So after all the swimming competitions here I am in Leadville, CO. This is a bit of a vacation and a bit of an acclimatization – or I guess, a vacation with purpose!
I arrived in Denver at 10am on Monday morning, rented a 4×4 pickup, stopped at REI (flagship store in Denver is HUGE!) and Walmart for some supplies, then ‘headed to the hills’!
From Denver, Leadville is about a 2.5 hour drive, and you do some big climbing right out of the city limits. Denver (the ‘mile-high city’) is at about 1,600m (5,200 ft) but Leadville is at 3,200m (10,200 ft) so double the altitude. I’ve had some previous experience with altitude in Cusco, Peru – which is at about 3,400m (11,000 ft) so I was prepared for a bit of a challenge.
I arrived at the Delaware Hotel around 3pm and after unpacking I decided that I should go for an easy jog – I mean, that’s why I’m here, right?!
I drove up 7th St. towards an old mine, and happened to cross the ‘Mineral Belt Trail’ which is a paved bike path that circumvents the town of Leadville. This seemed pretty good since it was relatively flat and paved, just what I was looking for for my easy jog.
It was NOT easy. I was pretty smart – so I wore my heartrate monitor… now usually in an easy run my HR will be around 145, yet this time if exceeded 130 I felt in danger of passing out. It actually felt like I was completely out of shape. I watched a couple of km’s trudge by at about 6:30 pace, before I got to an incline that I did not want to tackle in this shape, so I turned around and went back… on the way back I decided that I was going to stop at each of the didactic signs talking about the various mines of the area for a break. This run ended up being 5.7km in 35mins… Strava nicely edits out my stops so gives me an average pace of 6:11/km.
I was really doing my best to stay hydrated as I know that this is one reason altitude can be so debilitating, so I tried to drink 4 L of water on Monday. Harder than it seems!
Tuesday morning came around and I had a headache, and generally felt horrible. I had planned to do 2x 10km runs, one in the morning, one in the afternoon but after consulting wikipedia’s entry on altitude sickness and acclimatization (always good to do during the SECOND day at altitude) I figured I should be here for 24 hours first.
With my free morning I walked around the town, which was actually somewhat of a workout as well. I had to take everything quite slowly, and walking back to my room on the 3rd floor take a bit of a break on the stairs. Phew!
In the afternoon I felt a bit better and decided to head out for a run. I had spent some of the morning tracing out the routes of all 6 stages of the TR race on two maps I’d purchased in town, and thought this would be a good chance to do some of the course. I wanted to make sure I was doing something pretty flat, and it had started to rain so I was looking for something with some tree cover. The final segment of Stage 2 seemed perfect, so that’s where I headed.
This stage begins in Vicksburg and finishes at Twin Lakes, just South of Leadville (we camp that night in Leadville). I felt WAY better during this run. I had planned to do 10k but I ended up with 12 because I felt so much better. I was still plodding along and had to be pretty careful not to spike my HR over 150, but overall it was good. I even stopped the watch when reading about the Inter-Laken resort.
After that I head back and went to bed. One thing that doesn’t seem to affect me at altitude is sleeping. I can still sleep normally, but apparently that’s somewhat rare. Something that I have had trouble with this time around is my appetite. I did not eat enough on Tuesday…
Wednesday morning I had planned a big hike/run but the weather was not co-operating. It was quite rainy and cold on Tuesday for my run (50 Fahrenheit) but on Wednesday it was even colder (44) and wetter, plus lightning was a constant threat. Once again I picked a covered route for my morning run, but I did want do try some climbing. I ended up close to Leadville towards Timberline lake – I had planned to do 20k today so I thought I’d just string some trails together… after 8k I was feeling alright but starting to bonk a bit. Even though I had brought plenty of food I just hadn’t eaten enough the day before. After another 2k I turned back and finished with 12k for the morning. Slow because of the rain, technical trails, elevation gain and of course the altitude I was exhausted.
I went back, took a shower and a nap then went for a quick 8k on the same trail as Monday. I was still slow but I wasn’t going to die at any moment. This was an interesting run because at home in Montréal I’d done some test runs at 140 HR to see what pace I was going there- turned out to be just under 4’30 km pace. This evening as I was running around 142 HR my pace was just a hair under 6’00 km pace!
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to an easy morning driving out to Denver to pick up Elliot, then heading back to Leadville. It will be interesting to see how Denver feels after a few days in the ‘two-mile high city’!