Born to Suffer: Triathlon Training in Tuscon, AZ

Born to Suffer: Triathlon Training in Tuscon, AZ

By Coach Erik Cagnina
I didn’t marry into fame or money, though I certainly would have taken two cows, a goat and a sack of wheat over inheriting student loans and a leased car way over the permissible miles. What I did marry into, however, was a very cool father-in-law that lives in Tucson. For the aspiring multisport athlete living in a seasonally challenged area such as Ohio, that is like marrying into fame AND money. After a couple years of skipping our spring trip to Arizona due to the nearly incomprehensible task of taking an infant on a 5-hour flight, the combination of Ben growing up a little more and the winter from Hell forced a return to sunny Tucson.

Now on previous trips I always packed up the ol’ bike and hauled it along with me, knowing that the odds of having warm, dry weather to ride in was near 100%. This year I decided against bringing my bike for a couple of reasons. First and foremost was my lack of conditioning. I guess most people would look at the trip as a wonderful way to kick start the training, but I couldn’t help but think about it another way – training time per dollar spent on bike transportation charges. I just wasn’t in good enough shape to do any real long rides, so in my mind the transportation cost per training hour was nearly usurious. However, don’t think that I wasn’t going to do any cycling while in Arizona.

My master plan was the re-birth of my father-in-law’s hybrid bike. Like the doctors who worked on the Fifteen-Million Dollar Man (inflation adjusted), I had the technology and the knowledge to transform a one-time sedate neighborhood cruiser into a sleek racing machine. I started by removing the U-lock and replacing the platform pedals with my own Speedplay pedals. OK, that’s also where I finished. Once again, master mechanic Erik Cagnina puts just the right touches on a rebuild. The Silver Bullet was now ready for action.

As I fancy myself a reasonably experienced and serious cyclist, the real trick once I hit the roads was maintaining some form of dignity as I came across the hordes of top-notch cyclists commonplace to a Tucson morning. My first strategy was to try to keep up with them. Maybe Lance would have been OK on the Silver Bullet, but I fear the combination of my conditioning, the 720mm stem that left me sitting nearly straight up and the fact that this bike was just not designed to hammer out fast miles made this strategy a loser. My next strategy was keeping up with them just long enough to drop that I’m visiting and my Litespeed is at home and what a beautiful morning, but desperation has an ugly ring and I quickly abandoned that approach. The more I thought about it, the more I realized screw it. So the Silver Bullet and I just headed out each morning like the tourist tandem we were, cruising along and happily waving to the uber-cyclists, all the while thinking someday, somewhere we’ll meet again.


Thoughts generated from my ride last night. First, did you ever notice how you can be riding along fighting a fierce headwind, look over to the side of the road and not one leaf or blade of grass is stirring? What causes these incredibly skinny, bike attracted wind gusts? Second, when you’re racing a storm to get a ride in, why does the storm always hit at precisely the farthest point from home? Finally, once the storm hits, why do the winds shift so that the tailwind you were expecting suddenly becomes a headwind?

“Born to Suffer” is a monthly affair in which to share my tales of suffering. Feel free to contact me at and share your tales of suffering. I might even use your story if I’ve been unlucky enough to have not suffered recently. The purpose is nothing more than to generate a smile. It’s good to train hard, but it’s better to smile while training hard.


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