This post will talk about 2 of America’s great college towns, Ann Arbor and Ithaca. I’ve attended both the University of Michigan and Cornell University, so I have an expert local’s knowledge of both areas.
Swimming: 4/5. Plenty of indoor pool access at the University of Michigan rec centers, the YMCA, and master’s swimming at Mack Pool. During the summer, Fuller pool is a great 50m outdoor facility. Also, there is a master’s group available through Club Wolverine, which is one of the strongest swimming clubs in the country. There are also several small lakes in the area, which are good options for open water workouts.
Biking: 2/5. Anywhere you ride, you’re going to have to ride 10-15 minutes to get out of town. Once out of town, there are 3 basic options (go north, go south, or go west… going east puts you in Detroit, not exactly a great place for bike training). Going north is a bit of nightmare – potholes everywhere, no shoulders, and aggressive drivers. The one exception to the north is Whitmore Lake Rd, which is about 6 miles long, and is a fantastic road of an out-and-back time trial, or for power intervals. Going south through Saline or east through Chelsea are high quality options. Tons of country roads with gentle rollers, good pavement quality, and not much traffic. It’s very easy to put in several 100+ mile rides without ever doing the same route.
The biggest problem with biking in Ann Arbor is the weather. Outdoor riding season is only from April – October. Plan on riding indoors from November-March, when Michigan is ridiculously cold and blanketed in snow.
Running: 3/5. Good running in the Arb, on the sidewalks, and on the dirt roads to the north of town. The 1km dirt trail in the Arb at a 3-5% incline is amazing for hill repeats. Lots of fast runners in southeast Michigan, and there is a strong running culture in the area .
Overall: 3/5. Great swimming, sub-par biking, and good running. Cold weather and aggressive drivers (I got hit by cars twice in Ann Arbor, and neither time was my fault) are the main detractors here.
Swimming: 4/5. Limited options in the winter. There is a YMCA, or you can swim at the Cornell Rec facilities. However, in the summer, you’re not going to find anywere better in the world. Cayuga Lake is 43 miles long, and is an open-water swimmer’s paradise. There is also good open water swimming up at 2nd dam on 6 Mile Creek.
Biking: 4/5. Hard to find anywhere with better biking (in the summer, at least). You can hop in the saddle and be out of town and on low-traffic roads within 5 minutes. Great pavement, and the terrain is al
most exclusively giant rollers. Go any direction, it’s all good. But the weather limiter here is similar to Michigan’s, in that you can only reliably get outside from April – October.
Running: 4/5. Good running all around, on any terrain you want. Downtown Ithaca is very flat, so you can get in your speed work down there. Surrounding the downtown area is nothing but large hills, so it’s very easy to get in your hill work. Monkey Run is a hidden local gem of a running route. Added bonus – during the summer, you can just take your post-run shower in any of the dozens of local waterfalls and swimming holes.
Overall: 4/5. Amazing location. Only downside is the weather from November-March. But April – October, this is one of the best places on earth for training. Also, the Cayuga Lake Triathlon is my favorite race ever, as the course is simply spectacular.
Next post – we’ll look at Monterey, CA and Colorado Springs, CO.