Our Little Piece of Paradise – Spring Camp 2013
After a long cold winter and with spring just not wanting to make a long term appearance in Chicago, Thursday April 25, 2013 finally arrived and I was about to set off on the training trip of a lifetime. Solvang, California and Experience Triathlon’s Spring Camp here I come (along with 15 of the best teammates and coaches a girl could hope for).
I remember reading Chilly Pepper’s account of the 2012 trip and somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to join the ET Team in 2013. Then I was landing in LA and heading north to Solvang. The two and a half hour ride went by much faster than I expected, the views of the Pacific Ocean were amazing and you could tell why some of the world’s most rich and famous made this area their home. We arrived at the hotel and quickly changed and headed out for a short run. We headed down the street just outside of the Santa Ynez Valley Marriot. Who knew that not too far down we would end up on a private street with horse ranches to the right and a perfect view of the mountains? After the long plane ride and the car ride to our little piece of paradise for the next four days, that run just got the heart pumping and the legs flushed out. It was the perfect way to start Solvang Camp 2013.
After the short run, everyone was hungry so we headed off into Solvang for a great dinner at Cecco accompanied by a little bit of wine. I listened as returning campers talked excitedly about the next day’s ride. We were heading out on a road called Happy Canyon. Really, how any ride cannot be spectacular when you are on a road called Happy Canyon is beyond me. The first 10 miles were nice rolling terrain as we approached the main climb of the ride. A little apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to even attempt a short trip up part of the world famous Mount Figueroa, I hung out toward the back of the group and just took in the scenery around me. The pictures you see don’t do it justice; being there and taking it all in, breathtaking. The group stopped and gathered at the SAG van and talked about safety on the climb up Mt. Figueroa; Coach Sarah gave everyone some great tips as usual. I was the last one to leave the SAG van and head toward the climb, one other great first time camper stayed just in front of me as we both started up what would be the most challenging climb I have ever done. The best part of this ride was that everyone could do the climb they needed or wanted to do. My hill buddy and I went up a short distance and came back to the SAG van, thinking we would just hang out and wait for the rest of the riders in our group to return. The driver nonchalantly asked, “What are you still doing here? Go do it again, have some fun! When are you going to be able to ride this again?” So off I went with my hill buddy for a second and then a third trip up Mt. Figueroa. Who knew that today’s ride would have hill repeats on that world famous mountain? I remember reading last year that this ride was totally customizable to each rider. I’m not sure I really believed it then, but I most certainly do now.
Once our group collected at the bottom of the hill it was off to lunch. Another few miles of spectacular views, green rolling hills as far as the eye could see, and bright sunshine – good thing I had brought my sunscreen. Lunch was a perfect little set up under the awning at the Bridlewood Winery with a gourmet lunch. Lunch was followed by a little wine tasting and, of course, lots of picture taking. Now that we were all relaxed it was time to head back out to finish up the day’s ride. One group took a ten mile scenic route back to the bike shop, and the other took a shorter five miles back. We completed the day’s ride and had the option of a short brick run. Once back at the hotel there was some time for relaxation in the pool and the hot tub. Just what the muscles needed to get ready for tomorrow’s fun filled day. The best part was sitting around relaxing with the ET Crew, listening to the stories of the riders in the other group and knowing that next year, I wanted to do that too.
Saturday was a recovery day, but how else would a group of triathletes recover? Run, yoga, swim and eat. The morning was a little cool, but perfect for a nice run. Heading out from the hotel there was a short part of the route along the main street, then a left turn and you were instantly in another world. Instead of a “Walk in the Clouds” it was a “Run in the Clouds.” I never imagined how peaceful it could be to run those rolling hills. Those who know me know I don’t run with music. Well, this morning I had music but it was from all around me. You could hear the birds singing and then as we passed some of the horses, they added their own tune. It was then time to turn around and head back to the hotel; breakfast in Solvang was waiting. Have you ever heard Coach Suzy talk about the Danish Bakery and think to yourself, “Can it really be all that good?” The answer is absolutely that good and better. The pastries, cookies, and breads are all made fresh daily and you can tell. One note: if you get one and think you are going to save it for later, don’t. After breakfast at Olsen’s Danish Bakery we had a little time to explore the shops in Solvang. The quaint little shops of Solvang have something for everyone. Bring an extra bag so you don’t have to limit your purchases because you have no way to get them back home to Chicago. I sadly did not think of this and was limited to just a couple of items for my beloved Shar-pei at home.
Next up for the day was yoga. By late morning we were all waiting outside the yoga studio for our private class. Our yoga instructor clearly understood the stress we put on our bodies and tailored the practice to our needs. She was amazing and kept up with our group’s shenanigans like she was one of us. She made sure that we had fun but also understood the appropriate positioning to help our bodies stretch, open up, recover, and relax. After yoga it was off to a nice lunch in Solvang. The sun was shining and it was truly sunny and 80 – what more could you ask for? Swimming at the local YMCA was the next thing on the agenda for our group.
Once we all arrived at pool side, Coach Joe led us through a great swim workout. How could it not be great in a pool like that? Glass walls on two sides with picturesque views of the mountains around us. This was not leisurely float though. It was a great warm up, then some sighting drills followed by wave starts and a cool down. I, for one, learned quite a bit. I had never heard of polo swimming or tri-sighting. I got a chance to learn both followed by how to turn while swimming. Coach Suzy spent some one on one time with me in the water and although I’m not great at the techniques I am definitely more comfortable with them.
The dinner that night was at Full of Life Flatbread Pizza. This place was recommended by the cycle shop, and once our pizza arrived we instantly knew why. I heard more than one camper telling Coach Joe and Coach Suzy that this place is definitely a keeper.
The final workout day was upon us. This is the long ride day with two possible routes, one 40 miles and the other 70 miles. Both leave from the hotel and head out toward the coast. The 70 mile trip departs that shorter group at the famous Highway 101 and makes their way to the Jalama Beach on the Pacific Ocean. I can’t wait until next year when I can see this entire route for myself – it sounds amazing. Those of us in the 40 mile route still got an amazing ride, as the rolling hills gave you a chance to do long steady climbs. The very experienced tour guides from the Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours rode with us the entire way. They even had a chance to show how good they really are with a small mechanical problem like a broken chain. That would end the day for most riders, but not for anyone in our group. The crew from the cycle shop got the bike back to road ready. Then those of us in the shorter group headed for lunch at a small winery tucked away off the road, where we had another gourmet lunch and, of course, a little more wine tasting. After lunch we made our way back to the hotel and waited out front to welcome home the longer riders. It was exhilarating watching them all come in. You could see that look of accomplishment on all their faces, and I am glad I was there to witness it.
One final dinner with the ET Crew, and then the trip back to LA Airport and heading home. You can thank us now for bringing the Sunny and 80 back with us. Something tells me I will be making this trip many more times in my lifetime. So, until next year…
Enjoy all the photos from our amazing adventure in Solvang on the ET Photo Gallery!