Alaska Bob – Mixing it up in Kona!

Alaska Bob, mixing it up at Kona!

If you have been to one of our March camps from 2010 onwards, you will no doubt have met Alaska Bob (Bob Smith).

Bob, who spent many years living and working in Valdez, Alaska, before retiring to Colorado, is known for letting his bike legs do most of his talking at camp. We all knew it would be just a matter of time before the Kona finishing line would see his name. This summer, he got serious, put his skateboarding hobby on hold:) and arrived in Kona fit and raring to go!
Alaska Bob’s 5 best moments of racing at the Ironman World Championships:
5. Kona Coffee at Lava Java
4. Swimming in the pier
3. All the energy from athletes from all the world
2. Seeing Alaska friends and my wife Sue cheering me on
1. Coming down from Alli Drive and entering the finishing chute. With Mike Riley telling me I’m an Ironman. (Also first Long Board beer after the finish).
STC – Awesome job Bob. Enjoy your off-season, we hope to see you in March at camp!

Athlete Timmy J on getting high

Canadian Timmy J has set a high goal for 2018, that’s 19,341ft high and in the name of Kilimanjaro. Timmy, a 8 X Solvang Camp athlete and 15 X Ironman finisher, is no stranger to big mountains and digging deep when it matters. We were lucky enough to catch up with Timmy J, as he and his wife Dawn prepare to embark on another mountain adventure, this time on the African continent.

Thanks to Timmy J for sharing below… he had us laughing and inspired all at the same time with this write up. See you at the Spring Fling Camp in March Timmy, look forward to hearing if Dawn complies with your Kilimanjaro plan!

1. Kilmanjaro. A 19,341ft mountain. Has this been on your bucket list for some time?
So the “bucket list goal”, was to complete all 7 summits. We have summited 3 so far. South America’s Aconcagua, Australia’s Kosciusko and North America’s Denali. Kilimanjaro, continent of Africa, requires no real mountaineering skills, it’s a trek to the top but also has a very high failure rate. Many people grossly underestimate the endurance required to climb above 19,000 feet.

Timmy J on ‘The Fig’ (Figueroa Mountain climb in Solvang) at his 9th Solvang camp.

2. What’s your training like right now to prepare for this adventure?
Since discovering Ironman 15 years ago, I have completed at least one a year. I love the tri community, being really fit and the lifestyle that affords me… so the aerobic base is there. There is also the learned capacities of nutrition, hydration and how to suffer and keep moving forward.

3. You’ve raced many Ironman’s including the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, but what’s the highest summit you have already experienced?
Well here’s the thing about Kona. I got the crap kicked out of me by the men on the swim and just when I thought all was going to be ok, the women (15 minutes later) started swimming over top of me.

In his favorite role of grandfather :). Timmy J shown here with one of his 4 grandkids.

The bike was into the wind for 7 hours, not sure how that worked on an out and back course. While in T2 could not figure out where I was and why ‘ Gumby’ had mysteriously taken over my body. With my hat in my hand I staggered out onto the run course and though, “I’m totally whipped, how can I finish this thing…”?

Maybe a thousand vertical feet from the summit of Aconcagua a giant rock overhangs the path. It’s a place of shelter to eat, drink and rest a bit before moving on. Our guide probably let us stay there too long and once he gave us the go ahead, only half of our team pushed on, the rest threw in the towel and turned back. Without supplementary oxygen it’s three steps forward, stoop over my climbing poles and breath as deeply as I could for five breaths – repeat.

Then I remember having this sort of fluffy dream and then being rudely kicked… I had passed out and Dawn was encouraging me with her boots to wake up.

Continue reading “Athlete Timmy J on getting high”

Athlete Michelle Hildebrand’s top 6 takeaways from Kona

Thanks to athlete Michelle Hildebrand for this great read on some of the nitty gritty race specifics of racing in the prestigious Ironman World Championships!

All of us here at Solvang Tri Camps have been honored to see Michelle’s progression from her first Solvang camp in 2009, through to her 6th camp earlier this year. Her determination and dedication to her Kona goal was an inspiration and something we all suspected would be on the cards in due time!

Congratulations Michelle on achieving your goal of qualifying for and racing in Kona, very well deserved!

Michelle Hildebrand’s top 6 takeaways from Kona


1. The environment on race morning is indescribable so take the time to look around and soak in the small things like seeing the pros bikes in transition, walking down the red carpet steps into the water while listening to the drums, and looking back at the sea wall full of spectators before the swim start.

2. Racing in the Ironman World Championships is almost more mental than physical because of the long stretches of nothingness and lava along the Queen K on the bike and run that don’t provide the mental change up that other courses provide. I expected the heat and wind but not the mental challenge this course threw at me.

3. The extra aid stations on the bike are a godsend for getting extra bottles of water to keep cool but the length of the aid stations on the run is almost a curse because walking the entire aid stations eats badly into your run pace.

4. The run is hot but for those of us finishing over 10 hours, the energy lab and return trip to town are not too bad because the sun is starting to go down.

5. The wind on the bike is as bad as you’ve heard in spots but keep telling yourself that the wind is your friend and eventually you’ll start to feel it push you along.

6. The last mile of the run going down Palani, through town and down the finisher chute in Kona is as amazing as you can imagine!

Alaska Bob’s trade secrets!

If you have attended a March Solvang camp since 2010, then you would have no doubt met, or seen the back wheel of, Alaska Bob, AKA Bob Smith. Bob, a strong athlete with a quiet demeanor, lets his biking do the talking at camp and his signature ride is the Jalama Beach ride. Bob seems to be one of only a handful of athletes who has the ability to negative split that ride even with putting the hammer down on the way TO the beach!

2017 has been a good year for Alaska Bob which included a great race at Ironman Wisconsin in September, which enabled him to punch his ticket to Kona for 2018! So on the back of that, we thought we would check in with him to see if he would spill the beans on some of his training behind his amazing biking strength.  Thanks for sharing Bob!

Alaska Bob is his element in Solvang!

Alaska Bob’s Key Ironman Bike Session

Progression by week: This session starts out with a two hour bike on the weekends and increases a half hour every week. These long rides are on Saturday followed by my long runs on Sunday and those increase two or four miles every week. It peaks at a five hour ride three weeks before the Ironman race. I try to hold a zone 2 power range mixing in some surges and intervals and hope my normalized power is in the low zone 2 range for these rides.

Cadence: I like to go at a cadence of 90 (not that it happens enough)! It also works best if it is a open road without stop signs or lights. Continue reading “Alaska Bob’s trade secrets!”

Key workout – Athlete Julie Gagnon’s long distance brick

Canadian Julie Gagnon, a 7 time Solvang camp athlete, has had a big year which included finishing her MBA, starting a new job, and racing the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Penticton in August. Juggling all this led to her starting her training later than normal in the year, so her 10 week build up was definitely about honing the word ‘key’!

Check out one of Julie’s key workouts that accelerated her to an 11th place finish in her AG at the ITU Long Distance world champs, a race distance that was 3km swim – 120km bike – 30km run !

Julie racing this summer

Julie Gagnon’s Key Workout In Prep for ITU Long Distance Worlds

Session focus: My focus was on building up my bike and run mileage. I did a few of these run/bike/run bricks this year and I really like them. Continue reading “Key workout – Athlete Julie Gagnon’s long distance brick”