you have to swim HARD to avoid being pulled back into the wall. I cranked my arms with everything I had and waited for my 30 seconds to be up. Coach grinned from the side of the pool, "THAT'S our swim stroke!!" YAY! I was super excited to have a new tool to help me improve my swim. I promptly went home and ordered the swim cord so my training partner and I can torture ourselves.
Biked: 180 miles
Ran: 25 miles
Swam: 15900 yds
Camp was so good for me. I was not rested and relaxed as I headed back to work the next week, but I was filled with a sense of pride in my accomplishments and some new confidence in training. As expected I learned a few things:
1. Coach is not going to ask me to do things that she knows I can't do. Trust. Don't think. Don't judge. Just do. My coach has been around the block a few times and she knows what she's doing. If she tells me to do something, it's because she believes that I CAN.
2. I'm not going to die. I was pushed outside my comfort zone more often than not over the 5 day weekend. I didn't keel over, I got stronger. I have so much room for improvement and my body is responding to the training better with each passing week.
3. Coach is going to ask me to do things that she knows I can't do. There will come a time when I can't make the splits, hit the pace, or hang on. What will happen when I break? I believe that each one of us had a "breaking point" over the weekend. I believe this was intentional. What Coach wants to see is, how will you respond when you are broken? Will I pitch a fit? Will I cry? Will I quit? Or will I put my head back in the water, choke back tears, and just keep swimming? My breaking point came in the middle of the 10k swim when I struggled (failed?) to hit the intervals. I did cry. (And then I reminded myself that there's no crying in baseball!) When I couldn't hit the interval anymore on the 20 x 100 free, I swam it straight. And then when I couldn't hit the interval and missed the send-offs for the 30 x 100 PBB I did the best I could and improvised a new interval.
Camp was completely awesome and I can't wait to go back next year. I was surrounded by smart, strong, funny, hard-working, type A people that encouraged each other, challenged each other and cheered each other through every workout. I am so lucky to be a member of Team HPB and I can't wait to represent Team HPB and TriScottsdale in Oceanside in a few short weeks!! Let's put this training to the test!