Velkommen til Solvang!
Welcome to Solvang! What a welcome it was for the Experience Triathlon team during our 2012 Spring Training Camp trip to Solvang, California. Solvang is known as the Danish Capital of the World, and is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley. Its location among the mountains and vineyards is ideal for challenging hill climbing, breathtaking scenery, and of course, wine tasting. The ET coaching team incorporated an outstanding triathlon camp filled with cycling, running, swimming, yoga and strength training while exploring the quaint town of Solvang and appreciating the terrific food, wine and shopping the village has to offer.
After the arrival into the Los Angeles airport and departing into four rental cars, the trip officially began! The car ride to Solvang from Los Angeles was approximately 2.5 hours and it was beautiful!!! As we approached the town of Santa Barbara, we had our sights on the Pacific Ocean. The waves were crashing up against the beach to our left and the rolling green mountains were on our right. It was an exciting view! The views made the car ride go very quickly and we were all thrilled about starting our trip. Once we arrived at our hotel the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, we decided to explore the amenities. The hotel was great! It had a Starbucks, outdoor pool, hot tub, fire pit, free cookies during the afternoon and a fabulous hot breakfast buffet each morning. What more could you ask for?
After settling in, we decided to head outside for an easy, short run from the hotel, and then leave for dinner at Los Olivos Café. This was a fantastic venue! The restaurant had wonderful food, wine, desserts and service. It was featured in the movie “Sideways”. As a team, we were able to relax, enjoy good conversation and discuss the upcoming events. The topic of the night was the next day’s bike ride. This would be the first ride of the trip, and we were ready to conquer the mountains!
Friday morning came quickly and we were ready for our first big ride. We took a quick car ride to the Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours bike shop where the owners helped us retrieve our bikes, put on our pedals, grab our helmets, take some pictures, and off we went! We did a nice 10 mile, rolling terrain warm up ride on Happy Canyon Road, which hooks up to the base of the world-famous Figueroa Mountain. This mountain draws elite cyclists. In fact, Lance Armstrong has been known to visit this mountain each year while he was training for the Tour de France. Once we began climbing, we quickly understood why it’s a great training ride. There were gradients up to 18% on a few hills that we encountered. The overall average gradient of this section was 12%. Individual riders were able to ride as far up the 10 mile mountain as they felt comfortable. This was a great way to customize the overall ride to each athlete’s current fitness level. Then the descent was just as daring. We were flying downhill, but with extreme caution. It was so steep that you really had to brake often to ensure safety. We were in amazement of the challenging ride, but what an experience! The views were spectacular!! It was literally “God’s Country”. Grassy, green, rolling hills surrounded us, and they went on as far as the eye could see.
Thus far, the morning’s ride was very exhilarating, and we were all having a great time! After a few hours on the bike, we broke for lunch, which was not your typical lunch either. This was a gourmet style lunch at a winery, which was situated among a gorgeous backdrop of mountains and vineyards. Lunch included salads, prosciutto, fresh fruit, vegetables, desserts, and of course, wine! After lunch, the winery offered us a wine tasting, which we all enjoyed, and we appreciated the array of delicious wines.
Our first day of cycling was almost complete. We broke into two groups after lunch. One group elected to head back to the hotel for a total of 30 miles, and the other group decided to bike a little longer for a total of 45 miles for the day. Many in both groups went for the optional short brick run on the rolling streets of Santa Ynez. It was a very satisfying day for all!!
Two very experienced tour guides from the Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours rode with us the entire way to ensure safety, lead us, and provide knowledgeable information about the area. A sag vehicle was also around the entire ride to provide food, drinks and mechanical assistance, if needed. This was a top-notch company. They were very organized, and experienced, and the guides loved to help and entertain us. Because of them, we all had a spectacular experience through the hills and hollows of Santa Ynez Valley!
The next day, Saturday, was a lighter day to recover from the previous day’s ride, but it was a perfect day to incorporate running, yoga, strength training and swimming. This was also the day where we were able to explore the town of Solvang, visit the adorable shops, and eat! The first activity of the day was a beautiful run around Solvang. Just when we thought the hill workouts were over, we experienced them again on the morning run. They are so beautiful that you don’t mind running them. Between the horse farms, strawberry fields, vineyards and rolling mountains, there is always something that will catch your eye.
After the run, we headed downtown to Solvang where we ordered the “Danish Breakfast” at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery. This place is not to be missed!! They had excellent pastries, cookies, and breads. Then we had the opportunity to explore and visit the charming shops before we had our late morning yoga class . The private yoga class was very unique in that it was directly targeted toward our group. The yoga instructor ensured we gained knowledge on appropriate positioning to help our bodies stretch, open up and recover better after the vigorous exercise triathletes endure. It was a very enlightening and fun experience!
After a nice lunch in Solvang, we spent the next few hours at the local YMCA for strength training and swimming. Coach Joe led us through a functional strength and conditioning routine designed to build “athletic bodies”. These multi-joint, multi-dimensional full body exercises are a great addition to our normal strength work and they were so much fun to do with the group. We laughed a lot! We concluded our exercise day with a great swim session led by Coach Joe and then we were off for some pizza.
The following day, Sunday, was our second bike ride of the camp. The medium distance route was approximately 40 miles and the longer route was 70 miles. This ride kept everyone alert since the average gradient was 10%. The longer group made it out to Jalama Beach on the Pacific Ocean for lunch and the medium group did a dine and wine at the Alma Rosa Winery. This may have been the most challenging ride for most of us because it was hard going up and daring going down. It was the most incredible bike riding experience that we will all cherish.
We closed our camp with an amazing group dinner celebration at Grappolo Italian style bistro.
Solvang was the perfect setting for Experience Triathlon’s Spring Training Camp. It had it all!!! We came, we conquered, and we shall return again next year for the same fun and excitement that we will forever cherish in 2012.
Click here to enjoy all the photos from our Camp!