Train Low. Race High. - Page 4
High Altitude: Fact and Fiction
"I'll be fine if I arrive four days ahead of time and hike around."
- FICTION. Says Daniels, "Days three, four and five at altitude are the worst."
"Arrive the day before. Run the race. Go home."
- FACT. If you're unable to spend weeks training at altitude, this is the next best option.
"Pressure breathing works."
- FICTION. Pressure breathing—the deep inhalation and forceful exhalation of air through pursed lips in an attempt to simulate greater barometric pressure—has many advocates, especially among mountaineers. But Daniels is not one of them: "I don't think it will help."
"Don't tell anybody, but I take Viagra to combat the effects of high altitude."
- QUESTIONABLE. In 2006, Science Daily published a study citing that cyclists taking Viagra improved their performance at altitude by as much as 45 percent. In theory, Viagra causes blood vessels in certain tissues, such as the lungs, to relax, which helps increase oxygen transport to working muscles.
"Lightheadedness means the altitude is taking a toll."
- FACT. Lightheadedness is a common indicator of dehydration, a common side effect of running at altitude. When you feel lightheaded (or experience tunnel vision), it's a sign to slow down and hydrate.
The Optimal Plan to Success
The following is Dr. Jack Daniels' ultimate high-altitude-race training plan, and mirrors the one his athletes used to prepare for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City's thin air.
:: Report to altitude at least three weeks in advance and pursue your normal training schedule (i.e. do not cut back and do not take the first week easy). Drink a lot more fluids (high altitudes equate to drier climates). "The first week, you'll notice two or three pounds of weight loss," says Daniels. "And it's all water."
:: Five or six days before the race, return to low altitude or, better yet, sea level to replenish the body.
:: Re-ascend the day before or day of the race. In 1968, Daniels' athletes improved their times after going to lower altitude before race day.
Garett Graubins is former Senior Editor of Trail Runner.