If you live in Colorado, you are aware of the different ‘hubs’ of athletic training and pursuit – Boulder (triathlon, cycling, running), Colorado Springs (Olympic Training Center), Steamboat Springs (nordic combined, ski jumping), Aspen and Vail (alpine, freestyle), Durango, Gunnison, Leadville (mountain biking, ultra-marathoning)….and Alamosa (collegiate distance running and rollerskiing). Wait….what was that last thing?
That is right. Situated at just over 7,500 feet of elevation, Alamosa has for good reason laid claim to being a fabulous place for distance runners to train. It is not so different from the international center for the monks of distance running – Kenya. In both places, you sit at the perfect altitude for altitude training (higher than 7,000 feet prevents you from running fast enough, which can actually contribute to detraining), forcing an increase in red blood cell production. In both places, you have an abundance of dirt trails, a soft, forgiving running surface. The flatness of the San Luis Valley allows for adequate speedwork to be done as well – something not so easily claimed by other, more mountainous training grounds across the state. Finally, and this is perhaps the most critical, and yet overlooked aspect, Alamosa and Kenya both are quiet cities where an athlete can easily center their focus on training and rest. The business of traffic (Springs), culture (Boulder), and flair (Aspen, Vail) is absent. The training grounds are right out your door, saving you time, and the lack of population means you can just “do you” without distraction and constant comparison (I can only imagine the Strava battles that are waged daily on Boulder bike routes). The lack of a lively nightlife means you are free to engage in the other half of training – rest. I think this is why serious collegiate athletes can thrive here, and even more so why serious post-collegiates have done time in Alamosa (Deena Kastor, Peter De La Cerda – both under the direction of legendary coach Joe Vigil – Mario Macius, Steve Gachupin Tabor Stevens, Aaron Braun, just to name a few).
So, while long known as a mecca for distance runners, I, Ryan Sederquist, would like to officially establish Alamosa as a hub for, at a minimum, off-season nordic ski training. Here me out:
- nordic skiers primary off-season training tool are rollerskis, which are fast, dangerous slabs of carbon or aluminum that, while effectively allowing a person to mimic the movements associated with both classic and skate skiing on snow, don’t have breaks and require smooth pavement with preferably limited traffic. In Alamosa, we have residential developments and country roads that fit this bill perfectly. The loops north of the high school provide turns, shade, and fresh pavement with almost no traffic. Cole Park has a nice 1k loop that is perfect for threshold intervals (it is also the famous mile repeat home for ASU and AHS). When that area is busy, you can venture south of the tracks to take in South River road, which stretches 10 miles in one direction. One can head west by the elementary school and try out the new developments over there as well. They have fresh tar, some turns (turns are big deal in the SAn Luis Valley — there are not a lot of them once you get out into the country!!!), and are also free of traffic. Speaking of traffic – all of these places are free of traffic – even North River Road, the long and winding country highway, is rarely completed with an excess of 4 cars going by. It is easy to move out of their way as you can spot them from a great distance, as well. Oh – I forgot to mention my favorite turn off: the golf course development. It is very shaded, has big houses to look at, and is nice pavement as well. On the Boulder Nordic website, it mentions rollerskiing and talks about safety. A line stuck out to me when it talked about choosing a place to rollerski – it talked about parking lots – “if swimmers can do lap after lap in a 25 meter pool, then we can do the same thing on skis.” Oh man – I’ve done many 2 hour rollerski rides and not repeated a single stretch of road once in Alamosa! I guess we are spoiled. I’ve also routinely brought my puppies with me on rollerski rides – they run off-leash right down the main streets – that is how quiet is here. Another factor is the weather. In the morning, it isn’t windy, critical for sports that involving friction and rolling, and it is cool (the temperature range in Alamosa is absurd, but that is perfect for nordic ski training….you can be in tights in the morning and run shirtless 3 hours later), which makes wearing ski boots much more tolerable. It also helps to preserve the boot by reducing the wear and tear on the outer materials. In summary, Alamosa’s abundance of roads, lack of traffic, altitude, and cool weather (it is often 38-50 degrees in the morning hours) combine to make this place an excellent place for the experienced and beginning nordic skier.
- Nordic skiers spend their other training hours doing a combination of hiking, running, mountain biking, and road biking. Alamosa, as explained before, has a plethora of running options – and I didn’t even mention the access to soft turf and tracks. We have a state of the art track facility at the high school which is available to the public – drills, bounding, and sprinting can be done there without worrying about needing to share space with other athletes. Also, Alamosa is within 25 minutes of the greatest hill running spot ever – Fort Garland. Equipped with a combination of short, steep hills, long gradual hills, and…..long, steep hills…..one can design any type of hill or bounding workout imaginable. Afterwards, you can get fudge at the Mount Blanca Fudge store (https://www.mtblancafudge.com/).
- As far as biking goes – the southwest is the king of mountain biking. Del Norte, Pentinence, and the rifle range are all within a short drive. Creede, South Fork, and the Wolf Creek Area offer more scenery and challenges as well. On the road, it’s straight and boring, but, it is safe from cars, and the weather is incredibly predictable – it is almost always cool with zero wind between 5:20 AM and 11 AM. If you want to test out some mountain passes, we have 3 good ones within 45 minutes.
So, there you have it. If you see me out and about, looking like a tan praying mantis gliding down the street on my rollerskis, give me a honk and a wave. Maybe together we can start a new culture in Alamosa and force them to put up another sign next to the “City of Champions” one — or just add a cutout of a skier next to the runner (hopefully both sports will have champions, right?)…Western State has a ski team, Crested Butte has a nordic center, heck, even New Mexico has a renowned nordic ski team, and their school is in the middle of the desert. We ought to be able to get something going here. If you see this USA ski team – how about Alamosa instead of Park City for your summer training camp? Why not? The actual training is better here, and it would be a heck of a lot cheaper.
One final note – I apologize for my puppies occasionally sprinting across the road…thank you for watching…..they have this thing for rabbits, but only sometimes….