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Training for altitude

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Training for altitude

Old 07-23-14, 12:58 PM
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ninjai
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Training for altitude

I've seen so many videos and tips about how to train for climbs. I have plenty of climbs around, and have trained for one of the steepest hills in colorado, and definitely the steepest paved climb in colorado springs, the road to helen hunt falls with an average of 10 % grade over 3 miles.

my ride | Strava Route



What I don't know is how to train for altitude.

What's the difference? Well as someone who has been living at 7000 ft in elevation for a decade, and has just moved to 4500 ft elevation, it's a huge difference. I have so much more oxygen here, it's as if I became a professional athlete overnight. My heart rate is much lower at the same cadence and tempo as before because of the lower elevation. Now I'm planning a ride that has me starting off at 7000 ft, and climbing to over 12,000 ft (you read that right, twelve-thousand feet), and I don't know what I need to do to prepare myself for that steep drop in oxygen as I climb another very steep ascent at the end of 100 miles, and I don't want to my heart or lungs to aspload on the attempt.

steep finish | Strava Route


Link to the route. Does anyone have any advice on how to train for this, or how to properly acclimate to the lower oxygen?

Last edited by ninjai; 07-23-14 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 07-23-14, 01:08 PM
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Just pace yourself, drink and eat often. You will be fine.

I've done the Mt Evans climb in Colorado. Starts at 8000ft, ends at a little over 14,000. I was starting to get pretty lightheaded at 12,000 and had to throttle way back at 13,000. Even at 6-7MPH, I was still getting slight tunnel-vision. But it never worried me and I felt OK when I hit the summit. What a great ride. If you push yourself too hard, it will definitely push back!
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Old 07-23-14, 01:31 PM
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I've got nuttin to add...... other than to say I'm jealous and have fun.
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Old 07-23-14, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by FLvector View Post
I've got nuttin to add...... other than to say I'm jealous and have fun.
Thanks man. I'm jealous of future in shape me. I'm blessed with a great family, and my folks are going to ride out to be my support car, so I can't wait... probably won't be till sept or oct tho.
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Old 07-23-14, 01:58 PM
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When I was training to Elk hunt in Colorado people suggested those mask that limit the Oxygen, but they cost quite a bit. Another person suggested breathing thru 2 straws as you train. I know when I first stepped out of the truck at 11,000 feet and satarted hiking, my lungs said "no way" for the first 30 minutes. But as I pushed thru that, as if I found the oxygen, the lungs quit hurting and I was able to hike and climb without anymore trouble. I guess what I am saying, train the best you can and then when you get there try to push thru the hurt and see if it smooths out. Some people need to arrive a day or two early to acclimate.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:06 PM
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The answer in a perfect world is to spend time sleeping at elevation.

You want to sleep high, and train low.

Living at altitude gives an adaptive effect to the altitude, such as increasing hemogobin. The tradeoff, however, is that there's less oxygen to train at high altitude, so it's harder to train yourself to put out power.

So training at lower altitude you can push harder, and raise your FTP, but you're not acclimating to altitude.

Hence the live high, train low theory.

As a practical matter unless, you're going to drive from Denver to Leadville everyday, or sleep in an altitude tent, you just have to trian as much as possible aimed at increasing your FTP, specifically your w/kg.

Thus, there's really nothing you'd do different training other than working on getting stronger, knowing that the altitude will take a percentage of your strength.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:07 PM
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Can't believe you rode a bike on US 285 through South Park. That road has 70 mph traffic with no shoulder. If you can survive that, you can survive a little oxygen deprivation.

Different people react different ways to altitude. Some of the fittest people have the biggest trouble with altitude sickness, mainly because their legs let them climb faster than the rest of the body can handle.

Since I started swimming every other day, I've found climbing on a bike is easier. Maybe swimming helps lungs, or maybe it just makes me more fit.

One other thing that helps: Get off the road bike and ride a mountain bike. Even the steepest road grades are pretty wimpy compared with standard mountain bike climbs out here.

When in doubt, beer helps.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by jareed58 View Post
When I was training to Elk hunt in Colorado people suggested those mask that limit the Oxygen, but they cost quite a bit. Another person suggested breathing thru 2 straws as you train. I know when I first stepped out of the truck at 11,000 feet and satarted hiking, my lungs said "no way" for the first 30 minutes. But as I pushed thru that, as if I found the oxygen, the lungs quit hurting and I was able to hike and climb without anymore trouble. I guess what I am saying, train the best you can and then when you get there try to push thru the hurt and see if it smooths out. Some people need to arrive a day or two early to acclimate.
I've actually spent a fair amount of time researching both of those points.

I live at 15 feet above Sea level, and have the lack of judgment to do thing like Everest Challenge (29,000 feet of climbing, with a good amount of it above 10,000 feet) US Pro Challenge (six consecutive 100 mile plus days with climbs topping out at 12,000 feet) and this year the Leadville 100 MTB race (12,000 feet of climbing between 9,000 and 12,000 feet).

The mask to limit oxygen while trianing, is that exact opposite of the sleep high/train low approach. You want to take in as much oxygen as you can to train harder, push yourself harder, and get more training effect. The breath through a straw approach limits how much you can put out, and thereby limits the value of your training. And it isn't long enough to get the adaptive effects of living at altitude.

As for arriving a day or two early to acclimate, this is also likely a bad idea. To get any real acclimation, you need 2 weeks or more.

2 days is not going to give you any positive benefits, but its long enough for altitude related problems to start setting in. So the current consensus seems to be in traveling to events at Altitude that you get to altitude more than 2 weeks in advance. If that's not possible, the next best approach is to "helicopter" in as close as possible to start of the event.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:31 PM
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There's a handy chart for determining the effect of elevation on power:



At 12,000 feet you should be producing 74 to 78% of the power you could produce at sea level, or between 80 to 83% of what you produce at home at 4500 feet.

(note from the chart the reason you feel strong at 4500 feet, moving from 7000 feet is that your FTP went up about 5 %).

The take away from all this is that your power is going to be down somewhere around 20% at 12,000 feet, even if you're well acclimated. In fact the pure effect of the decrease in oxygen is much stronger than the difference between acclimated and unacclimated)

So all you can do is know your power is going to be well done, and train to raise your FTP as much as possible before, and pace yourself on the ride knowing your 20% weaker.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:08 PM
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I noticed a couple members of team Sky with cotton swabs in their nostrils while warming up. I am guessing that it is to reduce their oxygen intake.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:25 PM
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I do most of my riding on Colorado's front range in an elevation band that ranges from 5 to 8.5k ft. above sea level. Truth be told, I notice very little pain difference between climbing here and up on the high passes, like Loveland (at 12k). I probably, instinctively, just adjust the pace. Two weeks ago in the Triple Bypass, I met folks that came out from sea level or thereabouts and acquitted themselves quite well.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:29 PM
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MAG-10 Altitude Generator
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Old 07-23-14, 03:40 PM
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Hey, don't worry about it, you'll just have to plan to ride slower than usual. Nothing will asplode, it will just be harder than if it was lower. Also, if you do go into the red zone, it will be noticeably harder to recover.

Independence Pass is beautiful and not that steep. You might not want to wait for October, though, too cold, possiblity of snow.

Also, I agree with Lanterne Rouge that is not a particularly safe route. If you must use that route, do not do it on a weekend. I just drove back and forth from the front range to Salida this weekend, and the traffic was bad. That section between km 40-60 on that linked route is particularly gnarly - twisty road, poor visibility, small/no shoulder, fast traffic. If you are trying to get 100 miles, I would start in Twin Lakes, ride over I.P. then do some more on the other side, there are great bike paths from Aspen to Carbondale and then you can go either north or south from carbondale and have nice roads.
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Old 07-23-14, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Steele View Post
I noticed a couple members of team Sky with cotton swabs in their nostrils while warming up. I am guessing that it is to reduce their oxygen intake.
They're soaked with a decongestant to open up airways. Likely BS, but it's to get more air in, not keep it out.
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Old 07-23-14, 08:55 PM
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My wife and I also live at sea level + 15'. We are going on our first backpack in the high Sierras in a few weeks, so we'll be going from sea level to 10,000' in 2 days: one on the bus and one on foot. From previous climbing adventures, we know that my wife does not do well at altitude. We've been thinking Diamox. However . . .

I'm an inveterate researcher. I've used Hammer's Race Day Boost a few times for RAMROD and the like. It works. It happens that the active ingredient, sodium phosphate, has been tested successfully as an altitude adaptogen. Additionally, Acetyl-L-Carnitine and N-Acetyl Cysteine have also been lab tested and found to work as adaptogens.

This site:
Mountain Might, Altitude Training, High Altitude Training
has some good information about acclimatization techniques, etc. They also sell it in a bottle at a pretty high price.

Anyway, we're going to give the chemical method a try when we hike up to Camp Muir (10,000') at the end of July and spend a couple days there. If I still have two brain cells to rub together, I may remember to post the results, if any.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:10 AM
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Another sea level dweller here. The highest paved road in Washington is 6,400 so when we decided to do a week long ride in Colorado a couple of years ago we were a bit worried. The ride started in Pagosa Springs at just over 7,000' and went over Wolf Creek Pass at just shy of 11,000'. The first few miles out of town every rise I felt the altitude, the power just wasn't there but by the time we hit the climb I'd adjusted my pace and the day went fine. The next day went even better even though we went over Slumgullion Pass at 11,500' and had over a 100 miles of riding.

What got to us almost more than the altitude was the heat. It had been unusually mild that spring and early summer in Seattle so most of our rides were done around 60F. All of a sudden we were riding in the 80's and 90's. My GF would get up an hour before me and be off with the first wave because she hates then heat more than I do. The riders from Colorado, Texas and other warm locales had an easier time of it.

Agree with what people have been saying, without 2 or more weeks to truly acclimatize you are better off just going for it as soon as you can and pay attention to pacing, hydration and eating.

I've climbed a few of the volcanoes around here (including Rainier at 14K and Adams at 12K) and the consensus seems to be try and get up them in two or three days at the most. Some people, strong ones, climb Rainier in a day but that is 9K of climbing with glacier gear.

Altitude does affect people differently at different times; I've had days when I felt good and others not so much. Also it can hit you very quickly so pay attention to how you feel. I've been hiking fast uphill a couple of times only to come to a grinding slow down at around 8,500K. It has gone better usually when keeping a more sensible pace.

You are lucky to live in state with so many great mountain roads to ride. We have a few great ones here but not near as many.

Last edited by busygizmo; 07-24-14 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 07-25-14, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by ninjai View Post
Does anyone have any advice on how to train for this, or how to properly acclimate to the lower oxygen?
Can you get there a week or two early?



Also, don't forget to take some pictures while you're gasping for air ...
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Old 07-30-14, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by busygizmo View Post
You are lucky to live in state with so many great mountain roads to ride. We have a few great ones here but not near as many.
Unfortunately the nearest of those roads is over 50 miles away, and I don't have the gas money for that... or the legs to ride 100 miles round trip plus 20 miles of climbing... yet... hopefully soon
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Old 07-30-14, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ninjai View Post
Unfortunately the nearest of those roads is over 50 miles away, and I don't have the gas money for that... or the legs to ride 100 miles round trip plus 20 miles of climbing... yet... hopefully soon
Been there and can relate. Can remember not having money for tires and not having a car when I was younger.

Not sure if there are local clubs you can join, maybe find a ride share.
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Old 07-31-14, 04:06 PM
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I'm a flat-lander. The highest point I can climb 25mi> is about 1000ft around my area. The other day I climbed Col D Eze and I was ok. A big shock to my body but I just took my time going up.

Tomorrow I'm doing Col de la Madone which is almost twice as high. Goodluck to myself and I'll make a little report if anyone cares.
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Old 07-31-14, 04:32 PM
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One thing that will also help is to ride very early in the morning. That way you will have more miles in under your belt before the wind picks up. it usually starts blowing around ten o'clock. You'll be alright if your in decent condition.
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Old 07-31-14, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by palesaint View Post
Just pace yourself, drink and eat often. You will be fine.
This, but eat/drink less than you did in that other thread unless you enjoy puking.

I've lived close to sea level practically my whole life. Elevation is no big deal. Your HR will run higher than normal, but you'll automatically ramp back your effort as you run out of air which has the nice side effect of saving your legs.

Unless you're racing, there's no particular reason to train.
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Old 08-01-14, 07:23 AM
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I just did Col de la Madone hours ago. Pace yourself and don't get too excited. That'll be my only tip to any flat-lander like myself wishing to go up Cat 1/HC climbs (this is assuming you're in pretty decent shape).

My gearing was compact/12-30.
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Old 08-19-14, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
My wife and I also live at sea level + 15'. We are going on our first backpack in the high Sierras in a few weeks, so we'll be going from sea level to 10,000' in 2 days: one on the bus and one on foot. From previous climbing adventures, we know that my wife does not do well at altitude. We've been thinking Diamox. However . . .

I'm an inveterate researcher. I've used Hammer's Race Day Boost a few times for RAMROD and the like. It works. It happens that the active ingredient, sodium phosphate, has been tested successfully as an altitude adaptogen. Additionally, Acetyl-L-Carnitine and N-Acetyl Cysteine have also been lab tested and found to work as adaptogens.

This site:
Mountain Might, Altitude Training, High Altitude Training
has some good information about acclimatization techniques, etc. They also sell it in a bottle at a pretty high price.

Anyway, we're going to give the chemical method a try when we hike up to Camp Muir (10,000') at the end of July and spend a couple days there. If I still have two brain cells to rub together, I may remember to post the results, if any.
I did the Camp Muir backpack with my wife a couple weeks ago. We spent 2 nights at Muir and played around, but didn't go higher. For those who don't know, Camp Muir is the high camp for the most common climbing route on Mt. Rainier, ~14,000'. I've climbed Rainier twice, so I'm familiar with the feeling of being at 10,000'+, and don't do too badly. My wife has always had trouble above ~8000'. Altitude sickness is not just feeling weak. People get headaches very frequently and become nauseous and thus have a hard time getting calories down.

One week before this trip and during, we took the following every day: 2 X 1 tsp. Hammer Race Day Boost, 2 X 600mg N-Acetyl-Cysteine, 2 X 500mg Aceyl-L-Carnitine, 2 X 250mg Alpha Lipoic Acid, 1 X 500mcg B-12, 1 X 15mg iron.

My wife was a monster on the climb all the way to 10,000'. First time she'd had a backpack on all year and she was right on my butt. I was pushing it a little, too. She felt fine at altitude, no headache, no nothing. I felt even better at Muir than I usually feel. Breathing harder than at sea level of course, but lots of energy and very comfortable. Next year I'll give myself a 70th birthday present by summitting.

So if one is going high, the above regimen is worth a try.
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