It seems the news that Estes Park, Colorado is an amazing training destination for endurance athletes is getting out there now! At the beginning of this year I was contacted by two ultra runners from Venezuela. They were looking to do a two week block of altitude training prior to running in an ultra marathon in Patagonia in April, and had selected Estes Park as a possible destination. They had some questions about weather, temperatures, availability of trails, fitness facilities, and accommodation opportunities. Having answered all their initial questions, they decided to go ahead, and I was delighted to organize a training camp for them here in Estes Park!
I truly believe that Estes Park is hard to beat as a training destination. Of course I am a little biased as I live and train here myself; it is always exciting and inspiring when I take friends or clients out for a run and see and hear their breathtaking responses to the majestic mountains, the amazing trails, and the wildlife that is up close and personal. When Paul Artiguas and JohnVargas arrived, I was eager to introduce them to the area. Their first run was on Back Canyon Trail from the Lumpy Ridge trailhead. We stopped at a couple of spots along the way to take pics and share the beauty of the experience. Paul’s English is more advanced than John’s, and so Paul did most of the talking with me. John and I did our best to communicate by signs, and a mixture of my broken Spanish, and his broken English!
Soon after the start of the trail there is a sweeping stepped descent that had a snow / ice mix on. I soon realized that they were pretty tentative going down this descent, and made a note to tell them about the Icespikes I had in my shoes that gave me excellent traction even in these conditions…What I didn’t realize is that these ultra runners weren’t used to running in snow!
We had a great time, and they were clearly loving their new training terrain! Over the next two weeks they fitted in a number of runs, several weight and strength sessions, yoga & pilates at Rocky Mountain Health Club, the whole time with big grins on their faces. They treated every day as an adventure, and would share with me excitedly what they had been doing each day. One Saturday morning I took them down to Boulder with me so they could join in a Revolution Running group run. It gave me huge pleasure to introduce the guys to the group of runners, and for them to immediately be welcomed into the gang.
One time during their stay I wanted to ask what life was like in Venezuela for them. I have never visited the country, and had read online about recent political unrest there. Venezuela is a country of striking natural beauty, which ranges from the snow-capped Andean peaks in the west, through the Amazonian jungles in the south, to the beaches of the north, Venezuela is among the most highly urbanized countries in Latin America. Venezuela has some of the world’s largest proven oil deposits as well as huge quantities of coal, iron ore, bauxite and gold. Yet most Venezuelans live in poverty, many of them in shanty towns, some of which sprawl over the hillsides around the capital, Caracas. Paul told me that it is not very safe where they live, and that the situation at home makes it difficult for them to pursue their careers. They are both professional ultra runners in 2014, with main sponsor HellyHansen and a number of other smaller sponsors providing support.
Having spent some time with these two visiting athletes, I felt compelled to ask them some questions about their stay and training in Estes Park. They kindly consented to me asking a few burning questions, and here are those questions, and their answers:
- What attracted you to come & train in Estes Park, Colorado?
Paul – Estes Park has some of the highest peaks in the USA and the elevation is perfect for training and living. Estes Park is very close to Rocky Mountain National Park, and gives you amazing choices for running
John – As an Utra-runner and athlete always trying to improve my physical and mental performance, I like to train at altitude. When I am preparing for a competition I always look for a location that has climbing but where the elevation is the main thing because it helps me to have greater fluidity of breath and increased resistance. At the time of a competition and more for the kind of discipline that I practice with dedication, where I can focus for a period of time. Estes Park a small mountain town that is full of magic, and the people are super special. In Estes Park each place you were you received with a smile, & perseverance prevails. With the proximity of the mountains, I’m pretty sure it’s the best place to train for any endurance sport. Active at Altitude certainly knows how to create that experience in your life.
- What has been your impression of running in the area?
Paul – To run in the area is really amazing experience because you can see the wildlife very close, up and down with changes in altitude and so many different places with terrain changes.
John – I ran not only in Estes Park, I also had the opportunity to race in Boulder one day! The spectacular scenery, the cold that you faced – this may not be an issue to a local person, but for me I come from a tropical area where the cold does not prevail. In Estes Park running meant my face sometimes froze, and for the first time in my life I see the snow and run in the snow. For me has been the best training I’ve had and the best experience of my life! Training runs on trails definitely helps you improve your fitness, especially when you climb to the top of a mountain. I have no words to explain my joy, emotion and adrenaline, when I run through the mountains of Colorado and what better place than Estes Park! The expanse of the Rocky Mountains fascinates me – I would like to come and live in this beautiful place and to train daily and be better every day and become the best utramarathonista of Venezuela.
- Would you recommend Estes Park as a training for ultra trail Runners?
Paul – Rocky Mountain National Park is the best place for training for Ultra Trails in USA, because you can run in high Altitude up 8,500 fet with amazing peaks and long distances with beautiful views.
John – I fully recommend for all endurance sports in general, but especially for long distance runners, as you can devote to training and unimaginable physical challenges. For runners and ultrarunners Estes Park certainly has immense nature and mountains at a technical level. I recommend to all who practice this sport as well as those who are beginning in this world.
- What was your favorite run while you were here?
Paul – I loved running at Lumpy Ridge And up to Gem Lake – some great climbing, different terrain, and so many surprises for you!
John – Best of all days was runs in the snow, going extended miles on ice – certainly helps your footwork in the course of your training. The last remembrance day when Terry took myself and Paul to do the last route in Rocky Mountain National Park, I think it was something magical. How someone like Terry full of energy, spirit, strong mind, a cheerful, friendly person. That last place where we took (The run was up Deer Mountain and back down again) was the best place to train; not forgetting that Gem lake was my second best training run. When we arrived and saw the peaks stretching out to what seemed like beyond infinity…
- What is your next race, how do you expect to do?
Paul – My next race is the Patagonia Run 100k in Argentina on April, 12. I will try finish under 16hs to obtain the classification for the Western States 2015. I hope enjoy the race like I always do!
John – I feel good, even though I know what is coming is a long run, a 100k in the mountains of Patagonia. I feel in good condition both physically and mentally to do well , and make good time despite my Achilles tendon injury in my left foot and plantar fasciitis.
For my next competition … I would love to live in Estes Park; I’d love to go to Colorado to live my life and what better place than Estes Park – to be training daily in all those mountains with higher elevations. I think living there as an athlete or ultramarathon runner I would get stronger both physically and mentally. As for the political situation in my country , my life as an athlete has no future there for me – it is sad to say this because the most important thing is my family in Venezuela , who I love and adore so much. I wish to seek a life in a country where I believe I can emerge my career as an ultrarunner and athlete and go far , but need serious time to get a good sponsor to support me and believe in my goals my projects and my way of living life; that is run many miles in the mountains, and be competitive, while also to be connected with nature and adrenaline rushing so hard to go . BE STRONG MY MIND.
It was a treat and a huge pleasure to get to meet, and run with, these two athletes. You couldn’t wish to meet two nicer guys! We wish Paul & John well in their race in Patagonia, and for their racing and training future! Happy trails!