Triathlon Travel Guide: San Diego County

With sunny days, mild temps and a thriving triathlon community, San Diego County, Calif. can't be beat as a winter training spot.

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With sunny days, mild temps and a thriving triathlon community, San Diego County, Calif. can’t be beat as a winter training spot.

– As the birthplace of triathlon, San Diego remains a tri mecca to age groupers and pros alike. But you’ll need to get away from downtown to find the best training routes and hot spots.

– The northern part of San Diego County—referred to as North County by locals—features a wide variety of riding routes. A popular ride is either the 40-mile or 90-mile version of Swami’s Loop, which showcases both the coast and the rolling hills and overhanging trees of Elfin Forest. Looking for an epic mountain climb? Palomar Mountain offers a steep and steady grade to its 6,142-foot summit, home to the Palomar Observatory and the 200-inch Hale Telescope. And if you drive inland, the Great Western Loop is a quiet 45-mile route with practically no traffic and a steady 12-mile climb.

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– For hill repeats on your bike, San Elijo up to Double Peak (1,644 feet at its summit) is killer, or Torrey Pines near La Jolla is challenging and offers a scenic ocean view on the way down.

– A trip to San Diego wouldn’t be complete without a sampling of the numerous microbreweries in the area. For farm-to-table eats and delectable beer in an expansive garden and outdoor patio, visit one of the two Stone Brewery locations ( Both Green Flash Brewing Company’s tasting room in Mira Mesa ( and The Lost Abbey in San Marcos ( feature $1 tasters and local food truck fare.

– With a selection of outdoor swim- ming pools and miles of beaches, you can have your pick of swim training options. For pool training, join a Masters session at the Encinitas YMCA ($6 drop-in) or the 50-meter outdoor University of California San Diego pool ($10 drop-in)—they’re available multiple times of day. For open-water swim training (in your wetsuit—Pacific water temps are especially chilly in winter), La Jolla Cove has buoys set up 1⁄4 mile out, 1⁄2 mile out or you could swim to La Jolla Shores, about 1 mile each way.

– Add some triathlon history to your trip by practicing your time trialing on Fiesta Island, where the first triathlon was held in 1974. Or compete in the three-lap, 20K Fiesta Island Time Trial, put on by the San Diego Bicycle Club on the super-flat island in Mission Bay

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– Trail running abounds in San Diego—San Elijo Lagoon features curvy trails and varied terrain, or coastal runs, such as the rail trail near Torrey Pines, offer scenic views with flat terrain and water stops along the way. You can also head inland to run the Los Peñasquitos Canyon trail, or complete your tempo runs on the 5-mile paved loop surrounding Lake Miramar.

– Hop into a road race to work on your off-season run speed—the Carlsbad Marathon and Half Marathon ( is a rolling, coastal course mostly along Highway 101, and the San Dieguito Half-Marathon ( passes through the hills of the picturesque Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood.

– Don’t miss out on the great breakfast spots to fuel your tri training—Café Ipe ( and Lofty Coffee Company ( in Encinitas, and Zumbar Coffee ( in Sorrento Valley and Cardiff by the Sea are all smaller shops with quality coffee. Try one of many pastry options at Pannikin (three locations,, grab a Plonk muffin at Gordy’s Bakery ( in Encinitas, and ask for the not-on-the-menu Butterfinger smoothie at Juicers in Solana Beach.

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