Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Running at altitude

Do you still exit the house with a hat and gloves on morning runs?  I do.  We are still in the throes of winter.  This perhaps means some of you lucky folk have yet to cash in that winter ski vacation.  And for perhaps even the luckier maybe you’re headed out west to enjoy big mountain, powder, high altitude skiing.  I thought of you when borrowing space from Greg Decent’s weekly Running Column in the Vail Daily and guest-penned a brief article on running at altitude.  Basically, I offer a few suggestions (from my own experiences) on how to make the most of your runs while doing battle with oxygen debt.  It was published last week in the Vail Daily.  Follow this link to read it.

Much has been written on the widely studied practice of endurance training and racing at altitude.  It is a fascinating topic, to say the least, and one of which I am no expert.  Because I am a lowlander from Washington D.C. running while at altitude mostly means seducing the beast; I simply try to find a comfortable rhythm while my lungs search for oxygen as I plod along in the thin air.  Other than the few simple suggestions I offer in the column what additional recommendations can any of you offer to a runner from sea level hoping to get in some decent runs while vacationing at altitude?  What practices do you employ?  I am interested to know.

By the way, how killer is it that the Vail Daily publishes a weekly running column?  Only in an active town like Vail…  As much as I love reading the Washington Post each morning the editors would never think to offer such pleasure to a reader like me.  Note to the Washington Post editors: skip the regular Metro Section traffic report column once in a while and publish something original like hyper-local, motivating, educational information on fun topics, such as running, for the ga-zillion runners in the D.C. region that populate our streets and trails.

5 comments:

  1. Neal, since you suggested it, why don't you send that note to the Wash Post editors? I would read your column, and tell all my friends! :)

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  2. I agree! I believe it would be a very popular column. I have heard that your neighbors in DC want people to get up and move. What better way to advertise access to free and beautiful terrain than notes from a local?

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  3. Thanks Neal for this useful information.

    I am a little curious: is this the strategy you used for the Grand Slam? I live in Gaithersburg (which I believe is a whopping 150 feet higher than DC) and am wondering the best way to train for Leadville and Wasatch in particular (I hope WS100 is at elevation for a brief enough time to not be to challenging).

    Thanks!
    Tammy

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  4. Hi Tammy- I am glad you found the information useful. And, wow, what a great question. Sadly, the short answer is no. The suggestions I mention in the column are basic practices I use on regular training runs while staying temporarily at altitude. I think when it comes to mustering the proper energy necessary to take on big mountain, high altitude 100 mile trail races like Leadville and Wasatch some sort of acclimation is best. If nothing else at least to give yourself a better shot and reduce the chances of suffering the effects of altitude. I ran Wasatch in 2009 having arrived to Salt Lake from DC on Wed. night- 36 hours before the race start. It wasn't pretty for about 30 miles early one but I held it together and finished up. Leadville, not sure I would run that one without some sort of acclimation- two weeks I think at least. I was very fortunate and arrived to Colorado 20 days prior to Leadville last summer and stayed through Wasatch. Lastly, Western States. I arrived to Squaw last summer the day before the race- zero acclimation. I handled it well enough, I guess, but the lack of oxygen in the high Sierras early on caught up to me by Forrest Hill and I paid the price dearly for the remainder of the race (and few days after). WS as my worst race of the Slam by far. Having said all of this, if you can’t acclimate it doesn’t mean you’re not doomed. I just know for me I am very sensitive to altitude- even at 6k to 8k feet. Friends of mine from the east coast have trained with oxygen tents and done quite well. I hear you can even rent them. By the way, I take it you're running the GS? You go, gurl!

    Washington Post? A running column? You know, maybe that could work. Hmm...

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  5. Thanks Neal!

    I am doing the Slam. It should be fun although every race except VT100 sounds like I will be challenged but nothing ventured=nothing gained.

    See you on the trails,
    Tammy

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