August 05, 2013

Figuring Out Altitude

So I've been reading all these articles the past couple days about altitude and the effects it has on the body. For informational purposes. I really want to solve this mystery of WHY it's so hard for me out here, when will it get easier, and the effects it will have on my race. It got me curious.

I read this article on TrailandUltraRunning.Com: The Chemistry of High Altitude Running and it really broke down what the body goes through at higher altitude. It also mentions a LHTL training style. Live High, Train Low. That's people who live at altitude but do their training at say, sea level, which isn't really an option for me.

So what about the people who LHTHRL, or Live High, Train High, Race Low? What impact do the conditions of living and training at altitude have when you toe the starting line for your race at sea level?

Or how about those of us that UTLLTLBNLHTHRHAL, or if you can't figure that out (how could you not, though?!) - Used To Live Low, Train Low, But Now Live High, Train High, Race High And Low.

What about me? 

I was born in Texas - 772 ft elevation.

Lived in Mississippi 3 years- 20 ft elevation (no lie)

Lived in Alabama 3 years- 220 ft elevation

Lived in Utah for nine months as a wee one - 4,226 ft elevation

Lived in Kansas for 3 years - 840 ft elevation

Lived in South Carolina for 5 years - 292 ft elevation

Lived in Virginia off and on for what feels like forever - 325 ft in NOVA, and 2,080 ft when I lived in Blacksburg

And now in Colorado for a year - 5,000 ft elevation and dying to breathe.

This weekend, I was at 6,500 ft.

Saturday I will be running a half marathon at 8,500 ft.

Two weeks after that, I'm doing another half marathon at 7,000 ft.

One week after that, I'm doing yet another half marathon at 6,500 ft.

So I found this other article (sportsci.org/traintech/altitude/wgh.html) Altitude Training for Sea-Level Competition: "The higher you go in the atmosphere, the thinner the air. Thinner air means less air resistance, so athletes who sprint, jump, or cycle will perform better at high-altitude venues. But thinner air also means less oxygen, so the pace of hard endurance training and competition--which depends on high rates of oxygen consumption--gets slower at altitude. If you live at altitude for several weeks, your body adapts to the shortage of oxygen. The most important adaptation for the endurance athlete is an increase in the number of red blood cells, which are produced in response to greater release of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) by the kidneys. Red cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. More red cells means your blood can carry more oxygen, which partly makes up for the shortage of oxygen in the air. So to compete in an endurance event at altitude, you should live at altitude for several weeks before the event. But what about when you come back to sea level? Will the extra blood cells supercharge your muscles with oxygen and push you along faster than ever? That's what should happen, but there are problems. When you first move to altitude, the shortage of oxygen makes it difficult to train intensely, and you may also suffer from altitude sickness. If you don't adapt well to altitude, you may overtrain or lose muscle mass. Even if you do adapt well, you still can't train with the same intensity as at sea level. The result? You detrain. When you come back down to sea level, you may do better or worse than before, depending on the balance between adaptation and detraining." 

Better OR worse than before?! Ugh.

"A potential solution to this problem is to live on a mountain, but avoid detraining by coming down each day to train--in short, to live high and train low."

So then I'm back where I started.

I keep saying that I don't want to assume training at altitude will give me an advantage or help me be faster, but you can't help but hope it will make the race 'easier'. Any help for fifty miles would be appreciated. 

In other news, my Nike trail shoes should be coming in today! And I've been using my Kinvaras. Not sure what I'll race in this weekend. 

Here's a few pictures from New Mexico this weekend.  Hot air ballooning was terrifying at first but once we got off the ground it was so smooth and beautiful!

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