--> I love the mountains. The higher up in altitude I go, the happier I am. I don’t care if I’m racing, hiking, or crawling – I just want to spend time in the high country. Pursuing my passion for the mountains can be a challenge when you live at 1,000’ above sea level. I am lucky because as a high school teacher my job allows me time to get out to the mountains well ahead of any race so I can acclimatize. Still, I’ve always wanted to bypass that 2 week period where gasping for air is inevitable as my body makes the necessary adaptations to allow me to run and play above 10,000’. For several years I have looked into buying a Hypoxico system, but they can be an expensive (totally worth it in my opinion) investment, and not all family members get excited about spending hours sleeping in a tent.
(My Idea of Paradise)
This spring my coach and friend Joe Sulak began working out of Stratton Sport and Spine in San Antonio, a clinic that had, among other things, a Hypoxico altitude simulator. Brock Stratton, the owner, and Joe brought me in to test it out, and after 6 weeks I am a believer. Joe devised a protocol that, in 3 workouts of 30 minutes each per week, would have me mountain ready by June. We started relatively low, usually beginning at 5,000’ and working up to 8,000’, running at speeds ranging from 5mph to 6mph. Now I begin at 10,000’ (7mph) and work up to fast intervals (10mph) at 12,000’. Aside from feeling better, my oxygen saturation levels prove that my body is adapting to the stresses of higher elevations. That’s the cool thing about working with Joe and Brock. Believe what you want about the methods they use, the science backs up the results.
(It Puts the Lotion In the Basket)
I can run faster at higher elevations than when I began, and we have even added a few “passive” sessions into the protocol, where I sit around at 22,000’ reading a book. This sounds easy, but your brain doesn’t function well at that altitude, and I usually have to remain seated for a few minutes afterwards so I don’t pass out. It’s a surreal experience. I am excited about my mountain fitness and can’t wait to test it out for real in a couple weeks.
(Light Reading at 22,000' Above Sea Level)