Derick and I met in Colorado back in 2003, at the Mt. Evans Hill Climb; which is a bike race that starts in Idaho Springs, CO (7,555 ft) and goes 28 miles to finish at the top of Mt. Evans (14,130 ft). We were both living in Colorado Springs at the time which is where we stayed until our move to Austin, Texas the summer of 2006. While we’ve loved more than we ever imagined possible about Austin, we are both mountain people at heart.
The first time I qualified for Kona in 2010 we decided it would make sense to escape the Texas heat for some of the long training (summers here are intense, often 70F but 80-90% humidity early mornings but by afternoon 90-100F with 40-60% humidity) so we immediately decided upon Salida, Colorado. (Little did we know that for the next 4 years, we would head right back there every summer for about a month of training and fun to escape the dreaded Austin summers). Many have not heard of Salida. We knew of it from having lived in Colorado Springs, we would occasionally go there to camp, mountain bike and just explore one Colorado’s many small mountain towns. It is nestled at the foot of the Colorado Rockies and the western bank of the Arkansas River, at about 7000 ft. It’s often said to be in the ‘Banana Belt’ because of the cool comfortable summers and mild winters. It even has a 25-meter indoor pool at the Salida Hot Springs center; which for a town of ~5,500 people is pretty impressive. You can do your workout then slip into the ‘other’ pool which is a natural hot springs. Roads to ride are endless; and even though there are only about 2 ways out of town, one road takes you up Poncha Pass (9,000 ft) and once descending you can ride for miles on a fairly flat terrain. The other route takes you to the neighboring town of Buena Vista (20 miles away) but then you can begin the 20 mile climb to the top of Cottonwood Pass (~12,000 ft). The amazing thing about riding in Salida is the lack of stopping; coming from a town such as Austin with a massive population, it’s incredibly refreshing to get on your bike and just keep pedaling, uninterrupted. As for the running, there are a ton of trails though many of them go UP…so you have to be prepared that if you’re not intending on pushing yourself, you either stay off of them or you really learn how to run easy. One of my favorites is a dirt road (Ute Trail) that we’ll take to for long tempo runs. I’ll jog to the start of the dirt (about 3 miles from town), and Derick will mark every mile with flour. The most I’ve done is about 9 miles uphill; the road on goes forever, and the grade undulates but is always going up in some capacity. Last summer, Derick and I took to this road for some cyclo-cross bike rides which was a ton of fun. We would spend 3-4 hours exploring these dirt roads and occasionally pop off onto trails, which is of course interesting on a cross bike, especially when you have the lack of technical skills as I do.
But the best thing about Salida is that even though I am there to train, it almost doesn’t feel like it. We wake up early, have coffee on the porch; often visited by a few deer in the yard. Mornings are almost always cool and quiet. There are absolutely no distractions. Life is simple. The commute to the pool is all of 5 minutes. Never traffic. The commute to the gym is 5 minutes on a cruiser bike. The commute to the beer store is 5 minutes, and I’ll toss it into the bike basket and pedal home. Derick often does all of his work in the mornings, and will head to the trails for afternoon mountain bike rides (or vice-versa if storms roll in during the afternoons) and will fish most evenings after dinner. I savor the easier training days or days off when we can pick up a float trip together, or an excursion to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for the day. Every evening, we pedal down to the river with our dog Amico (named after the local pizza and brewery, Amicas) and let him play in the rapids; easily my favorite part of the day. We pedal back home with a worn out pup, crack open a good beer and make dinner; often from fresh veggies and meats we pick up at Ploughboy, the local market and kitchen. We enjoy our dinner on the back porch and rarely turn the TV on. It’s definitely a Work Hard, Play Hard philosophy when in Salida. It’s Our Escape. What’s yours?