In her 12 years as a San Francisco resident, Ironman champion Meredith Kessler has learned a great many things about triathlon training in Northern California. With the area’s amazing hills, windy conditions and frigid ocean water temps, it’s a great place to train so that any conditions thrown your way on race day are something you’ve seen more than once in your everyday training life. But while many of the area’s multisport athletes take advantage of the cold bay waters and the Marin Headlands, Kessler still prefers to do the majority of her training indoors so she can control her power, speed and heart rate to get the most efficient workout in the least amount of time. This is partly because up until two years ago, she was balancing her pro triathlon career with her career in investment banking. Here are some of Kessler’s favorite places to train in and around the San Francisco Bay Area:
Herbst Natatorium at St. Ignatius College Preparatory; 2001 37th Ave., San Franciso, CA 94116 (www.siprep.org/pool): While technically part of the famous private Catholic school in downtown San Francisco, this pool is open to the public and home to local club and Masters swimming, as well to Kessler’s coach, Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness. Most mornings you can find Dixon shouting out swim sets to dozens of his athletes including Kessler at the group’s 5:30 a.m. swim workouts.
Aquatic Park; Fisherman’s Wharf; (www.nps.gov/safr/planyourvisit/aquaticparkcove.htm): No trip to San Francisco is complete with a dip in Aquatic Park, a man-made cove adjacent to the San Francisco Maritime National Museum. People of all ages come to the cove to swim along the buoys (roughly a half a mile in length from one side to the other), or as a starting point for a more daring swim out into the treacherous currents of the San Francisco Bay toward Alcatraz. The waters inside the cove are calm, but temps are consistently in the low to mid-50s, so a wetsuit is recommended unless you are a hardcore open water swimmer.
Velo SF; 300 Broadway St. San Francisco 94133; (www.velosf.com): Kessler estimates that she does almost 90 percent of her cycling training at this power-based cycling studio in the financial district. She teaches two 90-minute classes a week and takes another couple taught by her coach, Matt Dixon. In addition to cycling classes, the studio offers TRX and strength conditioning as well as coaching services.
Nicassio Loop; various distances and starting points; (http://www.bikemap.net/en/route/51981-nicasio-reservoir-loop/)
One of the more popular cycling routes in Marin County, the Nicassio Loop takes riders through rural, pastoral roads with plenty of views of all the beauty that Marin County has to offer. Whether you start in San Francisco and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge before winding up through San Rafael to begin the loop or start farther up in Fairfax, this loop will take you along some mildly challenging climbs before winding you around the Nicassio Reservoir. The ride technically ends in the small town of Pt. Reyes Station, where a stop at the Bovine Bakery for a pastry before heading back is an absolute must. Be aware that the route out often involves moderate to severe headwinds, however, pushing through them on the way out means you will more than likely negative split your ride on the way back! Longer variations of this loop take you back along Highway 1 or venture north toward Petaluma for some challenging hill work.
Golden Gate Park; 501 Stanyan St., San Francisco, CA 94117; (www.golden-gate-park.com):
With its more than 1,000-acres of open space, Golden Gate Park is a mini-version of New York City’s Central Park that includes several museums, gardens, running trails—and even a running track open to the public. Whether you want to run along the trails and catch a glimpse of the Japanese Tea Gardens or run past the Conservatory of Flowers or the California Academy of Sciences, there is no shortage of sights to see in this tree-lined park. Kezar Stadium is a great place to fit in some interval training or stair running as well.
The Presidio of San Francisco; Northwestern corner of San Francisco: (http://www.nps.gov/prsf/planyourvisit/directions.htm)
No visit to San Francisco is complete without a run along Chrissy Field up to the Presidio. A former army post, the Presdio area encompasses a National Cemetery, historical buildings, beaches, forests and trails galore. The more popular route for runner starts along the water at Chrissy Field, where a flat multi-use path wanders along the shoreline before taking runners and cyclists up the Presidio along a steep, stair-laden trail (part of the Escape From Alcatraz course) toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Runners can then either run across the bridge or hug the shoreline toward Baker’s Beach, where the infamous Sand Ladder is always available for those looking for a tough stair and deep sand workout. Don’t forget to stop off at the Warming Hut near Torpedo Wharf for some coffee or hot chocolate before taking a moment to take in the views of the bridge to your left and the beautiful San Francisco skyline to your right.
For more on Meredith Kessler and her San Francisco training base, stay tuned for the August issue of LAVA Magazine.