The 2018 race season was fast approaching, and the time had come to escape the last bits of winter and go south in search of an early season edge and a mental reset from a long winter on the trainer. We were flying Toronto-Chicago-Tucson, apparently a common pattern, but one that put us on a bit of a rough start with a long delay in Chicago. After being delayed in Chicago for a day my friend Dalton and I finally made it to Tucson a day late, and very tired. However, I was quick to start the next day. Hoping to make the most of the short time I had there. I was on the bike before 9am, and out exploring the desert. There are many things that make Tucson such a good place to train, it is incredibly dry, and the climate is fairly warm all year round, these being the main draw. It is also surrounded by mountains, allowing you to punish yourself on long climbs and then take your rest days pedalling the 130km bike path around the city.
The first couple of days were fairly easy, adjusting to the first days being outside on a bike since October. After talking with my coach, we chose to do “two-a-days” in order to maximize my training time, without burning myself out early on with super long days. This tactic worked really well. I was able to recover quickly and get in a lot of good riding in the sunshine! Getting towards the middle of the mini-camp was the longest workout of the year for me so far, a 4.5 hour ride up Mt. Lemmon. The local attraction for cyclists. Mt. Lemmon is about 40km in length and climbs from around 3000’ above sea level to a little over 9000’. Going through several ecosystems as you climb, changing from desert at the base to a redwood and pine forest at the top (this was very cool!). In order to get to the climb, it was just over a 20km ride from where we were staying, a nice warm up before the long slog up the mountain! The climb isn’t overly steep, but it is long! Taking me almost exactly 2 hours to make the summit. Upon reaching the top I was in need of a refuel, and I stumbled upon the Cookie Cabin. Where the cookies are the size of your face and the drip coffee is a measly $4USD (This is outrageous but that’s what you get a 9000’ I guess). After stuffing my face with cookie, I made my descent home, with heavy legs and 120km in the bank.
Post climb I felt good, tired of course, but good. Thankfully this was an easy day. Dalton rented a bike today and we had a nice chill coffee ride (Tucson is home to many cool coffee shops—today we were checking out “Cartel Coffee Lab”). After lunch we went for a very cool hike in a local National Park, hiking through the desert and among towering cacti! This was a pretty cool experience, everything was so dry, I don’t think I saw running water once on this trip, which is very strange coming from Ontario!
The last day of the camp I was meant to do a hard effort up Mt. Lemmon, really smash it! I was pretty excited for this as strange as that sounds, it was going to be a great way to test the fitness before coming home. The weather wasn’t great that day, but the sun was mostly shining so I chose to head out. Upon reaching the base of the climb I was stopped by local police, informing me that the road was closed due to snow at the higher elevations. After several jokes about me being Canadian and that I would be fine, they still turned me away! I was a little bummed, but I just went and explored some more remote areas surrounding Tucson. I ended up finding a great gravel pass, going up one of the smaller mountains. This made for some really interesting riding and some really fun efforts! It was a great way to end the trip on a high note.
I am home now, back on the trainer and in the gym. The first race is in less than a month and it looks like we will be outside soon. Spring is happening!