Beautiful sunsets on Lake Minneola from our cottage
Once again for the second year in a row, we flew down to Clermont, Florida in March. The goal was to get a couple weeks of warm weather training in before flying off to do Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3. This year we rented a small, cozy, rustic cottage right on Lake Minneola which was about an easy 10 minute drive from the National Training Center. This spot was excellent as we were right on the bike trail which was also great for running. Scott and I worked remotely and also fit in our training. It was tricky but we got a lot done on both fronts. I worked with Lisa and Dave many days on my swimming which was super helpful. It was also really wonderful to do some road riding on our tri-bikes instead of the computrainers. We knew the run portion of the Puerto Rico 70.3 was going to be wickedly hot and hard. So being in a warm climate and doing some workouts in the heat was part of the plan to acclimate better.
This year we flew with both bikes instead of bringing just mine and renting a bike for Scott. It’s definitely stressful and difficult traveling with two bikes but everything went surprisingly smooth, even with the airlines. Scott is now an expert at breaking down and building back up bikes quickly! There are advantages to being a bike mechanic 20+ years ago! It can cost between $75 to $150 per bike, one-way depending on airlines. Next time we race far away from home, we might try one of the professional bike transport services especially for Ironman events.
The first week we had swimming lessons almost every day from Lisa and Dave and a couple more the following week before heading off to Puerto Rico. They are truly awesome at swim coaching and I definitely found some much needed improvements in my swim stroke. I’ve read that swimming is over 80% technique. I still have a long way to go before I will ever be at the top of my age-group in the swim portion of half and full Ironman events. But it’s getting better and I’m making improvements in technique and efficiency . Lisa says my swim is a “work-in-progress”. It’s not easy learning to swim from scratch at age 41 but it is possible to improve and get better. It just takes a lot of hard work, dedication and support. I like to say “it takes a village”.
The National Training Center 50 meter pool is a gem!
Swim training with Scott, Len, and Ivan
It was so enjoyable to be able to ride on the quiet Clermont roads which always feel so much safer than riding in Vermont. We would start out on the bike trail right from our cottage and ride out onto more rural and country roads. While it was a bit busier on the weekends, it never felt crazy or dangerous. And drivers in Florida are much nicer compared to the hostility we face on our local roads here in the Green Mountains.
On our first Sunday, we did a four hour hard training ride with Lisa, Kate, Scott and Dave. Kate is a pro so we were nervous about the ride but we all rode strong that day. And it was SUPER windy as well to make it truly challenging. Lisa said the winds were like Kona that day. This was the key ride before Puerto Rico. I’m so glad I got to do this ride outside in the warm Florida sun. We also got out during the week days but nothing longer than a 2 hour ride due to working most days on our laptops. I really enjoy riding in the Clermont/Minneola area. There are good sized rolling hills and quiet roads for working on time trialing and harder intervals. And it was always nice to see so many cyclists all the time while riding. A lot of pros spend their winters in Clermont. The Florida drivers out there are used to seeing lots of cyclists to they are generally polite and give us room. They don’t seem to mind sharing the road.
Clermont has a lot of great places to run including the bike trails, the Apopka Trail, the Clay trails, Lake Louisa, etc. This year we didn’t have time to do the Apopka trail which we ran last year. I was disappointed about that, but sometimes you just can’t do everything. And we also didn’t get a chance to visit Lake Louisa State park and try the trails there. We visited twice last year but still haven’t run there. Hopefully next year! I highly recommend a visit to Lake Louisa State Park.
Scott finishing up a nice sunset run after working
Most of our runs were right from the house after our bike rides. And it was so convenient to jump right onto the beautiful bike trail and run along Lake Minneola. The highlight of the running was our last Sunday run at the Clay trails. These were located off of Route 27 heading towards Lake Louisa State Park. They are a very popular running spot with very little car traffic. The trails are really just bright orange dirt roads out in the countryside. It truly feels like you are running in Africa or somewhere very remote. I loved running here!
Food and Beverage Report
Clermont, Florida is not known to be a vegan mecca or even very vegan friendly. Luckily there now is a new wonderful little vegan restaurant that opened this past February. Loving Heart was located a couple miles from our cottage on Route 50, closet to Route 27. This is one of our favorite vegan restaurants! We were so excited to have delicious, healthy, and affordable vegan meals. We ate there almost every day. This is a family owned restaurant and everyone made us feel so at home. They were very excited to learn we are Ironman athletes and even asked to have a photo taken with them.
We also had delicious vegan, curry tofu pizza at Mellow Mushroom in Orlando, Florida. This is the second year in a row we visited this vegan friendly pizza joint. They have decent beer on tap and the service is friendly. This is a chain restaurant but still recommended if you crave vegan pizza. There are a couple in the area but we visited the one on International Drive both times. Scott LOVES vegan pizza!
One other vegan restaurant we visited was called Ethos Vegan Kitchen which was located in Winter Park (north of Orlando). This was a super fun restaurant with delicious vegan comfort food. It was worth the 45 minute drive from our cottage. It was a Sunday afternoon at 4pm and the place was hopping! I’m sure most people weren’t vegans and probably didn’t understand the restaurant was meat-free. The food was good and the atmosphere was very trendy and hip. I think people just thought it was a Greek restaurant. I’m glad they were busy! I’m sure they are enlightening people that vegan food is fun and fabulous!
Overall it was a great two weeks in Clermont this year! I was sad to leave our cozy cottage by the lake. I truly hope to be back next year! Details on Puerto Rico will be coming soon.