8/28/15

Thoughts on training at elevation - Boulder train-cation



The stats are in from our 8-day train-cation in Boulder, CO!

Swimming: 8800 yards
Cycling: ~231 miles, ~24,000 elevation gain (Marni) 
Cyling: ~310 miles, ~30,000 elevation gain (Karel)
Running: 42 miles (Marni and Karel)

Wow - that's A LOT of training at elevation!
There are many benefits of training at altitude. 
Acclimating to altitude produces more red blood cells which means more oxygen to deliver to the muscles. Altitude also creates more capillaries which gives the blood more pathways for delivery to the muscles. Lastly, there is an increase in mitochondria (powerhouse of cells) as they convert oxygen to energy.

As you can see, there are many performance benefits to training at altitude that can bring on better endurance, power and speed....and they are all natural and legal!!!

However, it's not all as "magical" as it seems. 

Exercising in "thinner" air means less oxygen per volume of air. Less oxygen molecules means the muscles have a harder time to work efficiently. The lungs also take a beating too (talk about coughing after the workouts). Although the body will compensate for the decrease in oxygen by producing more red blood cells (with the help of EPO - again, this is natural!) to deliver oxygen to the muscles, there is a great struggle that occurs when the body begins to train at altitude. 

Some athletes will notice the struggle at ~5200 feet whereas some athletes have to go to more than 8,000 feet above sea level. 


Both Karel and I had an amazing time in Boulder, CO but it was rather difficult for both of us to feel like we could train "smart" during our train-cation. The dry air was tough too.

With less than 8 weeks until the 2015 IM World Championship, our bodies were in a great place physically to absorb a mega-load of training stress but the reduced atmospheric pressure really made it challenging to stay aerobic. We have spent much of our training this year learning how to listen to our body and when we need to go EZ, we go EZ so that when we need to go hard, we have the energy to do so. Athletes often train in between this area - all the time and this makes it hard to boost performance.

In Boulder, it almost felt as if every workout was anaerobic - no matter how "easy" we were trying to go (which as you can imagine, made "recovering" after a climb or during a workout, quite impossible).
Even though we don't chase numbers when we train, it was much harder to go a certain effort in all three sports at altitude. 

Our Boulder train-cation was extremely beneficial in that it took us away from our normal training environment, which mentally, is always a great thing when training for a 140.6 mile event.
And although we both don't feel as if we lost fitness because of the altitude, it's hard to say as if we "gained" anything at altitude. 

Whereas a mega-load (train-cation/training camp) is designed to put a lot of stress on the body, the altitude was a stressor....on top of the intentional training stress. 

Thankfully, neither of us experienced "altitude sickness" so our immune system stayed in good health at altitude and with all of our training. Neither of us had headaches, nausea or extreme fatigue. 

The first thing we noticed was difficulty sleeping - this is often called "altitude insomnia". Karel and I would have difficulty falling asleep (we probably missed our sleeping partner Campy too) and we would both wake up at least 2 times during the night. We also both had to go to the bathroom to pee at least twice during the night. This got better by the 6th day at elevation and by the 7th day, we finally were able to sleep through the night. The sleepless nights were exhausting come morning time. 

We stayed in Boulder (~5400 elevation) for the first 3.5 days of our trip and then went to 8,000 feet when we linked-up with our friends in the cabin for the next 6 days. Then back to 5400 feet for our last night in Boulder. Our training ranged from 5400 elevation to 10,000+ elevation. 

Karel and I had no trouble consuming our typical sport nutrition during all our workouts (we never once trained with just water - always a sport drink + additional food for our bike rides) so we managed to meet hydration and calorie needs but we both experienced a slight drop in appetite. I don't consider this an advantage at all to not have an appetite. We need to eat!!
This mostly occurred in the 2-3 hours post workout so for Karel, he opted for more liquid calories and for me, I ate more frequently (every hour) and had small meals instead of a larger recovery meal. By dinner, we both had our "normal" appetites back and had no trouble enjoying our normal carb-rich diet.
We always had an appetite to eat before our workouts as well. 

In Greenville, SC, we live at ~1,000 feet. Most of our mountains go up to around 2,000-3500 feet. We just LOVE training in Greenville. 
As for racing at elevation, neither one of us will race at altitude simply because of the adjustment that is needed to perform well and stay healthy, at altitude, is risky. Sure, it can be done but we much prefer hilly courses that include mountains as oppose to starting a race at high elevation. 

Once again, our Boulder trip was awesome - we loved the active community, the many running trails, the delicious eats and the variety of terrain. However, the trip was exhausting. Physically, it was so challenging to train, recover and train and recover and by the last two days of the trip - I was beat. The load was intense but the altitude made it even more difficult. There were so many times when I couldn't catch my breath as I was training and I found myself "anaerobic" no matter the effort.....then again, my fitness has improved a lot this summer so I managed to train "with" Karel for most of our Boulder train-cation - and he pushes me!
 Sure, I had some great workouts but from a "smart" training perspective, our train-cation was long enough and I am happy to be back in Greenville. Karel managed to bounce back quickly after we returned home, whereas I have taken this entire week (since Tues when we traveled home) incredibly easy with light workouts, to fully recover my body. 

It's always fun to train up the training environment but always remember that your #1 goal is to train in the environment that gives you the best training stress. If you can't adapt to the training stress, then you are likely compromising your health at the expensive of trying to improve performance. 





8/26/15

Inspired salad


It's nice to be back in Greenville, SC after our 9 day, Boulder train-cation and it's even better to have a few days of low volume/low intensity training to recover from all that training stress. 

We did a lot of eating out while we were in Boulder. So you know what that means, right?

Diet? 
Not us!

Cleanse/Fast?
Never!

Go low carb?
Absolutely not. We love bread!

Be inspired?YEP!!!

In Boulder, there was no shortage of restaurants that offered a variety of vegetarian options for me but also kept us well-fueled with all of our training. 

With all that eating out, there were many opportunities to be inspired. I firmly believe that we should always feel great when we eat - no matter where we eat or what we eat. It is your choice as to what you choose to put inside your body that you may as well choose food that makes you yum (yumming out loud is totally acceptable). 

For our last dinner in Boulder, we went to Pizzeria Locale with our friend/athlete Trent (his wife Kristen was traveling for work). 

We all enjoyed pizza (of course) but started with a salad. 
I ordered the Antica Arugula salad with parmigiano reggiano and balsamic and Karel ordered the Vesuvius heirloom tomato salad with basil, mozzarella di bufala.  

Inspired by Karel's salad, I made a delicious arugula salad with mozzarella and tomato to start our dinner this evening. 

Next time you go out to eat, be sure to enjoy your meal outside of the home.....

and always leave the restaurant inspired to re-create the meal at home. 






8/24/15

Boulder train-cation: day 7 and 8


On Sunday morning, Karel and I drove down to the park and headed out for a 40 minute run before getting on our bikes with Adam and Bill to cycle to Golden, CO to watch stage 7 of the USA Pro cycling challenge. 

I was really looking forward to this ride but after the run, my body was feeling incredibly tired (I wonder why!). Adam, Karel and Bill (the rest of our group drove their bikes to Golden) were riding from Boulder to Golden on semi busy roads (to get out of Boulder) and I was just not comfortable on those roads.
So after about 30 minutes of riding, I decided to head back to the car. It was a bummer to not continue on and join the guys to climb Lookout mountain to watch the tour but my body had enough.....and when I got back to the cabin I just laid on the couch (and watched the race on NBC) for a few hours.


But Karel had a lot of fun and he felt strong riding. I was happy for him. It's great in our athlete-relationship that if one of us has an off day, we can still be happy for the other person who is having a better day.



As the guys were riding to Golden, they linked up with professional cyclist Lucas Euser from United Healthcare. Karel was really excited to ride with Lucas and he said it made the rest of the ride go by really fast.


Karel really enjoyed the climb up Lookout mountain...and after the crowds dissapeared after the pro race went by, Karel enjoyed flying down the descend. 

Here are a few of Karel's pictures from Lookout Mountain while watching the last stage of the Pro cycling challenge. 


























Hey - I know these guys! 

Around 4pm, I received a text from Karel to pick him up in the park parking lot so I made my way down the mountain to give Karel a lift so he didn't have to bike up Sunshine Canyon. 
Karel rode back by himself and finished with 4 hours and a little over 70 miles. 

After the group cleaned up, it was time to head downtown for our last dinner together. 
We went to The Med - which was amazing!!!! 


We ordered a few appetizers and ate A LOT of bread (oh so good!) and then it was time for our entrees. 


Karel ordered the chicken Kabobs.  


I ordered the Spinaci - this HIT the spot in my belly!!!

It was a late night on Sunday night but the guys wanted to watch the end of the USA Pro cycling challenge on NBC sports and there was a lot of laughing and chatting going on as well. 

On Monday morning, our group got up early to head to the airport and Karel and I took our time as we had to be out of the cabin by 10am. 

I felt a bit better on Monday morning (compared to Sunday...pizza always does the trick!) so I went for a run...my last workout of our 7-day train-cation. 

5.5 miles at 8,000 feet on top Sunshine Canyon. 







After we loaded up the car, it was time....time for a cinnamon roll!!
I've enjoyed a fresh cinnamon roll a few times this summer (last time after placing overall female amateur at Challenge Williamsburg) and after doing more training within 7-days than I have ever done in my life.....this cinnamon roll from Breadworks tasted amazing!!


As for the rest of our last day in Boulder...
Now that we are out of the cabin, we are enjoying some relaxing. There will be a little shopping, a little more eating and then early to bed before we head back to Greenville to reunite with our furry family (who is currently being spoiled by "grandma"). 

Thanks for following along during our train-cation!!!

Next up...a VERY important race-cation. 

5 weeks from tomorrow we head to Kona, Hawaii for the 2015 IM World Championship on October 10th!!!


8/23/15

Boulder train-cation: day 6


After 4 days of climbing, descending and doing more climbing and descending, we were seeking a "flatter" ride to open-up our legs. We reached out to our friend Laura (who is also training for Kona) who lives in Boulder to see if we could link-up with her for her long ride. She was happy to have us tag along and we were happy to have such a great (and strong) tour-guide. 


The ride was exactly what we needed. Flat with a few rolling hills and one climb to see Carter Lake.....every train-cation ride should include a beautiful view after a climb. 


It was super windy with a lot of headwind and cross wind. Perfect Kona training!!
Karel and I have not trained on flat roads in over 1.5 years so it felt so great to settle into a rhythm and steady cadence.
And when I say great, it was far from easy as I was sitting on Karel's wheel...and he was feeling really good...and riding super strong. 

We finished with 70 miles in around 3.5 hours which made for one fast ride in very windy conditions. 
Thanks Laura for the ride! See you in Kona in a little over a month!

Karel and I quickly made our way back to the cabin (we parked at Centennial Park Trailhead), changed, had a recovery drink and made a to-go meal and we all boarded our van to head to Ft. Collins to watch stage 6 of USA Pro cycling challenge.

It took us a bit longer than planned due to a lot of traffic and road closures but we finally made it to the race venue in time to see the women's finish.


While our group got beers and food at a local restaurant, Karel and I met up with Eric, a Clif Bar contact and he provided us with two VIP passes. Thanks Clif Bar!!!!


Karel enjoyed a beer...or three and we both enjoyed some yummy catered food. 




We met up with our friend again to walk around the "expo" area and then Karel and I made our way back into the VIP area to get our spot as close as possible to the finish. 

The set-up for the stage was incredible - there were big screen projectors everywhere with the commentators pumping-up the crowd. There was a water station to ensure that everyone stayed well-hydrated and in the VIP area, there were several TVs showing live footage. 

I have become quite the professional cycling fan thanks to Karel and prior to his triathlon journey in 2012, I spent many weekends on the sidelines cheering for him at his cat 1 cycling races. 
It was so much fun to share this experience with Karel and the best part.....Roman Kreuziger, a czech cyclist, won the race! 













After the race, we went to the team bus area which was really cool to see the athletes and be so close to the team cars and buses. 


Karel and Taylor Phinney (stage 1 winner).






After waiting around for a while, Karel finally got a picture with Roman. We then made our way back to Boulder after a fun day of cycling and watching cycling.

What a special day for Karel...and go Czech!!!