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Thread: Altitude training - anyone with experience?

  1. #1
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    Altitude training - anyone with experience?

    I'm doing a high altitude ultra this Nov and I'm aware there are various at-home solutions for acclimatisation as well as labs where you can train at simulated altitude but need a bit of a steer. There's a number of other runners and mountain type folk on here and I was wondering if anyone had any first-hand experience of any of these as this is something new for me (part of the appeal); or if any were more/less effective than others? The logical place to ask would be an ultra running forum, but I seem to spend more of my time on here!

    TIA
    Last edited by gcleminson; 11th January 2019 at 19:53. Reason: typo!

  2. #2
    Do you roughly know how your body deals with altitude? What sort of elevation are we talking about? How long will you be at altitude and will there be acclimatisation beforehand?

    For me it's the whole getting out of breath that can kill me. So I found doing HIIT classes/training (the GRIT series by Les Mills are excellent) say 3-4 times a week (each session is 30 mins) a few months in advance worked best. And then when on the mountain just getting my body to slow down a bit and not going so fast.

    But I'm also coming from a hiker point of view. Your output is going to be higher.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by gcleminson View Post
    I'm doing a high altitude ultra this Nov and I'm aware there are various at-home solutions for acclimatisation as well as labs where you can train at simulated altitude but need a bit of a steer. There's a number of other runners and mountain type folk on here and I was wondering if anyone had any first-hand experience of any of these as this is something new for me (part of the appeal); or if any were more/less effective than others? The logical place to ask would be an ultra running forum, but I seem to spend more of my time one here!

    TIA
    Iíve no experience of simulated environments but there canít be a better option than getting to the mountains to train. Altitude is a funny old thing!

  4. #4
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    A lot of the pro cycling teams sleep at altitude & go lower to train. Altitude tent around your bed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by crazyp View Post
    Do you roughly know how your body deals with altitude? What sort of elevation are we talking about? How long will you be at altitude and will there be acclimatisation beforehand?

    For me it's the whole getting out of breath that can kill me. So I found doing HIIT classes/training (the GRIT series by Les Mills are excellent) say 3-4 times a week (each session is 30 mins) a few months in advance worked best. And then when on the mountain just getting my body to slow down a bit and not going so fast.

    But I'm also coming from a hiker point of view. Your output is going to be higher.
    No, I've really got no idea. Been to 3,800m briefly in the Alps up in a cable car but no experience at all at anything strenuous over maybe 2,000m! That's another reason why I wouldn't mind stress-testing myself before getting on a plane for this.

    Lowest elevation 3,000m, highest elevation 6,000m apparently.

    2 or three days in Kathmandu then 6 days racing. The course is tapered, so a little higher each day, descending each day to a progressively higher overnight camp.


    Quote Originally Posted by dougair View Post
    Iíve no experience of simulated environments but there canít be a better option than getting to the mountains to train. Altitude is a funny old thing!
    This is more about acclimatisation than training - I train in the mountains (UK), but I'm looking for a way to acclimatise (or help towards it) prior to heading out.


    Quote Originally Posted by trident-7 View Post
    A lot of the pro cycling teams sleep at altitude & go lower to train. Altitude tent around your bed?
    Yeah, that's been suggested but you should have seen the look on my wife's face.. I was hoping to keep it less intrusive if I can..!

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by gcleminson View Post
    No, I've really got no idea. Been to 3,800m briefly in the Alps up in a cable car but no experience at all at anything strenuous over maybe 2,000m! That's another reason why I wouldn't mind stress-testing myself before getting on a plane for this.

    Lowest elevation 3,000m, highest elevation 6,000m apparently.

    2 or three days in Kathmandu then 6 days racing. The course is tapered, so a little higher each day, descending each day to a progressively higher overnight camp.




    This is more about acclimatisation than training - I train in the mountains (UK), but I'm looking for a way to acclimatise (or help towards it) prior to heading out.




    Yeah, that's been suggested but you should have seen the look on my wife's face.. I was hoping to keep it less intrusive if I can..!
    Ok - to be honest, I don't think you're going to really know then until the race hits! The design of the race seems as if will help with acclimatisation. Being a few days in Kathmandu will help with regulating your sleep a bit.

    Otherwise I think that HIIT will help a bit and don't underestimate your normal training and how that will help too.

    And then it's how you manage yourself over the race. So remember - when on in the race - water takes priority over everything else and drink LOTS, then food and then sleep. And when not racing make sure you take it really easy, relax and do nothing!

    You're going full in to this mate with little prior experience and I salute you! I think other more experienced will chirp in. Can you share the race details, it looks epic!

  7. #7
    Grand Master Chris_in_the_UK's Avatar
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    I have a mate who does similar stuff and has been in the Himalayas a few times - his tales are fascinating.

    We discussed altitude stuff just before Christmas in the context of somebody (me wanting to do an Everest trip) and the timescale to adapt/adjust.

    His recommendations were:-

    3-4 days @ 3500 metres - this is the most crucial bit of the adaptation to lower oxygen levels, if you fail to acclimatise well here it makes the higher stuff much more risky.

    2-3 days @ 4500 metres - this will set you up for the stuff above 5000 metres where the oxygen challenge is significant.

    Above 5500 metres is known as the 'death zone' His advice was not to underestimate the acclimatisation and time spent at the lower levels. This has to be done consistently and an over night in a altitude simulating tent is not the way to do it and there are no shortcuts.
    When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks long into you.........

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    ^^^thanks guys^^^

    https://everesttrailrace.co.uk

    Just to be clear, Iím not a novice mountain-runner - I race in multi-day mountain navigation races and have taken part (I wonít call it competing so as not to insult the properly good runners) at Elite level at the OMM for the last few years. The daily distances and height-gains for this race are well within my experience, but NOT the altitude - thatís the unknown factor, and I understand it can affect people very differently irrespective of relative fitness.

    Chris - useful info from your pal. Wish I could pick his brains! The race has been running for a while now and is pretty established with a good reputation. There are several days out there before the race starts, then each progressive day tops out at a higher elevation. Most folk taking part will be hobby runners like me rather than pro athletes and most will fly out and return on the race organiserís 12-day schedule; so I think the exposure if you want to call it that to altitude must be manageable for most people, else their race wouldnít be sustainable. Iím looking for anything I can try that will make it easier to deal with once Iím there (or give me insight into how I might respond).

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    Grand Master Chris_in_the_UK's Avatar
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    ^^^^^^^

    I am seeing him on the 21st of this month - happy to ask him some stuff if you want to PM me?

    Not sure if he would be up for a direct chat but I'll ask him that as well if it helps?
    When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks long into you.........

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    Worth reading up on the Wim Hof method and how he/they managed the altitude while climbing Kilimanjaro.

    Detailed (from a sceptics pov) in a book by Scott Carney, What doesn't kill us.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcleminson View Post
    No, I've really got no idea. Been to 3,800m briefly in the Alps up in a cable car but no experience at all at anything strenuous over maybe 2,000m! That's another reason why I wouldn't mind stress-testing myself before getting on a plane for this.
    Lowest elevation 3,000m, highest elevation 6,000m apparently.
    2 or three days in Kathmandu then 6 days racing. The course is tapered, so a little higher each day, descending each day to a progressively higher overnight camp.
    This is more about acclimatisation than training - I train in the mountains (UK), but I'm looking for a way to acclimatise (or help towards it) prior to heading out.
    To be honest you can't really. Altitude is a strange beast, one day/trip you're fine, the next not. Fitness in my experience has little to do with it, though helps with the physical (Walking, climbing etc) side of things. There is no rime nor reason as to who is affected and who is not. I was once climbing with a uber fit doctor, triathlete and at 3400m they just could not go any further. Literally had to carry them back down to about 2500m when they stabilised. They were fitter than me at the time, and all the odds were they should have not suffered. The best training is to go to altitude -slowly.
    There have been attempts at using hypobaric chambers for training, but I'm not convinced of there use. There are so many other factors. Most important in my experience (a lot of time over 7000/8000m) is hydration. This key.
    You will know at 3000-3500m if you are going to suffer. Feel bad -vomiting, headaches at this altitude.....it is unlikely to get better in the short term, and not improve as to ascend, best descend, hydrate and move back slowly over time. (Not helpful in a race I know).

    Regards
    Gerard

  12. #12
    Good and realistic info shared so far.

    I struggled at 3500m for the first night, then was okay for the next few days.

    I struggled at 5000m for a few days then got better, maybe the diamox helped....

    What id say is just go slow to start and don't skip the acclimatisation days.

    Also expect your cognition to suffer a bit above 4000m, things like tying laces might take a few attempts. Over and above struggling for breath for no apparent reason.

    Some people can hack it, and some can't. You'll soon find out.

    We had first hand accounts of experienced climber being medevacced out at 3800 with a case of HAPE, her blood oxygen level was 51% when they said ideally they were looking for 80% and anything near 70% was turn a round time. this woman had spent a lot of time at higher altitudes in SA before going to the hymalayas.

    It does seem to be a funny beast.

    Good luck !

    Sent from my Moto E (4) Plus using Tapatalk

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    Don't underestimate the effect altitude can have on your performance. My experience of cycling at altitude, & the highest I've cycled is "only" 2800m, is that it had a profound & fairly sudden effect on me. A few years ago I was climbing the col de Bonette & had challenged myself to get up on the big chainring (the high set of gears). The gradient's no big deal & I thought I'd get into a rhythm & plug away at it. I think I was at about 2600m when I started to feel very weak. I was soon in my lowest gear & felt totally drained. When I took a drink from my water bottle, which involved missing a breath, I saw stars. Eventually I saw a sign which I recall saying 0.3km to the summit. Mrs T-7 had gone to the top in the car &, I was so slow that she had driven back down thinking that I'd given up. Not that I ever would give up. I shouted out "how far to the top?". When she replied "only about half a mile" I was almost in tears. Bloody hell, it had said 0.3km back there!

    I noticed on TV one year the Tour de France riders went over the same col & nobody attacked. They went over the top fairly slowly for them, in dribs & drabs. They looked knackered. Once back at a lower altitude they all looked strong again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gcleminson View Post
    I'm doing a high altitude ultra this Nov and I'm aware there are various at-home solutions for acclimatisation as well as labs where you can train at simulated altitude but need a bit of a steer. There's a number of other runners and mountain type folk on here and I was wondering if anyone had any first-hand experience of any of these as this is something new for me (part of the appeal); or if any were more/less effective than others? The logical place to ask would be an ultra running forum, but I seem to spend more of my time on here!

    TIA

    Regarding your original question, these home acclimatisation systems have mixed reviews to say the least. Personally, I've never used them, although many of our clients have. Our day job is organising adventures all over the world, and many of our clients are time poor, which means using helicopters to get in/ out more quickly. So any acclimatisation they can arrive with is beneficial. Some have used the home mask system, and didn't like the feeling at all. Others have used the sleeping tent. I'd imagine doing a couple of one hour sessions in some sort of chamber would have zero benefit to acclimatisation as it's just too short an exposure to the lower pressure. The sleeping tent, on paper at least, has the best chance of being useful.

    Sounds like you've been up the Aiguille du Midi at 3,800m, and coincidentally I'm looking at it at the moment! I would disregard how you felt there as it's a whizz up/ down.

    I can't seem to see the course map online, but hitting 6,000m is pretty high. My wife ran the Everest Marathon (the one that starts at Base Camp) in 2017, and has looked at doing the race you're signed up for, and also the one in the Annapurna's. I've spent a couple of hundred days in Nepal and you've chosen a blinder of a destination. If you haven't been before, the people and the scenery will blow you away. It's a very very special place. We're going back next year for a Base Camp trek (with a TZ-er in fact!) and for a few folks to run the Everest Marathon and Ultra.

    If it is at 6,000m, then you're going to be walking. My wife ran from about 4,400m and down, and we were very well acclimatised. Above that it's walking with poles. The Death Zone doesn't start until 8,000m but over 5,000m is classed as "extreme" altitude. It's high enough to feel pretty peaky if you rush it.

    In general I'd echo what Gerard said- altitude is a funny old thing. Like him, I've spent quite a bit of time above 7,000m and once above 8,000m, but on one trip I had to turn back (on Mount Toubkal in Morocco) at 3,500m, despite having done it a half dozen times before without issue!

    If you have the time, getting up the trail for a week before would be a huge benefit. The higher you can sleep, the better. Welcome to PM me for more info or to chat to my wife (about the running at altitude!).

    Good luck and enjoy!

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    Thanks for all the feedback guys.

    Our plan at the moment is to try to make a family trip out of it and go out a bit early, which if we plan our activities / locations well should help with the acclimatisation.


    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_in_the_UK View Post
    ^^^^^^^

    I am seeing him on the 21st of this month - happy to ask him some stuff if you want to PM me?

    Not sure if he would be up for a direct chat but I'll ask him that as well if it helps?
    Thanks Chris appreciate the offer, don't go out of your way, but if it comes up in conversation when you next see him I'm just looking for feedback on places like this where they offer hypoxic excercise & sleep sessions, if he knows anyone who's used it or tried it himself?

    https://www.altitudecentre.com/


    Quote Originally Posted by WarrenVrs View Post
    Worth reading up on the Wim Hof method and how he/they managed the altitude while climbing Kilimanjaro.

    Detailed (from a sceptics pov) in a book by Scott Carney, What doesn't kill us.

    My wife's just finished that book :) I'm sure she said he climbed Everest in his underpants?!


    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotAbroad View Post
    Regarding your original question, these home acclimatisation systems have mixed reviews to say the least. Personally, I've never used them, although many of our clients have. Our day job is organising adventures all over the world, and many of our clients are time poor, which means using helicopters to get in/ out more quickly. So any acclimatisation they can arrive with is beneficial. Some have used the home mask system, and didn't like the feeling at all. Others have used the sleeping tent. I'd imagine doing a couple of one hour sessions in some sort of chamber would have zero benefit to acclimatisation as it's just too short an exposure to the lower pressure. The sleeping tent, on paper at least, has the best chance of being useful.

    Sounds like you've been up the Aiguille du Midi at 3,800m, and coincidentally I'm looking at it at the moment! I would disregard how you felt there as it's a whizz up/ down.

    I can't seem to see the course map online, but hitting 6,000m is pretty high. My wife ran the Everest Marathon (the one that starts at Base Camp) in 2017, and has looked at doing the race you're signed up for, and also the one in the Annapurna's. I've spent a couple of hundred days in Nepal and you've chosen a blinder of a destination. If you haven't been before, the people and the scenery will blow you away. It's a very very special place. We're going back next year for a Base Camp trek (with a TZ-er in fact!) and for a few folks to run the Everest Marathon and Ultra.

    If it is at 6,000m, then you're going to be walking. My wife ran from about 4,400m and down, and we were very well acclimatised. Above that it's walking with poles. The Death Zone doesn't start until 8,000m but over 5,000m is classed as "extreme" altitude. It's high enough to feel pretty peaky if you rush it.

    In general I'd echo what Gerard said- altitude is a funny old thing. Like him, I've spent quite a bit of time above 7,000m and once above 8,000m, but on one trip I had to turn back (on Mount Toubkal in Morocco) at 3,500m, despite having done it a half dozen times before without issue!

    If you have the time, getting up the trail for a week before would be a huge benefit. The higher you can sleep, the better. Welcome to PM me for more info or to chat to my wife (about the running at altitude!).

    Good luck and enjoy!

    Awesome, great tips :)

    I'm sensing a theme emerging to forget the gadgets/chamber sessions and focus on getting some height in during our family time if we do go out a week early.

    I knew a watch forum was the right place to ask..!

    p.s. Poles (otherwise know as 'cheating sticks' in the UK fell running community..) are pretty uncommon in the sort of races I do over here, but I'm aware they're much more widely used on the Continent. I've never used them myself, and I imagine it's easy to use them badly but there's probably a bit of a technique to using them well. I tend to be strong on the climbs so if anywhere they'd be of more use on long, quad-bursting descents; but I'm of the mind to stick with what I know rather than task-load myself this year with another thing to learn. Good idea, or foolish?
    Last edited by gcleminson; 12th January 2019 at 13:03.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gcleminson View Post
    Thanks for all the feedback guys.

    Our plan at the moment is to try to make a family trip out of it and go out a bit early, which if we plan our activities / locations well should help with the acclimatisation.




    Thanks Chris appreciate the offer, don't go out of your way, but if it comes up in conversation when you next see him I'm just looking for feedback on places like this where they offer hypoxic excercise & sleep sessions, if he knows anyone who's used it or tried it himself?

    https://www.altitudecentre.com/





    My wife's just finished that book :) I'm sure she said he climbed Everest in his underpants?!





    Awesome, great tips :)

    I'm sensing a theme emerging to forget the gadgets/chamber sessions and focus on getting some height in during our family time if we do go out a week early.

    I knew a watch forum was the right place to ask..!

    p.s. Poles (otherwise know as 'cheating sticks' in the UK fell running community..) are pretty uncommon in the sort of races I do over here, but I'm aware they're much more widely used on the Continent. I've never used them myself, and I imagine it's easy to use them badly but there's probably a bit of a technique to using them well. I tend to be strong on the climbs so if anywhere they'd be of more use on long, quad-bursting descents; but I'm of the mind to stick with what I know rather than task-load myself this year with another thing to learn. Good idea, or foolish?
    He got above the death zone until frostbite started to be a problem.

  17. #17
    Grand Master Chris_in_the_UK's Avatar
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    Thanks Chris appreciate the offer, don't go out of your way, but if it comes up in conversation when you next see him I'm just looking for feedback on places like this where they offer hypoxic excercise & sleep sessions, if he knows anyone who's used it or tried it himself?

    https://www.altitudecentre.com/.
    Just a quick update - spoke to David tonight and asked the question..... he sort of curled his face a bit but when we chatted he said that his personal experience is that the only way to do this is 'time at altitude'. Some days can be good - sometimes a number of good days join up, occasionally you may have a bad day/struggle but the key is to acclimatise over a period with varying degrees of exertion before moving up the mountain.

    Hope this helps?
    When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks long into you.........

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_in_the_UK View Post
    Just a quick update - spoke to David tonight and asked the question..... he sort of curled his face a bit but when we chatted he said that his personal experience is that the only way to do this is 'time at altitude'. Some days can be good - sometimes a number of good days join up, occasionally you may have a bad day/struggle but the key is to acclimatise over a period with varying degrees of exertion before moving up the mountain.

    Hope this helps?
    My exact experience.

    Sent from my Moto E (4) Plus using Tapatalk

  19. #19
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    High altitude training is beneficial because of the atmospherics of high altitude. Training at high altitudes is more effective than training in your nearby gyms with no such atmospherics that can result in more circulation of oxygen. At high altitudes, you are more likely to derive improved aerobic energy efficiency, elongated time until fatigue and usually a greater intensity workload. I read it most information from blog of Bella-Hadid here - https://askyourfitnessquestion.com/tag/bella-hadid/
    Last edited by LikeLight1; 11th February 2019 at 11:40.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_in_the_UK View Post
    Just a quick update - spoke to David tonight and asked the question..... he sort of curled his face a bit but when we chatted he said that his personal experience is that the only way to do this is 'time at altitude'. Some days can be good - sometimes a number of good days join up, occasionally you may have a bad day/struggle but the key is to acclimatise over a period with varying degrees of exertion before moving up the mountain.

    Hope this helps?
    Only just spotted your update Chris - many thanks.

    We are now planning a 10-ish day family trip out there prior to the race, beginning in Pokhara, then a 3 day trek around some of the Anapurna circuit (my wife's idea - not mine!!). Possibly then onto Lukla; so slowly increasing altitude during the time before the race. The family will then return home and I'll join up with the other competitors in Kathmandu.

    And the info on the organiser's website was misleading regarding maximum race altitude - I believe Pikey Peak is the highest point we'll reach at 4068m (day 2), so not insignificant, but a lot less scary then 6000m.

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