What makes a perfect tri town? The weather must be pleasant, the bike routes plentiful, and the cuisine healthful. These four destinations promise all of that—plus a little something extra. From world-class swimming facilities to blood-boosting altitudes, these are the towns in which to train.
Best For: Altitude training
When to Go: April through October
There’s a reason many of the sport’s pros, including Craig Alexander, Matt Reid, and Chrissie Wellington, head to Boulder every year to train. Make that three reasons. First, there’s the altitude. At 5,430 feet above sea level, the athletes who train long-term in Boulder experience the physiological benefits of living high, raising their red blood cell count and lactate threshold. But don’t fret if you don’t have the three to four weeks required to maximize those benefits. There’s always the number two reason to head for the Colorado foothills: outdoor space. More than 99,000 public acres means you’ll never want for a new trail to explore. Finally, there’s the highly concentrated, highly dedicated community of triathletes training at all times, so it’s easy to find a training partner who will push you to your limits—whether you want one or not.
Best For: Sunshine
When to Go: October through April
When I think Tri Town, I think Tucson. Ironman World Champion Peter Reid and pro triathletes Olympian Sheila Taormina and Lance Armstrong have all logged miles in this desert town. Triathlon retail giant TriSports.com is based there, and high-profile coaches like Cliff English host annual Tucson training camps.
So what’s the draw? For starters, you’re almost guaranteed to have perfect, sunny weather that won’t interfere with training. (U.S. News pegs the annual number of sunny days in Tucson at 340, with an average high of 65 in January.) Throw in hundreds of miles of cycling routes—varying from pancake flat all the way to Mount Lemmon’s 19-mile climb up 8,000 feet—and you’ll never run out of challenging, scenic terrain to inspire your long rides and runs.
Best For: Training like an Olympian (and escaping the West)
When to Go: October through May
This Orlando suburb's balmy weather and quiet, rolling hills have ensnared Olympian triathletes Sarah Haskins and Jarrod Shoemaker, as well as Ironman champ Nina Kraft. But the city’s biggest draw is the National Training Center, a 300-acre athlete's playground with an Olympic-sized pool, fitness center, track and field complex, performance testing, trainers, physical therapists—everything, in short, an athlete could possibly need. Facility fees start at $15 per day. One caveat: Clermont’s rainy season is during the summer, so make the city a winter or spring training destination to avoid the monsoons.
San Diego, California
Best For: Open-water swimming
When to Go: Year round
There is a reason that the triathlon was invented in San Diego. The city has an average temperature of 70.5 degrees Fahrenheit with little rainfall and endless opportunity for open-water swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Up the coast in San Diego’s North County cities it’s not uncommon to catch Ironman world champ Chris McCormack dining at California Pizza Kitchen, or triathlon icon Michellie Jones out for a ride. Cycle flat along the coast, or head inland for endless, punishing hills. Join the famous Swami’s ride on a Saturday morning, eat at the health-conscious Swami’s Cafe, then head out for a run on one of hundreds of trails. As in Boulder, you'll never want for a training partner, or a new trail to explore.