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Should You Tri a Tri Camp?

Cycling Gates Pass

At camp with Hillary, after crushing a difficult climb I swore I couldn’t do. I heard “I told you so!” a lot that week.

This year, I’ve made it a point to get out of my comfort zone — trying new gear, doing races I once deemed “too hard,” and taking on every opportunity I’m offered, even if it requires skills not in my wheelhouse.

This includes something I’ve avoided since I began triathlon training: Tri Camp.

For as long as I’ve known my friend Hillary, she’s continuously invited me to join her in Tucson for a week-long training camp. My partner, Neil, has always been happy to go, and he’s loved it more with every passing year. I, on the other hand, always had an excuse as to why I couldn’t — I had other commitments or it didn’t fit into my race schedule. Truthfully, I was too scared to admit I was … well, too scared.

In my head, I envisioned triathlon camp as a place for elite athletes, where fast people would push themselves to become even faster. As a bumbling, awkward, middle-of-the-pack triathlete, I didn’t fit that bill. But when I expressed this concern to Hillary, she laughed and assured me that wasn’t at all what camp was like.

I trusted her, and signed up for this year’s training camp. I’m so glad I did.

During the week I spent in Tucson, I was thrust into an environment where I unquestioningly did what I was told. Instead of sleeping in and lazily doing my bike workout later (as I am wont to do), I woke up early and joined the other campers for a long, hard bike ride. Instead of putting myself in the “slow” lane at the swim workout, I was assigned to a lane with faster swimmers — much to my surprise, I kept up with them! And on the second-to-last day of camp, I did something I swore I would never do: rode my bike to the top of Mount Lemmon, a 3-hour, 26-mile ride with more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

It. Was. Awesome.

As a result of being at the camp, I’ve learned that my only limitations are the ones I put upon myself. In a camp environment, you have coaches who can see potential that you can’t (or choose not to). Campers, too, help motivate each other to hit that day’s training goal. As a result, athletes break through training plateaus, tackle new challenges, and come away from the experience with more confidence than before. Simply put, the “comfort zone” no longer exists.

Tips for Choosing a Triathlon Camp

So should you tri a triathlon camp? Yes! Here’s what to consider when choosing one:

Location: Check with your local triathlon teams and coaches. Chances are, they offer triathlon camps for varying levels. However, if you live in Wisconsin and have an early season race, you might benefit from traveling to Tucson or San Diego! Likewise, people who live in Texas might like hitting up a cooler climate during the summertime.

Duration: Some of these are one-day events, while others span weekends or even entire weeks. Choose a camp that is compatible with your schedule.

Focus: There are camps that are catered toward helping new triathletes learn the techniques required for the sport (for example, swimming in open water); other camps help more advanced triathletes hone their skills. Women-only camps are available, as are camps specifically focused on one discipline, like cycling.

Tools: If you’re a data geek, consider a triathlon camp where you get video analysis of your swim, lactate threshold testing and specialized bike fitting. If you’d prefer to get individualized coaching, choose a camp that has multiple coaches, offering specialized expertise in their fields. If social support is your motivation, find a camp where group workouts are emphasized.

Race: If you’re registered for a half-Ironman or Ironman race, you can gain a lot from training on the course where the race takes place. Check to see if anyone is offering a training camp where you can train on the course, pick the brains of coaches and athletes who have done the race in previous years, and build up your confidence going into race day.

Ready to Tri Camp?

A few to consider…

Rebound Endurance Project —Bend, Oregon

Solvang Triathlon & Cycling Camps —Solvang, California

SheDoesTri —Multiple USA Locations

Active at Altitude —Estes Park, Colorado

QT2 Systems —Multiple USA Locations

Have you done a triathlon camp? What did you learn from the experience? —Susan

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