Friday, 10 May 2013

Guest Blog 4 - Vinnie Van Puyvelde from Flagstaff

The latest guest post comes from Belgian athlete Vinnie Van Puyvelde, who has recently spent three weeks in Flagstaff.  Vinnie is nineteen year old, and has 800m and 1500m personal bests of 1:53.72, and 3:57.12 respectively.  He was a member of the Belgian Championship winning 4x1500m team.  He aims to qualify for the European junior championships in Rieti on the 5k.  Flagstaff was one of my favourite venues, so it’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on the area.  

After a long travel from Brussels to Phoenix, I could finally smell the American air.  It took me about 24 hours to get to my destination, but when I saw the Flagstaff sign I understood it was all worth it. I would be spending three weeks in one of the most mythical training places in the world.

Flagstaff is a very outstretched city at an altitude of 7000ft (2130 meters), located in Northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States.  Because it’s so outstretched, the first thing you need in Flagstaff (beside your running stuff) is a car.  There are a lot of long, nice running trails, but for most of them you have to drive some miles to reach them. Most of the time I ran at the walnut canyon road because it wasn’t that far from our house and I could easily combine it with a strength workout in the Flagstaff Athletic Club East.

Another place where I did some endurance runs was Buffalo park.  Buffalo park is located just outside town at an altitude of about 7300ft (2225 meters).  The park has nice paths, and beautiful sights. But there are also some negative points about the place. It’s for example always windy up there, the circuit is just 2 miles and there is a pretty hard climb at the end of the circuit. But things like the wind and that hill make you so much stronger, so maybe they can be seen as an advantage. 

Fort Tuthill trail was also a nice trail. You can park at WalMart, where the trail begins. The path isn’t that good in the first mile, but once you’re in the woods, it’s a pleasure to run. I could go on for hours with telling about other trails and roads in Flagstaff like Lake Mary Road, but there are a lot of other things to talk about like where to do your track sessions and how are the locals…

In Flagstaff you have a lot of options to go to for your track sessions. One of those places is the Sinagua Middle School, located at East Butler Avenue. This is a good track where everybody can come to do a workout. The only problem can again be the wind, but this a problem you will always have in Flagstaff. Another option to do your track session is The Lumberjack Stadium of the Northern Arizona University. This is a brand new track with a big stand combined with a huge sports complex next to it. The only problem here is getting in… When you’re not an elite athlete, but you still want to do your training on the NAU track, you can take the south gate, which is normally always opened, because you won’t get in through the main entrance.

Of course there are other tracks in Flagstaff, but when you want to live high and train low, you can go to Sedona. Sedona is a little cowboy city at an altitude of 4,326ft (1319 meters).  Here you have the Sedona Red Rock High School. This school has a pretty good track, and is a perfect place to do your most heavy workouts. The weather is good here most of the time, and there’s far less wind than in Flagstaff. To get in Sedona, you will have to be on the way for a little hour.  During that hour you can admire the beauty of nature with the slide rocks and the Oak Creek canyon.

If the weather is very bad, you can do your session in the Skydome, a huge indoor training complex with a capacity of 10000 people. But don’t be too sure about doing your training there because the complex is also used for other sports.

The locals are very kind in Flagstaff. They are really athletics minded, they start taking to you about running, they would do everything for you if they hear you’re an athlete and they even encourage you while you’re doing an endurance run. It’s a sort of runners’ heaven, the only problem can be that there aren’t a lot of possibilities to eat healthy. You can find some stuff in supermarkets, but if you had a heavy day and you don’t want to make a meal by yourself, it will be hard to find a healthy restaurant.

A place to go on a recovery day or a day with one workout is definitely the Grand Canyon (1 hr 30 mins from Flag).  It isn’t that far and it’s really amazing - something that you must have seen when you’ve been in Flagstaff. Another possibility to go to is Las Vegas, but then you have to stay there for at least one night because the trip will take 3 hr 30 mins each way.   But it is a nice break in between the heavy work.

So Flagstaff is an awesome place to go to for a training camp. Great people, great trails, great facilities and it’s cheaper than St. Moritz where I’ve been two times before.  There’s also a great atmosphere that makes you feel like you can handle anyone.

Thanks to Vinnie for taking the time away from his training and school work to write this piece for us.  To qualify for the European Championships he’ll need to run 14:25.00.  His first attempt will be on the nineteenth of May, and we wish him every success.