Tri Camp Lessons from AZ

My tri camp experience had some very high exciting moments and some very low discouraging moments.

Superstars Jen Harrison and her husband Jerome held triathlon camp in Tucson AZ last week. For the most part I had an amazing time meeting new people, training, and spending time with Mary and Ange.

We arrived Wednesday after learning first how to disassemble our bikes. The reassembly would left up to God. This was a lesson I was more than happy to be taught. I think it's really important to know your bike inside and out and how all the parts work and fit together.

Lesson #1 - I now know how to dissemble and reassemble my bike.

Thursday kicked of our bike ride up Mount Lemmon. I have run up a mountain in Hawaii before but I have never biked up a mountain and was unsure of what to expect. It was a grind the entire ride. There were a few points of forgiveness from the mountain but for the most part it was grind grind grind. I was so relieved to get to the top. This was a high point! I wished I had my camera for the beautiful views on the way up but it was too big to fit in my bento box.

Lesson #2 - Purchase a bigger Bento Box like Ange's!

The decent was fast and furious. My hands were killing me from gripping my abbreviated handle bars on my new TT bike. Not only are the downs short and stubby but my bar tape had also fallen off that week and I had not had time to reinstall. This made for an uncomfortable grip.

Lesson #3 - When biking unusual terrain or very long rides take the road bike and leave the TT bike home

After this ride we did a short, quick transition run of about 3 miles. I just had this "I'm training hard" attitude for the entire trip and tried to do everything with more gusto. I guess being around other athletes has this effect on me and I think it's cool.

Friday we had a workout in the pool doing drills and main sets. That was GREAT because I finally got some real input on my stroke. Seems I'm dropping my shoulders and upper arm, not looking forward, rolling my chin too much, and not entering my hand in a bent, flat fashion. I have A LOT to work on. At least now I know WHAT to work on. I am elated to know which adjustments I need to make on my stroke.

Lesson #4 - Look forward when swimming (this keeps me from rolling to much), keep upper arm up as if you are about to lift yourself up, bend and flatten hand upon entry.

After the swim we took a nice break for coffee before embarking upon a very difficult technical run up Sabino Canyon's telephone line. This was a highlight! I took a few steps up the path and had to ask, "is it all like this"? "YES!" was the response. OKAY! Here we go. We ran up 1 hour on a skinny, rocky path with a cliff on the left side. It was an adventure to say the least. There were several hikers who were kinda and patient as they stood aside for me. I found myself by myself for half of the run. After the bike ride the day before I was pumped to do some running. I slipped twice and landed on my hands. I had some deep cuts and had to keep licking my wounds. I didn't want to have blood dripping all over myself. I kept thinking I could fall off this cliff at any moment and be dead. That thought is what made the run more exhilarating.

Lesson #5 - When description of run says "off road or aggressive" bring trail shoes!!

On Saturday (our last day of training) the PLAN was to drive approximately 30 minutes in our rented minivan, park in the lot of Safeway, and bike around Gates Pass for 50-60 miles. This was the day that provided me with a couple of very low points of the trip.

I was already to go with BIKE SHOES on and miscellaneous items in a bag. I quickly realized just before leaving that we were running our T run from the minivan and not from the home. I scrambled to get my running shoes and running clothes. Without hesitation we were off. Parked the van, got out of the van, then, suddenly realized a huge F - up. I forgot my bike shoes right where I had put on my running shoes. OH ya. I think I cursed several times. I even shed a tear I think. I was devastated really. This was key learning ride for me as I have yet to ride in a pack.

After a while Kari and the others helped me hatch a plan to drive home, pick up lonely shoes, drive back and ride the course backwards in order to meet up with missing pack of riders. This worked well and provided for me a chance to feel quite confident navigating my way to and fro.

Lesson # 6 - Re-read the plan the night before so you are not scrambling and making huge mistakes.

Once riding, things were going well for a short time. Up Sabino Canyon we went. Another rather steep ride. That was OK with me. I was just happy to be biking. About 3/4 of the way to the turn around we were riding single file on a part of the road which had a narrow shoulder and a huge rut like groove in the road. Unfortunately my front wheel got caught and stopped me short. Over to the left side I went. Into the road. I found myself lying down in the street and took a quick look behind me. The cars were right there behind me. Not a good feeling. I got the wind knocked out of me and my mood suddenly changed to " this is the worst day of my life".

Jen was there behind me, thankfully, and helped me gather myself. I think I shed another tear at the point. But soon I was telling Jen I wanted to get to the top of the effing hill since we were just about there! Off we went.

Lesson # 6 - Learn better handling skills!

Although I didn't suffer any real injuries (again, thankfully) my road rash and bruises must have looked worse than they felt. Everyone was very concerned and wanted to take good care of me. Especially Sharon, Kate and Julia. Sharon had the all important meds and Julia knew just what to buy to clean the road rash. Thanks Guys! This day took away some of my confidence and caused me to question my decisions to train hard and whether or not I should just go back to being a long distance runner.

At night we all went out to dinner in a group. That was cool because we got to trade war stories and all kinds of banter. Everyone had some excellent points of view of which I inhaled in order to expand my limited biking knowledge.

In the end this experience was really just what I needed if I am to become a better triathlete. I realized while there that I have a lot to learn still! I'm in my 2ND year of acting like a triathlete. Being around the more experienced triathletes made me feel like I'm still really just a runner by trade. Sooooo.

Last Lesson of all #7 - Hard days are sure to come. Possibly even harder than the one I had last Saturday. Triathlon training takes all you have. You have to be tough and willing to overcome anything that gets in your way to become a better triathlete. You can't lose sight of your goals. Eventually you will see the payoff. It takes time, a lot of effort, determination, and a willingness to follow your dreams even when you feel uncomfortable, pissed off, hungry and tired.

Here are a few photos from Tri Camp. Happy training!


Running and living said...

Melissa, I loved this post. Thanks! I struggle with whether I want to become a triathlete. Seems so much harder than being a runner. It requires skill, and tons of time, and falling off the bike (I know it will happen, and I am terrified), etc, etc. At the same time, I love, love the variety or swimming and biking... These were great tips for a beginner like me, thanks much:) And awesome attitude out there. It was probably really tough at times to be around such experienced triathletes!

Bert said...

Quite the adventure! Road rash not something us runners deal with a whole lot... Glad to hear it was so inspiring and a good learning experience. PS. I subscribed to your blog but I'm not getting the automatic feed...?

cheryl said...

ouch, I didn't realize you fell on the canyon run :-( glad you had a great trip, and lots of lessons, I think we all learned a ton!

Mary IronMatron said...

This is a great post! You are so right that it takes total patience and focus to "become" a triathlete... and are we ever really there? This is going to be my fourth season--and this weekend, and in general, I still feel like a runner playing at triathlon.
Have you checked out the site Go Swim? It's really helpful... lots of swim videos and tips and ideas and drills. I use it all the time, especially when I have just gotten a correction and I want to see how whatever I'm doing wrong, is done right.
You did great at camp! I was SO HAPPY you were there! And I was so happy we traveled together!

Jennifer Harrison said...

YOU did amazingly well at camp. I know this camp was a huge "big girl panties time" and you DID IT ALL with out ever complaining and I have a ton of respect for that. YOU climbed MT LEMMON! You ran on a trail so steep people can barely walk up.

AND you held it together when you fell and had such a great attitude.

I enjoyed getting to know you AND spending the long weekend w/ you. 2010 will be a great year! Can't wait! :)

Amanda said...

Great post...and valuable lessons, though #7 is my fave. I'm still learning to become a triathlete as well.

GoBigGreen said...

I can't tell you how many times I have fallen running or walking ( ha !! At home!) and even falling off my bike in parking lots going about 5 mph! Once I got my wheel stuck in the light rail tracks and I hoppped it out but so aggressively I still fell over! Point is you will never get stuck in a crack again:)
it was super fun being with you and I would have never guessed you weren't an experienced triathlete. I am on a total learning curve too And the skills/ group riding/ stroke stuff is the mental stuff that keeps me interested otherwise it's just all physical pain, BARF as kari says!
Hope the Hundo is great!!

kT said...

Thanks for sharing all that. While you were crashing in the middle of a hardcore ride in sunny AZ, I fell off my bike in a totally dorky way riding by myself in cold western MA. So I think you win. And seriously, all that is going to make you so much better in the end.

Meg said...

You are tough and that's why I have fun following you and your tri endeavors...never a whine, just a lot of effort, guts and determination. Thanks for sharing your version of the trip and camp, it sounds like you all learned a lot and had FUN!

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