Have you ever experienced the mental exhaustion, the physical pain, and the triumph of relief that comes after running up The Incline twice at full speed? Well, Assistant Cross-Country Coach Alex Nichols has, many times. It’s just one of the more challenging workouts he puts himself through when he’s training for an ultra-marathon.
This past summer, Nichols ran professionally for Inov8, a company from England that makes trail shoes. During his time there, Nichols made sure to focus specifically on elevation gains during his runs.
“One really hard workout I’ve done is doing the incline first, coming back to Manitou Springs, and then going up Cameron’s Cone (which is the mountain just to the left of it when you’re looking at Pikes Peak),” Nichols said.
Cameron’s Cone goes up to 10,500 feet, and even though it’s only a 13-mile workout, it has 7,000 feet of uphill in total. “It’s a lot.” Nichols said.
But when asked why he puts himself through the pain of this intense training, Nichols simply laughed humbly and said it shouldn’t really be painful if you’re training right.
“It’s tiring, and sometimes you have to think about the race [to motivate you] when you don’t want to go out the door in the morning,” Nichols said, “but when you’re in a full training block and everything is going well, it’s also really fun. That why I keep running—it’s also just something I like to do.”
Nichols started running in 7th grade because his older brother ran cross-country in high school. From there, Nichols stuck with it and ran cross-country and track for Colorado College from 2004-2008. While at CC, Nichols was named an All-American, which was a really big moment for him, because Nationals that year were held on the same course as his State Championship race in high school.
“I got to go back and redeem myself because I didn’t do very well in high school,” Nichols said. “That was a good day.”
Additionally, Nichols ran the Pikes Peak Ascent several times while he was at CC. He ended up placing in the top ten, even managing to beat out national team racers. Nichols then made it his goal after graduating to make a team that would give him a free trip to Europe. Although it took a few years for that to goal to become reality, once it happened, it brought many new opportunities with it.
Another huge accomplishment for Nichols was making the U.S. Mountain Running team in 2013.“I made the last spot and I ended up passing a guy with about 50 meters left to make my first World Championship team,” said Nichols.
This was another very big moment in his life. A year later, Nichols began running professionally. He plans on running professionally again this upcoming summer and hopes to get into bigger races and receive more support from sponsors.
But for now, Nichols spends his time coaching the cross-country team and will coach the distance women in track in the Spring. “I like helping people get better, that’s the biggest thing,” Nichols said. “I think a lot of people we have at CC are a lot better than they think they are.”
Thoughts on Coach Nichols from the mouths of the runners:
“The inspiration Alex brings to this team through his athletic prowess is surpassed only by the respect and admiration each one of us has for his character. He is a mentor and a friend; he is the super skinny Hagrid to our Hogwarts of running.” – Jacob Rothman, Senior
“Alex isn’t a dime a dozen, he’s a nichol.” – Tucker Hampson, Senior
“Although you probably won’t hear him say it, Alex is one of the greatest ultra-marathoners on the planet. That being said, not long ago he was a CC student and cross-country runner much like those of us on the team now. So not only is Alex a fantastic mentor and an awesome guy, but he is also one of us.” – Whit Henderson, Senior
“Alex can shotgun a beer in 2.8 seconds.” – Cole Thompson, Sophomore
“Alex is a fantastic mentor and coach. His confidence in you, passion for the sport, and humor makes practice (and any interaction with him) positive. He is the definition of an athlete, coach, teammate, and role model.” – Liana Hudson, Junior
“Alex is a world class athlete but he’s so nice that he still pretends to care about DIII athletics.” – Alex Peebles-Capin, Sophomore
“In a sport that can get so tense, Alex is always the calm, collected figure at races and practices that restores athletes’ confidence in themselves. In Alex we trust.” – Stefani Messick, Junior
“Coach Alex is my best friend.” – Allie Crimmins, Junior
“Alex has been overly generous with the time and care he has spent with the team and has made the experience that much more worthwhile because of it.” – Nick Dye, Senior
“Coach Alex is not only an amazing coach for cross country, but for every aspect of my life. I do not make any decisions without first consulting him because I know that only through his divine guidance will I achieve peace, happiness, and fulfillment.” – Katie Sandfort, Junior