Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tales of a Flatlander at Altitude

Yesterday, I woke up at sea level in D.C. and slept at over 7000 feet altitude, in northern New Mexico. This morning, I ran my 3 first miles ever at altitude...and they were surprisingly okay.

I decided to do a hybrid trail run (read: trail run + approach to trail head on paved road). Per my 10-miler training schedule, I had four miles to do yesterday, which got delayed in the shuffle of traveling to the Land of Enchantment, acclimating to altitude, and hydrating.

On acclimating: Arid climates are confusing to me. I sweat so much when I'm just standing around that when I'm in an arid climate, I freak out and think that I've gotten heat stroke because it's wicked hot, but I'm not sweating. I'm not sure if it's related, but my first time at altitude, I had spectacular altitude sickness while hiking up to the Maroon Bells in Aspen. Thirty-six hours earlier, I was at sea level.  Not ideal. The Aspen Valley Hospital ER is awesome, by the way, when you are oxygen deprived and barfing up all shades of your favorite sports drink.

Since then, I've been at altitude countless times in the winter without incident. I've also followed a ridiculous hydration and ibuprofen regimen and limited the alcohol intake. So, starting Sunday, I hydrated like I was going to run a marathon the next day, and after flying in to New Mexico yesterday, I had one measly wheat beer.
Wildflower Wheat
It was in the low 60˚s when I made my way outside at 6:30am this morning. After noticing first the chill in the air (fingers were soon cold), I then noticed how tired I felt. Fatigue is sometimes a sign of altitude sickness. In my case, it was hard to tell because I got 5 hours of sleep before waking up at 5am Eastern on Monday, zipped over two time zones, and didn't go to bed until 10pm Mountain. I could have been just generally sleep-deprived.

Rather than run a relatively flat loop, I decide to do the beginnings of a trail run, which meant climbing.    
The first .75 miles felt hard although my heart rate monitor thought I was cruising. This was pretty consistent with the rest of the run but also puzzling because the night before, I thought my heart was pounding pretty quickly. On the run, it was hard to breathe, but over and over, the heart rate monitor was throwing out completely reasonable numbers. Nevertheless, four miles started sounding ambitious, and I decided to truncate the run by a mile. Interestingly, I did cruise on the way back in (aka, downhill) and felt pretty decent, despite the altitude.  I guess I wasn't working that hard.

Seen on today's run...


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