How I did it in Tucson: a Breakdown and Review of my Gear

A lot of people ask me what equipment I use for training and racing; what I eat before, during, and after training and racing; what gear do I wear while putting myself through these incredibly long days of training and racing. Well, I figure I’d throw together my collection of goodies that kept me going through camp. Let’s break it down a bit:
The first notable difference this season is my rig. Björn Ossenbrink and Darcy Reno of Multisport Science Inc have set me up on the Teschner 703Aero (their TT frame,) with a set of Pro Missile aerobars, Rotor Q-Rings, and the Power2Max crank based power meter (to measure my power output in watts.) I’m riding the same saddle that I’ve grown to love (more so my nether regions have given their stamp of approval than anything,) the Cobbs V-Flow Plus. I tell you, when you start to log some massive mileage, having a good saddle can make or break you (literally.) They set me up with an 11-25 rear cassette, that makes descending and tail-winds a whole gear more fun (when you can go over 70km/hr and still have gear to spin, it’s pretty sweet!)
The climbing front hydration setup

I use two types of front hydration systems: the first (and primary) is the TorHans Aero30 (and sometimes the Aero20, which is 10oz smaller); the second is a stem/aerobar horizontally mounted bottle cage, (becoming the norm in the triathlon community,) which I prefer when I will be spending the day climbing (such as Mt Lemmon.) On the rear of the saddle, I have an old X-Lab carbon wing setup, with a new ‘Gorilla’ bottle cage (designed for rear-mount hydration.) I used to launch a lot of bottles with my rear-mounted cages, but since switching to the Gorilla I haven’t lost a single bottle (knock on wood!) Tucson has some rather aggressively rough roads, the kind that makes you curse out loud as they smash your brain into the fetal position. It’s a rocket-launcher testing ground, good as any.  You can get them at Speed Theory Vancouver. My primary frame-cage bottle is a 1L Powerbar bottle (that I imported from Germany.) I imported a whole bunch, so if you’re interested in contact me for details.
My rear hydration: X-Lab
Carbon Wing and Gorilla Cage
The TorHans Aero30 and my 1L Powerbar Bottle
Total liquid on board= 2.75L

My tire choice for this camp was a new set of Continental 4000s. I used the Continental Gatorskins before, and they were my preference. Now that I’ve used the 4000s, I’ll never go back. It rides stunningly smooth for a clincher tire, absorbing the bumps in the road really well (refer to the ^^above^^ mentioned bumps on the Tucson roads.) I roll them between 100-105psi, sometimes a hair less on the front as that’s where a lot of weight sits. They grip like glue to the roads; I set a new top-speed record of 92km/hr on Mt Lemmon the other day, and when you’re taking turns at those speeds, you NEED to have some good rubber under you. I consistently and confidently took hard corners over 70km/hr, and the thought of a wash-out never even crossed my mind. You can get these tires at Speed Theory Vancouver as well.

The Full Deal. Rider not included (you must supply your own)
My new kit of choice is the Champion System cycling kit. They make fully customizable kits (everything from running, cycling, and triathlon, to rugby, Nordic, and wrestling,) with designers that are absolutely incredible and easy to work with. Kind of like a point-and-shoot system. Even if you are having designers-block, they have a really easy ‘Design Lab’ that can get you started. Not only is the gear custom designed, but comfortable as anything I’ve used. When you’re putting in hundreds of km’s a week in the saddle, you need something that is durable and exceptionally comfortable. Plus, it’s absolutely IMPERATIVE that your jersey pocket can fit giant cookies. Champion System does that to a T.
The necessary ‘Giant Cookie Sized’ rear pockets
I’ve been working with Dave Cressmen, owner of Distance Runwear in Vancouver, for a few months now. He’s gotten me in the Inov-8 line of shoes, (a fairly minimalistic approach to footwear,) and I’ve been enjoying transitioning into them (as some have discovered the hard way, you need to SLOWLY transition to a minimalist shoe.) I’ve been steadily increasing the duration and intensity of my training in them, and it’s been going very smooth as of thus far.

Testing the CS two-piece tri suit
Compressport saving me AGAIN

I’m also rocking the Compressport socks and compression gear as I always have (wearing my standard double-layer travel system of the full-leg and full sock as I type this,) which are continuously being improved upon (because apparently you can improve on awesome.) They saved my bacon more than once; one memorable experience was with Jesse Vondracek, running through the Sabino Canyon trails. Including some necessary bushwhacking to find the right trails, the Compressport socks and calf-guards saved me from the punishing pounding of a 3hr hard trail run, and the vicious cactus that line the area. Double duty. I find the Compressport socks to be especially resilient and stand up to a lot of miles of running and cycling. The trail sock does the best job, not only standing up to the added abrasion of running in dirt/sand/trail, but also has a double-lip seal at the top of the sock to keep the unwanted out.

Some people may know this about me, but I’m a HUGE advocate of stretching, rolling, ‘sticking’ (and no, not THAT sticking,) balling (more to do with laying on a lacrosse ball, less to do with wearing backwards ballcaps, baggy jeans that are hanging on for dear life, and enough ‘bling’ to have people questioning the stores under Fort Knox,) and basically anything that includes flushing toxins and metabolic waste out of muscles, increasing blood flow to the muscles, and lengthening muscles to increase performance and decrease chance of injury. So what do I use? At camp, I engaged in daily combat with the large foam roller and myriad of ‘Stick’ instruments we had laying around (“combat” you ask? After a few consecutive weeks of over 35hrs training, it feels like someone is attacking you with crowbars when you try to stick or roll.) I generally would wake up and try to get a light roll in first thing: this gets blood flowing first thing and prepares you for training. At home I use the Grid roller by TP Therapies, I find it to be the most effective for me. Post-training, I always try to use ‘The Stick’ within 10minutes of finishing a session, get a roll in within an hour, and do some form of stretching within that same hour. The immediate sticking (or sometimes immediate rolling) flushes the metabolic waste out pronto, replacing it with fresh blood & oxygen, which helps with faster recovery for the next session. Trying to get a stretch in fairly quickly after a session is the most effective, as the muscles are still warm and will be more receptive to a good stretch than when cold.
Double layering for travel
I usually try to get my Compressport gear on asap after training, the Full-Leg being my first choice. They help to increase blood flow and prevent pooling in the legs (which is AWESOME if you’re not able to get off your feet after training!) After some massive training days, I’ve been known to sleep in my full-socks, which I personally find makes me feel a bit fresher in the morning. I always travel in full compression, as the rigors of long drives and flights can wreak havoc on the legs. When traveling to Abu Dhabi for a big triathlon earlier this year (which included 26 HOURS of travel,) I wore the double layer compression I mentioned above, and my legs felt fantastic post-travel.

The Grid Roller

The Stick(s)

Well, as you may have guessed, I packed away more Powerbars, Powerbar Energy Blasts, gels, and PERFORM this camp than I can possibly remember. My drink of choice is about 100cals of PERFORM per 24oz bottle, depending on the heat. Sometimes I’ll add up to 150cals per bottle, if it’s really hot. I plug away at various gels and bars, sometime bringing banana, PB/almond butter, honey sandwiches along for the trip. I also like to pack around a banana, they’re good when you’re feeling like some real solid food and need some extra potassium. I usually aim for 200-300 calories/hr while riding, but this varies heavily upon the duration of the ride, how many sessions that particular day included, and what on earth I ate before the ride (for instance: that epic 240km ride I did at camp, I only took two sips of water and no calories in for the first 2hrs, as I had eaten such a massive breakfast right before the ride.)
Post training, I make a point (and always have) to get a recovery shake or food in me WITHIN 20 MINUTES! They say the glycogen ‘window of opportunity’ is 30 minutes, but I aim for 10-20 minutes. Sometimes I even have it ready and just CRUSH it (as teammate Elliot Holtham says, “you gotta crush it like a beer!”) This will usually include Powerbar Protein Plus powder, with either nut milk or water, blended with some kind of frozen fruit (generally bananas and/or blueberries.) If I am finishing a ride somewhere OTHER than near a blender, I will just mix the Protein Plus with water and then eat a banana along with it, or eat a Powerbar Protein Plus Bar (I am a MASSIVE fan of the new bars, they are a LOT less heftier than their predecessor, and taste like some kind of dessert/cake!) I’ve crushed more than one Powerbar Protein Plus Bar after a hard workout or race (at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March, there was NO FOOD at the end, so I demolished 3 Protein Plus Cookies’n’Cream bars immediately after. Like a treat for actually finishing!)
The food freestyling. Food in = power out.
I’d have to say if there’s one thing I learned at camp, it’s how to eat. Jesse and Amy eat like champs, and it was all I could do to try and keep up with them! I tried to make sure I got a lot of fruits and veggies in (veggies mostly later in the day, as I don’t like to feel too full on roughage while I’m training,) but always started the day with a huge breakfast (as I would generally just graze throughout the rest of the day until dinner.) That usually included berry, banana, protein smoothies; toast with either eggs and some sautéed spinach or banana and PB; oatmeal; fresh fruits; cereal; or some combination of the above (on more than one occasion I took down all of this!) Oh, and can’t forget that lovely cup of happiness that is morning coffee. I do love a good cup of fresh hot coffee in the morning.
I figured out that if I ate my weight every day during camp (which I normally wouldn’t suggest unless your training load is high,) I was able to recover very well day-after-day. Jesse and Amy taught me a way of eating that I like to refer to as ‘Freestyle Grazing.’ It pretty much involves standing in the kitchen, randomly pulling things out of the fridge or cupboards, and eating different combinations of food until you feel satiated. It’s a fun way to go about it, really. I just made sure that 85-90% of my food intake was healthy whole foods (the other 10-15% being energy gels, bars, drinks, and desserts.) Also, treating yourself to dessert wasn’t really a bad thing (or, as I discovered with the gastronomically-gifted duo, dessert #2, 3 and sometimes 4!) Now THAT’S living life in the fast lane.
Took my CS kit to the gun show.
These are pretty much the things that got me through camp. That, plus a LOT of rolling, stretching, and shooting for 8-9hrs of sleep a night, kept me going strong the whole way. Hopefully you’ve gained some smidgen of insight that can be helpful from this.
Happy Training, be safe out there!

Epicicity in the Desert: Tucson Training Camp 2013

Everyone has a few special dates a year that they get really excited about. For some, it’s birthdays; holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, New Years Eve, etc; that big camping trip to the cabin or to that place near the beach. Yeah, I get excited about all those too, but one of the few things that’ll get me up damn early in the morning is my big training camp of the year; generally somewhere hot, dry, with endless roads and awesome people. So basically, a triathlete Nirvana. Last year I went to Tucson, Arizona, and found the perfect training mecca. This year, I was going back.
Common interest? The LOVE of Powdered PB. Friends for life.
Jesse being a Paleo Athlete, we made
‘Paleo-Pancakes’ all the time!

Lucky me, I found two of the most awesome people in Tucson to stay with: fellow professional triathlete Jesse Vondracek, and his girlfriend Amy Cole (an elite runner who can run like the wind, and I’m pretty sure can out-eat even ME.) I also made a new best friend, their pup Addy (who I attempted to fit into my bike bag and bring home, but she put me over the weight limit so I had to leave her.) One of the best things about my adventures and endeavours (whether good OR bad) in triathlon is meeting all the fun and amazing people I do. There isn’t a nicer bunch, and the global networking I’ve done in my relatively short time in the sport has astounded me. These guys were no different, and they made the camp at LEAST 48% better than it would have been alone. We had constant laughs, made enormous meals, and had more fro-yo than I can recall; they taught me how to be much more efficient with my time, and eat more than I ever thought I was capable of (I knew about breakfast #2, but when we got into breakfast #3 and #4, and dinner #2 though 4, I was trekking into uncharted territory.) Their absolutely awesome coffee machine (that pretty much sounded like an airplane taking off when it fired up) made the best black-gold I’ve had in a long time, getting me through a few early morning swim sets and being a daily focus of excitement (especially when you use that delicious lactose-free coffee creamer, that definitely isn’t the best for you but it tastes like magic in a cup! Almond Joy flavour anyone?)
Organice Chili anyone?
The three amigos….Beer Can style.
Wanna scoot?

They also have the most kick-ASS scooter that I used to scoot for pretty much any reason I could possibly find (“hey guys, I think we need some Kombucha and soy sauce, I’ll be back in a scoot.”) It was ALMOST as cool as the coffee maker, which sounded like it was working harder while brewing than we did while climbing Mt Lemmon.

Amazing pre-master’s-swim sunrises!
Like a present for getting up remarkably early, when
you really don’t have to.

Ah, good old Mt Lemmon. 

Cookie Cabin Cookies. More epic than
the climb itself.
It’s a highlight of Tucson, and if you go there to train, you just HAVE to make the climb. Not so much for the health and fitness benefits, but more so for the enormous cookies and pizza at the Cookie Cabin, located almost at the top of the mountain (if you’ve climbed that high and think you’ve climbed all the way, you still have a fairly steep 5 miles to go!) I made good work of my share of cookies, always remembering to bring some extra down for later (except that time when, to my utter horror and disappointment upon returning home, they had ejected somewhere during the descent, leaving me cookie-less and deeply saddened.) Jenn was my saviour when I lost my load of precious cargo that day, climbing up the next day (solo) to bring me back a monster cookie. 
Jenn, on her solo ‘Get Nathan a Damn Cookie’ excursion
I’d say that’s solid grounds for ‘Best Girlfriend of EVER’ award!

Our Mt Lemmon climb. Perfect day for it too (not that
every day WASN’T!?!?!)
Ski Valley, Mt Lemmon
Jenn was in Tucson for just over a week, to escape the standard crappy Vancouver weather and enjoy some mileage in the sun and heat of Tucson. We managed to get some training in together, including a ride up Mt Lemmon for (what else,) some cookies. That would be one of my finest hours at camp, breaking my Cookie Cabin record by eating three whole cookies. What can I say, they’re damn good cookies! She made me proud, toughing it out twice during her short stay to make it ALL the way up to the Observatory (the REAL top of Mt Lemmon.)
Yeah, I ate them. Along with ‘Professional Triathlete,’
I am also a self-professed ‘Pro Eater.’
Top of the world!

One of the many, many, many, MANY, outstanding views you get to see coming down the mountain
Champion System got me kitted out with some cycling gear for the camp (luckily the designers created the pockets the perfect size for carrying giant cookies,) and I used and abused it for a solid 16 days. There were some epic rides, including the famous Tucson Shoot-Out, a local Saturday ride that is essentially a big informal bike race through the outskirts of Tucson. I was one of two people riding TT bikes, (Tj Tollakson was the other, and did he ever take the boots to the peloton,) which may seem a bit faux pa, but when it’s all you got, you make do. It certainly saved the day when, after the Shoot-Out, Jesse and I decided to ride a loop out to Arivaca.
With headwinds.
A good portion of the way.
That entire ride was my most epic ride to date, logging 7.5hrs in the saddle and 240kms. What better way to spend a Saturday than to tear your legs off in a bike race, and then put out your biggest ride to date? Sounds perfect to me. The new Teschner 703Aero handled the ride like a champ, cutting through the winds pretty damn well.

The perma-smile that never left my face the whole camp
I know I’m pretty reserved, but topping Mt Lemmon 4 times
this camp had me a little excited. Just a little.
Tucson 2013 was the best camp I’ve had yet, (although I pretty much say that after every camp,) putting down some rides that make this season’s outlook incredibly positive. Everything seems to be coming together, and spending a few weeks in the heat (the temps during the day averaged from 20-30C,) just seems like the perfect way to kick off the race season. The desert is a perfect training spot, and I’ll most certainly be back to visit those three next year for more training (although I’m trying my damnest to convince them to come out to Vancouver during the summer!) I find that the most incredible thing about a training camp, is that no matter how hard I go, how sore my legs feel (just to the TOUCH,) day-in, day-out, I just seem to get stronger and stronger. It’s a very odd phenomenon, but it’s a good feeling.
Some of the oddities on the road; I saw four quads driving around
while at camp (on the ROADS,) and a few dune buggies. They roll
by different rules in the desert.
It’s back to Vancouver now for some recovery time, and to build up for the next race of the season, the Subaru Shawnigan Lake Half Ironman in a month. I’m hungry to race again, and it should be a stout season. Let’s just hope summer arrives good and early in Vancouver this year, as I’m not even home yet and already missing the heat!

7 Falls trail in Sabino Canyon, probably the only water in Tucson.

Chasing Jesse through the Sabino Canyon, 20 miles of trail bliss.

Standard issue ‘Being a Dork’; trying to video and photograph
WHILE running. Along a canyon ledge.

The totals from camp training breakdown a little something like this:
– 16 full days of training, plus two travels days and two rest/recovery days (with very minimal to no training);
– 42.2 kms swimming (a lot of it long course, which I used to have quite the aversion to but have fallen in love with it again!);
– 1800 kms spent on the bike;
– 320 kms of running (whether it be stand-alone running sessions, or brick runs);
– Just over 100hrs of swim/bike/run FUN!
The final climb, taking out a pizza along with cookies.
Last day on the bike, suffering like
it is going out of style.

Happy training everyone, get out there and enjoy the sun, and be safe!

My new best friend Addy; wish I could take her home! (I tried,
she didn’t fit in the bike bag.)