Training Well At Altitude

I have my first full week of altitude behind me and I am feeling pretty good about the sessions so far. Mostly I have just raced for training. I find that being at altitude feels so bad that unless I put myself into competition I really can’t dig that deep so racing is a good option. I have been super fortunate that the weeks I am here are perfect for this kind of plan. Week one was in Gunnison/Boulder so here is the recap…

This week I did a double run on Tuesday with some steady state, not too hard, running at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison. Gorgeous! Running up there makes the time go by so fast it is awesome. I also managed to swim EVERY day in Gunnison despite the fact that their pool is not my favorite. Jackie Burt was instrumental in helping me motivate to get there so a solid, solid week of swimming at altitude. Wednesday we did the super ride that I made the video of (see this POST) and then Thursday I did an easy ride in the morning followed by the Pinnacle Series race up in Crested Butte.

That race absolutely kicked my butt. You know that when you drive the 30 minutes from Crested Butte down to Gunnison and your bottles squish in from the change in pressure that it is going to feel MUCH different going hard up there than even in Gunnison where it is 7700 feet. The race starts WAAAY up at like 9600 or something and climbs from there so very hard racing. The course was incredible. Short climb on the road and then singletrack pretty much all the way to the top of the mountain. The course reminded me a lot of the old race course in Keystone which was very fun, if not terribly hard because of the altitude. I had a good battle with Jen Wilson on a singlespeed at the top (actually, I let her set the pace and sat behind her because I was suffering so bad) but when we got to the top and I had a break I went away alone. I felt much better on the second half of the race where it went up and down constantly rather than straight up. So winning that race netted me a sweet bag from Timbuk2 so well worth the trip, not to mention the great training.

Friday I felt terrible so I did a super easy ride and swim before I drove the long drive to Boulder to Becky and Paul’s place. Paul made a delicious dinner that I ate too much of (and paid for the following morning) and we had a good chat and off to bed.

Saturday came to early in the morning and I needed a double coffee jolt to get me going for our 9am start up in Eldora. We went to Vic’s to grab coffees and arrived with what I felt was entirely too much time before the start. I had time to ride the start of the course and warm up about 700 m in the water before the race start. I guess that is good. I couldn’t eat really anything before the start because my stomach was not right but I figured it was a short race so, who cares!

So the race was a cool time trial start and I was second in the water behind Ryan Ignatz. I gingerly picked my way into the water and started slow. Messenheimer and Krause came rocketing by me shortly after (it was 5 second intervals) and after about 200 m Greg Krause came back to me before I swam away. When we went around the third buoy the wind kicked up and the chop was coming diagonally from the left so I was trying not to breathe on that side. Unfortunately, I only sight well when I breathe on the left so I went solidly off course. I still got to the edge second behind Messenheimer but a number of men ran past me on the 600m run to transition, including Ryan Ignatz and Greg Krause.

When we got onto our bikes I could tell I felt like absolute POO. I rode about 70% gas and focused on being smooth and riding well rather than being fast. That kept me close to the front but not up front. All of that was for nothing because an entire group of us rode off course because a corner was unmarshalled (weird circumstances with marshalls getting stuck in the mud trying to get up to the course) so I ended up coming to transition in THIRD. Ha! In front of Greg and Ryan…oops! In my defense, the website asked us not to be up there preriding so there was no way to see the course unless you went during the allotted time or raced last year so it wasn’t really easy to know the way. Plus, the it was a high speed descent into a 90 degree corner (I only know that because people described it) and then that little 3 mile section rejoins the trail about 100 feet down, which is where I rode to given I called for directions and the marshall below me told me to continue downhill. Whatever. Me and about 40 other people at the front of the field went the wrong way before that marshall got there.

So I went onto the run knowing I had screwed something up on course. I was also feeling very sick in my stomach and fought to make it through the run. I didn’t take any Gu during the race because I was feeling awful so I was just running it in. I also got lost on the run for a few minutes so that didn’t help either but regardless, I was happy to just be finished. It was not the best plan to race CB then this one within three days with an easy day with travel between. I was not on, whatsoever. In the end, all of us that missed the corner got 15 minute penalties, which was a lot of time for some of us who would have rode the section in about 8 minutes, but fair in case there was any other advantage. I was just happy that the amateurs who needed regional points didn’t get disqualified for something out of their control… since we couldn’t know the course! I still won the race despite the penalty , Erin Kummer was second and Kate Chapman was third overall.

This morning I went to join a master’s swim workout at the Flatiron Health club with a bunch of local triathletes (and some pro athletes, some of which I recognized but some I didn’t). I felt actually not too bad. Swimming 1:18s for short course meters on 1:30 at altitude isn’t too crappy for me. It was my best swim workout in the last 10 days so obviously it is coming around. I still suck at 9000 feet but I am okay at 5400 now. Ha!

So an easy day for the rest of today and I am off to Vail tomorrow to start a flurry of midweek racing leading up to the next regional race at Beaver Creek. Happy training!

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