Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tucson Tri Camp 2015 - Easy Does It

I have to be honest, when I signed up for a third visit to Hillary Biscay's Tucson tri camp, I wasn't sure what I'd get out of it. In 2012, when Shelly and I attended our first-ever camp, my longest ride up to that point was 60 miles and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. That year was about surviving all the workouts (we did). I was super excited to go back in 2013 with Aixa, Linda, and Herb to do all the same rides/runs/swims. I wanted to see how much I had improved since the year before (I had - a lot). I didn't go to camp last year, but I did go to Tucson twice to train for the mountains I'd be climbing at Norseman. What more could I learn from training in Tucson? As teammate Chris and I drove towards Arizona last Wednesday, I wondered if I'd get enough out of the experience to make it worth the money and a week of vacation from work.

This year's San Antonio Tri-Belief crew - Chris, me, Dawn, and Kelley
Well, of course I did. It was exactly what I needed, in many ways. Getting out of the rainy, cold weather of San Antonio was a start. Spending several days focused only on swim/bike/run/eat/sleep was an amazing mental break. And as always, interacting with a group of 25 talented, driven triathletes was an inspiring way to kick off the season.

My main takeaway from camp was not at all what I expected, and it is this: sometimes, you're supposed to go EASY.

On the third day of camp, before a 25 mile ride from Starr Pass over Gates Pass and around the famed McCain Loop, Hillary told us that we were going to ride easy. She explained that there's a benefit to doing easy workouts, and that we were going to learn how to do it. Going easy on easy days means you can really go hard on hard days, and that's how you improve. I would guess that many age groupers, like me, tend to try to go hard every day - which means you really go "medium" every day, and that doesn't help you. It just puts you in a "grey zone" where you end up not having the capacity to ever go really hard, Hillary explained.

I was skeptical about how "easy" this easy ride would be. There's some steady climbing for about 8 miles until a huge descent...then a gorgeous rolling loop through a valley filled with Saguaro cactus, then an enormous half-mile climb before a fun descent back to the start. I've done this ride 4 times, and even when it was described as an "easy shakeout ride," it Was Not Easy.

I was assigned to ride with Maik (Twelsiek). The instructions were to stay behind him at all times. The athletes in my group looked at each other and almost laughed - yeah, we'd have no problem staying behind Maik. This is the guy we'd all watched on TV last October as he absolutely CRUSHED the bike at Kona. It might be an easy ride for him, but there's no way it would be easy for me.

Maik and his campers at the Gates Pass scenic overlook. 
To my surprise, we really did roll out easy, five campers like ducks in a row behind Coach Maik. We began the steady climb, spun up the hill in the tiniest of gears, with my power meter reading only 100 watts. And that's how it went for an hour and a half. I had to really concentrate on spinning behind Maik and not trying to crush it up any of the hills. Sometimes I held my brakes because I was terrified to accidentally go around him.

My legs weren't tired, my breathing wasn't labored, and we were climbing easy up towards Gates Pass. And around McCain Loop. And even though it took some work to get back up the other side, that part only lasted a minute or so, and it was back to easy spinning and flying back down to the start without even pedaling. A truly Easy Ride.

Right before the climb back over Gates Pass.
Ironically, the first time we went to camp in 2012, the main takeaway that Shelly and I brought home was that everyone works much harder at this than we ever imagined. We vowed to crush every workout from that day forward. It made sense at the time. I know it made us stronger. But I know now that learning how to go easy on easy days will make me stronger too.

Of course, I also realized that there's always something new to learn. So...see you next year, Tucson tri camp.

Chris checked Facebook on a gorgeous, sunny morning, and we congratulated ourselves for not having to ride in the rain like the folks doing the Castroville time trial that day. The weather in Tucson was perfect this time of year!

I met some of the coolest, strongest ladies on this trip. This is Whiting with me in our "before" picture for the 100x100 swim. We were smiling afterwards too. She, Cherryl, and I had the happiest of super happy fun times switching off leading our lane.
Coaches Emily Cocks and Hillary Biscay providing life-changing instruction (well, swim-changing, anyway) at the technique-focus swim on Sunday.

The L.A. Ladies - Cherryl, Terri, and Lynne at the top of Mt. Lemmon. They may look like your San Antonio matchy matchy Iron Whiners...but with one difference - these ladies race Kona like every year. It was so fun and inspiring to meet and spend time with them.
A trail run with Hillary wouldn't be complete without getting lost - this time we ended up climbing through a barb-wire fence trying to find our way back to the trail.
Super happy fun times on the trail at Starr Pass (before we got lost). 

Camp isn't camp without a visit to Frog and Firkin afterwards to celebrate.