You’ve been training hard for months—eating right, working on your pace, even booking some impressive sprints. You’ve done plenty of races before, even a few marathons, and couldn’t be more excited to run in Boulder, Colorado. Then it hits you like a cramp on a downhill: You’ve never run at an altitude higher than 2,000 feet above sea level. Now, you’re going to knock out 26.2 miles running in a city perched at almost 5,500 feet of elevation? What have you signed up for? Never fear, we’re here with some helpful tips on how to make sure you do your best on race day.
- Forget your pace – That steady 8:45 you’ve perfected over the last nine months? Congratulations! Bad news? You probably can’t take it with you to Boulder or whatever high altitude city you’ll be running in. Your body is going to be busy with some extra work—pulling in faster breaths and pumping the heart a bit more to oxygenate your blood. Do yourself a favor: forget your pace and run what you feel is doable at your new elevation.
- Arrive right on time… or a week early – Starting about 24 hours after you arrive in your lofty destination, your body is going to really kick into adjustment mode. For the following 48-72 hours, your systems are going to be running some exhausting trial and error scenarios to get you accustomed to your new, less oxygen-saturated digs. So, to avoid the extremes of altitude adjustment hampering your run, try to get your race in within the first 18-24 hours after you arrive, or after you’ve been existing on this higher plane for about four or five days.
- Fill the fuel tank – The air up there is dryer as the humidity levels are generally lower. Not to mention, your shallower, more frequent breaths are leading to some increased moisture loss through your breathing. You’ll also be exerting more energy, even as you rest, as your heart is pumping faster and your body in general is getting settled into this new environment. Make sure you stay hydrated and properly fed. You’ll likely have to tweak that mean water/supplement plan you’ve perfected and tweeted about for weeks.
- Rest – As a runner, it will likely take little to get you excited over a prescription for resting! But, your excited about your run and you’re in a different city andthere are so many events planned around the race and… you get the idea. All that extra work your body is doing is burning up your energy stores. As much as you can, hydrate and refuel with clean, healthy eating. Nothing restores and rejuvenates a hard-working body quite like sleep. Make sure you tack on an extra 30-45 minutes a night. If you can, sneak in a nap during the day to keep your energy reserves for when you’ll really need them.
Have you raced in a city over 5,000 feet above sea level after training at much lower elevations? What tricks did you employ to help you succeed? What things didn’t work for you? Join the conversation, offer your tips and advice, and stay up-to-date with the latest in neuromuscular performance by following us below!
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