Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Winter Training Camp

This winter I attended a training camp to log base miles in better weather better than you typically find in Pennsylvania during February. After some searching and weighing the options, I selected Robert Panzera's Training Camp in California. The camp was from February 19th - 23rd in Fallbrook about 40 minutes north of San Diego. I had a couple weeks off before starting with State Farm Insurance, a frequent flier ticket with USAir, an understanding spouse, the camp was reasonably priced, and I would share a hotel room with another camper - so the timing was perfect.

Saturday: My friend Mike had a Going to California dinner party for me at the Boulevard Grill in Johnstown with friends from LHORBA. Later, we went to an after hours party in an old Victorian mansion. I stayed late enough that so that I could get to the Pittsburgh airport in time for my 7:15 flight, but late enough that I wouldn't need a hotel. Despite driving through a heavy snowstorm, I arrived at the airport at 5:30 am.

Sunday: Sunny skies in San Diego, I was picked up at the airport by Robert Panzera, the camp director, and then driven to our base hotel in Fallbrook. I was anxious to meet my roommate for the week, Matt - having a roommate is a little like a blind date - you never know what your in for and there may be no graceful exit. As it turns out, Matt is a mathematics and philosophy major at the University of New Mexico and a NCAA collegiate cyclist. I knew things would be ok after we had settled into channel surfing only to find that we were both were digging the Food Network shows - this was the week that Anne Nichole's child was abducted by aliens so the TV options were a little slim. We later decided that the guy from Take Home Chef on TLC has the best job on the planet for a single male: picking up attractive women in supermarkets, buying them stuff, going back to their house, and cooking them a gourmet meal.

Former pro mountain biker racer, Jimena Florit, was joining us for the camp as a coach and trainer. Jimena is a two-time Olympian, four-time NORBA XC Champion, and full-time nice person.

Monday: Day one things were a little wet, we had a quick camp meeting, introductions, and then soldiered on for a 43 mile cold ride. About an hour after we finished it cleared up and the sun came out.

Tuesday: Our biggest day: 96 miles, 8 hours, and 10,063 feet of climbing. A small group of us climbed up Mt. Palomar in cold, foggy, and wet conditions which made for an interesting 30 minute descent.

Wednesday: The entire group of 13 climbs Mt. Palomar! Climbing this mountain for anyone is a serious accomplishment for some it is the pinnacle of difficulty - a 12 mile continuous climb, average grade of 7%, topping out over 5,400 feet. Floyd Landis (2006 Tour de France winner?) is famously quoted as saying: "Palomar is more Alpe de Huez than Alpe de Huez". Matt and I shave a couple of minutes off of our times from the previous day's climb. A detachment of riders continues on up Mesa Grande and down to the town of St. Julien - home of a pie factory. This day is amazing - perfect weather, lots of climbing, technical descents, great company, and home-made pie.

Thursday: A rest day. We take a bike path down to Oceanside on the Pacific Coast and have lunch at The Longboarder. On our rest day we still log 43 miles and over 2,600 feet of climbing. Dinner tonight is at the Stone Brewery and it is good.

Friday: Our final day of camp. We lose a couple of campers who want to fly out before a snow storm closes their destination airports. We do a repeat of day one in reverse. There is some breakaway fun and it ends up being a pretty hard day. Somehow there is alot more climbing in this direction. It goes without saying that this camp has been great!

Saturday: The bonus day. Jimena is leading a century training ride for a Trek Superstore that she is sponsored by. Robert invites us to tag along. Jimena and her husband, John, graciously allow me to stay at their place Friday night and entertain me in San Diego after the ride. This ride is a West Coast standard, the Great Western, used as a training loop by pros and amateurs alike it sports sustained climbs, mountainous vistas, hair-ball descents, and very little traffic.

Here something strange happens: Feeling great and inspired by the situation I go off the front on the first climb. One rider passes me and I tell myself that he is just inexperienced and is going to blow up. He gets a gap and then we kinda settle into the same pace. I try to reel him in near the top, but just can't close it all the way. He pulls off onto a side road and stops so I do the same. The following conversation ensues:
rider: "Nice climbing" me: (gasp)"yeah, you too" rider: "are you from San Diego?" me: "no, Pennsylvania" rider: "have you ridden this route before" me: "nope, but I've heard alot about it" rider: "what brings you to San Diego?" me: "I just finished Robert Panzera's training camp" rider: "are you dariusmark?" me: (astonished)"yes" rider: "I'm chorus mann from Velonews Forums"
Holy crap, what are the odds? This is a guy who I knew through a bike forum where I had posted that I was going to the Panzera training camp. Brad and I hooked up with another local rider, an extraordinarily fit children's book illustrator named Michael and finished the ride together. We stopped at the general store and got some water then hammered the twisty turny downhills back toward San Diego. Clearly, one of the best road bike rides of my life and my second with a VN forumite.

Jimena and John gave me a tour of San Diego, taught me how to roast my own coffee beans, we had a Vietnamese dinner together, and then they dropped me off at the airport.

Sunday: Another snowstorm in Pennsylvania. It takes me three hours longer than normal to get home and I see seven crashes. Get home at 3pm and leave for a week of State Farm training in Charlottesville, VA at 9pm.

Totals: 6 days, 26 hours of saddle time, 348 miles, and over 30,000 feet of climbing.


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