Swimming, Biking and Running in Las Vegas

I’m not actually certain I can claim to be in Las Vegas when I’ve yet to enter a casino; I’ve remained in the suburbs of Henderson and have yet to venture to The Strip. I last visited a decade back, staying in the Luxor hotel at the heart of the city; a long weekend was more than enough. So while my expectations were low, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of training available in the desert. Vegas – or at least it’s outlying towns – could offer the perfect training camp.

The trip started with an early morning visit to Henderson’s pool, I haven’t managed an early swim in months back home, but with endless sunshine and the local facilities including a 50m outdoor pool it’s hard to resist. This week has been the kick start to my training I desperately needed; each day I’ve taken on a little more and seen small improvements. Too late to make gains before race day, but at least I know I can go through with it.

Lake Mead at dawn

As a training venue what really stands out is the quality of cycling, the riding is amazing in Lake Mead National Park. Besides the scenery, roads are smooth and theoretically fast – except for the endless undulations and shifting headwinds. They mostly consist of long drags, slight gradients amplified by that constant wind. One moment you can be flying along hitting 50kph, turn a bend and you’re grinding out 20kph. Perfect conditions. I would be a strong cyclist if I only trained on these roads. For tourists they have a draw back – the constant temptation to stop and admire the views, our first ride was punctuated with pauses. I suspect if you live here the desert soon loses its charms.

Tourism has played a role – our first attempt to ride the course was diverted when we realised how close Hoover Dam was. The signs are deceptive and it remained five miles for several miles down the road. The additional climbing was worth it, adding another State to this visit and taking in the famous landmark. Good roads and a good backdrop for a camp. On out return we dropped the Northshore Road leg, unknowingly skipping the toughest section of the course, but the Three Sisters offered a final test. Three short bumps in the road, each pitched near 20%; not something you want to encounter on tired legs.

Silverman is not a fast course, it’s obvious you need to carefully pace the entire day. I’ve ridden every section of the course and know the challenges it presents – the drag out of Lake Las Vegas, faster down Lakeshore Road, the grind along Northshore, and the bumps of the mountain trail. Independently they each take their toll, together will be interesting. While my enthusiasm to race remains low I am keen to test myself on that course and see how well I can go. My legs are starting to feel good.

Gunlock Reservoir on the Ironman St George bike course

Having exhausted the course and with St. George, Utah being surprisingly close the house decided to test out the Ironman route. We loaded a couple of SUVs with bikes and took a drive up the I15, a long dull road only enlivened by the Virgin River Gorge through Arizona. The trip was worth it, the change of state brought a change of scenery, even more breathtaking than Lake Mead. We rode a single lap from the course; a subtle gradient carried us up 800m of ascent on the way out, but it was rewarded with a genuinely fast descent – I bottled out at 85kph as trucks came flying past. It helped ensure the day remained easy and none of us took too much out of our legs.

Ironman St George is definitely one for the Ironman to-do list.

Ironman course - On the descent to St George

After a week’s ‘training camp’ everyone admitted it almost seems a shame there’s a race, there is so much more we could take in. But we’re here to race and with registration opening today it’s time to wind down and relax. The GB Team should have mostly arrived so it’s also an opportunity to catch-up with a few more friends. I’m in two minds about race day and really don’t know how it will go. I’ll race it and see what comes.

And when it’s all done I can hit The Strip to celebrate, the perfect way to end a camp.