I've read a few articles by both you, Joel Friel and a few others about training and racing at altitude. This year I'm racing Leadville and have access to a place in Frisco for training. My plan is to do all of my higher intensity workouts here in Fort Collins and do longer, steady training rides on the weekends in Breckenridge and up around Leadville. I've found discussions of benefits for >4 weeks and your suggestions for racing at >8500 ft:
Utilizing Altitude Training for Racing at Altitudes Above 8,500 Feet
Live at an altitude between 5,000 and 8,500 feet for three to four weeks.
Drive to higher altitudes for some training days and consider occasional overnight stays prior to training days. Keep recovery periods at lower altitudes.
Keep power output high by doing high-intensity work intervals at 5,000 to 8,500 feet or lower. Or, consider using supplemental oxygen during workouts.
But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter? I've even dug around on a few Everest web sites that seem to indicate that a couple of extra days at higher camps is enough to help while spending the majority of time at base camp (although that might be too extreme of an example to make sense).
Anyway - thanks and I hope to see you at somerides/races this summer,
Hi A.J. ~
First, congrats on your Leadville entry. I am entered in Leadville this year as well, so maybe I’ll see you there – or training on the great trails in Northern Colorado.
For your question, “But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter? “
In my opinion, yes, you do get benefits from spending weekends or perhaps every three weekends at altitude. I live on the Front Range close to you, as you know from the group ride listing. Here is a blog that I wrote about intermittent altitude exposure.
I too have access to training around Frisco and I continue to collect one-person data on oxygen saturation. I do a mix of alpine and Nordic skiing through the winter and I’ve found the oxygen saturation data stays consistent. If I can get to Summit County roughly every three weeks, I can maintain higher oxygen saturation levels. Like you, I do most of my training at ~5,000 feet which I believe keeps power output high. I may know more about that (real data) this season.
Hope this helps. See you on the trails (or the road) ~
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and triathlon plans are found here.
For awhile, I’ve tried to determine if repeated short-term exposure to altitude can help with the acclimatization process. This curiosity is geared primarily for people living in a Front Range situation and then doing fun activities, training or racing in the mountains.
To help me determine if short-term exposure to altitude might help acclimatize people so that they can enjoy fun activities, training and racing at altitude, I picked up a pulse oximeter. I mentioned the pulse oximeter in a 2010 blog. My personal interest in the numbers is for alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, trail running, road cycling, mountain biking and hiking.
A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive way to measure the amount of oxygen the blood is carrying. The number displayed is expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount the blood could carry at 100 percent. At sea level, typical saturation values are 97 to 99 percent in healthy people. At 5,000 feet it might drop to 95 percent and at around 10,000 feet it may dip to 90 percent. Somewhere around 10,000 feet there is a big change and oxygen saturation can drop to 80 percent or below.
Acclimatizing to various altitudes can help improve these numbers up to a point. Know there is individual variability in the acclimation process and there is even variability among native dwellers at any altitude, beginning at birth.
Children born at various altitudes have similar oxygen saturations during the first 24 to 48 hours of life and the values change within the first four months of life. For example, newborns in Denver, Colorado (5,280 feet, considered moderate altitude) have saturation levels of 85 to 97 percent while those born in Leadville, Colorado (10,152 feet, considered high altitude) are 85 to 93 percent.
Though the time periods noted in a medical column weren’t exactly the same, it is interesting to note that after four months, the Leadville infants were between 89 and 93 percent saturation during wakefulness. Healthy, awake infants under the age of two measured between 90 and 99 percent in Denver. So there was some shifting up, particularly on the low end.
You can pick up a pulse oximeter at many local pharmacies. A common use for these devices includes measuring oxygen saturation in people with compromised lung function. Pilots and mountain climbers also use the devices to determine when supplemental oxygen might be necessary to avoid fainting.
I’ve been playing with an oximeter to look at oxygen saturation at my house (roughly 5,000 ft. measured on my Garmin) and Frisco, Colorado (roughly 9,100 ft.) I did this because much of my fun, training and racing is done at altitudes of 7,500 ft. or more and I was curious if my oxygen saturation changed much between the Front Range and the Colorado mountains.
The next blog will be more about what I’ve noticed in my experiment of one.
We are now nearing the end of the bike tour. After a rest day for most yesterday, it seems riders are eager to get pedaling again.
Day 6: Due to the bike path being washed out, we went by car to Dotsero. Those without personal sags along went via bus back to Gypsum. Everyone headed toward Vail, Vail Pass and then into Frisco. (80.3 miles, 4095 ft. of climbing)
Meeka and Del, the best sag team ever.
Vail Pass is a tough and rewarding climb. For whatever reason, I like it. I felt good climbing too. Finally.
Scott Ellis, Gale and Bruce Runnels - looking like it should be Rabbit Ears Pass - but no, it's Vail Pass.
I did think about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge riders that will be doing a time trial on part of Vail Pass in a few weeks. We plan to go up and watch some of the stages. Want to see Tour de France riders without traveling to France? Come to Colorado!
After the climb, there’s a descent into Copper Mountain and then Frisco. A few weeks ago, I noted that there was an avalanche covering the bike path between Copper Mountain and Frisco. The bike path was open when we went through, but…it seems there was some extra debris in the avalanche…
Ron Kennedy and Scott Ellis looking happy to be in the avalanche...
Walking the bike path in Frisco, near Dillon Reservoir, I caught a shot of some wild Iris (I think that’s what they are) with Grays and Torreys Peaks in the background. Summer in the mountains is fantastic.
Day 7: From Frisco we headed back toward Central City. (61.3 miles, 2633 ft of climbing) Because a running race was using the bike path between Loveland Basin (after the Loveland Pass climb) and Georgetown, tour organizers worked with Colorado Department of Transportation personnel to allow us to ride on Interstate 70 rather than bussing for about 13 miles. The State Patrol broke us into groups of about 50 riders and sent us on the highway in small groups. For the most part, this went well. There are always a few knuckleheads in every crowd.
Bicycle Tour of Colorado ended in Central City. A great way to spend a week. (383 miles, 17,834 feet of climbing)
Below is a shot of the avalanche near Officer’s Gulch. (I was told by a local that the avalanche occurred in late April or May.)
Below, notice the tiny spec of a road cyclist beginning to do a hike-a-bike from the right side of the photo to the left.
Ah, easier to see the cyclist with zoom, which gives you some idea of the magnitude of the slide.
The Summit Daily, in their Summit Up section (June 4, 2011 “Where Monday can wait), wrote over the weekend that some random benevolent dude is beginning to shovel a path for cyclists. That will be a lot of shoveling.
I had a great day of skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center on Wednesday. I think Bil Danielson lapped me about 10 times on the back climb. He's going to have a great ski at the Birkebeinder this year.
I intended to carry the video camera yesterday so you could see what fun Meeka has "skiing" (I ski, she runs all-out with a smile on her face); but I forgot the camera. I'll get that captured later.
I did try to get the outdoor activities in before today. Real feel at the writing of this blog is -29 degrees in Summit County. Beyond cold. (chart below)
In a previous blog I mentioned that I'm monitoring body temperature and pulse. That experiment continues.
Due to reviewing notes from the USA Cycling Coaching Summit, I decided to add pulse oximetry to my experiment. I'm curious about the values at home (about 5,000 ft. elevation) and in the mountains at about 9,000 ft. I want to know if values change as I stay at altitude and what affect (if any) my asthma medications have on the values. I'm looking for data to help my training and racing at altitude. I'll keep you posted on that as I go along.
Ending a great year and looking forward to an excellent 2011. Stay warm, and Happy New Year ~