The Tucson Triathlon Training Camp

The past week I have been training with the Canadian national triathlon team down in Tucson, Arizona. This is my first trip to Tucson and I have to say this place kicks ass for training. This camp has a great vibe and I am so appreciating Triathlon Canada for setting this program up for us because I couldn’t be benefiting more from this experience. Of course, I am getting my butt kicked daily in the pool, am working super hard on the bike and I am running on hilly, sandy trails so I am almost too tired to laugh at the goofy SNL dvds we are watching all the time. It is so great to get away from home to focus 100% on training because in this kind of environment it is so much easier to recover from hard training. My program for these three weeks has been very ambitious and I am happy with how things are going but it hasn’t all been easy sailing. This week is completely different from my cycling training camp I did three weeks ago at home so a lot of new stimuli have been challenging to adapt to.

I spend the winter doing weeks of big cycling mileage to push my base up and prepare myself for harder and more intense work as the season approaches. The point of this camp was to push to a higher load than I have ever done but keep it more balanced and triathlon-focused rather than mostly cycling. It is great to increase my swim volume because more time in the water will inevitably lead to better swimming. However, I wanted to keep the volume and intensity of my riding high to help me prepare for riding hard at Sea Otter in three weeks and at all the Xterra races this year. I will give you a weekly breakdown of exactly what I did this week and why I did it…

The first day of the camp started very casual. I rode down to the pool on my brand spanking new Orbea Oiz mountain bike to swim 4000 meters of general aerobic stuff. Thirty minutes of easy cycling and about an hour of swimming to start off.

The second day was a bit tougher. We started with a 4km swim where the main set was 6x 400m half swim and half pulling with paddles. After a quick breakfast I was on my bike on the Computrainer doing 6x5minutes at 85% of my maximum wattage (read on my Powertap) with 2 minutes rest. This workout was 2 hours with my warmup and warm down and immediately after finishing I threw on the Saucony Hurricanes and ran 45 minutes into the trails of Sabino Canyon. After a three hour break I was on my Onix again for a 45 minute spin on the rollers doing cadence and one-legged pedaling drills.

Wednesday started with 3.5km of swimming where we focused mostly on technical work. This is my second week of swimming pretty much every day and I felt like absolute crap. Nothing was working for me. After breakfast the group headed to Mt Lemmon where I finished 5×12 minutes of big gear intervals (Gord Fraser made a guest appearance before jetting to Los Angeles and Australia for the Commonwealth Games, which was so cool!) and after finishing the intervals I rode the whole 26 miles to the top of the ski area. Mt. Lemmon is hands down the best ride, ever! It took me about an hour and fifty – ish minutes to get to the top then over an hour just to descend back down the mountain! I added a loop at the bottom of the mountain to spin out my legs to make the ride 5hours and about 150km.

Thursday’s swim was 4kms with some steady distance per stroke swimming (you will notice most of my swim practices are focused on technique. Lots of coaching from Coach Craig and Alex to try and turn me from a drowning cat to a fish). After the swim the group was riding a 3 hour base ride so I left a bit earlier to turn it into a 3h 30 ride. In the ride I did 3×6 minutes with maximum power intervals. When we got back I did a 30 minute run off the bike to finish. After just two weeks of these bricks my legs already remember to get going after riding hard, so I would really recommend adding these runs to your training.

An aside note: March is pro athlete Christmas. The UPS guy will from now on be referred to as Santa. He brought my gorgeous new Orbea bicycles with sparkly XTR groups, new pimping Sundog glasses, Maxxis tires, Pedros stuff, Saucony… the list is so crazy. I am so excited about the new Maxxis Crossmark tire, which I am sure is going to be my universal choice for this season. Saucony also sent my beautiful new custom triathlon and cycling clothing and a huge shipment of some of the most pimp shoes ever. I am sporting the new Kilkenny XC flats as fashion sneakers because they are so cute! Nature’s Path even sent 10 cases of organic goodies so that all the campers would be properly fed while we are working hard – life is so good!

Friday morning it got a bit tougher to get out of bed and head to swim practice but I was actually rewarded with a decent swim- finally! I am glad I toughed out the bad days because I am starting to see some rewards (after 14 days straight of swimming with one day off). After the swim I ran Sabino Canyon with Jess Kirkwood. Running foreign trails is always an adventure, especially when you are passing giant orange signs indicating “High Mountain Lion Activity”. Remember, you don’t have to outrun the lion, only the person you are running with and I was thinking strategically since Jess isn’t in run shape yet. All kidding aside (she is still faster than me) it did take us an hour forty five to finish the run, an hour of which was straight uphill. I am ready to go back to Big Bear finally! I finished the day with 45 minutes on the rollers doing my cadence intervals to find my cycling leg speed again.

Saturday we were originally planning to do the Shootout but logistics were becoming a problem so we decided to do our own ride. We rode out to the Colossal Caves at a comfortable steady pace and on the way back rode some echelon picking the pace up to about 50km/h on a long rolling road. It felt great and was very similar to the type of training you get in a good road race. I had a longer day planned than the rest of the group so I headed up Mt Lemmon to finish the day, riding up 5 miles of the climb and adding a loop on the way home to make the ride a solid 5 hours and 150km.

Sunday morning I felt incredible! I had a long run planned in Sabino Canyon running 90 minutes steady on hilly trails. It is so beautiful running on these trails in Tucson. When you look around it feels like you are in a movie set because the vistas are so surreal. The trails I ran on took me high above the access road in the canyon up past 3500 feet so I could look back at the city from up in the foothills. It was amazing but I also had to watch where I was going because the trails were cut into the side of the hills so some poor footwork could land you painfully in the bottom of the canyon. Not good! The weather was getting cold so after running instead of going out and freezing on my mountain bike I did 2 hours on the trainer (trainer in Tucson – that has to be blasphemy!) before we went to the pool to swim 4000 yards of a short rest continuous set to keep warm. Another wicked swim…. I love it when a plan comes together!

A pretty solid week totaling 31 hours. I swam about 22 km , biked 650 km, and ran 4h 30. This is after last week’s 26.5 hour week, so the past two weeks have been a major push towards high volume with some intensity sprinkled in. Pretty dangerous territory to do this stuff, I have to be careful that I recover when I do this much (this is a lot for me!). I am writing this report after yesterday, which was my last ride up Mt Lemmon. I did my 6x5minute intervals two days ago and knew I was in trouble before I left for the ride. However, I wanted one last climb up the mountain and was going to push through the pain even if I wasn’t performing well. I made it 42 minutes with the guys and then cracked into a trillion pieces, which meant I had 14 miles of climbing, over an hour, with shattered legs and a whole lotta mental baggage to carry up the hill. I haven’t melted down that bad in quite some time – crying on your bike is a sure sign you have done almost enough. However, days like that are what lay the foundation for phenomenal success, so you need to push through them. Given I was adding on to a week designed for an Olympic champion I am sure I am right on track 🙂 after I get some rest…

Two more days of camp and then some Southern Calfornia photoshoot fun. Thanks for reading and remember, from very hard work comes very rich rewards!


Descending Mt Lemmon after a hard days work

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