Alex Nichols is the assistant coach for the Colorado College cross country and track teams. He is from Minneapolis and graduated from Colorado College in 2008. He holds the school’s 3000m steeplechase record and has some impressive ultramarathon races under his belt. Nichols was ranked among the top 10 ultra-marathoner runners in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Some of his achievements include two first place finishes at the Pikes Peak Marathon, a course record at the Mont Blanc 80k, a course record for Nolan’s 14, and a 2017 Western States 100 Mile runner-up finish.
Claire Tobin: How long have you been coaching at Colorado College?
Alex Nichols: I’ve been in this position for four years but I volunteered with the team before that.
CT: How did you get into coaching here?
AN: I was running competitively after I graduated and wanted to do some workouts with the team, so I had to officially become a volunteer.
CT: What is your favorite part about coaching?
AN: Seeing people improve. I love seeing people reach the goals they’ve set for themselves. It’s awesome to see.
CT: How has the team changed since you’ve been on it?
AN: The biggest difference is in track. When I first started, it was just an extension of the cross country team. Now we have twice as many people on the track team than we used to and a lot of those are sprinters or people who do field events and aren’t a part of cross country.
CT: Do you hear a lot of team gossip?
AN: I do [laughs]. I generally try not to worry about it. People can figure out their own issues, they’re all adults.
CT: How did you get into ultra/sky running?
AN: It all started with Pikes Peak Ascent. I ran that when I was still in college and then from doing that and doing well enough in some other trail races, I got invited to do some sky running in Europe. The races just kept getting harder and longer in distance and I stuck with it.
CT: What do you eat during races?
AN: In shorter races I’ll eat gels, but in longer races I eat candy. It feels like you’re eating real food.
CT: What is your workout schedule like?
AN: Right now I’m not doing a whole lot, but it’ll start building up. I end up doing a lot of two-a-days: I’ll do an hour and a half to two and a half hours of running in the morning and then maybe thirty minutes to an hour after work.
CT: Are you training for any races right now?
AN: I haven’t quite figured out my schedule for next year but I might try to qualify for the U.S. Team at the Trail World Championships in early June.
CT: What is something you wish people knew before getting into running?
AN: Advice in general: no matter how talented someone is, the first few weeks are always pretty horrible. Running is hard and you have to be patient with it. Advice in regards to the team: I think people think it’s going to be a super serious and highly competitive situation and it really isn’t. We’re all just people who like to go running.