This blog entry is about a training week based in Tucson, Arizona, USA with 4 weeks till Ironman Cairns. The purpose of this trip was to buy a house which Fiona and I did accomplish in Sahuarita, AZ. So read on to see why Tucson rivals Boulder as the Triathlon Mecca of the world.
After my Big Day Out (5hr ride, 1hr swim, 2hr run) on May 13th, I took Sunday completely off. Monday I lifted for 77 minutes. Tuesday I flew from Alice Springs to Melbourne and spun for 1 hour recovery at the Park Royal Hotel. Then I flew first class (via 140K points) from Melb – LA, had an 8 hour layover, and then flew to Tucson. As I flew into the area we flew directly over Sahuarita where I could see the 10 acre man-built lake. It’s the only one of it’s kind in the Tucson area and site of one of the only open water triathlons in southern Arizona; it’s 2 streets away from our house. It’s only open to swimming during this event.
The sunset was also falling upon the mountains circumnavigating Tucson. I could see Mt. Lemmon and looking forward to a climb later in the week. As we were landing, there were at least 10 fighter jets landing; I was already falling in-love with Tucson w/out even getting off the plane.
On Wednesday I ran 9 miles in 71 minutes on race pace HR. The sun was out like the other 350 days per year it is and it was definitely dryer than Alice Springs. I ran from the Marriott Residence Inn at the Airport, North and came across “The Loop”. I didn’t know it at the time but this path which is the most friendly bike/run/pedestrian path I’ve ever seen also is being connected around all of Tucson at a distance of 133 miles long.
Thursday I headed North to the Oro Valley. Professional Triathlete TJ Tollakson who trains in Tucson messaged me about the pool there so I definitely wanted to check that one out. The pool is amazing. It’s 25 yards by 50 meters. It was set up for yards w/ 17 lanes open and diving boards at the end. It opens to 50meters in the AM, 3 days per week. The view was stunning looking East to the bottom of the Mt Lemmon mountain range. I did a 4,297meter set and will need to adjust to yards vs meters in the future! The set which focused on a breakdown of 30×100 was pretty solid and I felt strong and consistent.
Later in the day I did a 45min, 5mile Easy run past the Air Force Base in a box format.
Friday I headed out and back, west along Valencia past Casino Del Sol. Just as I was thinking how amazing the roads were and how friendly the drivers are in this incredibly biker-friendly city was, I had a massive blowout that nearly ripped through the tires rim. I had to put some litter into the tire to get myself back home which stuck for 20minutes. I headed to RoadRunner Bicycles and bought a brand new Continental 4000S and 2 new tubes and C02s. (I really need to remember to bring tires in the future as this has happened at least 3 times now). I had also visited TriSports.com’s shop which I have bought from on-line and then in-store for some Argon 18 E119+ spare parts. The shop was huge and they had a fully set up pool to get analyzed in swim technique. They had a bike-fitting room and tons of gear as well.
On Saturday I woke up early for the Veterans and First Responders Inaugural 5KM road race. It was located in the Oro Valley and I didn’t know what exactly to expect after my 1 mile warm up. There were 167 people there and I had 10 ppl in front of me at the start. 800 meters into the run on an incline of dirt road I passed about 3 athletes and was in around 7th position. I passed the next person shortly after running a 6:35 first mile. It was spread out and I didn’t look back till mile 2 down the decent where I ran 6:29/mile. During the 3rd mile a younger kid was 100-200 meters in front of me and hurting because I could hear him making a whole bunch of noise. He shouldn’t have listened to a volunteer that gave him incorrect information. I tried calling him and made sure from another volunteer that I was going the correct way. During the chaos I probably lost a few seconds but past this kid for 5th position and took it into the finish getting a t-shirt and finishers medal at the end of an uphill 6:40mile and the final 45 seconds run at 6:04/mile pace. The winner went in the mid 16’s and the next 3 people including 1 girl were in the mid 19’s. I worked really hard at threshold HR of 152, pushed hard, and stayed focused. It was my fastest 5K time since April 2015 when I won the 31st Alice Springs Triathlon. It’s my fastest outright 5K since I went 20:05 in November 2012, or 4.5 years ago. It was a great race and I was happy with my time and placing but a bit surprised that there wasn’t greater quality present. Even better, it was 1min23s faster than a 5K in Stawell, Victoria 5 weeks prior. Athletes of all abilities were present including newbies with the infamous bib pinned on the back.
The last time I went to a proper running shop was probably when I bought my first pair of shoes in September 2008: PR Running outside of Boston, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9.1. The former bike-shop owner at Fleet Feet Sports in eastern Tucson told me that my gait would no longer require that shoe. He also sized me up to a wide foot of E to EE. It’s no wonder why I’m returning my Brooks Pure Flow 5.0 (D). I’ve been wearing the wrong size shoe. With the issues I’ve had with my recent shoe purchases including Hoka’s I went specifically to Fleet Feet for advice and new shoes. I ended up with my first pair of Altra Torin 3.0’s. The newer shoe company out of Boulder looks much wider in the toe-box than a normal shoe and there is “Zero-Drop”. It fit great, supported me to a PB on the 5KM and then were great in the 20mile long run post the race. If you’re a runner, get sized by a Professional every once in a while.
So after the race, I headed down to Rillito Park along the River Path which another Professional Triathlete had recommended to me; I’ve also seen it from Ben Hoffman’s training sessions via Strava. So I had my 3 liter camelpak filled with water and fuel. I had salt tablets every 15min and actually still felt a small cramp coming on after 2 hours due to the 5k run and the dry desert heat. I headed as far as I could till I turned around and ran up the other side. I continued on and couldn’t believe how many athletes were out there. Only 2 TT’s but every other type of bicycle. I must have seen several hundred people. It was amazing. I even saw 2 paraplegics that I saw 2 times! Just like Alice Springs, this path is along the dry river bed but w/ pavement, 2 lanes, wide, with bathrooms, water, & posted rules, including “No Fires Allowed” which I chuckled about because the aboriginals in Alice light the river on fire constantly and cook kangaroo tails over the fire pits. As I became dehydrated and my 3 liters of water reduced to zero, I actually picked up the pace. It was 10s/mile faster than my 20mile run in Alice 2 weeks prior on HR of 130 vs 134, although, I didn’t run this non-stop. So I’m pretty happy running 2 – 20milers this season; certainly something I haven’t done in 2-3 years when I had run my IM Marathon PB of 3:26 in IMWA.
The next day I conquered Mt Lemmon. If you don’t know about it, look it up. I first heard from my former boss who is a very successful masters cyclist and now owns a home at the base of Mt Lemmon. Essentially, its 40km or 26 miles of continuous climb averaging 5%. Professional Triathletes and Cyclists come from all over the world to train here and I 100% saw some of them while riding. So I took “The Loop” for about an hour before I hit the road with cycle paths on the side. I past the Café where the ascent of Mt Lemmon begins and past a cyclist that I was close to. He retook me about an hour and a half later. I past 8 cyclists on the climb but saw at least 100-200 descending. It was already 90-95F when I started at the climb at 9AM. It took 2hrs20min to climb the full ascend and I only ranked around 1,500 of 4,500 on certain Strava segments. I worked hard for 40minutes but the legs were fatigued, tired, and failing me from the start due to the prior days 24miles (39KM) of running. I eventually got to the top as I ascended through cacti, rocks, evergreens, alpine, and then to the ski-resort summit. I went to the Cookie-Pizza place which Pro Triathlete Matt Bach recommended to me. I descended holding back at 30MPH (50-55KPH) and it was 75% faster taking 45minutes. I was worried about my carbon fiber brake pads melting because this was the highest vertical climb I’ve ever done and I was on a TT (The only one of hundreds of cyclists I saw). But, I got down safely and as I descended from 8,000’ to 2,500’, the temperature started to feel like an oven. Considering this is only May (spring), it’s safe to say that Tucson is going to be a HELL of a lot Hotter than Alice Springs.
Monday was a swim set I failed to do on Sunday from fatigue. I had the entire Quincie pool to myself. I lifted later in the day at the Marriott for 45minutes.
To summarize Tucson… I didn’t know a place like this existed. I’ve been living in the middle of the Australian Outback for more than 6 years.. I just had no idea a place like Tucson was real. With at least 16 pools in Tucson alone, world-famous hill climbs, Pro Athletes, and incredible run and bike shops, this place has it all. As we follow our passion of triathlon, training, and the outdoors from Australia to the USA, I know that Tucson will help us achieve a new level of triathlon success. And, if you’ve made it this far, please stay in touch as you have a free place to stay in Sahuarita!