Monday, April 14, 2014

Living the dream if only for 5 days!

This past week I attended our team’s 2nd annual team training camp in Tucson, AZ. This was by no means my first training camp, but it was one that was very hard to leave. Training camps are always a blast, but this was the first one, where I really got to swim, bike, and run every single day.  I was literally living the dream – too bad it was for only 5 days! Weather was perfect, and I essentially had everything at my finger tips thanks to the great support of my coach, the wole E3 group that put this whole camp together and of course our team sponsors. My pre, during and post nutrition was taken care of by a combination of many different PowerBar products, and Beet-It shots, while the EC3D recovery tights were my fashion choice for when I wasn’t in my swim suit, bibs or running shorts. All I literally had to worry about was being ready for the next session.
 This is literally what was left (not much), but I love the variety of different gels PowerBar offers and I like to mix it up during all my rides whether it be the flavor or caffeinated/non caffeinated selections. Choices are good! :) 

Yes please! Say goodbye to juicing and the dirt like taste that comes with straight up beet juice! 2 Beet-It shots a day, make any mountains go away! ;) There is a reason I am not a poet, but 2 of these a day (morning and night), and I was ready to conquer the world day in and day out

Always so fashionable! I can't confirm nor deny that there were multiple trips made to WholeFoods in this very same attire! 

Every morning, I would be swimming within 15 minutes of waking up! This sure beats driving to the pool and back and was a huge time saver!  Watching the sunrise over the mountains every morning while swimming wasn’t too shabby either!

I stole this pic from Angela Bancroft who was lapping me in the pool like I was swimming backwards ;) Yup, she is a FISH! 

The pool had no actual lane lines which means at times it turned into perfect open water swim practice.
The calm before the storm! 

 How can one not smile! Outdoor pools rock! 

Swims were followed by big breakfast– eggs/bagels/pancakes/bacon/orange juice – you name it, I probably ate it and sometimes even a little nap! I wish I had a picture of my breakfast, but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), it was always gone before I even thought about documenting it!

By 9am we were usually riding, and the distances varied each day. Tucson has some seriously awesome riding, but it also has some seriously crappy roads. Think chip seal, plus these horizontal bulging lines that make riding quite uncomfortable. The weather and size of the shoulders or bike lanes and the number different climbs are unbeatable and more than make up for the crappy roads.  

With Kona being one of my big focuses this year, this trip was more than perfect and the weather couldn’t be more Kona like (All we were missing was the humidity ). Heat and strong head and cross winds especially in the first couple of days were the name of the game!

Night time was reserved for running, and we made sure we ran ever y single day. No excuses, one session, one day at a time, just getting it done. For those familiar with Tucson we did the following rides all of which included some sort of a climb of course. As mentioned before all bike rides were preceded with a swim, and followed by a run. 

Day 1: Gates Pass – 46 miles – I would describe this as relatively rolling 46 miles with a short but pretty steep climb known as the Gates Pass. Perfect ride to shake out the cobwebs since last time any of us rode outside was a very long time ago. (December 1st for me ).

 Aaaah yes, hello AZ scenery! 

 Getting closer and closer to Gates pass

Once we were done riding, it was time to replenish the lost calories, and take a nap! Unfortunately my  15 min planned cat nap turned into much longer than that, so when we headed out for a run at 7pm it was pitch black out! Tucson doesn’t believe in street lights and we didn’t bring head lamps so dreadmill it was. I was certainly not very happy about that, BUT Jorge actually made it fun and mixed some easy running with different sets of plyos that we did every 5 minutes before hopping back on the treadmill. With that, a new secret (maybe not so secret anymore) protein shot before bed and some more food, day 1 was in the books. 

Day 2: Shoot out ride – 42 miles as we turned the ride into an out and back and didn’t complete the entire loop. This was near perfect simulation and just a shorter version of what I remember the Queen K in Kona as - relentless and very strong head/cross winds that turn any flat road into an uphill for 22 or so miles.  Very lonely ride with only a few cars going by making this again a perfect practice for when the going gets tough in a race.  The way back was fast, as the tail wind gave us a nice boost of energy, and we were finished in no time. Quick bite to eat, maybe another little nap (I’ll let you take a guess), and it was time to run. Tonight’s run was the official kick off the camp. Staying on top of a hill is great for awesome views BUT it also means flat running is hard to come by. Little over 6 miles of essentially 3 miles downhill, 3 miles uphill were completed and my legs felt awesome and fresh! More food, another protein shot which was something I started to look forward to everyday, and it was time to sleep, so we could do it all over again the next day.

Day 3: Kitt Peak ride – 103 mile ride with a 12 mile climb up to the top of Kitt Peak. Coach Jorge wasn’t riding today, so he served as my personal sag vehicle for at least the first 40 miles to the base of Kitt Peak! I can’t thank him enough. I headed out on the ride a bit later than everyone else, and alone so seeing Jorge every once in a while making sure I was still alive was awesome and made the 40ish mile ride to the bottom of Kitt Peak go by fast!

How can you not smile? 

I was holding my power steady anywere between 70-75% of my CP and legs were feeling great. As I was getting closer to Kitt Peak I wasn’t quite sure if I already crossed the border into Mexico or what as many border patrol vehicles were cruising by and even doing random car checks. The climb itself was legit! 12 miles of steady up and up and up. Not too steep, but steep enough that you had to work the entire time. The views were amazing, but at some point I just had to stop looking down because it was actually making me a bit uncomfortable. 

Not yet almost at the top! Aaah the amazing views :)

Jorge was again all over the mountain which was awesome and it made the ride up feel that much faster. He may have even played my pre-race song a few times which definitely cheered me up and may have caused some power spikes in otherwise very steady climb for me.

 Finally at the top :) 

The descend back down was probably one of the coldest descents I have ever done and even though I had a wind jacket on, I was fairly frozen by the time I got to the bottom. The ride back was again way faster than the ride out due to bit of a tailwind and just like that my first century of 2014 was in the books. By now you know what happened next. Time to eat, nap and run!  Oh and maybe a little bit of this too:

Day 4: Mt. Lemmon Ride – 65 mile ride and my favorite mountain to climb and descend! Too bad my legs were pretty shot from the 240 miles I had ridden in the last 4 days. Day 4 was all about head games for me. Starting a 27 mile climb (meaning no cruising on horizon but turning over the pedals for at least 2 hours 45 minutes uphill)  feeling as empty  and tight as my legs felt was a little scary. I usually give myself at least 30 min to get the legs going, but I knew today was going to be a struggle both mentally and physically. Good thing I had a wheel to follow, and one that wasn’t going to attack or try to drop me although every time Jorge got out of the saddle, I saw trouble ;). Coach Jorge literally dragged me up the 27 mile climb and then back down.  The name of the game was to just hang on and somehow I did. I don’t usually like to sit on anyone’s wheel but I was so glad his wheel was there for me. It was quite the opposite of how I climbed and attacked this ride last year on fresh legs, but we still made it to the top faster and again right in the 70-75% range. (Although it felt more like climbing at at least 90% of CP)

Thank god the way back is downhill! 

How does one stay warm at the top of Mt. Lemmon - hug the ground!  

I may be a little tired but still all smiles! 

The descend was the bomb! I don’t think there is a descend that can top this one and it’s probably the one and only reason I would consider climbing Mt. Lemmon twice in the same ride …  just so I can go back down.

 Bundled up for the descent! You bet I stayed super warm! This was taken less than half way down

More amazing views! See that tiny little road in the middle of the pic? :) 

I would also eat at least twice in the same day at Café LeBuzz just because the food is THAT good! Again – no pics of food because it was in my belly before I even thought about a picture!  Evening run proved to be very challenging, and the pace I was holding with ease just couple of days ago was now turning into work. Hello fatigue! Ended the day with another protein shot or maybe two and it was time to zzzzzzzzzzzzz’.

Day 5: Madeira Canyon Ride – 67 mile ride and one very deceiving climb that goes on forever (17ish miles) and ends with some steep fun! We probably had 15 mile flattish section with some smooth roads before we started to climb, and my legs felt relatively good! However as soon as we began to climb, my legs started to protest. Thankfully Jorge was there again to the rescue. This climb was even more mentally challenging than Mt. Lemmon yesterday for multiple reasons. First of all – my climbing legs were even more non – existent and holding that steady 70-75% was a huge struggle.  Secondly this climb never seemed to end (maybe because it really didn’t even look like a climb, and I was struggling to hold on to Jorge’s wheel from mile 1 of the climb). I was even fine with just looking at Madeira Canyon from the bottom. I had no interest of going uphill anymore! Don’t get me wrong, I love to ride my bike, but climbing isn’t exactly my strength. I am much better on flats, and usually false flats. 

This was actually on the way from Madeira but you get the picture - I was just repeating this in my head over and over again as we were climbing - don't let that wheel go, don't let that wheel go, don't let that wheel go! 

I was ready to get off my bike, sit on the side of the road and maybe even cry a little. I fought hard to hold on both physically and mentally, but eventually lost Jorge’s wheel once the pitch got steep towards the end. I was happy to hang on for as long as I did and yes, I made it to the top although barely!

 I think I am wondering how I made it to the top! 

Just staying warm, I promise ;) Oh and feed me please .... 1 gel, 2 gels and maybe a coke to bring me back from dead

Once we made it back down we had about a 20 mile flat section to get us back home, and lets just say my mega legs came back from the dead and I returned a little bit of the favor and offered my wheel to Jorge and few others to get us home faster J. I ended that ride on a super high which made dropping my bike off immediately post ride so it can be shipped back to meet me when I return from my work trip to Europe very hard! I wanted to stay longer so so SOOOOOO badly! By now, you know the routine! Post ride food, one more run, and camp was done for me as I had to catch a plane to  Germany bright and early on Sunday am. 

I really didn't want it to end. Sure, I was tired, but I loved every single minute of it, and I can't wait for another training camp. I love to race, but I love training just as much! Many valuable lessons were learned, and living the dream if only for 5 days was out of this world amazing! Thank you again to E3 Training Solutions and all of our sponsors for making the camp as successful and FUN as it was! Till next time ... 

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