For the second year in a row, I had the opportunity to swim, bike, run and yoga all weekend with an amazing group of new friends as part of the ACTIVE Network’s employee engagement program ACTIVE’s CAxMP. My husband, Mike, is part of the two-man team (led by Arch who founded the program several years ago) that runs the ACTIVEx program. In addition to year round lunch and after work group boot camps, yoga classes, runs (and more), weekly inspirational “Can Dos” on the back of the bathroom stalls to help inspire employees to better their lives each week, a thriving Toastmaster’s public speaking club (which Mike is President of!), ACTIVEx also puts on a program called Charity Challenge.
Charity Challenge is a yearly event that challenges employees to push their limits by competing in the Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon while also fundraising for a charity. For the past two years, ACTIVEx has chosen Kids in the Game which is an organization that helps get children access to sport who may not have had the opportunity to do so in the past. For every $30 raise, one kid gets “in the game.” Other than the kickoff of Charity Challenge, the two most monumental events within the program are ACTIVEx CAxMP and the triathlon itself.
Last year was my first year at CAxMP and it was a whirlwind. There were over 120 ACTIVE employees and significant others and it spanned over 3 full days. This year things changed a bit, as the company has recently announced it is moving its headquarters to Dallas, Texas after it was acquired last year by a private equity firm. As a result, the Charity Challenge program was a bit smaller in San Diego (but is also going to happen in Dallas!) and CAxMP this year was 2 days and had about 40 participants, including a mix of current employees and former employees and their significant others. Although CAxMP was smaller in number this year, I personally felt it had a bigger impact on the participants than the prior year. The last year has held a lot of change for everyone at ACTIVE but the group came together this past weekend to make the best of everything that has happened. It was a great reminder that no matter what happens with the company, this group will always be bonded together by their love for endurance sport.
I arrived at Highland Springs Resort (just down the mountain from Idywild) around 9 p.m. Friday night and carpooled with my friend Brooke who I got to know at least year’s CAxMP for the first time. She and I have since become triathlon and running buddies (she was on our team at Ragnar Trail Vail Lake) and is in training for her first Ironman – Arizona 2014! Mike had already been up at CAxMP since Thursday mid-day so I was excited to see him! We headed to bed fairly early because we had a big day at head of us. Although CAxMP was one less day this year, there was only one less workout, which meant both days we had two challenging workouts ahead of us. We all convened for coffee, homemade banana bread and other goodies and the course talk before 7 a.m. on Saturday morning and then strapped on our helmets and set out for the 1st workout of CAxMP – the long ride. There were a few options and of course I chose the harder of the two. The route was not only longer but also contained a very long climb. How long, I had no idea.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with any group during this workout due to my lack of serious cycling (particularly hill training), and joked to Brooke (who has become a beast on the bike since deciding to do Ironman Arizona last year) that she could ride to the top of the mountain and come back down and then try to catch me again. Regardless, I wanted the challenge and gladly followed the group that headed toward the hills. I was happy that most people didn’t seem to be trying to race or push the pace at all on the flats so I was able to keep up just fine. As soon as we started climbing, I told the others I’d see them at the top. I always get dropped on hills and after this weekend I have really realized that I need to focus on my leg strength. My skinny legs just don’t have power for scaling mountains on a bike or with my own two legs.
The hill was long. It was relentless – there weren’t any flat sections or declines to rest. The grade ranged between 6-8% the entire time and I later learned we covered 2,800 feet over the course of the full 32 mile ride and 1,400 of it was within under 6 miles. Ouch. I was huffing and puffing. I wore my heart rate monitor and I was well into Zone 4 for the entire duration of the climb. I had to get out of the saddle quite often to even get up some portions for fear that I may just tip over because I was simply moving too slowly. I had no idea how long the hill was so I had no idea how long I’d be climbing. I knew the ride was over 30 miles so I guessed I would be climbing 8-10 miles. At one point I wondered if I had gotten myself in way over my head but eventually got into a groove. I started working on my Maid of Honor speech for Asia’s wedding in my head and it helped me zone out and forget the pain. I was still in that zone when suddenly I saw the group stopped. I joined them, thinking we were taking a short break before continuing on. Only after we stopped for the photo and then someone mentioned heading back did I realize we were already done! The descent was equally challenging as the ride up but in a different way – my hands were sore and tired from holding my breaks so hard and it was nerve-wracking to be hitting such high speeds on a road that unfamiliar, windy and not well paved. Once we got to the bottom we continued on the same loop that many of the others has completed which also had some climbs but wasn’t nearly as crazy. By the time we got back to camp, we had been out there for nearly 2 ½ hours.
After refueling with eggs, pancakes (with lavender syrup –the resort is immersed in of lavender fields!) and lavender French fries, I rested for about another hour before we packed up our stuff and headed over to Beaumont High School for Arch’s famous Triple Step-Down Brick, a CAxMP favorite. The Triple Brick consists of three sets of swimming, biking and running with descending distances for the bike and run each time. Although it kind of sounded like a short workout based on the distances – Swim 300 yards each time, Bike 6, 4, and 2 miles, and Run 1.5, 1 and ½ mile around the track, in total the workout added up to anywhere between 1-2 hours depending on how fast you completed it. The main focus of the workout was transitions – in total, we transitioned 8 times! That is great transition practice!
I couldn’t help but push hard during this workout because even though it wasn’t a race, it always kind of feels that way. Similar to the bike portion of my one and only half Ironman, I rode the entire first loop on the bike with my brake rubbing against my front tire (at Oceanside it wasn’t nearly as bad though!). I felt like I was biking through mud! I didn’t stop to try to fix it because I wasn’t’ sure how and luckily Arch fixed it for me in transition (and showed me how easy it is to fix myself for future reference). I pushed hard during the first couple laps of the run and then kind of reminded myself that there wasn’t a point in driving myself into the ground over a silly practice triathlon (x3!) and slowed down a bit. I still pushed it but not as hard. I am definitely not used to riding hard and the morning’s bike ride made my legs heavy (and they were already sore from Friday’s P90X3 leg workout!). the conversation before/during/after the workout heavily revolved around triathlon and even more so Ironman! It was fun chatting with others about Ironman training and racing. It brought back some fun memories (still on the One and Done path though)!
That evening dinner was one of the highlights of the weekend as Arch made his famous jambalaya (vegetarians got yummy portobello mushroom burgers & sweet potato fries!). Everyone was in a great mood and enjoying beer & wine (and even some Fireball shots later….) and after Arch thanked everyone for coming and gave a great speech he opened it up for others to speak. It was great hearing how ACTIVEx has impacted each person’s life, whether they are a first time CAxMPer, new to ACTIVE, an ACTIVE spouse, or a vendor (a rep from Xterra Wetsuits came out to enjoy as well). It made me so proud of Mike and his contribution to not only the program but to the lives of each of the people there. He is truly making a difference!
The party continued by the campfire along with a mini dance party and S’mores. The conversations were great and I got to know some of the girls who I have been seeing at the Wednesday swims even better. Needless to say we weren’t all 100% the next morning for our trail run but luckily we didn’t start til 9 a.m. so we had time to sleep it off.
Brooke and I met a little early to get 2 easy warm-up miles in and it was so warm that by the end of them I was drenched in sweat despite a Zone 2 effort. I wasn’t feeling my best and hadn’t eaten anything yet. Right before the trail run I got in a little food and lots of water but it didn’t really help too much. The trail run was extremely challenging (mostly the same course as last year) but I just focused on having fun rather than worrying about how much I had to hike the steep ascents or if I was at the front of the pack (I wasn’t!). I ran mostly with Arch’s wife Christy and got to know her even better which was a great bonus! There was a small group of us who stuck mostly together and when we reached one of the epic viewpoints there were others there resting and we all took a group photo before heading down. For the group portion of the run, which was just under 5 miles, we climbed over 1,500 feet! Including the warm-up, I ran 7 miles but it took nearly 90 minutes! I had wanted to get in a longer run than 7 miles given I’m building for the marathon but I figured based on time on my feet it could count as a 10 mile run!
After a small snack, we kept the workouts going with 60 minutes of yoga under the trees. The yoga felt absolutely amazing. The class was actually not super easy as I had expected given it was immediately following a hard run – Dina (who works at ACTIVE) threw in some harder moves but mostly focused on stretching. It was nice and cool under the branches of the trees and there was a nice breeze so it was the perfect way to unwind after a tough weekend of workouts. We closed out the weekend with brunch around the pool and some of us stayed back to catch some sun for a bit before heading home (and eating more burritos along the way!).
CAxMP blew my expectations out of the water this year. The workouts were challenging and the people were great. I can’t thank Mike and Arch enough for putting on such an amazing event. They are truly changing lives through this program and I can’t wait to see all the soon to be triathletes cross the finish line for the first time on Sunday at the Solana Beach Triathlon!
Have you ever been to a triathlon camp? Does your company have a wellness program? If so, are you involved?