CLERMONT, FL vs TUCSON, AZ
So I have been out in Tucson, AZ for a week now training. As most of you know, I have been training in Clermont, FL for the past 22 months. Both Tucson and Clermont are known “tri meccas”. Both places have some things I like and dislike.
Rating: 9/10 has only one pool, the National Training Center. This is nice because everyone swims here, so it is pretty easy to coordinate swim sessions with other athletes. It is 20 lanes and 25yds Monday-Wednesday and 8 lanes 50m Thursday-Sunday. It is always empty and always sunny. The water temp hovers around 81 degrees and 99% of the time feels perfect. The only negative thing I can say about the NTC is how much they charge non-members to use the pool. $14 a day or $50 a week. There is also Lake Minneola, which is prefect for open water swimming year round. It never gets below 60 (usually) so it is always an option as well!
Rating: 7/10 has a few pools to choose from. I can only comment on two of them though because I have only used two of them. I am doing most of my swims at the U of AZ recreational center AKA the college gym. The pool has about 20 lanes and is 25yds. It cost about the same as the NTC to use as a non-member so that is still a negative. The water temp has been either hot or cold, yet has it been comfortable. It is, however, empty most of the time. There is also a suit dryer in the locker room, which is nice, and a digital scale (eek). The other pool I swam at was in Starr Pass Resort. There are no lane lines so the water is super choppy. However, it is really convenient and there is a hot tub right next to it. Since there are so many pools to choose from here, no one really swims together.
Rating: 7/10 has very empty roads. One nice thing about Clermont is that in less than 5min, no matter where you live, you will be on a road with no cars. No one ever has to commute through town to get out to the “good riding routes”. There is no driving to a meeting spot to start a ride. You walk out of the door and within 2miles you are riding somewhere safe, open, and desolate. There are two areas of Clermont: the “hills” and the “flats”. Yes people, there are hills in FL. The Ferndale loop is very challenging and if you do it 2-3 times at a good effort then it will wear you out completely. If you need to do some long TT intervals, then you can ride an hour out to the Van Fleet trail (a 29mile straight path in the woods) and do the efforts with your head down. Finally, if you really need some cranking out of the saddle then you can do hill repeats up Sugarloaf. The only bad thing about riding in Clermont is that there is no such thing as a long steady climb. Everything is pretty short and steep.
Rating 8.5/10 has some breath taking rides. I have done three climbs since being here a week. Mt Lemmon is a 26mile climb that ascends 5200ft. The climb is pretty gradual at around 5% so it is nothing insane but definitely challenging for me. However, if you are staying on the west side of town, then it is about a 45min drive to even get over to the area. Another ride we did was Gates Pass. This is about a 5mi climb at the same grade as Lemmon. The descent is a little bit more technical. It leads into this loop called the McCain loop, which is freaking awesome. Pretty much nothing is out there…besides cacti and cyclists. This would be a great place to do rolling intervals. If you keep riding then you come to Sandario, which is a long straight road that is good for longer efforts. If you are like me and cannot really ride in a straight line then you need to be careful because the road is semi-busy. Finally, the long ride we did was to Madera Canyon. It takes a while to get there…about 2hours (well, the way we went). The climb is only 2-3% grade but it shoots up to 15% for the last 2miles. It gets pretty cold as well…so you have to bring multiple layers to take on and off. Overall, the riding it fantastic here. I really just hate how spread out Tucson is though, seems like I am driving as much as I am riding. Also, the roads could be in a little better shape. You have to be careful because there are a lot of cracks in the roads and loose rocks.
Rating 7/10 has a few places to choose from. First is the famous clay trail around the orange groves. This is a 10-14mi loop on a clay dirt road that has nothing but orange groves. No cars, no people, no water, no animals. It is unique and very challenging because the elevation is constantly changing. There is also a bike trail along the lake that is a fine place to run. There is nothing special about it though…just your standard bike trail. If you are a “trail” runner then Clermont really is not the place for you. There are some trails back in Lake Louisa that I have yet to explore …but I heard they are decent but not very technical. Finally, at the NTC there are AWESOME treadmills that go super fast! When you think you are running 5:30 pace you are probably running 5:15 pace. This is what I call secret training.
Rating 9/10 has a lot to offer for runners. It wouldn’t be fair to say I have experienced enough of running in Tucson to really give much advice. I HAVE run along the Rillito river path for a long tempo run, around Reid Park (a 3mi loop) for intervals, Pima track for a brick run off and around Starr Pass resort for easy runs. All four of those places were exceptional. The views are stunning. There are so many trails around here (around Gates Pass, up A Mountain, along the Santa Cruz trail) that I have yet to run on. But from what I hear they are second to none. Once again, the bad thing is that you have to drive to get places….and stop at atleast 10 stoplights each way.
Rating 1/10 has nothing to offer in this department. There is the Tiki bar…they have burgers and beers. If you are someone who needs to be social or have any type of bar scene then Clermont is NOT for you. Luckily for me, I have an awesome core group of friends to keep me entertained.
Rating 8/10 has a lot of culture and unique local joints. I would love to be a student at the U of AZ so that I could just absorb all that Tucson has to offer. There are so many independent coffee shops, local grown restaurants, and cute boutiques. I have only been to a restaurant/bar called Hotel Congress. It seemed like a hot spot and had a bar, outside patio, and a small restaurant area. Oh yeah, and a hotel if you needed a room…That will probably be my only “social” outing for this trip. I am here to only train…so no fun for me. Boo!
*Thanks to Wattie for some of the photos !