Spring was in the air this weekend. Cool mornings gave way to warm afternoons, the sun shone brightly and to make things even better, the wind was calm. It seemed that everybody in Boulder was out on their bike on Saturday. Where were they on those crisper days when we had to dodge snow and ice? I guess they stayed home, but they were the people we saw weaving from tiredness and lack of fitness. The opportunity to train on regular routes was irresistible, so we did our long ride to Masonville and headed up the mountain to Magnolia road (a run made famous by the book Running with the Buffaloes). Over the years, in the many places I have trained and raced, I discovered rides, runs and swims that no matter how often I do them, I am still happy to get out there and experience them again and again.
Buck Island, USVI One of the perks of racing in St Croix is a boat trip to Buck Island Reef, a national monument. Nothing beats the beauty and serenity of the Caribbean. The blue/green water beckons so year after year, I dive in. The sea is warm and buoyant and with 250 species of colorful fish you are bound to encounter one you have never seen before. If you are lucky, you will spot Sammy the stingray.
Kona, HI The Pacific Ocean, known for its frigid California temperatures, is pleasant and inviting in Hawaii. Swims from Dig Me Beach, world famous as the start of the Hawaii Ironman, offer more than just triathlon lore. Sea turtles and dolphin are not uncommon swimming partners. When the water is crystal clear, the bottom of the ocean is visible, and schools of fish whiz around (I have often jumped at their quick movements). Appreciate all that there is to offer before race day though; you do not want to be a tourist when the cannon blasts.
Baltimore, MD to Glen Rock, PA When I lived in Maryland, this ride was an Ironman training staple. The 100 mile loop offers mixed terrain, from rolling hills to longer flatter sections perfect for time trialing. The ride meanders north through quaint towns, passes horse farms, and has a unique water stop -- a fresh water spring that delivers cool, tasty liquid, a welcome respite during the humid summers. Nailing this ride meant you were ready!
Palomar Mountain, CA Any way you climb it, as a long ride starting on the coast at sea level or a shorter ride starting near the bottom at 1000 feet, the Palomar ride will test your fitness, skills and nerve (on the weekends, packs of motorcycles zip by, cutting the curves so close they look like they might topple over). Ride up East Grade Road, which is 11 miles and less demanding or South Grade Road at 7 miles and is more technical. Either way, you will reach the summit at 5200 feet. One of my first ascents occurred after a night of St. Patrick’s Day debauchery. After I vomited the green concoction they served the night before, I was able to attack the climb with vigor.
Boulder, CO to Estes Park, CO When the temperatures are finally warm enough to head up to high country, I eagerly round up the troops to ride to Estes Park. Riding up the canyon on route 34 offers creek views and big horned sheep sightings. We take the route through Glen Haven, famous for cinnamon rolls, but I have yet to stop in and try one (who needs to be laden down by 5 pounds of sugar and fat?). The brutal climb up Devil’s Gulch has reduced grown men and women to tears (yep, last year, I got to the top and this watery stuff came out of my eyes. I think it was an allergic reaction to fighting the wind for hours). The view of the mountain range as you crest the top is nothing short of spectacular. Ride home on the busy 36 through Lyons or ride across the Peak to Peak Highway and descend down one of the other canyons.
Magnolia Road, Nederland, CO The combination of a starting altitude of 8200 feet, relentless hills and mountain views has made Magnolia Road a staple run for Olympians and novices alike. The dirt road starts just before the 5 mile marker and you reach the Peak to Peak highway just after the 12 mile markers (hence people talk about running from pavement to pavement). A bad day on Magnolia will bring you to your knees, but a good day gives you a high for the rest of the day. Warning: do not do what this uninformed, over-zealous flatlander (a college runner from Iowa) did today, start at very bottom on Canyon. The grades that take you to the dirt road are too steep and the switch backs make you invisible to the cars that drive too fast.
North Central Trail, MD The Baltimore area is remarkably hilly. For some flat, dirt running head north to Hunt Valley to the 20 mile converted railroad trail (the first 10 miles are flat). The Gunpowder Falls River rambles next to the trail (an excellent place for tubing in the summer. Very cold, though) and the constant shade keeps you cool in the summer. This run has a lot of history for me. It is on this trail that I qualified for the marathon Olympic trials. And, it is there that I got engaged.
Joshua Tree National Park, CA Run on the road or on the many dirt paths; whichever you choose keep your eyes open to appreciate the abundant species of plants, trees and birds. Interesting rock formations abound. The Joshua trees impress in every shape and size. The wildflowers create a kaleidoscope of colors.
What are some of your most memorable training places?