HPB Camp: How Much Can You Cram into 5 days, Weather-Permitting?

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Well, camp is over! Heading into last weekend, I had this grand old plan that I'd have free time to actually use the Normatecs I hauled nearly 1,000 miles across the country or write down more in the moment about the experience. However, thanks to mother nature and our training volume, it ended up being a whirlwind of a long weekend with no free time to spare. The short and sweet version of camp can be broken down into the following, you can read onwards or you can check out Holly's awesome article for Triathlete Mag that details her camp experience (which I'd say is 100% completely spot on):

Camp, by the Numbers

  • Miles driven with Dawn to get to Tucson: 973
  • Times we ate at Pico de Gallo: 3
  • Swim sessions: 4
  • Time spent thinking I was going to throw up in the UA pool: 18-minutes
  • Giant Burritos consumed after 100x100s in the pool: 2
  • Bike rides: 3
  • Hours spent shivering in the cookie cabin: 2
  • Cookies consumed at the Cookie Cabin: 0
  • Slices of Pizza instead: 1
  • Minutes spent in the Normatecs the entire trip: 20-minutes
  • No. of times Marc turned around on the Mt. Lemmon climb to make sure we weren't going to catch him: 834
  • No. of times I caught Marc on the Mt. Lemmon climb: 1
  • Temperature while biking Lemmon in shorts, no gloves: 28-degrees
  • Duration I couldn't feel my fingers: 2-hours
  • Runs: 4
  • Powerbar Products consumed across the camp duration: too many to keep track of!

Oh, and I guess these too:

  • Time in the Pool: 5:30
  • Yards Swam: 19,350
  • Time on the bike: 11:03
  • Miles Biked: 185
  • Time spent running: 4:12
  • Miles ran: 27
  • Total Workout Hours: 20 hours, 50 minutes

The funny thing is that it didn't seem that much and I actually walked away from camp feeling pretty good - I guess that tells me a little bit about the "normal" HPB volume we do around here but gives me a good feeling about my current fitness and readiness for the 2014 race season!

So sit back, buckle in and enjoy the long read!

Note: some of the following photos stolen from team mates! :)

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Thursday, Day One: 2-hours, 25-min

After the long car ride with Dawn the day before, I was supposed to do my little shake-out run. Getting dark and starved, we opted for Pico de Gallo visit #1 of the trip instead to down some delicious Tacos and Horchata. I thought I was spoiled living in Austin but, man, this was some GOOD Mexican food! Seriously could not get enough of the fluffy corn tortillas and the horchata was like triathlete crack this weekend. At one of the follow-up visits, Donna was literally begging the man to pour her some of the dregs since they were "out".

A group of us, including the three other ladies I was sharing a Casita (condo) with -- Leslie, Steph and Katie -- chowed down and then ended up passing out early. The next day, while the others were building their bikes, I squeezed in the postponed shake-out run I was supposed to do the day before, quickly learning that Tucson seems to be deceptively hilly, no matter where you go.

Workout #1: Ran 3.5 miles easy

Scared of the "leaping cactus", winding trails and threat of javelinas (an obsession in the ranks this weekend - an animal that looks and acts like a pig, but is more closely related to the anteater?) meant that I opted for out and back on the main road instead of exploring some of the more scenic trails around the resort where we were staying. It almost felt too effortless on the first half and I felt ready to crush camp, until heading back to the condo I realized the slight grade that made for a slightly tougher, sadder return trip than on the way out. I also got lost, adding an extra mile in before realizing I had no idea where I was and had to ask for directions. Again, probably a wise choice I chose the road and not the trail...

Workout #2: Swam 3,300yd

Even though we were here for camp, that meant no taking it easy for those coached by Hillary. Leslie, Jordan and I headed over to the University of Arizona Pool for some 800 fun. First off, enjoying the February sun and outdoor pool made me regret my choice to go to a University in the Northeast. And secondly, I quickly learned how fast Leslie and Jordan actually were - both super fish who swam in college. Very quickly my goals went from staying as close as possible behind them to "limit how often you're being lapped…" Talk about demoralizing! But this was a super easy set and one I'm pretty familiar with: 5x800s all done on 30-sec rest: #1 easy free, #2 slightly faster free, #3 buoy and a band (my favorite since I dislike paddles), #4 paddles, buoy, band (otherwise known as PBB) done as 25 fast, 75 easy, #5 PBB straight. We then threw in about 300 of choice to loosen up after the set.

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Workout #3: First official camp workout! Ran 6.5-miles

After some introduction fun, it was a loop around town and then up and past the big hotel at the resort for a social run. I almost never listen to coachie when it comes to "easy runs" but nailed the social aspect here and took the first few miles super easy, chatting with folks and meeting some of the other teammates in person for the first time ever. Things did get a little rougher on the incline around the hotel but otherwise made for a nice (almost) hour run and 6.5 miles in the books as the first official camp workout!

After quick showers, we all headed to a local Tucson restaurant with outdoor seating to celebrate day one done and fuel for the long bike ride waiting for us the next day.

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Friday, Day Two: 6-hours, 25-min

Workout #1: Biked Madera Loop (95-miles)

This was such a fun ride, minus the few brutal, infamous miles to get to the top of the Madera climb. With so many of us decked out in SMASH and a fun crew to ride with, one of my new favorite people, Maik or "Cat", led us on the first few miles to get to the base of Madera. He was probably soft pedaling but every time he rode next to you he would ask "how is this pace for you?" and make sure you were doing okay. He also took some awesome photos of our group : )

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After the initial rolling miles, we got to the Madera part of the ride - it was a slight ten-mile incline and then the last three miles pitch upwards and you're out of your saddle trying to huff up a (at-times) 14% grade. While Austin is known for being Hill Country, it was small potatoes compared to this! I'm used to tackling short and sweet and so right when we hit the base of the last three miles, the front of the A group got away from me and I made my way up the rest of the climb solo. Each time as I came around a corner, I found myself praying that the top was ahead but it never seemed to come. Finally, it did - and met up with the rest of the crew at the top and cheered up the last few of the group as they made the summit to the top.

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A fun and fast descent to the bottom - mirroring Maik to work on my descending skills - and then we met up with Robin, our sag, to refuel on powerbar and finally take a break to actually enjoy the pretty scenery we had been suffering through for the last hour or so. It was then a relatively fast and flat few hours back to the resort, where we took turns in a rotating paceline (my new fave - going faster at less watts? Yes please!) and then braving some crazy sidewinds to make it back. In true long-distance triathlete form, it wasn't until hour four or so when I finally felt good and got my second wind so the back-half was actually a blast for me. We finished and showered and had a short break before our afternoon swim.

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Workout #2: Swam the 3,000yd "forever set" with the crew

This is a HPB staple, that I probably log at least every other week - sometimes more frequently. However, it was news to me that a certain few folks on our team have already dubbed it the "forever" set because, well, it takes forever. It's not hard, and not a ton of yardage, but because you're doing band-only 25s on (usually) a 30-sec interval, it just takes so. dang. long. to finish. We were in a lane-rope-less pool when made for some "interesting" wave pool action as we went through the set: 16x25s band only to work on turn-over, 200 fast for time, 100 easy, three times through it all with some bonus kicking for cool-down. Near the end I could feel fatigue setting in and my arms slowly starting to fade. I made it through but in the back of my mind the entire workout was the 100x100s waiting for us the very next morning...

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Saturday, Day Three:  4-hours, 15-min

Workout #1 - 100x100s attempt #1, or 1,000yds

With tired legs from the ride the day before and arms a bit sore from back to back days of chasing Jordan and Leslie and fast 25s in the pool, I was a bit curious to see how this would turn out. I also got the joy of leading lane #2, which I was a bit worried about, mainly because there were fast feet in the lane, but also because I'm notoriously terrible at keeping track of what lap or set # I'm on. We got done with the first ten 100s easy and I had just pushed off on #11 when a crack of lightening blasted across the sky. I had just taken a breath when it happened and wasn't sure whether it was my imagination or not so continued until hearing the lifeguards' whistle and hopped out at the 50. We then spent the next few hours loitering at the UA rec center, including one splash through the pouring rain to grab coffee and lots of gossip and stories told to pass the time. After a good two hours, the coaches decided to pull the plug, we'd head on over for Pico de Gallo visit #2 and revisit the swim after our easy bike of the day. The Pico de Gallo, again, was fabulous.

Workout #2 - Gates Pass Bike Loop

I really enjoyed the social workouts of the trip and this was no exception. My legs actually felt awesome given the long ride and climbs the day before but I enjoyed the easy spin, with a few tougher climbs - notably, the one up and over Gates Pass that we did twice - to mix things up. I was not, however, a fan of the cars and occasional tight passes -- something I usually take for granted when riding solo in Austin. I also forgot to restart my watch so the entire 90-min (I think?) ride was a nice way to let loose and relax.

Workout #3: 100x100s, take two. NAILED IT!

Here's what went down, after we restarted - yes, restarted - the swim we had begun nearly 10-hours earlier. Lane 2's 100x100s Set, an approximation because I have a terrible memory:

  • 10x100: easy free
  • 10x100: 25 fast, 75 easy free
  • 5x100: easy free
  • 20x100: fast free: leaving on the 1:30 interval but aiming to hit 1:17 splits
  • 3x100 easy kick
  • 30x100 PBB: 6x[2@1:30, 2@1:25, 2@1:20]… I think. Alyssa took over starting here and she was in charge of the send-offs > thank heavens, over half of these I had to do as open turns
  • 10x100 free/back (I think?)
  • 10x100 easy

Despite the dragging feeling heading into this, it was an AMAZING set. It was brutally hard at times - but in the end, I felt awesome. The warm up sets were effortless, fun and had fun cheering with Alyssa each time we hit any silly milestone. The 20x100s, on the other hand, were just brutal. After the very first one (where, overeager, I went 1:13), I just looked at Alyssa and was like, um, this is going to be hard. Within the first four, I was struggling to catch my breath between each set. After the first overage one, the next nine were ahead of the 1:17 target Hillary had given us - on the dime at 1:15 each time, while the next ten dropped to 1:16 and 1:17s.

There is no way to describe how painful these are, other than I was gasping for breath each stroke during and then hanging onto the lane rope for dear life between each. Without a watch, there was no real reason to go faster than needed - especially with Hillary preoccupied with her own set in the fast lane - but knowing that Alyssa and the rest of the lane was right on my feet was HUGE motivation. Honestly, if only I could train with these fast ladies more often, workouts would be so much better, and faster too.

We finished - only to be about 40% done. Onwards. After some easies to recover, we had another tough set to tackle, the speedy PBBs. Thankfully Alyssa took over the lead and I let her do the work (and math) as we tried to hit the crazy intervals set for us. Like I mentioned, the intervals were so tough for me that I would get to the wall as Alyssa was pushing off on some of them and would pretty much do an open wall turn, tough, go, continue the suffering.

Once the 30 PBBs set was over, we were in the home stretch. Some easy 100s, some kicking and we finished! The highlight of the swim had to be the gorgeous double rainbow over the pool during the 20x100s and then braving the cold to cheer on Nancy and Jillian as they finished up their own tough set of 100x100s.

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Sunday, Day Four: 4-hours, 35-min

Workout #1: Mt. Lemmon: 3-hours climbing, 2-hours holed up in the Cookie Cabin, 1-hour descending.

Lemmon was probably the most miserable, but also most memorable ride I've been on. It's been on my bucket list for a while so actually getting to tackle the ride was a huge highlight of camp. Only adding to the excitement was a cold front that blew through on the bike, freezing our poorly-dressed selves and stranding us in the cookie cabin for a few hours.

It had poured the night before and so when we got to the base of the mountain, the first group had found the road blocked and had to turn back. We then spent the next few hours waiting for it to clear and enjoyed brunch at Le Buzz with all of the other stranded bikers and tourists. It was a beautiful day and so it was hard to imagine the misery that waited ahead...

We rolled out with Alyssa as our leader and enjoyed the first few easy miles to get to the base. Then it was on. Alyssa, Jordan and Mark stormed ahead right at the base and so I hung back, sitting on Leslie's wheel for dear life, with Dawn and Mary right behind. Up and up we went. It was really surreal to think that we were climbing a mountain, and most of it in my littlest, easiest granny gear. I remember wondering very early on how long I would actually be able to hang and thinking that it was a long road ahead of us. Again, at some of the earlier mile markers, some of us would excitedly shout out when we hit a mile marker signalling we were that much closer to the top. As we got further along the route, it got quieter and quieter as the ride got tougher.

Somewhere around mile ten, I looked back and realized the rest of the crew had dropped off at some point. I was still faithfully sitting on the godsend that was Leslie's rear wheel and expert pacing and it was only Dawn, Leslie and me hanging together. We kept going up and up, with the elevation signs showing us how much vertical progress we had made in addition to the mile markers. Around 16-miles in, it started to get cold. At some point near the end, Leslie dropped off and Dawn stopped to gear up so I was alone, cold, in the fog, praying that either warmer temps or the Cookie Cabin was around the corner. Near the peak around the 20.5 mark, I finally found Mark who had been about a half mile in front of our little group the entire ride (looking back to make sure he kept that gap, too - hah!).

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I was so miserable, so cold and so tired of climbing that I had to keep repeating myself that this was just training for Norseman, that if I couldn't man up and finish Mt. Lemmon strong, than Norseman would eat me alive. Somehow that was the motivator and so I pushed through the last few miserable miles, not sure how hard I was squeezing my brakes on some of the icy descents due to my frozen fingers, and and so followed Mark to the Cookie Cabin safe haven.

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We got in and immediately RAN to the fire. I actually ended up burning my hands because I couldn't feel them and put them too close to the fireplace grate. We huddled around the warmth, sharing war stories about the climb, the cookie lady brought us trash bags for insulation and this nicer old man brought us some blankets that he always kept in his car because he "used to be a boy scout." We ordered cider and pizza and wondered what was going to happen as the carnage of cold riders in our group continued to come in. At some point, maybe due to our boisterousness and the minor detail that I accidentally locked the cookie lady out in the snow, we soon overstayed our welcome by a whopping two-hours. Some of the other riders in other groups had turned back and we were patiently waiting for SAG to come with our cold weather gear so we could make it back down to warmth again.

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I was not a happy camper about the long descent in the wet and cold but thankfully we got our clothes from SAG and the weather blew through a bit and so we braved the return trip. It wasn't as bad as I thought, but let me tell you, I've never been happier to see a cactus and we descended into the warmer Tucson desert.

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Workout #2: Brick Run immediately after our Lemmon descent

As if the return trip wasn't traumatizing enough, several of the girls had the instructions that immediately after getting back to the cars, we had to do "two miles out easy, two miles out pushing the pace." This ended up being even harder than the first hard instructions given as our four-gal pack ran mile one in 7:30, before Hillary rolled up behind us on her tri bike. With each step, we could hear her flywheel as she stopped pedalling: click-click-click-click-click. After the first mile, she told us to start dropping the pace. 7:08. I was breathing heavier than I would like to admit here. At the 2-mile turn-around, we were given the instructions to "book it."

Leslie pulled out ahead and I chased about 300m behind for the next two miles, clearly suffering because Les said she could hear me breathing the entire time. Mile 3: 6:22. Feeling barfy. Legs feeling like they're going to give out. Mile 4: 6:28. Just put me out of my misery. We finished, shelled, but knew that the hardest of the camp was over and the rest of smooth sailing. I went home and proceeded to eat a large steak burrito. And then the second veggie burrito I had also purchased, intending for it to be the next morning's breakfast.

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Monday, Day Five: 14-miles of trails through Gates Pass

This was just heaven. Fourteen miles, or 2.5 hours, of cruising through the wilderness, with a few tougher efforts snuck in there and a few close calls with ankles. The scenery was gorgeous, though only taken in on a few brief stops since the rest of the time was spent staring down at the rocks below me and the feet ahead of me. Near the end, as the rocks disappeared and the inclines flattened, the run was almost meditative. No cars, just following some girls through the Tucson wild.

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We also had a little loosen up and technique session with Hillary after the run before everyone had to book it out of town. I got some great feedback on my stroke and also on my apparently obnoxiously large paddles and we spent some time tethered to straps for some turn-over work, which I was pretty terrible at and also apparently a poor judge of time spent underwater.

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In the end, it was an amazing camp experience and wish I could train like this every week. Oddly enough, I expected to come home in a comatose state, legs and body shelled from a tough week of workouts. Instead, the opposite seemed to occur. I felt better with each tough workout and by the 100x100s and the trail run, I felt like I was almost peaking. What an amazing week, with amazing people and cannot wait to get the chance to do something amazing like this in the near future. It also got me amped up for racing, which can't come soon enough!