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High Altitude Racing and Acclimation(15 posts)

High Altitude Racing and AcclimationMaillot Rouge
Jul 5, 2001 2:01 PM
I'm going to be doing the Mt. Evans (ele. 14000 ft) hill climb in about 4 weeks. I can't seem to find any reliable figures on how long I need to be at altitude to make my body adapt. I could camp at 12000 ft every night but it's a pain in the butt getting to work. Will one night do anything for me?

re: High Altitude Racing and AcclimationJon Billheimer
Jul 5, 2001 2:06 PM
From what I understand one night won't help. Going by memory, I think you need about three weeks to acclimatize. Ed Burke's written some stuff about this. Check his articles out at and/or Serious Cycling by Ed Burke.
re: High Altitude Racing and AcclimationDog
Jul 5, 2001 2:18 PM
I do some rides, sometimes weekly, near here up to 9,300 feet. The first time I do it each year, it takes a lot out of me. I find it hard to sleep afterward. But, I live at sea level.

I would either get there several days in advance, or wait until just before. I would not start at 12,000 feet. Start at about 6,000 or so, and move up slowly. You'll just wear yourself out before hand if you don't have time to slowly acclimate. Where are you now, Denver or Boulder?

If it were me, I'd just head up there race day. Just take much lower gears than you think you'll need, and go slower than you think you should.

re: High Altitude Racing and AcclimationMaillot Rouge
Jul 5, 2001 2:37 PM
Thanks. I'm in Denver now. A few weeks ago I did the state champ road race in Estes Park (8000 ft.) I went up the night before because it was an early race. I felt fine for the first 1.5 hrs of the race but then blew hard. I could handle the pace and the distance and the climbs, I was well rested and eat right. I was upfront for the whole time until I blew so I figured it had to be the altitude.

re: High Altitude Racing and AcclimationDog
Jul 5, 2001 2:41 PM
Yup, just slow down and pace yourself. Even heart rate will be a bit misleading, as you naturally will have a higher rate at altitude for the same power.

As you probably realize, you just can't absorb as much oxygen. You go into O2 debt much easier, and it's harder to get out of it. Once you blow big time, you might be done for the day, as it's much harder to recover. Try to stay aerobic. If you are breathing really hard and start seeing red or get dizzy, back way off immediately.

my guessColnagoFE
Jul 5, 2001 3:36 PM
probably 3-4 days to start to get acclimatized, but i think it takes like 1-3 months to get your blood chemistry to change in response to high altitude. you should be OK though. i wouldn't stress it. Evans is not all that steep and if you are careful to monitor your exertion level you should be fine. Just don't overdo it early and blow because at 10,000+ feet you're not gonna recover. Lots of people take off way too fast on Evans and I see them hacking away as I pass them on the way up. My motto for Evans is find your redline and stay below it or the race is pretty much over. Steady to the top. have fun! it's a great race. what cat are you racing? I think I'm gonna do 35+ this year as Cat 5 and Citizens starts too early! ;)
I live at sea level and used to race frequently at 6000 ft orrailer
Jul 5, 2001 4:02 PM
more. I always heard that it takes 2 weeks to fully adapt. If it wasnt possible to get 2 weeks in, it was best to show up the day of. It seemed to work. After the first day, your body would start adapting and be further stressed. Thats just what I heard back in the early 90s. Could be newer and more acurate studies now.
My non-racing experiencemr_spin
Jul 5, 2001 4:10 PM
I live at almost sea level, so I was worried about altitude when I did the Death Ride last year. Everyone was telling me how the altitude would affect me. Well, in short, it didn't. This ride starts at roughly 5000 feet and goes to 9000, so it isn't as extreme as Evans, but still, it's 125 miles and 16000 feet, and I felt no altitude effects at all. We arrived the night before, and made sure we drank lots of water to stay hydrated. No big deal.

Another time I did a hut-to-hut mountain bike tour out of Aspen, which is almost 8000 feet. Flew in the night before, then did 5000 feet of climbing the next day, ending at 11000 feet. Caught my breath a few times getting out of town, but otherwise, I didn't feel impaired at all. During the trip we hit 11000 a couple of times, and got over 12000 once. Very cool trip, by the way.

Obviously there is less air and that has physiological effects, but I think there is a mental component as well. If you convince yourself it will be hard to breathe, it probably will be. Stop worrying about it.

Once someone asked Andy Hampsten about altitude training in the Alps, and he said something like "last I heard, France was just a bit of land hanging off Russia," which basically means don't worry about it, you won't be up there that long.
I'm not worried but...Maillot Rouge
Jul 5, 2001 4:22 PM
I know that I am effected by changes in altitude. Every time I've climbed Mt. Evans or did anything else at 8000+ feet I have the same problem, my heart rate starts high and stays high until I blow. My heart rate normally doesn't go to high to begin with so I don't have much room to work with. That's why I'd like to try to get acclimated, every little bit counts.

I'm going to spend a couple of nights at Echo Lake and see what happens. Thanks everybody.

Cat 4 by the way, the competition is pretty stiff here in CO.

times for the Cats on Evans and stuffColnagoFE
Jul 6, 2001 9:27 AM
Cat 4 on Evans is a cluster*uck if you know what I mean! It all spreads out after the start, but for a while there is quite a group. 100+ riders in the years I've raced it. You ever notice how a lot of the top five cat 4 racers beat most of the cat 2-3 racers? Times are not all that much different--pretty good riders in all Cats. Am racing 35+ this year so should be a smaller group. I'm not sure what the logic is of sending the citizens class up before the pro 1/2s...they just have to pass all of em on the way up.
re: High Altitude Racing and Acclimationjzinckgra
Jul 5, 2001 5:19 PM
Yeah, I did the Bike Tour of Colorado last year (I'm from Connecticut) and the altitude didn't seem to bother me. The highest we went was Independence Pass at about 12,000. I never really pushed myself to the point of going anaerobic, but I'm sure if I did, it would effect me. In Sept., my girlfriend and I took her car up to the top of Evans and when I got out, I felt lightheaded for about 5 minutes. I told myself that a good ride might be to start at the very bottom of Evans. Not the access road, but way down (can't remember the road, but it is a major intersection towards Denver) and start from there. I think the total ride would be about 30 miles to the top of Evans with some damn good elevation gain. I'll most likely be moving out to Denver in the Fall and my try that ride.
Evans closes pretty early in the yearMaillot Rouge
Jul 6, 2001 11:35 AM
because of snow fall so if you want to do that ride you better have it in by September.

Live high, train low...Spox
Jul 6, 2001 3:12 AM
is best system. In two weeks you will get good results. In first days you lose pretty much fluids from your body, so drink at least 2 litres extra water per day, it also takes little more carbs. Take first days training very carefully and watch your rhr every morning to avoid overdoing it. Use also iron tabs and extra vitamin C during altitude period. Iron tabs may be hard for your stomach, but try to avoid too much fiber on food. Do not train 'all out' if it is your first time with this long period, because it is very stresfull for your body.

When you get to the race, take glycerol loading (fxmpl. Twinlab Glycerol Fuel; not banned substance) 1-1,2 g / lean body mass mix it into 2 litres water, start to drink it 3 hrs before start and get it done 1 hrs before start. It works about 3-4 hrs in your body. And why this?

It's superhydrate, it ties about 0,5 litres more water in your body. After altitude training your blood is thicker, so it flows not so easy because you lose also bolld plasma when you sweat hard.

I say it's worth of dragging your tent up there ;)
Live High -- Train LowPeetey
Jul 6, 2001 11:27 AM
Part of the Japanese Womens National Team (Track and Field) has been living in Nederland and commuting down to Boulder to train. Igor Gamow at CU developed this handy little item:

Not sure of the cost, but you can put it on your Christmas list behind the new C-40 and ADA wheels.
Does anybody with EIA have experiance with altitude?Maillot Rouge
Jul 6, 2001 11:39 AM
It seems logical that it would effect EIA suffers more but does anybody have experience to back it up. I'm wondering if that's what my problem is. I did the Monarch Pass trail a couple of years ago and suffered a lot more than some folks that I was with that were not in such good shape.