Last weekend I spent 3.5 days swimming, biking and running my heart out in Cherry Valley, a city about 2 hours Northeast of San Diego and is the highest point on the San Gorgonio Pass which runs from San Bernadino to Palm Springs (think hot mountains climate).
As a soon to be spouse of an employee of the well-known endurance event registration company The ACTIVE Network, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this amazing camp. In it’s 5th year, ACTIVEx Endurance Camp has grown to nearly 150 participants who come together to both train and connect. The camp is held at Highland Springs Resort which is a farm (chickens, sheep, a llama and lavender!), ranch, hotel, restaurant and 1,100 year old oak tree. ACTIVExers bike in the nearby mountains, run up and through the surrounding trails, swim in the local high school pool and practice yoga in the hotel conference room.
In addition to the workouts, ACTIVE employees and their families eat, relax and socialize together. The camp is technically a training camp for the Solana Beach Triathlon (sponsored by ACTIVEx) but it serves as much more than that – it is a bonding experience for employees and their families alike. I already knew a few of the campers but I was still constantly meeting people throughout the weekend. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and welcoming and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all!
ACTIVEx (which doesn’t just focus on triathlon – they encourage all employees to grow in “their ACTIVE” which could be anything from walking, rock climbing, cycling, golf, etc) as well as ACTIVEx Endurance Camp was created by an awesome guy named Arch. Arch puts his blood, sweat and tears into making working at ACTIVE not just about work but also about health and community. Since Mike is now part of the ACTIVEx team, in addition to the workouts, we also helped set up, tear down and move bikes. Mike woke up at 4:45 every morning to work with Arch and I’d join him at a more reasonable hour (ie past 7) to assist and then we’d stay behind to clean up and/or set up for the next event. It was as rewarding as it was exhausting to contribute to such an awesome adventure.
Now, the workouts. These were completely epic and demanding at times, but always enjoyable (some photos were enhanced by Mike via a really cool app on his ipad!)
Thursday – 5 mile trail run
Soon after we arrived at camp on Thursday, Mike and I joined Arch and his wife and the 3rd ACTIVEx team member, Fran, in marking the run course. The run course was completely on dirt trails and included two large climbs up steep mountains as well as the accompanying descent. The course finished on the grounds of the resort, including a loop around the 1,100 year old oak tree and a visit to the resident sheep and llama. This workout was one of my favorites as it was a great way for me to get to know the inventors and contributors of ACTIVEx and this awesome camp. We stopped several times along the way to mark the trail and chat, so this 5 mile run actually took us nearly 1.5 hours!
Friday Morning – Step Down Triple Brick
Friday morning all of the campers made the short trip over to Beaumont High School for a great workout that focused specifically on transition practice. All of the bikes were racked and we each had our own transition area. We would swim in the pool, bike through the streets of Beaumont and then run around the track and each time the distances in each sport (besides swimming) would get shorter.
- Round 1: 300 meter swim, 4 mile ride, 6 lap (1.5 mile) run
- Round 2: 300 meter swim, 3 mile ride, 4 lap (1 mile) run
- Round 3: 300 meter swim, 2 mile ride, 2 lap (1/2 mile) run
The swim took place in the pool and we lined up and dove in at 5 second intervals. We then swam down the length of the pool in a serpentine style fashion until we reached the far end of the pool. Despite the short distances, this workout was hard! I decided in advance to use this as a speed workout for Solana Beach and AFC so I pushed it hard on the bike and the run. For the swim, I kind of cruised since the pool was fairly crowded. During the swim to bike and bike to run transitions, I moved quickly like it was a race, and then somewhat rested for the run back to swim transitions. On the track I was able to run sub 7:30 for the first two legs and a 6:40 pace for the final 800! It felt good to run fast again! Mike got held up helping someone when their bike so when he arrived I ran his final 800 with him as well.
Friday Afternoon – Yoga
The Friday afternoon workout consisted of two options – 1 hour 15 minutes of yoga in an air conditioned room, or a brutal 35 minute ride on a very steep, technical mountain in the 100 degree heat. I clearly chose yoga. Yoga was perfect- very stretch focused and not a lot of strength and very relaxing. Several people fell asleep during savasana. Mike chose the ride and he was spent!
Saturday Morning – 34 Mile Ride
Saturday morning the group donned their matching black ACTIVEx Camp jersey’s (included in our welcome package!) and went out for either a 17 mile (1 loop) or 34 mile (2 loop) ride. The course had some rolling hills but was relatively flat – nothing like the beast ride Mike went on the day before. There was an aid station manned by some awesome volunteers about halfway through the loop and that’s where I met up with Brooke, a girl I had met at the ACTIVEx practice tri a few weeks before. She is also in finance and recently qualified for Boston for the 2nd time with a 3:10 marathon so we had plenty in common (well I want to qualify for Boston anyway….). Brooke and I rode together for the rest of the loop and after we made a pit stop back at the resort, Mike and another ACTIVE employee and set-up/tear down volunteer, Rob, joined us. Mike and Rob rode ahead of most of the ride but we met up at the aid station and a couple points on the route. It was hot but not scorching quite yet (low 90s I think) and the miles just ticked by since I had a new friend to chat with.
Saturday Afternoon – Drill and Masters Swim Pool Workout
After a quick brunch, Mike and I made our way to the meeting area at the resort for our complimentary 15 minute massage/PT appointment from the awesome folks at Function Smart. The woman who worked on me also did IMCdA in 2012 as her first Ironman and we chatted about that throughout the appointment. She gave me a good stretch and I realized how valuable it would be to regularly see a physical therapist.
Since we got absolutely zero downtime between our over 2 hour ride and the 1.5 hour swim workout we had scheduled, I was dragging when we arrived at the pool. The heat, sun and workouts were doing a number on me and I had very little motivation to work hard for the workout. However, I rallied and ended up having a good time. We did several drills then split up into groups for a masters style swim workout (about 1500 meters) and then did a few more drills that focused on swimming in a pack. We mostly swam around a beach ball that was anchored in the pool rather than pushing off the wall so it was a great way to practice our turns around the buoy in the open water!
Sunday Morning – 5 Mile Trail Run
Arch moved the trail run workout up an hour to beat the heat and I was glad he did because at the start of the workout it was surprisingly cool (high 70s/low 80s). By the end, it was in the 90s again! This run was awesome and totally epic. The climbs were so steep you couldn’t do anything but walk and even when I walked I was huffing and puffing. Mike waited for me at the top of the second summit and we took a photo and then ran the rest of the way together, including the final loop on the grounds near the old tree and sheep. I kept thinking about how I want to start trail running more during this run! It was freaking hard but also fun. I didn’t need an ipod or any music to entertain me – my mind was processing different ways to avoid rocks and move down the mountain so I didn’t need anything more than my own thoughts. The views were beautiful and it was seriously an epic run!
In addition to some epic workouts we also had two amazing group dinners. Friday night’s dinner was set on a super long wooden table with logs for chairs right near the lavender fields. The food was healthy and delicious and there was a keg full of craft beer. Couldn’t be better! Everyone wore their grey camp shirt that came in their welcome bag and it was a fun night.
The second night we all wore white and Arch, his wife Christy, Fran and a few other volunteers cooked over 100 of us an amazingly delicious meal! Arch made his famous jambalaya and there was an amazing vegetable curry with rice and an Asian slaw for the vegetarians. There was a really yummy homemade bean salsa with chips for appetizer and Mike and I brought our lavender mojitos from the bar to dinner. After we ate, Arch had several people come up and speak about their experience with the program, including an ACTIVE employee from the China office who is a big part of the ACTIVEx program over there. He flew all the way out to California for the camp! The dinner was set in a beautiful grove of trees with lights strung from the branches. It was beautiful!
Every morning between workouts we were served a delicious buffet breakfast at the resort and the ACTIVEx team provided snacks, drinks and aid before and after all the workouts. Arch and the team pulled out all the stops to make our experience absolutely spectacular.
Sunday after the run and after we loaded all the bikes and equipment back in the truck, we finally and some down time and laid out by the pool for a bit before some of us headed for a group lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. It was a great way to end an amazing weekend!