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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am doing this race, whether I get in this year or next year (or the year after). My goal would be to go under 10 hours. My brother lives about 2 hours away from Leadville at about 5000 feet. My plan would be to go to hbis house about a week before the race and do rides up in the mountains, and then travel to Leadville the day before the race.

I'm wondering how my plan is compared to recommendations I've read that getting to Leadville at least 72 hours before the race is preferrable.
 

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It ain't easy being Green
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Have you raced at altitude before? Everyone responds differently so it's important to know what works for you. With that in mind, here are my two Leadville acclimation experiences:
2008: Traveled from sea level to Leadville over two days, arrived Leadville Thursday afternoon. I did not perform to my expectations on race day.
2010: Left home two weeks prior to the race, spent a week in Flagstaff (7000ft) with daily training rides to 9500ft. Arrived Leadville on Monday, rode Columbine Tuesday, rode St.Kev's & Powerline Wednesday, chilled out Thurs & Fri (rode the Miners Loop around town each day). Performance on race day was beyond expectations.

You sound fairly determined to do well so my suggestion is to invest as much time in acclimation as you can afford.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've never raced at altitude. I have spent a week at Crested Butte mtn biking and I have skied most of the Summit County ski areas and never had an issue. I've also climbed 2 14'ers and didn't have any issues.
 

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You might also consider a supplement like Optygen. While I haven't raced at altitude with it, I can attest to its effectiveness at sea level.
 

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Big "T"
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While some people feel more ACCUSTOMED to the altitude after a day or two, there is no fitness benefit in going "up" a week in advance. If you live near sea level you CANNOT acclimate to 5000 or 10000 ft of elevation in a week. Going up a week in advance you'll simply loose a small amount of fitness every day you're at that altitude. You won't recover or rest as well as you would at home. You'll go into the race in WORSE condition.

The biological and physical changes that take place in the body that mark acclimation take quite a while to happen. People who use altitude for training will attempt to "recover" or sleep at as low an elevation as possible, because it allows them to recover better. If you're used to recovering and sleeping at sea level, spending a week a mile high might actually leave you feeling drained.

You're better off getting there a day or two in advance, taking it as easy as possible those couple of days and then doing your race. Go back down to 5000 ft for the week afterwards and chill-out.

If you live at sea level the best way to prep for an "A" race at such extreme altitude is to do some recon in advance. Like a training ride early in the season up to that altitude or even on that course, or a similar training race somewhere else. That way you can get to know what your limits are at that elevation and you'll be able to tackle the Big Race better prepared.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Scottytheoneandonly said:
While some people feel more ACCUSTOMED to the altitude after a day or two, there is no fitness benefit in going "up" a week in advance. If you live near sea level you CANNOT acclimate to 5000 or 10000 ft of elevation in a week. Going up a week in advance you'll simply loose a small amount of fitness every day you're at that altitude. You won't recover or rest as well as you would at home. You'll go into the race in WORSE condition.

The biological and physical changes that take place in the body that mark acclimation take quite a while to happen. People who use altitude for training will attempt to "recover" or sleep at as low an elevation as possible, because it allows them to recover better. If you're used to recovering and sleeping at sea level, spending a week a mile high might actually leave you feeling drained.

You're better off getting there a day or two in advance, taking it as easy as possible those couple of days and then doing your race. Go back down to 5000 ft for the week afterwards and chill-out.

If you live at sea level the best way to prep for an "A" race at such extreme altitude is to do some recon in advance. Like a training ride early in the season up to that altitude or even on that course, or a similar training race somewhere else. That way you can get to know what your limits are at that elevation and you'll be able to tackle the Big Race better prepared.
Where did you get this information? I'm looking to educate myself in this area. I always thought that the idea was to sleep high (to acclimate) and train low so that you could push yourself (the idea being that at altitude, it's more difficult to get to your LT and beyond).

I found this article which suggests getting to Leadville at least 45 hours prior to the event.
 

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Big "T"
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Cevan said:
Where did you get this information? I'm looking to educate myself in this area. I always thought that the idea was to sleep high (to acclimate) and train low so that you could push yourself (the idea being that at altitude, it's more difficult to get to your LT and beyond).

I found this article which suggests getting to Leadville at least 45 hours prior to the event.
I've gotten my info from coaches, friends, reading a lot and experience. My wife is also a pro. We live at about 800 ft above sea level, but race all over the country.

The immediate effects of going to altitude will be different for many people. I have friends who don't seem to be phased by it. I've gone from Sea level to riding at 12k ft overnight and it gives me a crushing headache and mild nausea. After 24 hours the headache goes away. But my power output doesn't get any better. The longer I'm at altitude the worse it gets.

Using altitude to manipulate your training load and recovery is different from trying to acclimate or grow accustomed to the feeling immediately before a race. That training approach has to be done over a long period of time. People who live at altitude can't maintain the same training load as those at sea level. They might also need MORE recovery time.

If you haven't trained for altitude your body simply can't stay at it's peak fitness level as easily up there for very long. It starts to wear on you as soon as you go up, because no matter what you do you aren't getting as much oxygen as you'd get down low.

One way you can get yourself at least accustomed to the feeling would be to train with an Oxygen system and mask. You spin indoors with it on and simulate the O2 levels you'll experience at altitude. Some people find them helpful. Although, they're not cheap. i think most of them are over $1000.

My suggestion is to use your very first high altitude race as a learning experience. 48 hours early is plenty of time to "level out" before the race. keep your heartrate low before the race and get plenty of sleep. Don't start the race with the same intensity you normally would. leave something in the tank, you'll need it.:thumbsup:

I suggest reading my wife's July 2009 blog entries: http://daniellemusto.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html

She spent about a month in Colorado leading up to the Breck 100 that year, but ended up feeling worse at the end of that period than at the beginning.

All I have to say is now I know why my coach said I couldn't go into this race with many expectations. It's because racing at Altitude can completely destroy you. That's why!!! In my case, I think I actually acclimated in reverse. For instance, I felt relatively fine the first time I went up to Breck with Scott and Juli. Yes I was out of breath, but everything else was good. I started to get a headache the second time I went up, and by the third time I went up I felt really awful. In hindsight, I think I should have stayed in Breck for 2 whole weeks before racing (which was impossible) or have just shown up the night before the race. But live and learn!
 

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Scottytheoneandonly said:
While some people feel more ACCUSTOMED to the altitude after a day or two, there is no fitness benefit in going "up" a week in advance. If you live near sea level you CANNOT acclimate to 5000 or 10000 ft of elevation in a week. Going up a week in advance you'll simply loose a small amount of fitness every day you're at that altitude. You won't recover or rest as well as you would at home. You'll go into the race in WORSE condition.

The biological and physical changes that take place in the body that mark acclimation take quite a while to happen. People who use altitude for training will attempt to "recover" or sleep at as low an elevation as possible, because it allows them to recover better. If you're used to recovering and sleeping at sea level, spending a week a mile high might actually leave you feeling drained.

You're better off getting there a day or two in advance, taking it as easy as possible those couple of days and then doing your race. Go back down to 5000 ft for the week afterwards and chill-out.

If you live at sea level the best way to prep for an "A" race at such extreme altitude is to do some recon in advance. Like a training ride early in the season up to that altitude or even on that course, or a similar training race somewhere else. That way you can get to know what your limits are at that elevation and you'll be able to tackle the Big Race better prepared.
I think you nailed it, but for brevity's sake I was going to just say "you can't acclimate for Leadville".

Mudge
 

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People can and do acclimatize, in fact it is the bread and butter of many high altitude climbing expeditions where extremely physically demanding climbing can take place well above 20,000' and even 25,000'. Acclimatization is typically *broadly* predicable enough that low land Europeans can arrive at low/medium altitude (Common Himalayan entry point Khatmandu is 4,500') and have a game plan that allows them, with some flexibility, to acclimatize in several weeks to function for several days or longer at very high altitudes (we are talking much higher altitudes than Leadville eg base camps themselves may be at 15,000-18,000'). The common climbing adage has always been climb high, sleep low (relative to your climbing).

I am neither a coach nor doctor and have limited experience (though going night clubing in Lhasa, Tibet [11,500'] whilst on an MTB trip was a particularly exhausting but illuminating lesson in the aerobic demands of dancing at altitude. I'd come from sea level) so rather than advise strategies suggest you read widely of the literature (eg "Performing in Extreme Environments" etc.) and derive the optimal strategy that could work for you within your constraints. Remember that typically not only do no 2 people react the same way but its not uncommon for the same person to have differing experiences at altitude on different occasions.

Other steps include good nutrition (high in carbs) despite the usual loss in appetite, attention to hydration, and sleep strategy - lots. If you do feel ill, get down low ASAP, I've seen a few people really suffer even at 7,000/8,000' and once had to get a rider down from 16,000' back to the relative luxury of 11,500'.

On the bright side Leadville is actually not that high and the runners have to go higher (the marathon breaks 13,000', their 100: 12,500'). My only 2 races at Leadville I've driven up from Boulder (5,400 and my home) either the day before or the same morning. Sort of worked - I got my butt kicked once, and the other time had undeserved success - no one else entered our team category :)

And don't be tempted by Colorado's amazing beers on your first night! I do most of my drinking around 5,500.
 

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Scotty hit the nail on the head. That worked for me as well. I live at 1,000 ft and cand do ride that head up to about 4,000ft but that is about it. I did Leadville last year and was told the same thing either get there 3 week before or as close to race day as possible. I flew into Denver on Thurs....spent the night in Vail at a friends house and then drove to Leadville on Friday......My race day performance was spot on.....No altitude sickness....no shortness of breath....nothing....If I was to go again....I would do it all the same........I have heard the same thing about going a week in advance that you actually get weaker because your body is changing.....

For what it's worth....thats my 2 cents.....have fun with it!
 

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Feral Roadie
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Cevan said:
I am doing this race, whether I get in this year or next year (or the year after). My goal would be to go under 10 hours. My brother lives about 2 hours away from Leadville at about 5000 feet. My plan would be to go to hbis house about a week before the race and do rides up in the mountains, and then travel to Leadville the day before the race.
Train high, sleep low can work if you can go low enough to really get a good night's sleep. Everybody will be different, but for me 5K is just about the altitude where I start to have trouble sleeping. While you won't have significant adaptations in a week, you will at least be mentally prepared for what will happen to you at altitude. Simply understanding how altitude affects your eating and drinking can be of benefit. If you haven't spent much if any time at that altitude, I would recommend at least trying your strategy.

This is purely anecdotal, but I believe the more you can simulate what will happen on race day the better. Ideally, you'd be able to do some training rides where you go up fairly high ( at least 6k, the higher the better ) in a day and do a long ride.

You do need to understand the symptoms of altitude sickness and know when to back off.
Leadville is plenty high enough for that to be a serious risk and in my experience it's completely hit or miss as to whether you'll get it or not. It's completely unrelated to how fit you are, fitness helps you manage the symptoms, but that's about it.

I can't say what would work for everybody, I know for me getting there as late as possible would be the best strategy. This is somewhat of a risk since it's exactly the best way to induce altitude sickness, but if you can avoid that I think it provides the best chance of a good performance.

Getting there 72 hours early would be the "safe" strategy to avoid altitude sickness, since by then you'll either be really sick or have dodged the bullet. But it's not the strategy to get your optimum results, especially if you already have some experience with how your body reacts to altitude.

- Booker C. Bense
 

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On my two Leadville races, I got to altitude (Snomass) Thursday, Leadville Friday and raced Saturday. Felt as good as expected.
 

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Scottytheoneandonly said:
I suggest reading my wife's July 2009 blog entries: http://daniellemusto.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html

She spent about a month in Colorado leading up to the Breck 100 that year, but ended up feeling worse at the end of that period than at the beginning.

Quote:
All I have to say is now I know why my coach said I couldn't go into this race with many expectations. It's because racing at Altitude can completely destroy you. That's why!!! In my case, I think I actually acclimated in reverse. For instance, I felt relatively fine the first time I went up to Breck with Scott and Juli. Yes I was out of breath, but everything else was good. I started to get a headache the second time I went up, and by the third time I went up I felt really awful. In hindsight, I think I should have stayed in Breck for 2 whole weeks before racing (which was impossible) or have just shown up the night before the race. But live and learn!
What if this IS possible?
This will be my first Leadville.
I'm from Indiana, the true definition of low altitude flatland.

I'm planning on getting to Leadville two weeks early.

I've never had AMS problems on ski or mtb trips out west. Would this two week period be enough for an actual acclimation?
 

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roxtar said:
What if this IS possible?
This will be my first Leadville.
I'm from Indiana, the true definition of low altitude flatland.

I'm planning on getting to Leadville two weeks early.

I've never had AMS problems on ski or mtb trips out west. Would this two week period be enough for an actual acclimation?
Same boat here. I'm planning on arriving in the area 2 weeks early. Never had any problems riding at high altitudes or skiing or mountaineering. Would arriving 2 weeks early be advisable or not?
 

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When I was researching this last year I found a number of theories. Most point to fitness declining for the first three days, then improving for the next three weeks until it plateaus at some level below fitness at sea level. That's why arriving at the last possible moment before a race can work. The risk for altitude sickness, which is an unrelated issue, is higher when you first arrive and gets better over time. The problem with Leadville is that you need to be there 24 hours before the race to check in for medical, so getting there right before is not really an option.

Most studies I saw showed that fitness levels recovered to the initial level after 5 days. I arrived the Sat before the race last year and felt pretty good by race day. My sleeping improved throughout the week and the dizziness and headaches were gone after a few days. It was also long enough to pre-ride all the big climbs and descents.
 
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