The effects of training at altitude

I’ve had the week off and it has been glorious. After a crazy fun weekend of celebrating graduation, a little red head’s 3rd birthday and mother’s day I have some time to unwind and process all that’s been taking place. I’ve been able to leisurely pack up my entire house while JWail and I separate our belongings (tear). When it gets too overwhelming or emotional I have time to head out for a run or a bike ride and work off the emotions. This is great because next week I start teaching a course at the university everyday, Josh moves on Wednesday and I move a week later. CHAOS.

Anyway, on to the title of the post. I briefly wrote about this last year at this exact time. I was getting ready to run the Sugarloaf Marathon, which was 6,000 feet below where I had been training at. But, I got to thinking about it again yesterday on my tempo run.

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Ready to run the Sugarloaf Marathon 1 year ago!

My tempo paces were suppose to be at 9:21 min/mile (I know, some of you go faster don’t judge, I need a confidence boost here). Well, I was hitting low 8’s for those tempo miles instead. I felt ok, I pushed a little harder. Here’s the caveat: at 7,220 feet. So, I thought about all those speedy gonzalez blogs that I read and how they run low 8’s as an easy run. Surely if I was doing these runs at sea level like the majority, my paces would be far different. Also, I am using a half marathon time from a run in Fort Collins—a mile above sea level—to calculate these tempo times. I mean, if people who use these paces from this training plan are at sea level, what would they run at altitude? (Have I lost you yet?)

So, I did a little searching and first read this article from Runner’s World. A friend who runs for the University of Wyoming had explained this to me once. He has sea level PRs and altitude PRs and is constantly converting the two in his head.

A lot of what is out there for literature focuses on training at altitude. So, running at altitude in high mountainous areas and then sleeping at a lower elevation so that your body can recover. I wanted to know more about paces. Someone asked this exact same question on the Run Smart Project. And it linked to this great calculator where you can adjust for things like wind, heat and altitude.

According to this calculator, I should be adding approximately 30 seconds to my pace times up here at 7,220 feet and about 10-15 second down on the Front Range or Helena—both which boast a mile above sea level.

All said, I’ve got numbers swimming around in my head. Quite honestly, I should be listening to my body and how my body feels and wants to run. I struggle with running just as much as anyone else. But, you have to admit the science behind it all is quite fascinating.

Do you adjust for nature’s unforgiving barriers (heat, altitude, wind)?


How do you endure a tough move and life changes?

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