by Barry Weickert and Nailea Regin
I check the packing list once again making sure I have everything I need for the trip, all I know is that I am going to the desert and I’m about to have the best time of my life (according to anyone and everyone who has ever gone to UCSD triathlon bike camp before). Everything is good to go, my driver is on his way and I’m about to find out what it means to be cyclist… whatever that is.
We drive up to Anza Borrego and once you get to the area all you see is flat desert, or hilly desert (aka perfect biking conditions). Don’t get me wrong, the place is absolutely stunning but it was intimidating seeing it all as we drove down the mountain. Finally, we get to the campsite, set up, and go to the local taco shop for some tasty grub to start off the long anticipated weekend. I heard it was going to be a cold night so me and my tent buddy Zack made sure to get a side of beans to ensure our warmth through the night. Once we get back, everyone gathers around the campfire Dad (aka Jason) set up and compare who has racked up the most number of stitches while the sweet potatoes roast on the open fire. Finally, everyone winds down and the reality begins to set in as I am laying (warmly) in the tent thinking about how I’m about to bike 50+ miles in the desert in less than 12 hours, oh boy!
My excitement could hardly be contained as I’m up at 6am, over two hours before we’re supposed to go and I start making sure I have everything ready. Luckily breakfast was set up which let me stress eat carb-load before the ride. Right as I get myself pumped up and think I’m ready to go, Billy, an avid cyclist and friend of our coach who came to help everyone out with their bikes, stops me and inspects my set up. Turns out my cleats (which I just installed the day before on a loaner set of cycling shoes) were put on in the wrong position and “way too loose”, my seat was too low, and my helmet wasn’t even put on the right way! The Great Billy helped me to fix all of these things with a smile on his face whole time and I had to again reassess the fact that I was about to bike through the desert for hours on end with a bike I had bought a week and half earlier and had just learned to clip in to.
So we get on the road after splitting into groups to practice pace lining (literally the best thing to know how to do in a group) to Christmas Circle where the real ride starts from. Then, the moment of anticipation arrives and we leave Christmas circle to start the ride. It starts out really nice and I find myself in the first group with about 15 people all riding together. The pace line cycles through a few times and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Then I notice that it is cycling through much quicker than before as the group of 15 had dwindles to a group of 7. At this point, I realize the pace is picking up and the wise words of Coach Kim to “take it easy” and “enjoy this as a social ride” leave my head and my competitive side takes over. The talking dies down and the pace continues to pick up, but hey, what do I have to lose at this point? Then all of a sudden, the road goes from being an actual road to a rocky, bumpy, hellish terrain that causes you to shake so violently you can’t tell if your peddling with your hands and steering with your feet or the other way around. We lost two more of our group at this point leaving 4 stunning specimen of cycling and me to get to the turnaround point.
I rejoice as I have made it with the top group thus far and we all rehydrate and refuel. It then hits me and my shaky legs that this is the HALF-way point and we have to double back the way we came. So after stretching out the break as long as I could, we head back. At first I feel as though I have as much energy as when the ride started (yay electrolytes), but after leading through a hill or two on the way back, I quickly realized how wrong I was. As we continued the ride back, we lost another from our group, leaving just 4 of us to finish the last 20 miles or so; me, Marcel, Dad, and Billy. My time at the front of the pace line continued to shorten with each rotation and the reality set in that I have no idea where I am going so keeping up with this group is pretty much the only way I’m getting back to camp anytime soon. Then, as if an act of divine intervention, my back wheel goes flat and the group has to stop to help me replace it. Billy helped me change out my flat and just as I was getting to catch my breath and count my blessings, he had already replaced and re-inflated my tire in record time and the group was ready to get going again. So I was sagging in the back and yo-yo-ing off the back wheel of the group just urging my legs to keep going. At one point, I remember Dad sliding to the back and me asking him in a defeated tone the only three words I could make out, “How much further?” and his response, “Uhh, close. Just hang in there.” And with that I just kept my head down and kept mashing my pedals to stay with the group. After what felt like an eternity of being “close”, we made it to Christmas Circle and I just dropped my bike and myself on the grass in exhaustion. What a rush! I had actually managed to stick with the group (more or less) and better yet, didn’t fall over from the clips! I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of everyone in that lead group, as well as my other teammates we saw on the ride, and I was thrilled that I was able to see that ride through to the end.
After a much needed lunch afterwards, the rest of the weekend went amazing as we had clinics hosted by Coach Kim and Billy, more food, and more fun around the campfire. The ride the next day went well since I had gotten that first one out of the way. Although that didn’t change the fact that going up hills is quite difficult, especially when the route is designed for hill repeats. Turns out going down the hills is way more fun.
All said and done, the weekend truly lived up to and exceeded expectations. I had an incredible time and felt like the team bonded as a whole and I got to realize what amazing people we have on the team. Thank you so much to all the captains who put this together, Coach Kim, Billy, the drivers, and everyone who had a hand in making this one of the best weekends to date. Can’t wait for next year!
I must admit that I was pretty anxious to go to bike camp. Every step of the way in joining and getting involved with the team has been an incredibly nerve-racking experience for me. From when I joined the team about one month ago, it had been 4 years since I had been committed to fitness with a team, or at all really, and thought that I would be seen and treated as less by the team because I was so slow in all aspects. Boy, was I wrong; everyone on the team has been incredibly supportive since day one and this group effort and support was deepened even further at bike camp this past weekend of November 11-13, 2016.
On Friday, November 11th I prepared my brand new bike that I had just picked up from the shop the evening before and packed way too much clothes (because what if it was hot all weekend? What if it was cold all weekend? What if the weather fluctuated dramatically? What if we went somewhere in which work-out clothes was not appropriate wear? What if I spilled something on myself at some point on the trip? What if…etc…?) in my bag. Nathan swung by the Village West to pick Josie and myself up in his mom’s sweet Mercedes, where Jasmine and Imran joined us so we could make our way to Borrego Springs. We arrived at the campsite in no time and set up camp, at which point I was starving. My timing appeared to be impeccable as the team announced that we were all going to leave for town to go to Tacos Jilbertos so we could scarf down as many tacos, burritos, rice, and beans as we could and wash it down with some horchata. The team returned to the campsite and we all gathered round the campfire, where we spent the rest of the evening reintroducing ourselves more in-depth, telling funny stories, and watching Jason wrap sweet potatoes in foil and toss them in the camp fire so that he would have something to snack on. I was so happy to find that everybody on the team was so light-hearted.
On Saturday, November 12th I woke up at 6:30 to the sound of everyone already outside getting ready for our 8am ride, so I grabbed some breakfast and got ready as soon as possible so that I could practice clipping my shoes in and out of my pedals. Coach Kim gave me some pointers and I successfully learned how to do so in no-time. I ended up having no trouble until later that evening when I fell over two separate times, only to have Coach find out that my pedals were too tight. Typical. We spent the morning ride learning how to draft as an entire team and then we split up into more advanced and less advanced group (I bet you couldn’t guess which one I got placed in). A couple of the others and I trailed far behind the rest of the team but it didn’t matter; the views were beautiful and the breeze was just right so the ride was comfortable and fun. Josie and I turned back at the time that Coach Kim had instructed us to do so and went back to the meeting spot to rehydrate, snack, and take in some shade. After regrouping, the team had lunch at Tacos Jilbertos again and we went back to the campsite. Coach Kim’s friend and fellow bike expert, Billy, gave a clinic in which he taught us all how to clean our bike chains and sprockets properly, and how to change a flat tire, tubing and all, on our own. It was great to be learning so much about my bike immediately after I purchased it, and it was made easy by all of the veteran triathletes on the team who were so willing to give all of the newbies instruction and pointers. The team president, Katie, then started teaching us how to do quick transitions from running to biking by switching out our shoes while riding our bikes. I clumsily tried to follow suit after Katie had made it seem so easy. So many parts of it just seemed to defy physics if you ask me. We then all went to grab some dinner and returned to the campsite to sit by the campfire once more. I finally got a chance to take a shower that day and it was so good and pure. Getting into my jammies all clean and fresh after that shower felt like a cathartic experience. I sat by the campfire with the others for a while to listen to a round of two truths and a lie and a very sweet recollection of the day by the entire team in the form of shout-outs and toasts by each and every member of the team. It was such a precious bonding experience where we were all able to express our appreciation for the members of our team. I was only able to stay for about an hour after that because my body could no longer continue to fight off the extreme fatigue from the day’s exercises. I slowly backed into the darkness at 9pm without saying good night for fear of being told I was a wimp or something, went to the tent Dustin let Josie and I borrow, and fell into a deep, dark, dreamless sleep.
On Saturday, November 13th I awoke at six in the morning to grab breakfast over a palpably sad atmosphere as this was the day we were to head back home. We packed everything up, tents and all, for when the bike ride was over, we were going to head straight home immediately afterward. As I prepared for the bike ride I was pleasantly surprised at the realization that my legs were not sore as I had expected them to be after Saturday’s long ride. I decided I was going to give the ride everything I had and so I did. The ride was not nearly as long as Saturday’s but we encountered a large hill on which I clocked in 38 mph on my way down. It was really one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I pushed myself until the very end and I was so proud that I had accomplished things with the encouraging support of the entire team that I did not think myself capable of accomplishing on my own. We all gathered our things and jumped in our rides to head home, but first we all stopped by a bakery as a team to have one final meal together before really going home.
It was my understanding that the purpose of bike camp was to teach the newbies the basics and get them comfortable on their bikes, as well as provide opportunities for team bonding. If I was correct about that, then the weekend was an absolute success. It opened me up to a sport I had never considered in a really fun way and I’m never looking back. After bike camp, I am even more so excited and proud to have joined the UC San Diego Triathlon Team.
Check out this GoPro video from the weekend.