Back on Track to the Rio Frio

Not long until the days start getting longer! Winter may even show up after a stretch of single digit mornings and shirtsleeve afternoons, with the desert sunshine in the San Luis Valley feeling as nice as September. Such is a La Niña year when a big High Pressure dome sits over the Southwest making for cold nights and warm days with 50 degree temperature swings not unusual. Perfect time to run at the Alamosa High School track when the day warms up. The track is open to the public and provides a wonderful semi soft surface and the round and round on the oval is still much better than a treadmill for us runner types. I, once again, being of questionable mind and body, am training for the late January tradition known as the Rio Frio, a 5k run on the frozen surface of the Rio Grande when several hundred runners brave the day and run the river without a boat. Last year, the starting temperature was 16 below zero. Makes for cold extremities of toes, nose, fingers and ears. As I run training laps on the track, my mind leads me to wonder, how fit am I?

Adams State University has a Human Performance Lab on Campus that is open to the public. I decided ‘to drop in, to see what condition my condition was in,’ to paraphrase the lyrics from the song by the First Edition in 1968, sung by Kenny Rogers, FYI. Met Dr. Tracey Robinson at the lab and she introduced me to three of her grad students who would test me for my fitness age.

First, they did the ‘caliper thingy’ on various parts of my body along with tape measuring to determine my BMI (Body Mass Index). Next, I get my resting pulse taken, then do step up step downs for 3 minutes to a goofy recording to pace my stepping and compare my exercise pulse to my resting pulse. As a runner, I performed well in this test. Up next was the flexibility test by sitting with legs flat on floor and extending as far as possible to the threshold of pain which tests the legs and lower back.

Lastly is the strength test with two standard issue exercises, performing sit ups, using proper form and going as fast as possible for a minute. Lastly, are ‘no cheating allowed’ pushups until arms reach fatigue and I can no longer lift myself upward. All of the information goes into a computer with fairly complicated mathematical formulas and outcome the numbers. Was not surprised where I was younger and where I was older and they all calculate to a Fitness Age. Pleasantly surprised by my overall score, I may have a few good years to go and numerous more Rio Frios! Reinforces my thinking to ‘never use age as an excuse unless it gives you a discount.’

As I spoke with the grad students about the program and what they hoped to do with their Masters Degrees, they also informed me of an indoor track meet at the ASU bubble last Saturday. Five universities came to the meet, Division 2 Schools in track and field, and all were loaded with talent. How fun to watch the girls and guys fly around the track, launch shotputs, and sprint faster than I could fall out of an airplane. Several performances last Saturday were actual qualifying times for Nationals already! Highly recommend attending one of ASU’s track meets.

The Rio is in its first stages of freezing. First come the icy tortillas as I now call them. The cold temps at night freeze the calmer waters in the river. During the warming of the day, many chunks break off and flow downstream. As they do, they spin, and grind each other into circles. I ran the Rio Grande trail and found that the river is beginning to finally freeze over, the ‘ice tortillas’ congregating and becoming one mass of ice while offering a resting spot for hundreds of Canada Geese. Beautiful place to hike, run, and walk the dog. If you decide to see how you measure up for your fitness goals - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a fitness test. A Fitness Age & Body Composition Package will cost you $20.