the pink sock brigade at Sabino Canyon
I arrived into Tucson on Wednesday evening and cabbed out to the hotel, getting to the "meet and greet" just in time to grab a little dinner and meet most of the other campers. Too soon it was time to put the bike together before hitting the hay in anticipation of the Mt Lemmon climb in the morning. Roomie Julia was a dear for not complaining too much about my recently-acquired snoring habit. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, bananas, bagels, and peanut butter we mounted up and headed out of town. We rode an easy 13 miles to the base of the mountain, where we stripped down (it was warming up) and loaded up (time to eat).
Spencer and John climbing Lemmon!
Mt Lemmon boasts a 7000+ foot elevation gain over 28 miles. That's if you go all the way up to the top. I only made it to mile 14, for a total of about 4000 feet of climbing. That 14 miles took me 2 hours. I can't say how long it took everyone else because I was the token slow poke. (I figured the other athletes were fast, but not like ALL "World AG Champion" Renne fast. Duh...stupid me.) The climb started well, and I averaged about 8mph for the first 6 miles. Jerome rode the first few miles with me, encouraging me to "find my tempo." Then he took off, and it got a little depressing. My speed kept decreasing--to a low at one point of a whopping 5.5mph! I felt good though, and was able to keep my cadence at a decent clip in my lowest gear for pretty much the entire time. Mantras helped me focus on the task at hand and not get too discouraged. My favorites were "push and pull," "follow follow follow follow follow the thick white line (sung to the tune of Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz)," and of course "just keep pedalling just keep pedalling just keep pedalling pedalling pedalling." Coach Spencer was a dear to keep me company for most of the second 7 miles. The last 1.5 miles before Windy Point at mile marker 14 were by far the hardest--with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. Ouch. I was able to make it up the entire way without standing out of the saddle, which I guess is good?
It was interesting to see how the vegetation changed on the way up. What started out as desert, with cactus and scrub, becomes pine forest at about 4-5000 feet. The views were incredible with a few whispy clouds overhead and warm, glorious sunshine. I had taken off arm and leg warmers at the bottom of the mountain, but Spencer wisely cautioned me to dress back up around mile 10. Up at Windy Point, the temperature was noticably COLD and I was glad for the extra gear I had packed for the ride down--wind breaker, ear cover, and full gloves. I didn't debate long about continuing up the mountain. It would've taken me at the very least another hour to make it the last 10-12 miles, and the altitude headache I was developing would've only gotten worse. Fellow camper John and I started the bomb down the mountain. No 40+ mph for me since the roads were unfamiliar and the turns less gradual than those on the Blue Ridge. The total time down was under 20 minutes! We had a nice lunch at a coffee shop while we waited for the rest of group, but the 13 miles back to the hotel were still tough--especially that last climb home. We had that afternoon off and were able to relax by the pool, after dips in first the hot tub and then the cold tub. That Corona was, in my opinion, well earned, and the mexican food and margarita at dinner were excellent!
Julia and me, sporting our signature pre-swim look: hotel robes and compression socks.
Friday was swim/run day. Ah, to swim outside. Glorious. I shared a lane with John, his wife Allie, and Ben. Ben is an amazing athlete so I was stoked to be able to keep up with him in at least one discipline. We banged out 2600 yards and then had fun racing/sprinting 25's as if it was an open water start. I think Mary kicked everyone's butt in the pool!
Jen and I hamming it up underwater
After a stop at Starbucks for fuel and a quick change at the hotel, Jen and I started our run together up the Sabino Canyon road while the others hit the trails, but she quickly left me behind as it wound gradually uphill. I'm convinced that everything in Tucson is uphill. I thought I had been doing ok with running hills on tired legs here at home. Apparently not. I managed to run for an hour, then met back up with Kelley, Julia, Jen, and Kari for a "cool down" walk for another 20 mins. Our wildlife sightings involved bunnies, quail, and nesting birds but Marit's group got to see a very large snake! We got back to the hotel and blissfully jumped in the cold pool. Molly, a friend from the Florida camp, had driven down to Tucson for the evening. It was great to see her and introduce her to the AZ campers. We all went to a casual sushi place for dinner. Molly had to leave too early--I was sorry she couldn't stay for the rest of the weekend!
Molly and I catching up over Mojitos
On tap for friday was another bike ride. John and I rode with Jen, but picked up a few extra girls for an "easy" warm up. Not 4 miles out, I lost my first water bottle. We followed the same course out to the base of Mt Lemmon, but then turned just before the start of the climb. Traffic was still light, and I was working hard to stay on anyone's wheel. Jerome and Spencer followed with the faster groups, and I wished I could be the one to jump on their train. At the designated turn around, we picked Renne and John back up for the ride home, after a detour to the convenience store for more fluids. Wouldn't you know, I lost another FULL bottle just after that. At this point, Jen was pulling me along at a 21mph pace and I didn't dare get dropped. The whole group rode reconvened at some point for about 5-6 miles, and the pace picked up. Ack! I could've used the calories in those two dropped bottles. I made the mistake of asking Jen if we could stop for a gu. Nope. Luckily she turned around to look for Renne and the great group of girls that pulled my sorry ass home took mercy on me and slowed enough for me to take in my nutrition. I thought the hill up to the hotel hurt after the Lemmon climb...it was harder on Saturday!
The girls that pulled this sorry ass home: Jenny, Julia, and Kelley
A quick t run off the bike--down and back up that damn hill. By the time I hit the turn into the hotel, I was done. Pool, cold tub, lunch, hot tub and a quick swim stroke session were all that were left to do before dinner. I think Jen had prepped Spencer on what to say about my swimming since his first comment was how much better I'd be in the water if I swam more than once a week.... And I never thought having a "nice stroke" could sound like a criticism. I need to work on grabbing the water more aggressively.
Our last dinner was bitter sweet. Lots of joking about the torture, pain, and fun of our workouts together. But I couldn't help thinking "I'm going to miss this!" As much as I missed my family (that includes you, Lynn!), Joe's reports about dreary weather and going back to riding on a trainer made me want to stay in sunny Tucson. I always feel so much stronger after riding outside--hopefully it'll be just a couple more weeks and we'll be outside. Hopefully the gains I've made in my training will stick around (and pounds I've lost will stay away!)
Sunday morning was rushed with packing and group picture taking. I used my solo run to take in and enjoy the scenery of Sabino Canyon--this time I brought my ipod which helped me tune out thoughts of how tired I was of running uphill. Too soon it was time to say goodbye (Marit almost made me cry), and drive to the airport. The three K's (Kelley, Kari, and I) shared a crazy ride to the airport, and bade farewell. I read the entire Sunday NYT while waiting, and was able to sleep sleep sleep on both flights home.
A friend here in Richmond asked what I learned from the Florida camp, and while I didn't have any new "we've been doing xyz all wrong!" type of lessons to impart from either my Florida or Tucson experiences, I have gained a new appreciation for our sport and fellow athletes. To the person, each camper and coach was encouraging, supportive, sharing, and genuinely very NICE. Even though I was not as fast as most everyone else, I was never made to feel like I didn't belong. I am reminded of those master card commercials:
Tri Camp fees: $1300
Bike shipping: $ 600
Getting your ass kicked while making new friends: