California is a state we love for many reasons, well beyond triathlons. You can experience the ocean to the mountains and everything in-between within hours. Surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon if you want; it’s all at your doorstep. And, don’t even get us started on the wine and food. California has some of our favorite vineyards and restaurants in the world. We find the food to be farm fresh, new world, and international. It really is a perfect combination for a triathlete lifestyle.
We do have to admit that it’s easy for us to write about California. Not only have we raced there on multiple occasions, but we lived there for many years and still vacation there, too. So, most of what we mention comes from personal experience. Now, of course, California living does not come cheap, but it certainly is possible.
But, we’re here to talk about why we love California as a state to live in for triathletes and here’s a few of our favorite cities…
Our number one city is Carlsbad. Located in the north county of San Diego, Carlsbad is a triathlete’s heaven for training and an area many consider a triathlon mecca. We would have to agree. Most even hold that the Mission Bay Triathlon in 1974 is the official birthday of modern triathlons, so the area garners great respect from triathletes. It is home to not only a ton of mere mortal triathletes, but also some of our long-time favorite pros, like Paula Newby-Fraser.
None of this is surprising, because the southern California weather allows for perfect year round training. You can train on your bike with rides up and down the coast, hit the rolling inland hills, or head up Mt. Palomer. While the city itself is congested, within seconds you are on an open road for all types of training. The ocean is swimmable year round, albeit some months you’ll be in your wetsuit. But, you’ll also find aquatic centers and YMCAs perfect for indoor swimming. And, only in December may you need a long sleeve shirt a day or two.
The areas is heavily populated with triathletes and whether you are in a triathlon group, like the Tri Club of San Diego or prefer going solo, you will be sure to have a training buddy by default. And, if you’re in need of some new gear, you can find it all in Carlsbad or the surrounding area, as there are triathlon stores, multipart stores, and specialty stores by the numbers.
Then, there are the races. From the Ironman season opener, Ironman 70.3 California, one of the only point to point races we will do, to local races that many use as a training day, there’s something for all levels. Plus, there is no shortage of recovery places with an abundance of breweries.
But, it’s not just great that Carlsbad is great for triathlon training. This whole area, including San Diego and Orange County, is filled with an unending list of activities. You and your family will never be bored living the California lifestyle.
Many people would not expect to find Santa Barbara on the list, but given it’s climate, beauty, and proximity to amazing training grounds, we have it listed here. Known as America’s Riviera, you have the ocean and the mountains nearby for training. The Santa Ynez Mountains, located just outside of the city, are some of the best training climbs in the west, not to mention great vineyards.
The swim training is also one of the best given the opportunity for open water swim training as well as the excellent University of California, Santa Barbara swim center. As we see it, the greatest benefit to living in Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Swim Club. The Santa Barbara Swim Club offers everything with clubs, lessons, Master’s classes, open water, pool, and so much more.
Cross-training is also easy in Santa Barbara for those who get bored or for the off season. From beach biking, extreme hiking, and pub yoga to stand up paddle-boarding and dessert runs, you can find it all.
Many triathletes come here to enjoy triathlon training camp, especially with the family in tow, but living here is truly living the California dream with perfect weather year round.
We love living in big cities for a triathlete family. One of the biggest reasons, honestly, is airport and flight accessibility. San Francisco is one of the easiest airports to get anywhere in the world to race. Yes, that is a priority, because who wants to spend longer than necessary getting anywhere.
Living in San Francisco is easy. It is has the old and the new and very diverse. You have open water wet suit swims and flats to run and rolling hills to challenge you on the bike. You can find some of the best and challenging training grounds right outside your door. The run training is accessible by a trial system that provides loops for long-distance runs right by the Golden Gate bridge.
Want to work in a swim and run, then head to Lake Merced or head over the bridge with 1000 of your other local triathlete friends for Marin County to ride and ride. Swimming the Fisherman’s Wharf at the Aquatic Park is where you will find some of the top triathletes in the area training.
Racing in San Francisco can be a weekly occurrence. You can enjoy Sprints just about year round and the world famous Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon is right at your door step. The area is lovingly over run with triathlon clubs, master swim groups, and running clubs that will keep you busy and offer a variety of training. The Golden Gate Triathlon Club is one of the most robust clubs in the area.
Wonderful, clean eating is never an issue here as San Francisco is the hub for California cuisine.
We would be remiss not to share Napa with you. It gets you out of the big cities, into the big county. The triathlon life is not as big as in the cities, but Napa is perfect for a triathlon family.
On a recent visit to downtown Napa, we determined it was a triathlete’s dream. You are within close proximity to San Francisco, yet far enough away to feel like you are away from it all. Both downtown Napa and the surrounding area has like-minded people who want a good life. They are looking for locally grown food cooked well, vineyards producing amazing wines, and breweries that keep you fueled and happy.
Training is easy in Napa and available year round. Head west of town and ride for hours through wine country. The only obstacles are locals or vineyard hoppers on day bikes who may have had a little too much tasting and are swerving a bit on their bikes.
Napa provides you California life and training grounds on a more doable budget.
Now, we’re sure they’re are many other California cities that perfectly match the triathlete lifestyle, so if you have some favorites, please share…
Sherry is one of the TriWivesClub’s founders. She is also a contributor at TravelingMom & Challenge Family. She has been her triathlete husband’s biggest supporter and co-traveler for over 15 years. She is a former co-owner of the California Apparel News and had a career in the healthcare industry. Her passions include running, traveling, real food, and animal rescue/welfare. She lives a healthy lifestyle and has been a vegetarian since 1987. She and her husband are parents to two rescue pups and reside in Connecticut.