One of the changes I wanted to make after last season was to find a coach. I settled with a coach based in Tucson Arizona named Cliff English. Cliff coaches mainly via correspondence, but also periodically works in a squad environment with camps. I've kind of had a solo camp going on, and I'm just finishing up a three week block which ties things over from St. Croix to Escape from Alcatraz this coming weekend.
Tucson is unlike any place I've trained in before. It's basically a desert floor at a moderate altitude (950m/3,100ft where I'm staying) that it bordered by a large mountain range. It's only May but the last three weeks has seen some really hot weather. The voluminous mountains make everything seem so close together, but it takes you ages to get from here to there. It will take 30-40mins to drive into town to the best coffee shops, or 45-60 mintues to ride to the TT area or base of the Mt. Lemmon climb. It's certainly a healthy training environment though, and the desert trails, smooth asphalt TT loops (Pistol Hill) and hairpins of Mt Lemmon have made some very memorable sessions. Amongst it all is a quirky variety or desert fauna and flora. The natural adaptation here is amazing and everything seems poised ready to utter death upon it predators or riddle one careless enough with thorns and barbs at any point. I've had to adapt to the conditions myself, & three-bidon rides & FuelBelt runs with lots of Instinct electrolytes are mandatory. If I gave into my legs every time I hurt or had difficulty in this training block I just wouldn't have got any work done. It's an honest place to train this time of year & it's been great to have a new training experience in North America. It's also been great to train in the private pool in Ventana Canyon without having to worry about lane space and the particular 'split-lane or die' denizens that sometimes make swimming the US such a headache. I've even adapted to some solo swims past 8pm which I have found to be very therapeutic!
Two of the best places to train have been Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon. Lemmon in particular has been very testing. It's a 26mile (40km) climb if you were to go all the way to the top, but lucky for me Cliff never made me spend all day climbing in oxygen debt. I've ridden up there three times to mile 14, and two of these times I've gotten a lift down in the car once I've reached the 14th mile at Windy Point. It's lucky I've had Cliff there with me both these times or I would have had my frostbitten thumb out trying to hitch a lift down. One of the sessions was so windy that I unclipped quite a few times fearing an impromptu basejump off the side of the road. The other we got caught in a hailstorm. Both of these days the session was mile 1-3 as a build warm up with mile 4 an easy spin. The mile 4-14 as a 70.3 pace effort building into Olympic Distance effort. A TrainingPeaks graph is below, & it's fun to note the temperature from the desert floor (the blue line) that drops as the altitude goes up and the rain turns to hail. On this particular day I ran into Maik Twelsiek (the one below with no warmers) who stubbornly abandoned with me into Cliff's car.
So the work is done now & it's time to move onto San Francisco for Escape from Alcatraz this weekend. It will be my first outing in the long-running event and I can't wait to get out there. 6 days after Alcatraz I'm backing up with the Boise 70.3 in Idaho against a neat little field. Thanks for tuning in, my next update will be after the race!