Monday, March 16, 2009

Tuscon Campers & Coaches!

I don't really know where to begin. Except to say that Tuscon Camp was awesome. Really really fantastic. The setting, the coaches, my fellow campers, the training... Simply Fantastic doesn't begin to describe it. Somewhere between the jokes, laughter, good times, cold and hot pools, and food we managed to squeeze in some great training.

But we all had so much fun in the process.

Where to begin?

With the campers, of course. So without further ado, I present to you vignettes about my fellow Tuscon campers!

The Campers:

Kellye: Roomie extraordinaire. If you don't already know it, Kellye Mills is a powerhouse. Determined to do as much as she can, Kellye amazed me with her ability to roll up her sleeves and get the work done. Even if it required running laps around the resort parking lot and cacti to finish a 2:00 run while the rest of us sat in the shade. She did it! Additionally, I was amazed at 1) how much diet coke this girl drinks and 2) that she ordered JUST bread and chicken from Subway (NO veggies or anything on the sub. Just the chicken). Kellye's Southern accent kept the group entertained, and her smile was contagious. I couldn't have asked for a better room mate!

Julia: My Minnesota Soul Sister! Every time I listened to Julia speak, it reminded my of home! It was fantastic having her next to me during one of our long bike rides - her cycling strength and ability to push to bridge the gap was great! But the best part (and the one that made me laugh the most)? Julia and her roomie (Tri Girl Kate-O) showing up for swim practice sporting the Hotel Robes and pink compression socks. I was quite impressed! Julia earns extra points in my book because she's staying in Arizona for MORE training for another week. There was even discussion of her riding to Mt Lemmon again....Like I said before: she's a hardcore biker! I wouldn't put it past her...

Tri Girl Kate-O: My cupcake queen! I felt so honored to have my FIRST cupcake booty call. Friday night after dinner, Kate inquired would I be interested in a cupcake? Is the sky blue? Seriously! It was delicious. I had the chance to sit next to Kate at dinner just about every night, and although she joked that I was just a tad older than her oldest son, this girl is NOTHING like your typical Mom. The pink and gray bike are just a facade for the determination and grit underneath. I knew this girl was after my own heart when she was drinking a Corona with lime after the first day. Then she ordered one for me... Kate - I still owe you that drink! Next time its on ME!

Jon: Newer to the sport of triathlon, Jon really impressed me with his ability to push through the tough spots. And why wouldn't he? After all, he was in the Marine Corps for a while, stationed at my favorite desert oasis of 29-er Palms (I really DO love the high desert!). Every time I saw him out there - running or cycling - he was giving it his all. In the pool, Spencer joked that Jon needed to be a bit more aggressive, especially while practicing his 25 yard sprint starts. Jon replied that he didn't want to hurt his pregnant wife, sharing the lane with him. What a gentleman! He was so sweet that on the last night, he (and wife Allie) gave each camper a box of fudge (shipped especially to the resort from New York). YUM! I think we ALL know who's getting the first invite back next year.

Allie: Jon's other half, who didn't let pregnancy stand in her way! Not only did she serve as Camp Sherpa - driving our gear, bottles, nutrition, and warm clothing to the very top of Mt. Lemmon - but she swam and ran as well! And yes, I think she did clobber Jon while practicing sprint starts in the pool... :) This girl was even willing to ford a small stream in her SUV somewhere near the top of Mt Lemmon for me. I was a little lost, not knowing exactly which way to go. Allie patiently drove down a steep hill, across a stream, and asked a local if we were in fact at the top. Long story short, we were. But I would have been much colder and 'loster' without her there. Oh - and Jon and Allie's little-one-on-the-way? Bound to be kind, determined, talented, and steady - just like his/her parents.

Jenny (camper Jenny, not coach): Outgoing and hilarious, Jenny was a powerhouse on the run and shared funny details about her bike saddle that I will never forget. Poor Jerome, the token male running with a bunch of girls: I think he heard more about "lady bits", "soft tissue" and "sensitive spots" than he was planning on. Jenny's tenacity is matched only by her willingness to go out and explore the word. She's just moved to Colorado and is about to embark on a new adventure. And believe me, this girl will be successful! Anyone who can run a sub-40 minute 10k off the bike has got what it takes. I watched her bound up a hill and marveled at her ability to make it look easy!

Renne: A world AG champion, this incredible woman gave me so much more than just a great training partner and awesome training runs. Confidence is sometimes hard to come by, especially when you haven't raced much in the past year or so. Renne continually assured me that I would do GREAT at IM CDA, and having done the course before, she said the rollers were perfect for me. I was especially impressed with Renne after she came back from a (near) bonk on the bike. A wrong turn and extra 10 miles didn't deter this gal, as she fought through to the very end. Through the long workouts, she hung in there with each and every one. Then again - earning the Rainbow stripes of world champ takes a lot of determination! I'm excited about her upcoming season, as I know she'll do great!

Mary: The uber swimmer of the group! But Mary is SO much more than a swim stud, and she proved it over and over again during camp. After dropping her water bottle over one nasty stretch on the bike, she retrieved it at the bottom of a big hill, and then picked off everyone in her group, putting her head down and time trialing to the front. Later in the ride, I looked next to me and there she was - right on my shoulder, matching me pedal stroke for pedal stroke. This girl is tough - and has just the nettle to prove it. I was honored to share her swim lane, and bolstered by her quite confidence in my swim ability. Steady and consistent, she has the ability to push through all the way to the very end - and proved it one tough workout after another. Come race day, she'll be ready and fighting. And I can't wait to cheer for her as she sprints through to the finish!

Kari: She calls herself "Running Yankee", but this girl is fierce on the bike and better than she thinks in the water. I saw her running with Spencer Smith on a few different occasions, and I knew she was fast! I had the opportunity to run with her on the final day of camp: up the telephone pole trail in Sabino Canyon with Spencer. The three of us ran up a never-ending rocky hill, dodging roots, boulders, and plantlife in the process. When Spencer dropped back to pick up the second group, Kari and I pressed on. When I asked her which was worse, "Mountain Lions or Spencer Smith?" she immediately replied, "Spencer. Because at least with the Mountain Lion, we've got a 50-50 chance of getting picked off. One of us WILL survive! If Spencer catches us, we're both toast." I nearly tripped and fell over a ledge laughing. She was right, though. Thanks for the good times and great runs Kari!!!

Ben: A gentleman through and through, Ben didn't want to pass me riding up Mt. Lemmon because he didn't want to be "that guy" (who drafted off a girl and then dropped her when it got tough). Without hesitation I told him that he WASN'T, and that he needed to get his butt in gear and GO if he felt good. After mile 7, I didn't see him until the refueling spot at mile 14. He did GREAT! The funniest moment at camp, though - was the image of Ben running with Spencer. During the final 30 minutes of our long run, I was desperately trying to bridge the gap to the two of them up the road. It was hot, the middle of the day, and we had been running uphill for forever. Seriously - there was a LOT of uphill running.

Somehow, Ben gave Spencer his water bottle and Ben - who had been running fast all day - was clearly DONE. I swear - Spencer (who's heart rate was probably well below 100 at this point) was running sideways, holding out Ben's water bottle, and just chatting away. Ben - in a feeble attempt to drink - was running with all his might towards the water, arms outstretched. At the time is looked hilarious - because we've all been there. Spencer kept telling Ben to 'run for the yellow sign'. And Ben - to his credit - finished the run and got his water in the end. Ben is signed up for his first Ironman at Wisconsin, and after running a 3:19 marathon and training the way he did this pas week, I know he'll do great!

And now - the Coaches!

Spencer Smith
: A world and Ironman champion. Wow. This guy had done it all in the sport and was more than willing to share any and every bit of information that he could. And he's got a 'quirky' sense of humor to boot. Something about being British, I guess. I thought he was hilarious, even when he did the same thing to me as he did to Ben (offering to hold my water bottle during the final transition run of camp). In an effort to keep the pace from getting too fast, I peppered him with as many questions as I could think of and learned a lot in the process. (And yes, he did tell me to run towards the yellow sign).

But the highlight of camp with Spencer was biking. During Saturday's ride, there was one point when he told me to ride with him - and through some sort of miracle I managed to not only hang onto his draft, but exchange the lead and take turns pulling. All I could think of was, "ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, I'm biking with Spencer Smith...Spencer Smith is drafting off of me, ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod... hang in there until that cactus...the next cattle grate... ohmygod we're going FAST...and he's telling me that I'm doing a good job and to keep it steady!...I'm biking with Spencer Smith!"

Granted, he could have dropped my rear in a heartbeat, but the experience was absolutely fantastic. I learned so much from him - while riding, and especially during the running - and the confidence he instilled and advice he gave was worth its weight in gold. I can safely say that I'll be a better triathlete this season because of what I learned from Spencer. And the British phrases (cheeky, dodgy, and such) only add to his charm.

: Jen's hubby and athlete extraordinaire! After nearly taking his head off with an ill-timed snot rocked going up Mt. Lemmon, I made sure to look behind me before I let one loose for the remainder of camp. Jerome was so patient and supportive of everyone - especially during one tough moment for me. Just before hitting the turnaround point on Saturday's bike ride, our little group was churning up a short (but semi-steep) hill. Suddenly, his back wheel pulled away and I felt myself slipping. "I've cracked!" I yelled (hearing Phil Ligget's and Paul Sherwin's voices in my head...never a good sign while riding), and Jerome slowed down and calmly replied, "Get back on my wheel."

And I did.

Serving as much more than the bike mechanic, Jerome rode with all the groups and kept everyone safe and as comfortable as possible during the long run. I felt better just having him near during the training - like an older brother who doesn't throw spit balls or shove you over. He was always there, willing to lend a hand and help anyone who needed it! AND he and Jen make a the cutest pair ever. :)

Jen Harrison: Undoubtedly the BEST coach that I've ever had. The compassion, caring, and the attention that she gave to her athletes and campers was wonderful. Jen feels like my triathlon "mom" (but would probably kill me if I said that), so more like a big sister. Her attention to detail - fuel, sag support, pink recovery socks, resort, workouts, and everything in between - was at the highest standard. At one point, while watching Renne, Jenny, and Jerome bound up a steep hill and away from my sorry rear, Jen waited for me and calmly stated, "Okay Marit, let's bridge the gap!" And we did.

I was ready to give up, let the Mountain Lions get me, let the group run ahead. But Jen wouldn't let me quit. Her ability to see our strengths, and the athletic potential in all of us is unlike any other. Plus, can you really go wrong with pink socks? Absolutely not.

Tuscon camp was wonderful! I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone interested in great training with wonderful people and top-quality coaches.

As for me? Well, I made it home safe and sound late Sunday night. No - I didn't eat a piece of pie on the top of Lemmon, but more than made up for it with cupcakes and fudge. I don't really know if I have a favorite part... the entire experience really was wonderful. Challenging both mentally and physically - but exactly what I needed going into Oceanside 70.3.

Thanks to Jen, Jerome, Spencer and my fellow campers! You guys were ALL great and I had SUCH A FUN TIME with everyone! Here's to NOT getting eaten by mountain lions, giving Spencer our water bottles while running up hill, pink recovery socks, good bike saddles, a million pictures being taken by one random person, cold pools, core work and laughing while balls are bouncing every which way, a million stars visible at night, bagels and bananas in the morning, Miss Daisy getting hungry, plush robes, seeing a really REALLY long (and poisonous) snake, climbing a really big hill and seeing SNOW at the top, Powerbar recovery bars, diet coke (Kellye that's for YOU), 8000 elevation sign X 4, and much much more...

I could write a book about it, you know... But I won't.


Jennifer Harrison said...

OK I HAVE TO LAUGH...we did the same friggin post!!!!! HAHAHA.....I talked about everyone too! Too funny! great times, Marit. You are so ready for a great 2009. We all know you sure as hell deserve it.

D said...

Hate to break it to ya... you already wrote a book! :P
It's funny, I was just thinking "Marit's blog is tooo quiet" when Google Reader informed me that you had just post.

Glad you had such an awesome time!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had such a great time!!! You are going to do AWESOME this year I don't worry - your race number will be my lucky number each race :-) HEE HEE! I REALLY appreciate ALL your support leading into my first IM, it means the world to me!

ADC said...

Nice one Marit. I feel like I know everyone - thanks. Oh and do you people not use cheeky and dodgy. Dodgy is one of my favourite words. You need to come to the UK for a visit - you and Nate would love it.

Kim said...

What an awesome post! I feel like I know these people! So glad you had a great timea and got in some great training (and fudge, and corona!). You are such a happy girl and it is great to hear it in your post! I love that Marit..she is a trip. I can't wait to see what funny things they have to say about you! he he!

Wes said...

Huh... I didn't know Kellye had an accent. I'll have to listen more closely the next time I see her ;-)

Damie said...

Marit- can you believe how far you have come from last year!!! Thank goodness that is getting further and further away. What a great camp for you. Jen Harrison knows how to do things the right way. As soon as I graduate, I will be right there with you girls- well, trying to chase you girls....

GoBigGreen said...

just home and catching up with posts/blogs/laundry!
You are infectious Marit and a strong summer ahead.
Hmm?? St Georges really? hmm....
Come home this summer we will swim at Highland.