Monday, July 25, 2011


Jumped right into it over the weekend here in Colorado.  I arrived to Vail late afternoon on Saturday and after a little unpacking and grocery shopping I decided to head up the North Trail just before sunset.  As I briefly wrote about in a previous post, I usually stick to a basic methodology when priming the lungs upon arriving at altitude.  Saturday’s short recovery run was different.  The hills came to me somewhat easily and I ran right on up the North Trail without my lungs correcting the effort, forcing a running stride to a hike.  I didn’t think much of it at the time but was pleased none the less and even more pleased to enjoy an exceedingly stunning mountain run on a familiar trail and in a relatively cool environment- that is, compared to the heat I’ve been used to lately.  Plus, the wild flowers were kicking.  They’re unreal here at the moment.  Colorful, fully in bloom, healthy, beautiful.
Yesterday morning’s run pretty much picked up right where I left off the night before.  I headed back up the North Trail and ran [without hiking] all the way to the western edge of Vail and from there, north, into the White River National Forrest.  The hills came to me well enough once again.  Unless the grade was really steep I ran.  Not that fast, though.  Even at 10k feet and above I was able to maintain a running stride, courtesy of willing lungs.  When the run was all said and done I covered 32 miles under a bright blue colored sky, with wild flowers all around me, plenty of climbs and descents and, finally, at the end a chilling dipping of the legs in the cold stream that flows along the periphery my condo complex.
The fact that the altitude seemed less of an issue for me than I had expected on Saturday night and yesterday is important news because it means, perhaps, while I am here, and for what it's worth, acclimatization will come quickly.  I can think of two reasons why I must feel somewhat at ease in the altitude at the moment.  1) The training in the heat I’ve put in this summer.  Perhaps Bryon Powell was right in his book when he published thoughts on a correlation between excessive heat training at sea level and how it can help prepare an athlete for altitude acclimatization.  2) I’d like to think this is even more of a reason, but it dawned on me after yesterday’s run that I am likely in the best running shape I’ve ever been in.  The 20 days I spent in Colorado last summer pre-Leadville consisted of only one actual week of semi-decent training before a two week taper, and looking back it took me all 20 days to arrive at some sort of acclimatized state, if I did at all.  The two weeks before arriving here I spent recovering from Vermont.  Prior to Western States was the last and only real training I put in all the way through Wasatch; therefore, I did not train as much in the heat prior to arriving in Colorado and I certainly wasn't as in good of shape, much less feeling fresh.  It is easy enough (and fun, I think) to look back and compare in an attempt to understand maybe why this is so, in terms of me feeling good here, now.  But who knows, my tolerance for breathing well on runs, particularly at 10k feet and higher, over the next few weeks will likely ebb and flow anyway still.

I definitely wouldn’t want to show up before a race like Leadville without some sort of acclimatization under my belt.  Weeks and weeks of heat training, great fitness, or not.  There is no substitute for acclimatization and without it one will suffer.  I am glad my friend David Frazier and my brother, Cornbread, both of whom live at sea level on opposing coasts, are running Leadville but they’re not showing up early to acclimatize.  They’re smart however to prepare in other ways.  Each has elected to employ an Alto Trainer device in the hopes it will help to acclimatize their lungs.  Seems like a good choice to me, at least from reading the website.  This is not ‘gearing out’ in my opinion, like a triathlete tweaking a bike component, etc.  Altitude is a dangerous threat; it is wise to prepare.  By the way, I am curious, anyone ever use or know much about the Alto Trainer,  in terms of how you thought the results worked out for you?  I would like to know.  I am sure David and Cornbread would like to know, too.
Lastly, here are a few random pictures from yesterday’s run.
The lovely contours of Vail's North Trail.
Wild flowers and Mount of the Holy Cross.  On tap as a potential outing for next weekend.


  1. Neal- I've looked at Alto Trainer, but never used it. Let me know what they think. Do you know how much it cost them?

  2. I have no idea the cost. From the website it looks significantly cheaper than other products on the market that I've heard about.