>In this post, I’ll be reviewing Clermont, FL and Tucson, AZ.
I spent my 2008 spring break in Clermont with the Michigan Triathlon Team. Of all the locations I’m reviewing, Clermont is the area I have the least experience with. (edit: I’m updating this, after training in Clermont from Feb-April 2011)
Swimming – 4.5/5. Swimming at the National Training Center is the best option. It’s pricy ($100 per month), but it’s worth it. Outdoor pool open every day, all day. When it’s set up as short course (Mon-Thurs), there are roughly 20 lanes. When it’s set up long course (Thurs-Sun), there are 8 lanes. If you go there at any time, you’re likely to run into a pro triathlete, or an elite swimmer getting ready for a big meet. Just a fantastic facility. Also, if you want, you can hop in the master’s workouts w/ Fast Lane Aquatics.
Biking : 4/5. Clermont is a bit of an anamoly in Florida, because it actually has legit hills. There aren’t any huge mountains, but the hills are plenty big enough to be great preparation for any course. It can be hard to get away from the traffic, but all of the pavement is good quality, and just about every road has a shoulder, so the biking is still safe even when there are cars around. Head to the Sugarloaf area for hills, and you can easily do loops in the hills to fill up a 6-7 hour ride. If you want flats, then just head north or west, and it is flat as a pancake. Within 30 minutes, you can be in the middle of nowhere, and pretty much have the roads to yourself.
Running : 4.5/5. Tons of options here. There’s a really nice track at the NTC (and you might run into Tyson Gay there), but the highlight is the endless miles of clay roads that go around the orange groves. Big rolling hills, and nice soft clay to run on. A distance runner couldn’t ask for anything more.
Overall : 4/5. I wouldn’t live there, just because the Florida summers are too hot & humid for me, but this is a great place to roll in the winter if you’re looking for a training camp location.
Tucson has been my winter training spot for January and February 2010, so I’ll be here for a few more days before heading back to Boulder. I came down here for the weather, and the (supposedly) great cycling. More on that below…
Swimming : 4/5. The best thing about swimming here is that all of the pools are outdoors. There’s a great deal on the town rec facilities (pictured), where a 1-year membership is $100. Also, there is a very strong master’s program that has practices 3 times per day at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Pool, which is just an amazing facility. 25 yds x 50 m. Unfortunately, it’s almost always in the 25 yd short-course set-up. The only reason this area doesn’t get 5/5 are two shortcomings – no 50 m pool consistently available, and zero open-water swimming options.
Biking : 2/5. Where do I start? This area is the most overhyped cycling spot that I’ve ever been. Before coming here, I was repeatedly told that I was coming to one of the best places in the country for cycling. After being here for 2 months, I feel justified in saying this is one of the worst places for cycling that I have ever been. The pavement quality is a joke: it often feels like off-roading. There are potholes, cracks, and debris everywhere. Everywhere. Additionally, it takes at least 20 minutes of riding in any direction just to get away from the traffic lights and high-traffic areas. Then, even if you are outside of town in relatively light-traffic areas, the pavement quality is still atrocious.
On the positive side of things, Mt. Lemmon is legitimately nice, it’s as good as any climbing I’ve done in the Rockies. And there’s some good riding out west over Gates Pass into Saguaro National Park. But 2 nice riding areas that can only be accessed after riding through traffic lights for 30+ minutes do not make an area a great training location.
Running: 4/5. Running through town is not very great, but the Rillito River Path is a nice long path in the north part of town that is about 30% hard packed dirt and 70% ashpalt. The running is extremely flat, which is either good or bad, depending on what you’re looking for. If you want hills, you’ll have to hop in your car and drive to one of the surrounding mountains.
Overall: 3.5/5. The swimming and running are nice, but the cycling is sub-par. The main thing Tucson has going for it is fantastic winter weather. Much like Clermont, I wouldn’t want to be here in the summer, but it can be a decent place to get away to for a winter training camp.