There & Back Again

Throughout the spring and summer there had been much debate to the location of the team’s Fall Volume Camp.  A few places scattered in the States had come up as potential options and it wasn’t until just before the actually camp that a decision was reached.  The decision was to essentially go due south to New Mexico, for a three week volume and altitude camp.  The travel down to Albuquerque was quite simple.  Two small flights, one of two hours from Calgary to Denver and another hour and a half from Denver into Albuquerque.  It would take about half a day to travel down but there would be no adjustment to time zone and that made for a productive start to the camp.

Albuquerque, New Mexico isn’t the first place I think of for cross country training.  Nor did anyone that I told I was going there.  After now spending three weeks here training in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I have a completely different opinion.  It is a great place to train in October!  The city of Albuquerque is just higher in elevation than Canmore, but you have the option of going higher and really high for training.  By the end of the camp we had a few options at different elevations to vary the training.  Yes, back home in Canmore the Nordic Centre has rolled out Frozen Thunder (a snow preservation project) and has nearly two kilometers of skiing.  One of the biggest benefits of going to ABQ was that the weather was still awesome for training.  Back in Canmore the temperatures were yo-yoing from lows of -6 to highs of 12, throw some rain or wet snow into the mix and training is not that much fun.  Not here in ABQ, the weather was a little unstable for the first four days but improved to become incredible.  ABQ actually received their annual amount of rainfall in a single day, the day before we arrived.  Cooler temperatures and higher winds, making it feel more like Canmore’s summer than anything else.  Then the city started to show off, giving us day after day of bluebird skies, no or light breezes with temperatures in the mid to high twenties.  I wasn’t use to this, finishing one of the earlier days with a very sharp tan line on my thighs.  Pretty awesome to get a sun burn in the middle of October.  There were more days I skied without a shirt on in October during this camp, than the rest of the summer combined.   Hard to beat that!

The city of ABQ had a few more surprises in store for us.  By chance we had arrived in ABQ during their biggest festival of the year.  A hot air balloon fiesta, and not just any hot air balloon festival but the largest Balloon Fiesta in the World.  One of the first days of the festival they set a World record with getting over 350 balloons airborne within an hour.  I quickly mentioned that earlier on my website, but to see it was something else completely.  We didn’t get the chance to head down to the actual Balloon Park but from my hotel room I had an awesome view from a distance of all the balloons in the air and watched as they flew overhead.

Speaking of being high in the air, I was fortunate enough to set a few new personal altitude records throughout this camp.  The first record breaking height was set on our first altitude day when the standing skiers classic roller skied up the Highway 14.  The total distance we skied up was just short of 14 miles or 20km for my Canadian readers.  The entire road was uphill with not a single break and made for a tough day.  At the end of the day we had skied to the Sandia Crest at an altitude of 10600ft/3250m, which was my new highest ascent in training.  It was incredible to look out from the Crest and overlook the city of Albuquerque.  The road up to the Crest was brand new asphalt, making for a very nice and smooth ski up.  That record would only stand for a week before I would ascent the true highest point of the Sandia Crest.  Brian, Erik and I did a run/hike up the Pino canyon and made our way up the backside and ended up at the tram station at the top.  Robin and his family started from another point on the front of the mountain but just hadn’t made it to the top so to continue with our work out we ran down towards them and finished the hike with them.  After that long work out we were hungry.  It so happened that with the tram station was also a restaurant (the highest full service restaurant in North America in fact).  Great food, for the more adventurous I would recommend the hike up and a meal at the top before taking the tram back down to the bottom.  The following week was when I really put the hurt to the height record.  We drove the hour or so from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and ran/hiked up the Santa Fe Baldy.  In just under 2.5 hours we made the summit.  By making the summit I set my altitude record a further 600m higher at a staggering 3850m or 12650ft.  At this altitude I was beginning to feel the effects of the thinner air.  We figured that taking the same way back to the car would put us in short of the four hours we wanted so we took another trail back.  Unfortunately this trail was much longer then we had thought.  We would finish our mammoth run in five and a half hours.  That run put the hurt to all of us and the ride back to Albuquerque was very quiet.

The roller skiing was stellar.  We found some great roads that offered rolling terrain, very little traffic as well as continuous climbs or pancake flat pathways.  One of the best finds was a newly developed subdivision.  The roads had been put in place but only one small section of the community was developed with houses, the rest, a 15 minute loop was great roller skiing and offered an almost ideal area for video and technique or intensity.  It was home to some very large spiders, about the size of my hand.  Really cool to watch them cross the road.

What surprised everyone on the team was how courteous all the drivers were both in the city and in the countryside.  They would give roller skiers and cyclist tons of room as they went by as well as slow down.  It also happened quite often that drivers would give us a thumbs up, or honk or a wave of support and you got the sense that they were really rooting for you.  What made this weird was that towards other traffic, New Mexico drivers were insane.  Weaving back and forth, changing lanes two, three or even four at a time, or cutting each other off.  It seems like there is no real fast lane, every lane was a passing lane, on the left or the right.  Though when it came to cyclists or roller skiers the drivers were the nicest I have ever seen.

I enjoyed my time here in New Mexico, I was nervous at first about coming here but soon after arriving began to really enjoy the training and the experience of this new training location.  Hopefully we can return next October to continue our adventures here in this newly discovered training mecca.  For now it’s time to pray for the white stuff.  The snow is beginning to fall and I can already ski at the Nordic Centre.  It is hard to believe but in only three weeks’ time I will be on the start line for the season’s first races.  The 2011/12 season is just around the corner, and I can’t wait!

Mark


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