... or how I got my ass handed to me for five straight days. Hooray!
I knew I would be undercooked going into camp. Woefully undercooked.
And I was not wrong! I spent a lot of time crying, despite telling myself that someone always has to be the one to come in last and hey, there can be respect in being the lanterne rouge (or ... whatever), and I figured as long as I didn't quit, a win's a win, right?
Day One: Thursday, August 3
I rolled into town the night before, not wanting to wake up stupid early and go straight from the car to the pool. Uh, gross. Stayed at some random hotel by the airport because it was cheap before heading to my casita (a.k.a. the AirBnB on the Starr Pass grounds) that was going to be home base for the next few days. Got all settled in with my stuff and my groceries (eggs and orange juice for breakfast), met roomie Colleen, and we headed down to the swim at the University of Arizona Rec Center.
Except we get there ... and it's pouring. Thunder and lightning and the pools are all closed. Plan B ended up being a hotel pool back up at Starr Pass that was actually 25 yards and had lane lines on the bottom of the pool (but not the actual plastic ones that go on top). All told, with weather and travel and whatnot, we started our swim probably about an hour late.
Thoughts I had during the swim:
- huh. so this is what circle swim is like. and I am ... not good with this.
- bands seem like they might make OWS a lot better. must use more.
- holy crap I'm in the slow lane and getting lapped. so much.
- aw, I see a rainbow! at least that's happy ...
- I am REALLY fucking BOP here.
This swim was probably meant to be about 4k ... yeeeeah, I managed 2900. Oops. I also got quite a bit of stroke instruction from Alyssa which let's face it, I need.
After the swim, it was off to TriSports for dinner and a nice talk from Seton. Thanks, Seton!
Day Two: Friday, August 4
Did not sleep well. Uncomfortable bed, nerves? Who knows. This will end up being a thing for most of camp (but mostly due to sunburn. I'm getting there.).
Friday morning was riding Gates Pass and doing the McCain Loop Time Trial. We did a practice hill before doing actual Gates and then went up and over. Oh hey, that wasn't too bad! Confidence boost!
The TT loop. So, when I think of a "time trial" loop, I think fast. Something not with ridiculous hills. This loop? A couple substantial fucking hills. I guess that's just Tucson? The roads were also full of debris thanks to that pesky rainstorm we had the night before and a camper went down with some road rash. She was a beast though and did all of the riding and running the next couple of days (wasn't allowed to swim).
Also, apparently the west side of Gates? Is the shitty side. I had to stop to breathe a few times going up (and not falling over when getting back on. Hooray! Hillary was kind of impressed at this.) and, at one of these stops, I had my first technical pee-on-the-bike moment. I had kind of needed to go back during the McCain loops, but knew I could hold it. Apparently, standing off my bike catching my breath, my bladder decided "nope. I'm done," and let it go, so I peed standing there on the side of the road. Gross.
I got back to the casita in a huge hole (hallway scale said I was down six pounds from the night before). I showered to feel human again, grabbed my swim stuff, and did the best thing I could do to be able to shove a crapload of calories down my throat - I went to In-N-Out. I knew there was a chance I might regret it later during the swim, but since I needed calories so damn badly, I just didn't care. Thankfully, no burger came up during the swim.
The swim was in theory the 100x100 set ... but since I'm slow, I got to do 50x100. Being in the water for four hours (with no chance to reapply sunscreen) turned me into a super painful lobster. Seriously. OW. My ass is sunburned. Literally. So is my back. A week later, I'm starting to peel, but still have some major red spots. Besides that, though, the swim wasn't actually too terrible. Since I was doing 50s while everyone else was doing 100s, I got adequate rest and I didn't have to do a lot of super speed work (unlike yesterday ...), so it felt manageable, surprisingly. I mean, fatigue definitely set in, but other than that ... it wasn't a workout to really make me cry. Hooray!
(The best part, seriously, was walking back into the Rec Center and hearing Shinedown's "Enemies" come on five seconds later. Felt good to hear my favorite band after doing that swim.)
After the swim, I went over to Sushi Garden for all-you-can-eat sushi. Once again, calories. However, it was tough eating - so much chewing ...
Then on to SMASH HQ for some shopping and social time (new kit! new capris! new sports bras!) and a stop by CVS on the way back to the casita. A few of the other ladies went up to the hotel for s'mores and dessert and I really considered joining, but I made the terrible mistake of flopping on the bed and I just was not getting back up again.
Day Three: Saturday, August 5
Today was a lazy start (comparatively). We got to meet up at 8 as opposed to 6 or 6:30 ... because we were heading higher in elevation and therefore didn't need to try to beat most of the oppressive Tucson heat. We headed southeast of the city to Parker Canyon Lake, south of Sonoita. When we parked for the run, my phone legitimately thought we were in Mexico (we weren't).
The "trail" (dirt road) run was two hours - hour out, hour back. Since my run is trash and I have Pikes Peak coming up, I basically hiked all the uphills and ran as many downhills as I could. The recent rains meant there were water crossings (SO WEIRD). All in all, I got in just over 8 miles. Probably not ideal, but it's what I could manage.
I am very thankful I had the foresight to pack an Orange Crush in my cooler for post-run, because it was AMAZEBALLS.
We had a picnic lunch at the lake post-run ... which I kind of couldn't eat. I really need to learn how to eat in heat, because it is NOT a thing I can really do. When my body gets hot, it does not want to consume food.
While we were digesting, Hillary and Alyssa shared some OWS tips and tricks ... which I will mostly pass off to Brandon because I am too slow to really utilize many of them. Then, it was into the water to swim for about 30 minutes. I got left in the dust - go figure - and at one point, even asked Alyssa why the hell I am so much slower in open water. I mean, I'm mostly comfortable in it. She couldn't give me a definitive answer, but did say my body positioning did actually look better, so there's that. Maybe I just need a new wetsuit and that will help since I loathe mine. Who knows.
After the swim, Hillary approached me and asked my thoughts on Lemmon. I told her that it would probably be difficult, but I really wanted to try and make it all the way up. She said that if I ended up skipping the planned run at the top in order to get the satisfaction of completing the climb, she'd be okay with it. Even hearing this, I decided I would pack my run shoes for the next day regardless (spoiler alert: this was smart).
We then drove back to Tucson, stopping back in Sonoita for some ice cream and snacks. My brain didn't want to figure out dinner, but I figured more calories would be good, so I just popped over for more In-N-Out. Mostly because I could not decide on what to do and I headed over in that direction so I could pick up my Chick-fil-a for the bike and boom. Decision made.
Day Four: Sunday, August 6
We campers got split up into three groups for climbing Mt. Lemmon - four of us at 6am, two at 6:30, and the rest at 7. Obviously I was in the early group.
The four of us rolled out with Hillary (Alyssa would go with the later groups) and as we hit the climb (four miles down the road), I got dropped pretty quickly. I just kept plugging along, knowing there wasn't much else I could do, stopping occasionally to catch my breath (and to eat my pickle juice-soaked chicken). I pulled off about 9ish (?) miles in at Molino Basin to pee. I almost passed it by, but not knowing when my next bathroom opportunity was ... I took it.
I also somehow kept missing the SAG truck. We think there was some miscommunication with him and his stopping spots with us all being so spread out.
It was definitely slow-going, and the asshole groups of eight or nine motorcycles that would fly by going 60 mph were terrifying (and anxiety-producing), but I kept plodding. I think the first person from one of the later groups passed me around mile 12 or 13, which made me pretty happy. Mostly because I was just waiting for it to happen at any moment.
I started panicking at one point because I knew I was getting super low on hydration and I had no idea if I was going to even find SAG. I ran out somewhere around 14 miles and was freaking out because I didn't know if I should even try to make it 11 more miles without any liquid or what. Alyssa and a couple other ladies caught up to me around mile 15, with me on the side of the road crying. She gave me some of her liquid (which tasted strange but hey I needed something), told me that SAG was up around mile 17, and that we'd go together. I didn't really lose her the rest of the ride ... which also means, that except for the pit stop to refuel, I also didn't stop again until the finish. She talked me through a lot of different climbing techniques to try to keep my heart rate down and it mostly worked.
In any case, four hours of ride time (not including stops) later, I rolled into Summerhaven and to the famous cookie cabin. Since I rolled in with Alyssa ... it also meant that I was running. At 8000 feet. It was pretty damn slow and painful - and probably a lot slower and shorter than she would have liked it to be - but I still managed a run.
I got a Dr. Pepper first ... but decided that if I was at the damn Cookie Cabin, I should probably get a cookie. So I did - chocolate chip with a scoop of vanilla on top. The ice cream? Was amazing. The cookie? I maybe ate half of it. I just could not stomach it. Oh well.
The best part of the day was the descent. Well, Lemmon is basically 20ish miles up, a small downhill, another up, and then a cruise into Summerhaven. So leaving was a climb, a small descent, another stupid climb, and then 20ish miles down before a very toasty couple of miles back to our cars.
Lauren said it was like descending into hell. The heat by the end made me think that statement pretty accurate.
In any case, I actually was able to pass a few people on the descent and made it down the mountain in just over an hour without stopping. I wasn't last in something - hooray! And I wasn't last by quite a bit, even. I had time to pop into Safeway for a snack before everyone got back.
Dinner that night was at Hillary and Maik's and we got to Skype with Cherie Gruenfeld, which was super cool.
Day Five: Monday, August 7
Also known as the day I was least looking forward to - track day.
I've mentioned it a few times in this post and if you've been following me for any length of time now ... you know my running is complete garbage right now. I don't enjoy running from our house (neither of us do) and I have no speed anymore and no endurance and no anything and it's so not fun and blah. So, the thought of a track session? Especially one that we learned the night before was going to be two hours? Well, that was enough to give me anxiety all morning.
The perk is I think I was finally tired enough to sleep without waking up the night previous.
We rode our bikes down to the track, as we were doing a recovery spin (which, in camp land, was still going to be over an hour) after. From the second we got to the track pretty much through the time I finished running, I was super ridiculously anxious. On the verge of tears (if not outright crying), barely able to control my breathing, slightly hyperventilating, whole thing.
So the track workout was about a mile and half warmup (I did a mile and a quarter. The slow thing ...), and then it varied depending on who had what going on. Linda and Bri, who have IMCDA in a few weeks, got to do 21 800s, which, with rest intervals, ended up being about a half-marathon on the track. The rest of us? Oh, we just had 4 all out 200s with 200 recovery and then a mile at our goal half-marathon pace. And then repeat it twice more.
I remember a couple years ago, this must have been back at the apartment, when Brandon and I would walk up to the track and do 200s. I remember them not being too terribly torturous. These? Were torture.
The mile was almost worse. Even though my dream goal half-marathon pace is sub-2, I know that's in no way practical for me any time soon, so I said sub-2:10. Which I still technically haven't done yet (my Garmin said yes but not the results). Which meant that my 200 splits should be around 1:14.
Yeeeah, mine were more like 1:20. But they were consistent, at least for the first two of the miles.
Because I finished so far behind everyone and I was dying post every mile, I got to skip the first of the second two sets of 200s (so instead of doing four reps, I got to do three) for the extra recovery. I definitely pulled every last ounce of anything I had out of my poor legs, though. I fell into the grass after the second mile and again after the last 200. Alyssa said she wanted dying animal noises, and this sports asthmatic can 100% do dying animal noises! I was having trouble running in a straight line at this point which is probably why I fell over after that 200. Oops. My final mile was a complete shitshow. At that point, I just did my best to keep running even though I couldn't hold any pace at that point. The mile cool down also ended up turning into a walk/run because my hips were having none of it anymore. Two of the other ladies ended up running a bit with me - Brooke with my final 400 for my last hard mile and Jan for 400 of the cool down - reassuring me that I was doing okay and that yes, this is really hard, but remember, most of them are coached by these ladies (or general Team HPB), so they were a bit more prepared by default.
Post-track was the first time I broke down officially in front of everyone. I cannot express how many times I wanted to quit during that track session. How much pain I was in, not only thanks to my stupid sunburn which I felt, but due to my legs not moving that fast in ages. How my lungs felt like they were burning for an hour straight. How I cried through 75% of that track workout.
I didn't. I stuck through and I did it. It was ugly as sin, but I did it.
From there, it was a recovery ride along the Tucson Loop trail, where I kind of broke off from everyone for a while on the way back because to really spin my legs out, I needed to be in aero going a bit faster than the group. We spent a lot of time out of aero and sitting up at camp and my wrists (particularly the right. Thanks, barista arm.) were stupid cranky by this point. We stopped back at Hillary's car to say our goodbyes and to get our track stuff ... and I about started crying again thinking about climbing the hill back up to the casita. Any mental toughness reserves I had were completely gone at that point. Thankfully, Jan missed the "spin to track" memo and drove, so she offered to take me and my bike back, which was the most amazing thing, and I am so grateful to her for that small little gesture.
Camp was ridiculously tough. CRAZY tough. I was so unprepared it wasn't even funny. And yet ... somehow, I made it through. Quitting didn't ever seem to be an option (even though thoughts of it ran through my brain quite a few times), so I could only acknowledge the voices in my head and just ... put my head down and do the work.
I'm still not entirely sure how I survived, but I did, and I'm so thankful to my body that it was somehow able to hold together for this insane feat.