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Unsung Winter Triathlon Training Getaways

Looking to get away safely this winter? Here are three drive-worthy destinations.

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Need a break from training on that same old loop around the block? Want to combine a little multisport jolt with some much-needed relaxation with the harsh glare of 2020 in the rearview mirror? Take a look at three off-the-beaten-path destinations just out- side of highly populated metro areas that offer great opportunities for some winter getaway training.

San Luis Obispo/Pismo Beach, California

This temperate Southern California enclave is situated just above the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to a thriving Central Coast wine region. Its cozy, small-town ambiance, mild Mediterranean climate, and access to great training makes it an ideal winter training ground, said Tim Edwards, head coach and owner of West Coast Endurance Coaching and director of the Central Coast Triathlon Club.

DRIVE: 3 hours from Los Angeles; 4 hours from San Francisco; 5 hours from Sacramento.

CLIMATE: Winter months typically bring mild to warm temperatures in the 50-80 degrees F range, but there can be sporadic rain showers and moderate humidity.

SWIM: The best swimming can be found at the SLO Swim Center’s eight-lane, 50-meter outdoor pool. Both Cal Poly State’s 20-lane, 25-yard pool and Cuesta College 10-lane, 50-meter pool also offer limited public hours. For open-water swimming, San Luis Obispo Bay is an ideal place, with access off of Avila Beach adjacent to Cal Poly Pier—but the water is very cold so you’ll want to wear a wetsuit. Members of the Avila Dolphins Swim Club meet there several mornings a week for informal group swims.

BIKE: There are a variety of good medi- um-to-long bike loops in and around the wine country in the foothills of San Luis Obispo, in- cluding the Tiffany Ranch Road Loop (19.7 miles) and Corbett Canyon Loop (29.5 miles). For longer, hillier rides, consider (carefully) riding U.S. 101 south to Santa Maria and back (90 miles round trip) or connecting Highway 1 north to Harmony, then Highway 46 east to Templeton and U.S. 101 south back to SLO (90 miles).

RUN: San Luis Obispo and the adjacent com- munities of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay host an amazing network of trails, paved paths, and smooth, hard-packed beaches for running. Popular routes include the 7.1-mile Poly Canyon Loop, the 6.8-mile Point Buchon Trail, and eight miles of rolling runs at Irish Hills Natural Reserve. SLO Roadrunners meet at the San Luis Obispo High School track at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 8:30 a.m. on Sundays for workouts.

Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida panhandle and the largest city in the Gulf Coast region between New Orleans and Tampa. But for a bustling metropolitan area of 500,000 people, it offers an impressive amount of training options within close proximity. “Pensacola is a great place to train for triathlons because of the variety of different terrain within a very reasonable drive time,” said Patrick Willis, president of Tri Gulf Coast, a club with more than 450 members.

DRIVE: Less than an hour from Mobile, Alabama; 2 hours from Montgomery, Alabama; 3 hours from Tallahassee, Florida

CLIMATE: Relatively dry with afternoon highs around 65 degrees F and the overnight lows in the 45-50 degrees F range.

SWIM: The Aquatic Center at the University of West Florida has a 10-lane, 25-yard indoor pool that’s available for lap swimming, while Pensacola State College has a six-lane 25-yard pool. The best open-water swimming spots can be found at Casino Beach on the Gulf of Mexico or Mommy Beach on the calm, protected waters of Santa Rosa Sound. Water temperatures in the winter rarely get below 55 degrees F and can be manageable with a wetsuit and neoprene cap.

BIKE: The 58-mile loop that encircles Escambia Bay is considered the area’s crown jewel ride. There’s also a great 56-mile loop around Santa Rosa Sound and a fun 41-miler out to Fort Pickens State Park that sends cyclists across bridges over Pensacola Bay and English Navy Cove. Not far outside of town, there are great long, hilly routes through Blackwater River State Forest. The West Florida Wheelmen organize medium-to-long group rides in the Pensacola area almost every day of the week.

RUN: The 10-mile loop around Bayou Texar winds along the waterfront through the heart of downtown. If you’re into beach running, you can connect Pensacola Beach with a series of other beaches for long runs ranging from 10 to 20 miles. The Pensacola Runners Association organizes group runs, long runs, and workouts at the Running Wild run shop and the University of West Florida track throughout the week. There’s also a free weekly 5K ParkRun event every Saturday morning from the UWF recreation center.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is known for its art community, epic mountain biking, and spiritual vortexes—things that also make it an ideal place for a personal training camp. Its moderately high elevation (4,350 feet) makes it a nice alternative to Tempe (1,200 feet) or Flagstaff (7,000 feet).

DRIVE: 2 hours from Phoenix; 4 hours from Tucson; 4 hours from Las Vegas; 5 hours from Albuquerque.

CLIMATE: Winter weather typically includes chilly mornings and nights (30-34 degrees F) but moderate mid-day temperatures (56-65 degrees F).

SWIM: The outdoor, eight-lane, 25-yard Sedona Community Pool is only open seasonally, so the best place to swim in the winter is the 25-yard indoor pool at the Cottonwood Recreation Center (about 19 miles to the southwest).

BIKE: Sedona has dozens of mountain bike routes, including the six-mile Templeton Trail to Baldwin Loop route and the 18-mile Long Canyon to Boynton route. One of the best road rides goes along Highway 179 south of town. Take that all the way to Rimrock for a 74-mile out-and-back journey or create a 40-mile loop via Beaverhead Flats Road, East Cornville Road, North Page Springs Road, and the slightly busier Highway 89A back to Sedona. There are eight free bike repair stations around Sedona and good bike shops (Absolute Bikes and Thunder Mountain Bikes) in town.

RUN: The best running in Sedona is on trails. Two favorites are the 5.4-mile West Fork Oak Creek Trail and the 3.5-mile hard-packed dirt route of Bell Rock Pathway. On the roads, consider the low-traffic Verde Valley School Road from the western edge of town to Oak Creek for a 10-mile out and back. Check in with Run Sedona for Tuesday morning group runs.