So by mid-October I was off to Colorado, first spending some time near Denver at 1700m and then heading up to 2800m for another 12 days.
I think the first week was the hardest as I learned going too hard too early would feel horrible, but this was easily remedied by daily hot tub sessions so all was well.
Whether or not altitude actually makes you faster at Sea level is still debatable after many many studies. There are those who swear by it and those that debunk it. There is some evidence that altitude works, not because it creates physiological changes, but rather because of a placebo or “training camp” effect. In other words you think you’re faster and did the “right prep” so therefore you become faster (confidence/belief) or while at altitude you improve because you are actually a better athlete when you go to a camp. You train with more focus and pay more attention to recovery. Either way I wanted to see whether it worked for me and was something I’d like to add to my in-season. I wanted to know whether I’d be able to sleep well, whether quality training would be compromised by the lack of O2, did I like being away from home for ~3 weeks or would quality be better at home on familiar trails?
Well I learned that too many consecutive episodes of Breaking Bad affect my sleep much more than altitude. I slept like a baby there…except in the aforementioned circumstance.
Training compromised: Depends what you want to do. It is great for putting in miles. Very scenic, lots to explore, but yeah you’ll be working harder every climb and your power for a given heart rate will be lower than at home and yeah V02 work will be tough…er. So you have to decided whether the proposed physiological benefits of enhanced oxygen carrying capacity and economy derived from less air and less barometric pressure are more beneficial than the benefits of doing a Vo2 sessions to the best of your ability….still undecided here.
Did I like being away? I loved exploring. Although I love being home too, especially in the fall, there is something special about exploring new places every day and meeting new people. Training motivation was high because everyday was a new adventure, a chance to learn a new area and see new things like rattlesnakes, big horned sheep head-butting each other and amazing mtn views.
So yeah, I liked altitude training. I still don’t know if it is altitude that helps you be that 1-2% faster or just quality training and recovery, but it is now less of an unknown. What can make you faster though is going somewhere that creates high training motivation, accommodates great recovery and inspires you. I see more mountains in the future.