With what seems like my first free afternoon in the past 3 weeks, now is as good a time as any for a quick update on training since arriving in Arizona. After spending a couple of days in north Phoenix with my friend Stu, I moved into a condo near Old Town Scottsdale, which has turned out to be a pretty good location. There's a running/cycling path minutes from the door and a fantastic local pool 2 miles down the road. The only drawback is that I have to make my way through some busy roads to get some quality riding done on the bike. I'm here until the end of February, at which point I'll move a couple of miles down the road, even closer to the pool. It goes without saying that I haven't been walking 2 miles to the pool – luckily for me, Stu hooked me up with his single speed to get around on!
The week I arrived was Superbowl week – which seems like such a long time ago now. It was the first time I've been in the US at this time of year, so it was cool to see the hype that surrounds the game in the build up. More than anything it was a great excuse to relax for the afternoon and enjoy lots of good food! We watched the game with some friends from Seattle, so we were of course all very pleased with the result (sorry to my Colorado based buddies)!
I'm well and truly in a routine, which is always when I get some of my best training done. The amount of training hours has been consistent and far exceeds anything I've previously done at this time of year. Although its been fairly balanced between the three sports, there's been a slight bias towards riding. The 1 hour swim race in California – whilst fun, in a strange twisted way – was the only good swim workout I had in weeks. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, last week I pulled off what was probably the best swim workout of my life – training can be strange sometimes! Numbers on the bike are coming along nicely. The last few weeks have had an emphasis on VO2 intervals, where my numbers are 5% higher than during the peak of last season. For this time of year, that's a good omen. Likewise with the run I'm hitting some decent splits, sneaking under 5:00/mile for some of the faster intervals. The weekly long run has been 2 hours, done mainly along the canal path which is a pretty nice place to run. The further along the path you go, the more rural it becomes. There was a scary moment this week where all that separated me from four angry rottweilers was 10 feet of water, so I'd hate to imagine what would have happened if I was running on the other side of the canal.
There are a few nice rides around here, one of which is the popular Bartlett Lake ride. I've done this a couple of times with my friend Paul who lives a little further north. It's mostly along quiet roads with little traffic, incorporating some good rolling hills. The view as you approach the lake is pretty nice, too.
A couple of weeks ago I headed down to Tucson with Randy Arriola (who's also coached by Brian), for a day of training. It's always good to get the chance to meet with your coach and discuss how things are going. You know when you've been riding in Tucson, because you get back feeling like you've been in a boxing match. There are very few places with worse quality roads – sorry Tucson residents, but it's true.
After a good day of training we hit In-N-Out Burger (for anyone unfamiliar with it, imagine the best fast food burger place on earth) on the way home. The order: 4x4, animal style. That's 4 patties and 4 slices of cheese in one bun. Magic.
The roads here in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas are pretty good, with bike lanes or a hard shoulder on the majority of roads. Not being familiar with the area, I've had to do a bit of exploring, which at times has left me going down some roads I wish I avoided – Shea Blvd being one of them. Before leaving for yesterday's ride I checked the map and thought I found a good shortcut. In my defence it was a good shortcut, but the map neglected to hint that the road wouldn't be paved. It turned out to be a very bumpy 4 mile stretch, but “he who dares...”!
Next weekend will be the opening race of the season at the Desert Classic Duathlon. Yes, a duathlon. Gulp. I've done exactly one duathlon before and it was back in 2007, before I'd even competed in a triathlon. I'm under no illusions that this will be a very painful and unpleasant experience. Having seen my schedule for next week, I'll be going into the race pretty fatigued, with the aim of getting a good training day out of it. Of course I'll be going all out and giving it everything, but the bigger picture is all about Ironman Australia on 4th May.