Several years ago a buddy and I decided to train for a trail run. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we live at roughly 5,000 feet and the trail run would be at elevations between 4,000 and 8,500 feet. As we began training in the mountains at higher elevations, we both noticed a marked shortness of breath. We believed it was the altitude affecting us.
As we continued training, we both noticed that it seemed that the altitude was bothering us less and less – even though we had just a few hours of exposure each week. Because most literature supports a “stay at altitude for three weeks” format of altitude acclimatization, I wondered if anyone had looked at intermittent exposure.
I contacted Dr. Randy Wilber, head physiologist for the U.S.Olympic Training Center and asked if he had seen anything on intermittent exposure. He said he hadn’t. I asked his opinion on the experience we had with our once-per-week format and he said that though there’s no evidence, he had to believe that some expose is better than none and does offer some form of adaptation.
When I was training for the trail run, I had no way to easily measure whether my weekly exposure was beneficial or not.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I purchased a pulse oximeter in 2010. Since that time, I’ve taken samples of oxygen saturation (SPO2) at 5,000 feet and at 9,100 feet for myself. Know that this is a sample size of one and the experiment was far from controlled and scientific. That written, here’s what I’ve found:
SPO2 at home, 5,000 feet runs 98 most of the time
SPO2 at 9,100 feet runs 92 if I have not been at altitude for over four weeks
If I have 24 to 72 hours of exposure to 9,100 feet every three weeks, SPO2 runs at 96 (know that I sleep at 9,100 and exercise is most often at higher altitudes)
At the end of last summer, when altitude exposure at 9,100 was more frequent than every 21 days, my SPO2 would be between 97 and 98
In summary, for me, intermittent exposure to altitude does help SPO2 and I can feel the difference as well. It's an advantage for me. Though I didn’t collect as much data on pulse rate, I did see pulse rate drop on a track similar to the rise in SPO2. This is good - more oxygen saturation for less work for my heart.
If you wonder what’s happening to your oxygen saturation when you travel to the mountains for fun, training or racing I suggest picking up a pulse oximeter and taking some measurements. You can get a quality device for around $50.
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.
Yesterday I was talking with a person I hadn’t seen in awhile. This person told me they were interested in entering a race (in this case a sprint triathlon) but they didn’t want to enter the event because they were afraid of being last and having everyone stare at them.
Here’s what I said:
People are more concerned about themselves and not nearly as concerned about you. If I were to survey the entry field, I suspect not one person would care about who comes in mid-pack, tenth from the end, second from the end and last.
If you show up to the start line, you are miles ahead of all the people mashing a$$ on the couch made by Excuses and the chair made by Empty Promises. You’ll never be last.
I got a note that the person entered a race this summer.
If you are trying to establish new habits as of January 1, you've been working towards those goals for close to two weeks now. You’ve got to have an initial goal, or subgoal, to stay consistent through March 6th.
Can you be consistent with your current diet and exercise program until March 6th?
I think you can, if you have written goals and personal reasons to fuel your desire and drive.
Alberto Salazar’s high sweat rate of 3.7 liters (125 ounces) per hour is highly publicized. Recently, I was asked if I knew of higher sweat rates. I decided to ask the expert.
I met Dr. Lawerence Armstrong, author of Performing in Extreme Environments, a few years ago and dropped him a note to ask if he knew of recorded sweat rates higher than Alberto Salazar's. He referred me to Michael F. Bergeron, Executive Director of the National Institute for Athletic Health &Performance and National Youth Sports Health &Safety Institute. Dr. Bergeron is also a professor at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.
Here is what Dr. Bergeron wrote:
Below are the two highest measured sweating losses/rates I have observed.
30-year-old male recreational runner, 70 minutes of running at race pace on a treadmill in an environmental chamber (77°F, 60% relative humidity), sweat loss (over 70 min): 4.09 liters (138.3 fluid ounces)
~28-year-old male professional tennis player, 60 minutes of moderate running on a treadmill in an environmental chamber (97°F), sweat loss (over 1 hour): 4.3 liters (145.4 fluid ounces)
At 24 ounces per large bicycle water bottle, the professional tennis player is losing some 6 bottles of fluid per hour. That’s alot of sweat!
The first time I was introduced to this type of exercise, it was to rehabilitate a sprained ankle. One purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in the ankle. That’s just the beginning.
You can also use these exercises to build strength in the ankles to help prevent serious ankle sprains. Sure, at one time or another you’ll rollan ankle, but having strong tendons and ligaments might keep an otherwise minor sprain from being a bigger problem. You can also build some strength in all of the stabilizing muscles in the lower leg.
In addition to strength, you need balance. As a runner you do land on each foot and that foot is expected to hold your body weight and keep you balanced until the other foot takes over. As a skier, particularly a Nordic skier, you must commit your body weight to a foot and glide on that foot (ski) for more than the brief moment. In fact in contrast to skiers, the fastest runners want to spend the least amount of time touching the ground. The fastest skiers get the most glide from each ski placement which requires a sort of strength and balance endurance. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run or ski, these exercises can help you.
(A view from Shock Hill at Breckenridge Nordic Center 12-30-11)
Boiled down, you stand on one foot. Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? I’ve never met anyone that could “easily” (never tapping the airborne foot down to secure balance) do these exercises the first time. Below are four variations of standing on one foot to build strength and balance. Start with the first one and progress as you gain skill.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. Switch feet. Repeat five to 10 times. The non-weight-bearing foot can be anywhere – begin with it close to the ground. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count to five. Remain on that foot, look over your right shoulder and count to five. Remaining on that foot, look over your left shoulder and count to five. (The weight-bearing foot gets a count of 15 total before resting.) Switch feet. Repeat each foot five to 10 times.
Do progression number 2 with your eyes closed.Tougher than you thought, eh?
While standing on one foot, raise your knee until your femur is parallel to the ground. Count to five. Repeat five to 10 times. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
If you’re following one of my training plans, you can easily add one of the exercises below into your strength training session, starting as early as the Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase. If your plan doesn’t call for strength training, do the exercise before you do a cycling or running session.
Doing just one variation of these exercises one to three times per week can make a difference. If you do it, let me know how it goes and the changes you notice. (You can comment on my Facebook link, but not yet on Active due to hackers.)
PS…I’m guessing you will need to try this right now, just to prove I’m wrong and that you are special and can easily balance on one leg with your eyes closed and move your head and airborne leg anywhere you please. You won't prove me wrong.
I saw a statistic today that 42 percent of people have a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. Some may not seek weight loss, just avoiding weight gain. Either way, maybe an Anti-Fat Club could help you and your buddies?
Awhile back, four of us decided we wanted to keep winter weight from creeping on to our fannies, so we formed the Anti-Fat Club. Some are already below goal weight and others want to lose a few pounds to get to winter goal weight.
If you and your buddies want to help each other keep fanny-fat from accumulating the next few months, you too can form your own Anti-Fat Club. Here’s how it works:
Pick a goal weight that you want to maintain through the end of March. This goal weight is a winter weight and not a racing weight. That weight is some 3-6 pounds above your racing weight. Bigger people get more latitude.
Weigh-in each week and report weight to the group. It doesn’t matter what day you weigh-in or if the day changes from week to week. (Trust me, trying to “play” the system will eventually catch up with you.)
If you are above goal weight and you gain weight compared to last weeks weigh-in, you owe $1 (or whatever amount) to the kitty.
If you are above goal weight and you lose weight compared to last weeks weigh-in, you owe nothing.
If you are below your target weight, weight gain or loss doesn’t cost anything.
The kitty is split evenly among club members at the end of March (or whenever you decide).
Checking in with the group encourages accountability. Seeing other people maintain or lose weight helps others get back on track.
Happy New Year and may all your dreams and resolutions come true – even the anti-ones.
If your foot is falling asleep in your running shoes, maybe it’s the way you lace them. I spoke with an athlete this morning that was having trouble with the top of his foot falling asleep. He tried loosening his laces but still had the problem.
If you’re having this numbness problem, try straight-bar lacing, also called "Lydiard Lacing" named after the great running coach Arthur Lydiard. I used this method to alleviate top-of-the-foot numbness when I was running intervals on the track. Oddly, the numbness only occurred when I wore a particular brand of running shoe. After I changed lacing methods, the problem dissappeared.
For those of you living in dry climates, or getting ready to visit a dry climate, you know your nasal passages get extremely dry. Colorado is a relatively dry climate and I’ve had a couple of doctors tell me that dry nasal passages can crack leaving an open invitation for viruses and bacteria.
Last winter, a friend that uses a breathing machine for sleep apnea told me about a saline nasal gel by the name of Ayr. If you use the nasal gel right before bed, you won’t wake up with a nose full of dry crusty stuff along with cracked and bleeding sinuses. Others tell me they use it during flights and it works wonders to help combat the damage of dry airline air.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve returned to working on balance during my strength training workouts and I have many of my athletes doing the same. Balance and body awareness are essential for efficient and confident road cycling, time trialing in the aerobars, mountain biking, running and skiing too. Below are a few balance drills you can add to your weight routine:
Sit on a Fitball like you are riding a horse. Lift your feet off the ground and balance on the ball. Work up to a minute or more of balancing on top of the ball. To make it more difficult, place your knees higher on the ball, like a Kentucky Derby race jockey.
Place your hands and knees on top of the ball and balance. Work up to a minute or more of balancing on top of the ball without touching the ground.
Once you’ve completely mastered the first two, you can try kneeling on top of the ball with your arms outreached and parallel to the ground. Balance on top of the ball with only your knees and about half of your lower legs (no hands) touching the ball. To make it more difficult, raise your arms above your head.
Of course be careful when you try these maneuvers. Set yourself up in a location where you can’t crash into something and hurt yourself if you topple over.
San Diego, the birthplace for the sport of triathlon, will host an ITU World Triathlon race. This event is the final qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Team, so the home-soil athletes will be doing the race of a lifetime. International athletes will be racing for valuable Olympic qualifying points and, depending on the specific country’s Olympic qualifying system, this race may make the difference between a ticket to London in August – or staying at home.
It is guaranteed you can easily be within arm’s length, or less, of the pros that will be racing at the Olympic Games. Additionally, the venue will have age group racing as well.
With the fastest triathletes in the world racing this close to home – there’s no better time, or place, to travel for an event. Find information on the event website.
Today the group ride was heading back into Loveland, westbound on 57th Street at about 1:30pm. We were slowing to make aleft turn onto Monroe Avenue, getting ready to stop because there was eastbound traffic coming at us. The eastbound traffic was lined up in the right turn lane, three or four cars. The lead car was a Larimer County Sheriff’s car.
The Sheriff’s car driver held traffic and motioned to us to turn left. He or she held traffic allowing us to go first – a really, really nice gesture.
Then as the Sheriff’s car passed us southbound, he or she flashed the top car lights as if to say “right on!”
Too often in past years, the Sheriff’s office has gotten bad press. It’s time for some well-deserved good press.
Last Saturday I rode to Estes Park. I’ve written about this silly monthly ride to Estes goal in past blogs. We're still going at it.
Most of the time, this ride is no big deal – but – some days it’s tougher to pull off than other days.
One of the marker points for successful goal completion is to make it past the Estes Park city limit sign. Last week I couldn’t see the sign – without some digging.
I’m assuming that high winds earlier in the week blew the sign down. Some Colorado locations clocked wind speeds in excess of 115mph.Estes recorded 77mph on November 12th and several other days between the 12thand the 19th had gusty winds in the 50mph range.
Though we had an early morning snow in Loveland, the roads were mostly dry by about 1:00pm. Since my husband Del volunteered to drive upto Estes and pick me up (so I wouldn’t have to worry about staying warm on the 30-mile descent and darkness) I decided to bag my November Estes ride.
There was around four to six inches of snow on the ground for a good part of the ride - but the roads were mostly dry or just a little wet. Though the air temperature was 35 degrees, I was able to dress so I didn’t get cold. Having the right gear is essential for a ride like this one. Additionally, because it is basically a 30-mile climb I can stay pretty warm on the ride. My toes got a little chilly at the end, but not bad.
I have to say it’s one of the best rides I’ve done to Estes because I got to see two big horn sheep rams up close. I saw one on a rock ledge about 12 yards above the road. The second one broke away from his herd and came trotting towards me while we were both on the road side of a guard rail. I stopped, not knowing if he was angry or not.
He came trotting toward me and jumped across the rail about 4 yards in front of me. He proceeded to dance up the rocks next to the road. He stopped about 4 yards to my right, above the road. WOW!
A car watched the whole thing unfold. The driver rolled down the window and said, “Wow that was something!”
All I could manage was “WOW!” followed by a wide-open mouth and then a big smile on my face.
If it wasn’t for that seemingly insignificant goal, I wouldn’t have ridden at all that day. I just needed that goal to get me out the door and on one of the coolest rides I’ve had in awhile.