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Thread: Elevation

  1. #1
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    Elevation

    I live in St Geroge Utah elevation 2800 feet. Most of the Races in our state series are at Ski resorts with elevations from 8000-10000 feet. When racing up there I always suffer so much more then in the few races that are closer to home. What is the best way to train to race at elevation? How long do I need to be up there before I can acclimate? There are rides at 10000, but they are 1.5 hours away. Will it be benifical for me to go up there and ride, or will I lose all the benifit by coming back to 2800 as soon as I am done. I am going to be making the jump from sport to expert this week, and am worried that the extra distance combined with faster guys, combined with higher elevation, combined with my fat ass will kill me. Any thoughts would be helpful. Any good books on the topic?

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    It usually takes me about a full 5-7 depending on the elevation to get fully acclimated, but other people are shorter or longer. Im guessing probably about half that time for someone to lose it when they go back down in elevation.

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    The consensus is that if you are going to race at altitude you spend a long time getting acclimated or stay a low altitude until the day of the race. I read a study that looked into training at low altitude and sleeping at high altitude - was beneficial and more study needed, but who can afford the travel time?

  4. #4
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    I think in Friel's book he said that going to a mountain like that and training sporadically and then deaclimitizing will not help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pacman
    The consensus is that if you are going to race at altitude you spend a long time getting acclimated or stay a low altitude until the day of the race. I read a study that looked into training at low altitude and sleeping at high altitude - was beneficial and more study needed, but who can afford the travel time?
    How long is a long time? a week a few weeks?

  6. #6
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    Everyone else is in the same boat

    Quote Originally Posted by Pedalfaraway
    I live in St Geroge Utah elevation 2800 feet. Most of the Races in our state series are at Ski resorts with elevations from 8000-10000 feet. When racing up there I always suffer so much more then in the few races that are closer to home. What is the best way to train to race at elevation? How long do I need to be up there before I can acclimate? There are rides at 10000, but they are 1.5 hours away. Will it be benifical for me to go up there and ride, or will I lose all the benifit by coming back to 2800 as soon as I am done. I am going to be making the jump from sport to expert this week, and am worried that the extra distance combined with faster guys, combined with higher elevation, combined with my fat ass will kill me. Any thoughts would be helpful. Any good books on the topic?
    I wouldn't worry too much about it. I live at the base of a 10,000 foot mountain and I sometimes ride trails higher up. It takes a little more out of me, but it does the same to everyone else. Unless the other racers actually live at that elevation, they will be at the same disadvantage as you.
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    They live alot closer to it then I do.

    Most of the people I race against are from Salt Lake City, or Park City. Park citys elevation is close to 8000. People that I have no problem dropping down here work me up there. I am thinking about camping at 10000 for 3 or 4 days before the next race to see if it helps. I have to come down to work, but can ride and sleep up there. Think that will be enough?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedalfaraway
    Most of the people I race against are from Salt Lake City, or Park City. Park citys elevation is close to 8000. People that I have no problem dropping down here work me up there. I am thinking about camping at 10000 for 3 or 4 days before the next race to see if it helps. I have to come down to work, but can ride and sleep up there. Think that will be enough?
    I think the theory is that if you spend 3 or 4 days up at altitude, you are only making your body work with less oxygen for 3 or 4 days due to the lower percentage in the air, therefore tiring yourself prior to your race. You will become acclimatized in some ways, such as preventing High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, etc, but in endurance terms you may actually be draining your body rather than acclimatizing.

    This is what I was told. Please verify this though, as I am not the expert, and while it sounds logical to me, I don't remember where I heard it from and cannot tell you with full faith that its completely accurate.
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  9. #9
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    Great Question

    The problem with high atlitude is that there is lower air pressure. So while there is the same percentage of oxygen in the air, in a given volume there is less oxygen. Full acclimitization involves your body producing more red blood cells (rbc) so that you increase your oxygen carrying capacity. This will take a very long time, typically 6-8 weeks. If you have heard the term "epo" thrown around, this refers to epogen, a drug that can be used to increase your red blood cell count, and fake this high altitide effect for athletes. Also why it's a banned substance for athletes.
    Once you go above 6000 feet you also risk developing a high altitude syndrome of which Acute Mountain Sickness is the most common. This is best described as feeling like a really, really bad hangover. One of the most specific signs I've found to be insomnia. The extreme of AMS is high altitude cerebral edema which is a life threatening condition characterized by altered mental status and potentially seizures. There is also third entity called high altitide pulmonary edema, where fluid leaches out of your lungs. Climbers will cough up pink frothy sputum when they develop this potentially lethal condition that predominantly occurs above 12000 ft (although it has happened as low as 6000). The typical rule of thumb is that once over 4000 ft you want to spend a day at every 1000 ft gained (although this is very conservative) to allow your body to acclimate on a short term basis. What your body does is readjust your oxygen binding curve to try and optimize oxygen delivery. You can take a medication called acetazolamide to help this process, also Ginko works really well. Once you develop a high altitude syndrome the best way to treat it is to get to a lower altitude, although oxygen supplementation can go a very long way. Steroids can also work very well but take awhile to kick in.
    In practice if you are going to a habitable place like at 10,000 feet it will take around 3-4 days to develop a tolerance for the altitude and for your body to make the biochemical changes to prevent high altitude syndromes.
    Ultimately the thing you want is more blood cells which can take months, and when you are visiting high altitude for a race you will be at a disadvantage to the riders who live there. Now you can cheat and try and use epo (bad idea) or get your hands on a hypobaric chamber (very expensive idea) but whatever you do has to be sustained. If you can go up there and ride, and do it for a few hours on a daily basis, you should be able to increase your rbc's. This has to be sustained though. Just going up there once in awhile won't do it, your counts will quickly go back to normal. But you will be supercharging your body, and with a high rbc count you could dominate an otherwise equal opponent. There is a reason why the olympic training center is in colorado.

  10. #10
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    Sounds like you're at a definite disadvantage to the locals, but keep in mind that there are probably people in the same situation as you. I'm lucky enough to get to ride at 7500 feet in the mountains just 10 minutes away, but when I first got here I did feel a bit sluggish, not as bad as a guy I know who's from Boston, but that's probalby because I was born and raised at over 6000 feet. Consistent training at altitude and sleeping at altitude will definitely help. Also, do as much cardio work as you possibly can at either at altitude or where you live, because your resting pulse rate will jump upwards of 10 bpm when you are at altitude, which means that you'll hit your redline a lot sooner at altitude, also, the gingko is a good idea, as would be magnesium and anything else that improves circulation. Take your vitamins, and eat plenty of Spinach or meat, anything with lots of Fe, which is the key ingredient in the heme groups that carry the O2 in your blood. You can check out some running websites for cardio regimens, but biking itself is one of the best. Work on more effective breathing as well, there's a full breath, where you expand your shoulders (clavicular breathing) and also feel like air is filling your gut (diaphragmic) and also expanding your ribcage (costal). Try a few of these huge breaths before a race starts to give you the extra boost for the initial sprint, and focus on diaphragmic breathing, which is the most natural and effective. It's yoga technique. But remember, nothing beats training at altitude for a long period of time, if you can manage a month, when you come back down you'll be able to train harder, and if you keep training hard at lower elevation, you'll retain much of the physiological changes, though your erythrocyte count will drop gradually. Hope this helps you out.

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