Train Low. Race High. - Page 3
Some Like It Hot
While Daniels says there is no direct substitute for training at altitude for a high-altitude race, he offers this advice: "Running in the heat at sea level compares to running at altitude." He says it taxes the body's systems, forcing them to become more efficient.
Hamilton concurs: "Training in the heat, your body needs to allocate blood to different areas—to exercising muscles and to the skin for cooling, and starts to retain fluid to make more plasma, which increases your blood volume. That might be an advantage at altitude, since your body actually loses blood volume up high."
Preparation Is Key
Nearly every coach cautions runners aspiring to high-altitude races to temper their expectations and to train harder than they would for a lower-altitude event. Indeed, athletes who experience the most success at training low and racing high all credit rigorous training programs.
"Do short, hard intervals, such as two-minute hill repeats, to boost your aerobic threshold," says Doug Bush, a sports coach and founder of www.endurancefactor.com.
Roxanne Zobava, 32, of Atlanta, Georgia, does not fit the profile of a runner who would win the 2008 Inca Trail Marathon in course-record time. It's not that she lacks talent - she has taken the trail-running community by storm, most recently winning the 2008 Great Eastern Endurance Run 50K in Charlottesville, Virginia. It's that Zobava lives at low altitude and the 27.5-mile Inca Trail Marathon treads between 8000 and 13,700 feet.
Zobava simply trained extra hard. "I ran 80 to 100 miles weekly and did lots of hill training and stair work," she says. "I hit steep hills on sections of the Appalachian Trail until I was completely out of breath."
New Yorker Chip Tilden, 39, also brings intensity to his training while preparing for his annual target race, the Pikes Peak Marathon, a demonic event in Manitou Springs, Colorado, that climbs and descends a total of 12,000 feet and tops out at 14,110 feet.
"I do a lot of Stairmaster training and build up my mileage," he says, while describing his two main training locales: Central Park and the YMCA. Tilden has completed three straight Pikes Peaks.
So, with the right preparation, even a New Yorker can run to the summit of the country's most famous peak and then back down. "Fear not the heights," says Tilden. "It can be intimidating. Go at it with the energy and belief that you can conquer it."