These southwest desert destinations mix optimal training grounds with plenty of cushy amenities for post-workout pampering.
Looking for a warm-weather escape to swim, ride, and run to your heart’s content? Consider these two southwest destinations.
Las Vegas, Nev.
While a trip to Las Vegas is often aligned with decadent debauchery, it’s possible to use Sin City as a base for a training vacation too. It might seem counterintuitive, but you can stay in a luxury hotel, swim, bike, and run in the cool mornings (low 40s to mid-50s) and mild afternoons (mid-50s to low 80s), enjoy a rejuvenating massage, eat delicious healthy meals, and, if time permits, see a show or do a bit of gambling before crashing in luxurious linens for a solid night’s sleep.
Where to Swim
For open-water swimming, head to the designated swimming areas adjacent to Boulder Beach in the Lake Mead Recreation Area in nearby Henderson. Water temps range from the low 70s to the upper 50s in the fall and winter. There are also many lap-pool facilities in Las Vegas, including Pavilion Center Pool (101 S. Pavilion Center Dr.) and Aquatic Springs Indoor Pool (7025 S. Fort Apache Rd.).
Where to Ride
Taking West Charleston Boulevard on the crescent-shaped arc to Blue Diamond Road and turning around at Highway 160 creates a 30-mile out-and-back ride. Tack on 13 more miles by adding the paved loop within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Check in with McGhie’s bike shops (three locations; Mcghies.com) or Las Vegas Cyclery (10575 Discovery Dr.; Lasvegascyclery.com) for group rides.
Where to Run
The paved 13-mile single-track loop through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is shared with motorists, but the park offers dozens of off-road trails with scenic desert vistas, rigorous climbs, and little congestion. The 35-mile River Mountains Trail loop that connects Lake Mead, Henderson, and Boulder City can be broken into segments, based on your need for a flatter or a hillier and more technical run. For interval workouts, head to UNLV Myron Partridge Track Stadium, about a block east of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
One of the country’s top tri meccas, the Phoenix metropolitan area is a great training outpost. The weather is milder in the Valley of the Sun in fall and winter, making conditions more conducive to all-day training. Cooler mornings (upper 30s to low 50s) are ideal for running, while warm dry days (low 70s to mid-80s) and mild evenings are perfect for long rides and pool sessions.
“It’s an amazing place to train in the fall,” says Blake Uptain, owner of Scottsdale-based Moxie Multisport, located about 30 minutes from Phoenix. “You can train from 6 a.m. to noon and never break a sweat. But if you’re coming from out of town, just make sure you bring lip balm and sunblock. It’s a dry heat, and most people don’t feel that bad initially because they’re not sweating much. But we see them come back after a day, and they look like lobsters.”
The Phoenix area has several great tri, run, and bike shops that offer group rides, guided rides, coaching programs, bike/ run route details, and social events. Moxie Multisport (Themoxiemultisport.com) has a new Wahoo Kickr Studio that offers year-round indoor bike trainer sessions in a 77-degree climate-controlled facility.
Where to Swim
Swimming is prohibited in Tempe Town Lake, except for races. There are group swims at Bartlett Lake and Canyon Lake (in the Superstition Mountains, 40 miles west of Phoenix) and Lake Pleasant (30 minutes north of Phoenix) almost every Sunday. The Phoenix Swim Club welcomes out-of-town visitors to join workouts at the world-class swimming complex at Phoenix Country Day School (3901 E. Stanford Dr., Paradise Valley).
Where to Ride
The Tortilla Flats ride is a 90-mile out-and-back route that climbs to the 2,840-foot end-of-pavement high point in the Superstition Mountains east of the city. The ride includes five climbs totaling 4,640 feet. If you want a fast group ride, join “The BOS” from the Bicycles of Scottsdale shop every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. Two other options include El Tour de Mesa (70 miles) and Tour de Scottsdale (68 miles), similar loops out of the Mesa/Scottsdale area that ascend into Usery Mountain Park and McDowell Mountain Regional Park and include more than 2,200 feet of climbing.
Where to Run
Papago Park in central Phoenix has a moderately hilly 5.6-mile loop linking paved and dirt paths that encircle the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden. By stringing together dirt and concrete paths around the Salt River/Tempe Town Lake, you can create a 7.5-mile loop that passes Arizona State University, Tempe Beach Park, and Papago Park. The 14-mile Green Belt connects parks and trails between Tempe and Scottsdale. For track intervals, head to Scottsdale Community College (9000 E. Chaparral Rd., Scottsdale).