Scouting a Triathlon Training Camp

Discomfort Zone Head Coach and founder Mike Coughlin at RTC camp, Agoura Hills, California, 2014.  Mike writes about the importance of scouting a triathlon training camp.

by Mike Coughlin

Last month I had the opportunity to provide coaching and logistical support for Triathlon Canada’s Regional Training Centre (RTC) Guelph training camp in Agoura Hills, California. This location has been a popular one for years, particularly with cycling teams looking for a warm and hilly winter training destination. It was my first visit as a triathlon coach however, and a great chance to scout the area for future Discomfort Zone triathlon training camps.

Here is what I learned:

Cycling at RTC triathlon training camp, Agoura Hills, California, 2014Primary goal: When scouting a triathlon training camp location, it is important to identify the primary goal of the camp. In our case, it was the rare combination of warm February weather and hilly riding terrain. This was easy to determine in advance via online resources, however the scouting provided a good sense of just how warm and how hilly it was. I was surprised to find the answer was “very” on both accounts, and would recommend a compact crankset and 28 tooth easy gear to all but the strongest riders, as well as plenty of sunscreen (as well as warm clothing for early mornings and descents).

Traffic and safety: Determining which roads are safe and which are not is very important, especially in a busy place like California. Identifying the quiet routes and times of day as well as bike lanes and local courtesy level to cyclists and runners goes a long way. Knowing where local hospitals are, what cell coverage is like in the mountains, and even where the nearest gas stations are for refueling thirsty athletes and support vehicles are all important as well.

Discomfort Zone Head Coach and founder Mike Coughlin times swim intervals at RTC triathlon training camp, Agoura Hills, California, 2014Camp HQ: Choosing the right place to stay can make or break the camp. A comfortable bed, good kitchen, space to relax, and easy training venue access are all important considerations. While most camps I run utilize vacation homes, the effectiveness of the Homewood Suites hotel we used here was a pleasant surprise.

Where to swim: In triathlon, the swimming location is a key consideration in any training camp. We rented our pool space, but in many cases there are other options once you get to know the pools and Masters swim teams in the area. It is also important to check whether you need to bring your own kickboards and pull buoys. If you are considering open water, local scouting for safety and access is a must.

Warming up for a swim at RTC triathlon training camp, Agoura Hills, California, 2014The bike shop: I have never been to a training camp where everyone’s bike operated perfectly, even if it was thoroughly checked over beforehand. Having a convenient local bike shop with knowledgeable staff makes all the difference. We found such a shop in Serious Cycles, and most campers returned from camp with a better functioning bike than they arrived with!

Running trails: Scouting local trails is a hobby of mine, and there were lots of great choices here. Most trails have maps, but some are out of date and there is no substitute for experiencing them yourself. The biggest challenge at this camp was finding flatter terrain to run fast on, something to consider if the camp is part of your athletes’ specific race preparation.

Athlete group shot at RTC triathlon training camp, Agoura Hills, California, 2014Getting away to a triathlon training camp is a great opportunity. Having a fully scouted location to utilize can help make the most of it.

Happy training!