Now that Leadville and Pikes Peak races have passed I have had the question of how to feel better racing at altitude proposed to me a couple of times. The easiest answer to this is to train a lot at high altitude, so if you are doing Pikes Peak train at over 12,500 as much as humanly possible. For those trying to balance a family, job, house, etc. that is easier said than done. Keep in mind as well that some people just handle high altitude better than others with equal training. For those of us that live with Pikes Peak out our back doors it is easy to forget about those that travel hundreds or thousands of miles from low elevation to come and race these great races. It is understandable that these athletes can not just make a short drive and be at the trail head for one of our hundreds of thirteeners and fourteeners. So for those coming to race here from low elevation (and those that live here as well) the best suggestion is to try to raise your VO2 max level as high as possible. Your upper limit on VO2 is generally determined by your age and genetics, but a person can raise it to an extent by improving their aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. This means doing interval training and heart rate max training two to three times a week for the four to five months leading up to your event. Feeling "good" (I use this term loosely) racing at altitude is part training but also unpredictable. Air temperature and humidity can have an impact on how thin the air pressure is at elevation, and so there are times that 14.115 feet can feel more like 16,000 feet. It is also impossible to know exactly how your body will react every time at high elevation, some days you may feel a lot better than others, I lived this example on Saturday. Pacing is another key to feeling better up high. Know how fast or slow you can/should run, this helps to keep your body from going too far into oxygen debt, because up at altitude you will not recover. Congrats to all that raced this weekend, and to Matt Carpenter whose domination of this mountain is nothing short of amazing.
For more information check out my website: www.elevationathletics.org