Why on earth would anyone want to run at 9200 feet? When that’s the place on earth where you live from Memorial Day to Labor Day – and you’re a runner – what other choice is there?
I did my homework before I arrived at Hoop Lake, elevation 9216. Through sources including completerunning.com, running.competitor.com, runnersworld.com, and mamashealth.com, I learned what to expect and what to plan for.Here are some tips I captured:
• Be prepared for thinner air. According to renowned running coach Dr. Jack Daniels, at an elevation of 6,500 feet you lose 10 percent to 12 percent in VO2 max (the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during exercise) and at 7,500 feet you lose 12 percent to 15 percent. If my high school math holds up, at 9200 feet I’ll be losing 18 percent to 21 percent. Anyway, the good news is that a lower density of air means lower air resistance and better running economy.• Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. Then drink some more. Dehydration occurs quicker at higher altitudes, so this is good advice even if you won’t be running.
· Wear sunscreen and plenty of lip balm. Note that they did not mention insect repellent. I figured that one out for myself.• Take it easy. Stick to easy runs until you become acclimated.
I was prepared for the fact that running at 9200 feet would make me feel like a slug, and “a wheezing slow one at that.” And I followed the tips above. For my run I planned a very easy loop around the campground – twice. Apparently that was not easy enough; I ended up stopping to drink water and catch my breath between the two loops.It’s taken me a month to work up to 5K – and the uphills are still kicking my butt. The slug part is all true – but I’m getting better. I plan to increase my distance about ½ mile a week and see how far I can go by the time the summer is over. In the meantime, the location is beautiful. I have my “Forrest Gump” moments as I run across the dam and through the trees when I finally make it to the top of the “hill from h_ll.”
More on the science – in high altitudes, the amount of oxygen in the blood is reduced because there's less oxygen in the air. To compensate for reduction of oxygen in the air, the kidneys secrete more of a hormone called erythropoietin, which causes the body to create more red blood cells.The average life span of a red blood cell is 90 to 120 days. Runners are often able to train harder and perform better for several weeks after they return from about a month-long stay at altitude because their blood still contains the extra blood cells that were produced when they were training at high altitudes. Runners who trained at high altitudes will have more red blood cells than runners who did not train at high altitudes. I’m hoping this kicks in. I plan to participate in the “Run for Hope” in October in Cody, Wyoming, which sits at about 5100 feet. Should be a piece of cake. J