Tucson is a wonderful place to visit for sports training. With perfect winter weather, varied terrain, excellent accommodations, a plethora of sports resources, and a wide variety of leisure activities, Tucson has it all.
This is why Triathlete Magazine named Tucson the number 1 place to go for winter training. It's also the reason some of the country's top triathlon and cycling coaches call Tucson home and so many top international professionals and teams train in Tucson in the winter.
Brian Grasky, USA Triathlon Certified Coach, and 5-time Ironman
Great bike rides:
Join the Shootout Ride on Saturday mornings and see pros and top amateurs from all over-until you see red from bleeding out of your eyes! The ride gets out of town nice and leisurely and then picks it up to just subsonic once it hits Valencia Road. Call Fair Wheel Bikes for start times, and expect groups up to 200 riders in the winter. There are other, smaller, group rides as well- such as the Tucson Endurance ride on Saturday; Fair Wheel Bike Shop rides Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and Sunday rides from the world's top triathlon retailer, Trisports.com.
Park your car on University Blvd. near Euclid and ride west through the Tucson Mountains. Not only is it a beautiful ride, but the short, steep hills will test even the fittest of athletes. Ride anywhere from 1 to 5 hours. Grab a bite to eat at any number of restaurants right by your car afterwards!
Ride the road to Mt. Lemmon northeast of town. With Tucson at 2,600 feet and Mt. Lemmon reaching almost 9,000 feet at the top, you can climb all day long (literally)! The usual start and finish location is a 45-minute ride from downtown, or you can drive to the cyclists' hangout, Le Buzz Café at Tanque Verde and Catalina Highway. You can also climb Kitt Peak, the Mont Ventoux of Tucson.
Ride from town to beautiful Madera Canyon and see pine trees and running streams, challenge yourself on the rollers through the wine country of Sonoita, or ride the flats on the 6-foot wide bike lanes north of Tucson through Oracle and Oro Valley. There's a ride for everyone here.
Great running locations:
Run past (or through) running streams or climb until your nose bleeds in Sabino Canyon, nestled on the northern edge of town in the shadows of Mt. Lemmon. Try the 9.2-mile Phoneline Trail loop. Watch out for mountain lions.
Follow trails on the edge of the Rincon Mountains on the east side of town. Starts at one of several trailheads at the east end of Speedway or Broadway Roads. Look out for horses and what they leave behind. You can almost run forever on trails here.
Run through the unbeatable desert beauty in Saguaro National Park. There's one at both the east and west ends of town so there's no excuse not to! If you're lucky, you'll see every kind of desert animal there - Javelina (wild pig), lizards, snakes, jackrabbits, and coyote-especially at dawn and dusk. Remember to keep a safe distance from our desert critter friends.
If you're on the west side of town, try Starr Pass trail. The trailhead is in the neighborhood of Starr Pass, right behind the golf course. You'll soon be so far in the mountains you'll forget you're 10 minutes from downtown.
Right in the middle of town is Reid Park. The 3-mile circuit crosses no roads, is paved, and lit at night. It's the perfect place for an evening jog or for that time-crunched speed work. Join one of several running groups that meet there for regular workouts. Many school tracks are open to the public as well, and several groups in town run track or group speed sessions.
Wonderful swimming opportunities:
I don't know of any town with the number of public pools Tucson has-27! And although only a handful are now open year-round, for $1.50 admission you can't beat the price. I'm never alone, but I also very rarely share a lane. Join up with one of several master's groups. www.azlmsc.org, www.tucsonaz.gov/parks/aquatics.
The Town of Oro Valley also houses one of the top Aquatic Centers in the entire state of Arizona. With competition level facilities, plus plenty of fun options for families, this is a perfect place for athletes of all ages to train year-round.
For more information about City of Tucson Parks and Recreation prices and fall schedule, call Billy Sassi at (520) 791-4245 or click here for a .pdf of their current program guide. For more information on the Town of Oro Valley Parks and Recreation, located in northwest Tucson, click here.
Check out Patagonia Lake and Parker Canyon Reservoir for open water swimming. Each is about an hour south and southeast of town.
Other reasons to come to town:
No place on earth can beat our sunsets. Add great restaurants, bike lanes and bike-friendly drivers, easy access to trails, and the ability to easily get away from the hustle and bustle, and you'll end up staying here like I did!
Tucson local Brian Grasky owns and operates Grasky Endurance Coaching, a Tucson staple in the endurance sports community, and is the head coach of the University of Arizona TriCats Triathlon Team. When he's not coaching or riding, he's flying F-16s with the Arizona Air National Guard. Please feel free to contact Brian for more inside information.
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