The joys of sea level.

It’s 9:00am as I step out of the car at Hillside and join the APU athletes milling at the trail head. It might as well be midnight, there isn’t a hint of sun as we stand under lights that are spaced roughly 20 meters apart down the trail. It’s the last intervals session for the team before heading down south to US nationals. The group is super relaxed, joking and swapping Christmas stories. Then, en mass they head out to warm up on the trails. A mass of blue and black colored athletes gliding through the shadows. It’s go time. Serious training business is to be done!

Some of the trees on the trail are cover in ornaments. It's hard to see but most of these trees have some
Some of the trees on the trail are covered in ornaments. It’s hard to see but most of these trees have some
Checking out the snowmaking guns on the nordic trails
Checking out the snowmaking guns on the nordic trails.

My time in Alaska has come to and end. I have spent the last two weeks having a great training block and a very social, fun time with a lot of great people. Christmas was a lot of fun. Lauren and I ended up being so busy with different social events we were attending that we had to write a two-day schedule for Wednesday and Thursday (definitely a first). From family skis, family dinners, house parties, we did it all for Christmas. We both seriously enjoyed the Friday after Christmas, settling back into the training routine again and a more relaxed but focused pace. Overall it was amazing to finally share Christmas with Lauren and not just be on Skype with her, with me in Europe and wishing I was here.

It wouldn't be Christmas in Alaska until it starts snowing in the morning and bull moose walks by.
It wouldn’t be Christmas in Alaska until it starts snowing in the morning and a bull moose walks by.
I feel like Godzilla in candy land.
I feel like Godzilla in candy land.
Ice Hockey! Fun times.
Ice Hockey! Fun times.
Not sure how this works but yes this is a barrel on fire on a frozen lake...
Not sure how this works but yes this is a barrel on fire on a frozen lake…
Yep the flames are higher than the room.... some of the local fire brigade were swimming in our hot tub so all good.
Yep the flames are higher than the roof…. Some of the local fire brigade were swimming in the hot tub so all good.
The amount of effort the Boys put in for the house party was out of this world! They moved a few tons of ice to build a hot tub and a 5 metre long ice bar with shelves and all!
The amount of effort the Boys put in for the house party was out of this world! They moved a few tons of ice to build a hot tub and a 5 metre long ice bar with shelves and all!
Checking out the Lego display in the Anchorage Museum.
Checking out the Lego display in the Anchorage Museum.
Yep still a little kid at heart. Playing with the lego.
Yep still a little kid at heart. Playing with the lego.

So back to this serious training business. Anchorage, as the name suggests, is at sea level. Something I’ve been struggling with a little. I know that sounds stupid with plenty of oxygen to breathe (not like my normal 2000m+ abode) but let me explain if I can. Sorry, it’s going to be car analogy. At the moment my body is used to training with limited oxygen and so has adapted to work hard with ‘bad fuel’. My muscles are strong but used to this fuel and work well with it. Not so at sea level using ‘super fuel’ it seems. Oxygen rich air. For the first few intervals I feel amazing or the first 7km of a 15km race (ie. last weekend). However because I’m using super fuel my engine runs more efficiently, so to get the same heart rate and go up to race pace I have to push even harder and work more. That means I expect more of my muscles. They are contracting and relaxing harder and faster than ever.

For a while that feels great.

Then bam!

With all that extra work they fatigue faster and fill with acid. Suddenly I’m lifting lead limbs and suffering like a dog. For example intervals 4 and 5 from today’s workout.

I hope with the intervals and speed sessions I’ve done here I will have started the adaptation process and I hope to be able to sustain the good feeling for longer come US nationals which are also at low altitude.

The scenery is pretty amazing right now!
The scenery is pretty amazing right now!

I fly down on the 31st to Minneapolis before driving north again from there for 8 hours to Houghton the next day with my personal coach August Teague. I’m really looking forward to the road trip and catching up with him.

 

So as I pack my bags again:

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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4 thoughts on “The joys of sea level.

  1. Did you make some Lego skis?,.
    Love the comment that your muscles are use to running on low O2. Then when at low altitude you feel super good for first intervals then bam ! Nothing ,,, Same is true in the gym..

    Good luck at nationals 💪

  2. Interesting observation on altitude training Paul. When I was running competitively (some years ago now!) a few of the guys and girls trained at altitude for important events but, from your observations, it seems that for distance events it may actually work against you. Mind you they only spent a week or two at altitude whereas you must be in that rarefied atmosphere for much of your training. Probably worthy of further research …. something to do in your spare time!

    Cheers,
    Hans

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