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Training for high altitude at lower elevation?

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Training for high altitude at lower elevation?

Old 03-05-19, 11:28 PM
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TimothyH
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Training for high altitude at lower elevation?

Can anything be done at lower altitudes to train for riding at 9000 to 12,000 feet?

I live at 1100 ft.

There are climbs to around 4000 ft within a two hour drive.

A 3.5 hour drive will get me to the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and 38 mile ride with 7000 ft total elevation gain topping out at 6053 ft.

Are these worth doing? If so, how regular would they have to be to provide some training benefit?

Can anything else reasonably be done to prepare for high elevation?


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Old 03-05-19, 11:36 PM
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You have to spend time at elevation to acclimate. Climbing a hill a few times won't do much, if anything at all. Further, 6,000ft is nothing compared to 9,000+.

Luckily, we acclimate rather quickly, and unless you're racing up there, just watch the numbers and don't push it too hard.

I don't do well at altitude over time (often start to show altitude sickness signs after a few days) but spent 5 days in Mammoth Lakes (7,900ft, up to over 9,000ft) riding every morning and had no ill effects.
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Old 03-06-19, 12:16 AM
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Some people do fine, be others struggle. As kids we went to Colorado a lot, I loved it and ran around checking out the views a my brother got sick almost every time.

Nowadays I live at 60' and start to slow down a bit after a night at 7,500'.

Can you camp a few nights at the highest point nearby? And can you get to your destination a few days in advance of the big ride?
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Old 03-06-19, 01:13 AM
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Check out the articles and user experiences with low oxygen/hypoxic, elevation simulation masks. Basically concentrating expelled CO2 and displacing incoming fresh air. There are disagreements about how and whether it works.
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Old 03-06-19, 09:57 AM
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I don't anything is going to substitute for the real thing. IMO, It's all about getting oxygen into your bloodstream at lower atmospheric pressure. Not so much you body getting used to less oxygen.

So lung performance and capacity is important. Maybe some deep breathing exercises. I do them every now and then just to keep my lungs clear. When I don't do them for a awhile, I'm surprised at how much flem and stuff I start coughing up. But I feel better after a week or so of daily sessions.
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Old 03-06-19, 12:41 PM
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The simple answer is "yes." I haven't done much high altitude cycling, but I have done a fair bit of high altitude backpacking and mountaineering.

Obviously the more fit you are for what you want to do, the better things will go for you.

Yes to explosive outbreaths. The big project is getting rid of CO2.

Read:
https://www.roadbikerider.com/wp-con...CETraining.pdf
https://forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.cgi?post=4520431;

Mountain Might is out of business. Too small a target audience. However the ingredients are readily available. My wife and I used them for a Sierra backpacking trip, going from sea level to 11,000' in a couple days. Worked great. I've always been OK at altitude, so the big difference was for my asthmatic wife, who starts feeling it at about 4000'.

I've climbed Mt. Rainier a couple times and my wife and I have acclimated at 10,000' with the MM ingredients for a couple days just to see how we did. Spending one full day at 10,000' is a huge advantage. You don't acclimate physically by doing that, but you do acclimate mentally. Your body learns to breathe differently all by itself and you get comfortable with the sensations of altitude. Folks who think they go downhill at altitudes below 24,000' aren't staying hydrated and fueled. On a snow climb there's a terrific amount of time devoted to melting snow for water, for good reason. Definitely sleep high for a day or two if you can.

That said, take Diamox (prescription) with you in case you need it.

Looking at Hermes comment, I had to do jumping jacks on day 1 at 10,000' to drop my O2 saturation below 94%. I live at sea level.
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Old 03-06-19, 12:55 PM
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Hydration is a bigger factor at elevation, get in good habits before you arrive. I think you'll be in CO a few days before starting your riding, right? I didn't know day 3 was that predictable. If you can get past that, you'll be fine. I have a feeling you're in pretty good shape as it is, so it will probably boil down to mental states and expectations. You'll have less power at higher elevations. If you come to our wonderful state thinking you'll go uphill at the same speed/effort, you'll be frustrated and that will sap energy and morale. Relax, know you'll be going a little slower as you go higher, and enjoy the view


I'm seriously considering at a 3-day Lake City jaunt myself, so thank you for the inspiration!
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Old 03-06-19, 01:01 PM
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Remove a couple pints of blood and put them in storage. Then train under depleted conditions, and transfuse yourself the day of the event, for a double-whammy.
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Old 03-06-19, 08:34 PM
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Some other things which stick out in the literature and experience:

Fatty acid oxidation decreases at altitude. At very high altitudes, eating/using fat becomes very difficult. The diet is almost exclusively carbs. The prospectors who first climbed Mt. McKinley, as it was known then, threw away their pemmican at 15,000 and ate raisins the rest of the way up. The favorite food high on the mountain in the 1953 Everest Expedition was Kendall Mint Cakes - almost pure sucrose. I've used them. They're nice. So more carbs, almost no fat.

As hypoxia increases, we depend more and more on glycolysis for energy, the anaerobic pathway. That's fueled solely by carbs and produces a lot of lactate. I haven't seen any research, but it's possible that anaerobic work, especially over-under intervals would improve lactate clearing and burning ability, which should help at altitude. When we train, we emphasize the chemical reactions we want particularly to improve. That's really all that training is other than muscle size.

I sleep like a baby at altitude. Everybody's different.

High altitude inhabitants of the Andes have a mean hematocrit of 62%, though Sherpas are about what we would call normal. More RBCs are better if you're not Sherpa. It's theoretically possible to force the kidneys to release EPO through hard VO2max intervals. It's definitely possible to increase hematocrit by donating plasma. I've done it.

The outbreaths I was referring to are actually under pressure through pursed lips, thus for a short time raising the partial pressure in the lungs. Try it now: take 5 normal deep breaths. Breathe normally for a bit, then do 5 deep breaths exhaling somewhat forcibly through pursed lips. You'll immediately notice hyperventilation from the latter. Climbing, I've seen many people doing that, though I personally don't seem to benefit much from it. I seem to do better just belly-breathing.
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Old 03-06-19, 08:40 PM
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What are you trying to prepare for at altitude?

I’m pretty majorly affected by altitude and racing a TT at even 5000 ft is painful. I live at 1200 ft.

But if I’m just going to ride around, do-some-climbing-while-on-vacation type riding, I can just go do it without any specific prep. I’m not at my sparkiest, but I can get it done and have a very enjoyable vacation.
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Old 03-06-19, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Fatty acid oxidation decreases at altitude. At very high altitudes, eating/using fat becomes very difficult. The diet is almost exclusively carbs. The prospectors who first climbed Mt. McKinley, as it was known then, threw away their pemmican at 15,000 and ate raisins the rest of the way up. The favorite food high on the mountain in the 1953 Everest Expedition was Kendall Mint Cakes - almost pure sucrose. I've used them. They're nice. So more carbs, almost no fat.
Some folks who would have been the first to summit Denali had to turn back at 20,000 feet when they ran out of chocolate. First thing in Glorious Failures, from The Mountaineers Press. Fantastic reading.
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Old 03-07-19, 07:25 AM
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Altitude tent for sleeping at night. Not legal for Italian domestic racing, but legal otherwise I think.
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Old 03-07-19, 07:39 AM
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@Heathpack and @Carbonfiberboy, that you took the time to reply in detail means more to me than you know. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
The outbreaths I was referring to are actually under pressure through pursed lips,
Being a (former) runner, I do this habitually without even thinking of it.


Originally Posted by Heathpack View Post
What are you trying to prepare for at altitude?
Bikepacking in the Colorado Rockies. Intensity is dependent on the grade at any given moment and my own ability. Walking a bike loaded with camping gear is a given. I'm OK with that.

For reference, I would do a longer version of The Alpine Loop, Colorado - BIKEPACKING.com including Telluride and maybe the Last Dollar loop.

The phrase "Less bad" hit home. That's really what I'm after.

Last edited by TimothyH; 03-07-19 at 08:15 AM.
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Old 03-07-19, 01:25 PM
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Oh man. I'm jealous.

Make a detour to Ouray if you get the chance, and ride the dirt road up to Yankee Boy Basin. There's an excellent camp near the road with a creek flowing through it. Very close to your route.

Did I mention I'm jealous?
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Old 03-07-19, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
@Heathpack and @Carbonfiberboy, that you took the time to reply in detail means more to me than you know. Thank you for sharing your experience.



Being a (former) runner, I do this habitually without even thinking of it.




Bikepacking in the Colorado Rockies. Intensity is dependent on the grade at any given moment and my own ability. Walking a bike loaded with camping gear is a given. I'm OK with that.

For reference, I would do a longer version of The Alpine Loop, Colorado - BIKEPACKING.com including Telluride and maybe the Last Dollar loop.

The phrase "Less bad" hit home. That's really what I'm after.
Wow, what a great trip. A riding buddy rode the world's highest road, ~18,000' in the Himalaya - in his 70s. IME walking is worse as long as riding is possible. Low gears. 22 X 34 at 70 cadence on an MTB is 4 mph. We've once had to ride until panting, rest for about a minute, ride until panting, etc. We thought that was better than walking. I ride as long as I can turn the cranks.

OTOH, wheeling a bike up an untracked mountainside is another matter. Of course one would walk (and breathe really hard). Bikepacking, you should be able to get the gear under 25 lbs. Plus food of course.
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Old 03-08-19, 07:07 PM
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I attempted to climb Mt. Haleakala in Maui. 10000' up from sea level. I made it to 6000' but ran out of gas for numerous reason and I want to try again. I live at sea level in Brooklyn and even going to 1500' requires a long day from here. I have otherwise done no riding at any elevation, even when I lived in Seattle. Even just hiking around the drivable part of Mt Rainier would make me sick too.

I have to do this again!!! And make it to the top!!!
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Old 03-09-19, 06:08 AM
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I would think any training that creates tissue hypoxia would be the good prep for high altitude rides - that's what stimulates EPO and red blood cell increases which is what you need at higher elevation. V02 max intervals should fit the bill nicely I would think. Other things could enhance it but that's the place to start IMHO.
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Old 03-09-19, 08:49 AM
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@TimothyH,

It looks like you’ll be riding mostly at 10,000 ft, sometimes going up to 12,000 ft. Basically those are altitudes where it’s gonna hurt for anybody. Really hurt for people who aren’t good at altitude. Hurt for people who are good. There’s honestly not much you can do about which type of person you are. You’re not going to be able to train such that those altitudes won’t affect you.

Going to 4000 or 5000 ft altitude isn’t going to really prep you for 10,000-12,000ft but it will give you somewhat of an idea of how you’ll feel. So personally, I’d make the effort. Ride with some intensity when you do, just for the experience of it. I’d go a few times to the highest altitudes you can in the six weeks prior to your trip. If nothing else, it will build confidence in your prep.

Also try to arrive and either ride right away, then take a rest day and resume riding afterward. Or start riding on day 3. Day two at altitude is the worst for most people.

The thing that makes this totally doable is the bikepacking aspect. You’ll just be moving along at your own pace and can stop when you want. Altitude is hard but it’s really hard when you’re racing and external influences are dictating your pacing, rather than your body & it’s sensations.

Who knows? Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who is not dramatically affected by altitude.
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Old 03-10-19, 01:53 AM
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I'll second that 12k is hard for everybody. I was born in Denver and driving over Berthoud Pass (at 12k) takes my breath away, literally not figuratively.
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Old 03-16-19, 06:45 PM
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Surprised no one mentioned this yet.


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Old 03-18-19, 02:38 PM
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Nobody mentioned that because I asked if anything reasonable could be done.
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Old 03-24-19, 12:59 PM
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As others have said: in order to train for altitude, you need to be at altitude.
12000 feet is not trivial. At 9000 feet, for instance, I myself cannot breathe. I don't feel right again until I'm below 6000 feet.

There are such things as 'altitude tents' you erect around where you sleep, that reduce the oxygen content to simulate altitude, but they're expensive and you're still not training *at* altitude. The only way to really do it is to go live at that altitude for a few weeks, spending the first week or so just existing and getting used to it, not even really training. But that's not cheap to do either for most people.

If it's just a one-and-done ride for you, you might just have to suffer through it. The 9000 feet elevation I spoke of earlier was a one-and-done for me, and I survived it.
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