There is a little-known addendum to Newton’s law of gravitation: what goes up has to go down and eat lots of calories. And Joe Gray, the six-time world trail runner champion, does just that when he leaves the mountain.
Gray has lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, home of the Olympic Training Center and nearby Manitou Springs Incline (where he holds the fastest known time) since 2014. It suits him perfectly. He grew up a self-proclaimed military brat, and it’s home to several military bases and the US Air Force Academy that make him feel right at home. There are also plenty of peaks to drop off nearby, and thanks to its most millennial city status, suddenly there are plenty of breweries, artisanal bakeries, and places to buy exceptional donuts.
He’s here a lot for all of that – and some pizza and maybe a burrito. “I can eat a lot of pizza,” he says, adding that after a particularly tough workout, he put two large ones away in one session. That’s why we trust Gray’s food recommendations for Colorado Springs. While some athletes point you to a stash of stale energy bars when you ask what they like to eat, Gray isn’t shy about his love of high calorie foods.
What’s even better is that he enjoys cooking and has eaten his way around the world both as a military brat and as a professional athlete. “I feel that if people are picky, they don’t have the best experience,” he says of noshing on road. His philosophy is simple: in Norway you have to try the lutefisk and if you are in Scotland you will miss it if you don’t try the haggis.
There is no lutefisk or haggis on this list. But Gray gave us a number of great options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Colorado Springs. Consider your next trip planned.
Start your day with a little sweat
There is a lot to do outside. Gray’s choice is Barr Trail, the path to Pike’s Peak. You can do as much or as little round-trip travel as you want, but the trail is roughly 10 miles and the final miles of the climb are very rugged. Gray describes it as “not that bad,” but keep that in mind the source and plan accordingly. (It is not recommended that mortals try this in one day, FYI.)
Next stop: burritos
Gray likes to hit the Barr Trail because it’s close to Viva El Taco. “It’s kind of a dive, but they have great breakfast burritos,” he says. His favorite filling is the pollo asado. He loads his rolls with hot sauce, salsa and hot peppers. “I love hot things. You probably hate it when I come for cleaning your pepper bar. “
Coffee – when you need it
Gray isn’t a coffee drinker so he didn’t have a recommendation. His goal is the chai that his Kenyan teammates sometimes bring with them for training. Since you may not have this option, we recommend Switchback Roasters. The café is next to a place where all the beans from small, sustainable farms are roasted themselves.
This is Olympic City USA
When Gray has guests, a tour of the 35-acre Olympic training center is always on his list. You can stroll the Rotunda of the Hall of Fame, see the weight lifting and water centers, and bask in the glow of the American Olympians. The tour runs every hour.
Win the Olympics
As we indicated earlier, Gray has quite an appetite. His two lunch places? First up: Crave Real Burgers, a local chain that makes the patties from Colorado beef and then topps them with all kinds of voracious things. Gray orders Luther, a cardiologist’s worst nightmare, with bacon, cheddar, an egg, and a patty between two glazed donuts.
“When I’ve had a total bonkfest, I’ll go to Billy’s Old World Pizza,” a Chicago-style joint. Gray thinks Chicago style pizza is the best pizza ever. While we won’t Confirm or deny this statement, we will admit that cheese, sauce, and bread are good in any combination in our book. Gray says he’ll literally eat anything his friends order on his pizza, though he has a particular preference for the Hawaiian.
Donuts on Pikes Peak
If you’re not in the food coma, there is a donut shop at the top of Pike’s Peak. Because these donuts are made at an altitude of 14,000 feet, they have a slightly different, coarser texture than a typical donut. “It’s not the best donut, but when I run when I’m doing Pikes Peak I always have money with me because it’s hard to smell it and not get one,” he says. And: you are famous. You basically have to try them out.
Visit the Old Colorado City Farmers’ Market
If you’re in town on a summer weekend, strolling the stalls is a fun way to spend a morning. Gray says that if you’re especially lucky, you can hit the market during the Green Chile season. “Everyone thinks New Mexico is the place for green chillies, but they’re a big deal here, too,” he says. Watch vendors toast them and sell them by the bushel, then look out for someone selling enchiladas with green chili sauce or stuffed roasted chillies.
On the way to dinner
If you can still process more food at this point, Gray suggests Edelweiss. He spent a significant part of his childhood in Germany, and this restaurant keeps his memories of what a proper German restaurant should be. He always orders hunter schnitzel. “It’s a pork chop with a rich mushroom sauce, served with spaetzle, which is like fresh noodle,” he explains.
End your day
Gray prefers to drink whiskey at home at the end of a long day, but since he can’t invite all of our readers, we’re sending you to some of the best watering places in Colorado Springs. The first is Ax and the Oak Whiskey House, a distillery with a very hip bar. The liquor options are extensive and the cocktails are well worth the effort at $ 10 each. Beer lovers should head to the Lost Friend Brewing Company, a recently opened brewery and taproom. Founded by some long distance runners and nature lovers, the space is puppy and runners friendly, so it’s perfect for the outside crew.
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Main Photo: Hike part of the trail up Pike’s Peak in the morning so your body is prepared for a full day of eating.