Summer in Austin, Texas…not the most pleasant place to be, especially if you are training for an Ironman. Having lived in Austin since 2006, my husband Derick and I have taken to leaving town every summer, preferably in the July/August time frame. The forecast every day is pretty much the same: 75 for the low, 98-100+ for the high, but very high humidity in the early mornings so you cannot seem to escape ‘extreme heat’ training even if you start early. While we have spent time in Salida, Colorado the past 5 years, we opted to change it up this year. The ultimate goals of these training stints include:
1) Getting out of the oppressive heat (which allows for better quality training and more ability to recover from sessions)
2) Focusing predominantly on the bike; quality riding (lots of climbing), little road interruptions (light traffic) and a change of terrain from the norm
3) Simple change of scenery; while it is not ‘necessary’ to do these training trips, they refresh me a bit from the change of pace (different roads to ride, trails to run)
4) Mini-Vacation…we often end our days in the river where I’ll soak my legs, playing with our pup, and exploring a new town
We drove north to Indiana on July 11 and stayed with my parents for a week prior to me racing Racine 70.3 in Wisconsin (just a 4 hr drive north). I then took a nice mid-season break (a week off) post-race relaxing at their cabin. July 26, we headed to North Carolina, where we tucked into Brevard; a cool little town near Asheville (but smaller, at about 7500 people), sitting at 2300 ft. of elevation, and right at the foot of the Pisgah National Forest. We had been here briefly in the past but never spent more than a day or two here. The goal for me (having opted to do Ironman Hawaii) was to kick back in some good training but with 2.5 weeks, essentially get in some quality rides, elevation gains we cannot find in Austin, and set the base for the training towards Kona; while also enjoying a change of scenery, change of roads, and slower pace than we know in Austin.
So what have the days looked like here? I often start off with a swim at the Brevard Health and Racquet Club. This is all of a 1.5 miles from our house, and they have 4 lap lanes in their outdoor pool from 6am until 8pm. So as long as I avoid any afternoon storms, I’m able to pop over there for an early morning workout, or even a mid-day/late in the day easy loosen up swim. I do feel as though my swim takes a bit of a hit on these trips since I swim solo the entire time, and I’m used to swimming with a group in Austin; I feel I can ‘maintain’ but lose a bit of top end speed. However, I think it is worth it for the gains I can make riding. One thing we all have to remember about triathlon; constantly working on our weakness. I’ll try to head out on the bike by early morning, as they often get clouds roll in late morning and storms can hit often by 1-2pm. You want to be down from ‘up high’ at least by then, which is about 5-6k ft of elevation. One of my staple rides has been 80 miles, which I take basically 3 roads the entire time (very straightforward and easy to navigate) but I get in 6100ft of climbing; and some incredible views. Brevard is also known for its mountain biking, so while I’m not great on a mountain bike, I enjoy riding with Derick and it is a great way to get stronger but with a completely different feel than being on roads. I joined him in DuPont National Forest a few times for a real change of pace, vastly on trails that were not too technical.
For the running, we discovered numerous long gravel roads. Especially when you dig into Ironman training, it’s always best to try to get off the pavement as much as possible to avoid added stress on the body. On one of his fly-fishing excursions, Derick found a gravel road that went uphill for about 5 miles, flattened off then descended; a total of about 7.5 miles ‘out’, right through Pisgah National Forest. I managed to get in a few hill interval workouts on this road, but also a few long runs; accumulating 3k feet of climbing on a run of 2.5 hours, which is incredible for strength work. And again…the best part is, I wrap this up with a soak in a cold river; nature’s ice bath!
While all good things must come to an end, we head back to Austin after about 2.5 weeks. While I’d love to stay longer, there is something to be said for ‘normalcy’, being at home, and having the perks of your regular routine. For me that is sleeping in my own bed but also access to the gym 5 minutes away (where I’ll swim on my own, but also do strength/core work 2-3 times a week as well as have access to treadmills), but most notably being in the heat a bit in Austin before Kona to help be fully acclimated and most importantly access to my regular people for massage, manual therapy and chiro work when needed. However, if contemplating a training camp for yourself, I say go for it. Decide what you’re looking to get out of it, talk to others, and research where may be best for you. You’ll find yourself happy with the change of scenery and refreshed when you return home. I’m personally a huge fan of Salida, Colorado and now Brevard, North Carolina!
-Kelly H Willamson