2017 Jennifer Harrison Coaching Triathlon Camp – Tucson, Arizona RECAP


Training for my second Ironman, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to improve myself and to elevate my learning when it comes to the intricacies of triathlon racing.  I had an awesome chance to participate in my coaches 2017 training camp in Tucson, Arizona this past week.  Approximately a dozen athletes and our coach Jennifer Harrison descended on Tucson to push ourselves to the absolute limits physically and mentally, totally immersing ourselves into 4 days of intense training to sharpen our skills and mental fortitude.  And as Jen said more than once, “this will make you a better athlete.”  And it did.

How?  Not through coaching secrets or special coveted training methods only available at camp.  We became better because we worked at a pace that required us to continue to push through all those barriers that many of us, myself included, would have quit.  Right out of the gate, we were rolling, literally, upon a training regime that on paper seemed crazy ridiculous. 

Every day consisted of multiple training sessions consisting of any combination of riding, running, and swimming.  One of the biggest lesson I learned was Tucson is not flat, and it’s dang windy this time of year. 

My initial ride on day one was a grueling 65-mile ride on rolling hills into the wind (at least it seemed into the wind).  It was my longest ride of the year thus far and that is always a tough one.  I was not riding Shadow my TT bike this trip.  I brought the roadie for the hills but I really think I would have been better off with the TT.  Comfort wise, my TT fits me slightly better and the aero position and Adamo saddle would have benefited me on a good portion of the trip.   It was a good foray into the longer rides I have coming up.  It was also a great distance to practice fueling and hydration. 

The following day consisted of climbing Mt. Lemmon…7000 feet of incline grades of 4% to 8% in some spots.  Cycling maps put the average grade around 4.5% but that is deceiving due to the fact there are a couple of small descents along the way that skew the numbers.  If I were to hazard a guess I would say you need to be able to sustain a 5-6% grade climb over 3-4 hours to make this assent.  If altitude gets to you, you might feel it towards the top, I know I was breathing heavy around the 6000-foot mark…but that could also be me reaching my physical limit climbing this monster.  Some people like descending…not me.  Coming down off the mountain was a tad scary. 

We did time trials up to the 5-mile mark the next day.  I was dreading this but it was the best part of the trip for me.  I really enjoyed pushing myself back up the mountain to that point.  In one day, I could apply what I had learned from the previous ride to improve my time despite being so fatigued.  I look forward to developing some time trial routes of my own to train on.

We ran after each ride and we had two very beautiful runs through the desert, 9 miles and 8 miles respectively.  These were both learning experiences as well.  I’m not fast on the run and the group separated both days quick.  Both runs were hilly and what I did learn was how resilient my body was to push through these challenges in the tired state we had become over the few days.  Most people would not push themselves this hard training on consecutive days.

So, in the end, the real lessons did not come from specific coaching Jen gave us, but the act of training in such fatigued states.  I learned how proper fueling really helped play a vital part in keeping my body going, even though I slowed down every day, I could keep going.  I do look back on a couple parts and know I could have pushed harder.  My take away is that I need to work on details.  My swim form is lacking, I need to work on my cycling endurance, meaning using my gears appropriately, and managing my energy throughout the long rides.  Running hills has never been fun for me but I see the benefit of the extreme work we did.  My goal is to incorporate more hills into my run routine.  Chattanooga is not flat so I cannot ignore the hills in my training.  I know I am not the fastest, and placing in my age group is a distant dream, but finishing strong, hitting my goals and hearing my name as a 2X Ironman is what I am working towards. 

To every person that doubts their ability to push themselves and accomplish awesome things just know the body is resilient and amazing.  It will give back what you put into it.  Push yourself, trust your training, and watch the results!

I met some amazing athletes this past week.  Inspiring men and women that showed me I still have a ways to go to reach my potential.  I thank every one of them for allowing me to be part of their elite group this past week.  I was at the top end of my ability with these folks. 

I encourage any one that has a chance to participate in this kind of training to do so.  It opened my eyes to my weaknesses and areas I need to focus on to get better this year. 

Thank you, Jennifer Harrison, for your patience and hard work helping us become better than we were just a week ago. 

Train hard, train smart!

Jeffrey Smith

Previously Fat Guy

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