leadville-100

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Follow along with a group running the Leadville 100 - a 100 mile run up the mountains in Colorado. The reaction of the runners to the landscape and how it changes along the route is pretty neat.

LT 100 Dig Deep

Porque duele tanto Leadville…
Hace unos cuantos días escribí un artículo que nunca publique, de las carreras que soñaba con hacer algun dia, la mayoria de ellas de distancias superiores a los 160km; talvez la emocion de regresar a Leadville o el acercamiento que tuve de nuevo con mis montañas fue lo que me impulso a soñar en grande, y plasmarlo como un plan a diferentes plazos.

Leadville es un ultra que se corre en las Rocky Mountains en Colorado, son 160km a recorrer sin parar; con bajadas y subidas excesivamente demandantes; y en el 2010 fue la mejor meta que habia cruzado en toda mi vida. Este año tenia el plan de mejorar mi tiempo y por supuesto volver a cruzar esa meta.

El significado de esta carrera, por lo menos para mi, va más allá de lo que se percibe a simple vista, va más allá de llevar el cuerpo al límite o darte a conocer como simple fanfarronería. El caso es que para terminar esta carrera tienes que luchar, tienes que cavar muy dentro de ti, y encontrar ese personaje que enviste, que no tiene miedos y que puede aferrararse a resistir el dolor traspasando los músculos hasta los huesos, donde las agallas se esconden como el núcleo que permite mover tu cuerpo… es tan mágico encontrar ese espacio en el que estas solo y percibes a Dios como un ser tangible y real…

Leadville me habia dado todo eso hace 3 años, y estaba dispuesta a ir a buscarlo de nuevo; esa soledad, ese misticismo, y descubrir en mi esa entrega a un instante que sí bien no puede ser eterno, te construye y te transforma y te hace sentir único y especial en esta tierra.

Ahora tengo un bebe, y mi intencion era llevarlo conmigo, dias previos a la carrera mostrarle las montañas y empezar a embriagarlo de ellas, ver en sus ojos la misma emoción y la misma magia que siento yo cuando estoy en ellas, quería decirle “mamá va a ir allá a conquistarlas, pero no tarda y tu estarás cerca de la meta para cruzar conmigo”, cumplir mi promesa de no hacer ninguna competencia lejos, si no iba el conmigo. Sin embargo, se enfermo justo un día antes del vuelo, tenía fiebre por la madrugada y me dijeron que no podía viajar con él en realidad quería quedarme, juro que si, Mamá me convencio para dejarlo a su cargo y yo pudiera ir a las montañas de Colorado, ya se había hecho el compromiso con el equipo y en dos horas que teníamos para decidir; acepte, aún cuando dentro de mi sabia que no estaba bien, que yo no iba a estar bien. Cuando bebe se enferma generalmente yo también, dicen que los bichos de los bebes siempre pegan mas duros y en mi caso ese ha sido ese el caso. Llegue a Leadville enferma, pero con la esperanza de que en dos días y descansando iba a mejorara antes de la carrera; tome medicina, vitaminas, etc, pero la enfermedad no cedió. Pensé que sí había dejado a bebe no era para venir a no hacer nada así que valía la pena arriesgar, además ya sabía lo que era correr estando así. Empezó la carrera y tenía la estrategia perfecta, todo el tiempo corrí con tos, dolor de garganta más o menos soportable y mi buff hasta la nariz, y la gente que te animaba me decia en ingles “la bandida”, en la subida de hopepass descansaba esperando a Lalo para tomar aire porque a esa altura era difícil respirar con el buff; llegue al km 80 no cómoda pero si bastante bien de los músculos, comimos y empezamos el regreso, de nuevo la subida a hopepass con el sol pegando de ese lado de la Montaña y el aire frío pegando en la espalda no ayudaron a que mi garganta se fuera cerrando cada vez más y doliendo, después un oído tapado, después los dos y una sensación de dolor de que iban a explotar, pensé que iniciándo el descenso iba a mejorar, que tal vez la altura estaba haciendo una mala jugada, pero no. Las bajadas siempre han sido mi área de juegos, en la ida iba recuperando lugares y me sentía en una carrera de Salvajes siguiendo ese dédalo de tierra húmeda y el olor a bosque… Esta bajada no fue así, iba torpe, me sentía muy mariada, ya no escuchaba nada, mi equilibrio era nulo y si pretendía ir a la derecha no se porque mi cuerpo tomaba la izquierda, fue una bajada lenta, tormentosa y con la esperanza firme de que no se me reventara un oído. Llegue al km 100 Twinlakes a buscar asistencia, pedí que me dieran algo para poder continuar. Yo no buscaba razones para justificar abandonar una carrera, no me gustan las excusas puesto que las carreras son mias, son triunfos personales; yo buscaba pelearla. El doctor dijo que no podía seguir, que me exponía a reventar el oído y que la parte que venía que era de noche estaba riesgosa para hacerla sin equilibro alguno. Le pedí medicina de nuevo, la respuesta fue que no tenía absolutamente nada que me permitiera continuar y que iba a avisar para que alguien me llevara a Leadville, me puse a llorar, en eso llego Chalita a la estación le di la noticia y me abrazo llorando, ya también tiene el mucho tiempo haciendo estas carreras, sabe perfecto lo que significa, pero me dijo… “La salud es primero, tienes un hijo y te necesita bien”. Perdi la noche, la mejor parte de la carrera, mi cita con Dios, con la luna siendo testigo de una lucha irrazonable y adictiva. La persona que me iba a llevar de regreso me ayudo con mis cosas pero al empezar a caminar me iba de lado, sentí que desvariaba, pensé que era por los oídos e insistió en llevarme a servicio médico, mi temperatura era de casi 40 grados; me inyectaron, me cuidaron y me llevaron de vuelta al hotel… Pasando la puerta ya no pude y me solté a llorar como una niña sin poder controlarme, la ausencia del hijo, el tener que parar… Bueno, nunca me ha gustado el papel de víctima, en verdad no, pero el dolor era bastante. Los días siguientes pasaron un sin fin de cosas por mi mente, salí a caminar y trotar aún con el buff , y la tos a los alrededores, a donde pusiera la visa había montañas… no me pregunten porque pero las odiaba, después de amarlas tanto durante varios años de mi vida, no quería ni voltear al frente, quería darles la espalda; sentía que había abandonado a mi hijo para venir con ellas y que me habían jugado mal… Ahora ya no podía decirle a bebe que esa tremenda lucha del final había sido por el… Por ahora no sé…Leadville cabo hondo dentro de mi…tenía, según yo ,la fórmula que no fallo en 2010 “enviste cuando la razón piense en retirarse” y no pudo ser así, sin embargo he pensado mucho el significado de todo, de nuevo una carrera de estas me deja lecciones y conclusiones que te reinventan. Me he preguntado porque duele tanto algo que no pude controlar, tal vez es por eso mismo, sinceramente nunca me ha importado que piensen los demas, asi que sabia que no era por ahi… hoy ya se la respuesta… hoy vi y aprendi del apoyo que me demostraron quienes me quieren y saque mis propias conclusiones de experiencia de vida, que por esta vez, perdón pero serán todas mias… En este momento voy de regreso a México, con una imagen de película donde las montañas se quedan atrás y voy en camino a ver a mi hijo… La tristeza no se supera pero se mitiga con mis locas ganas de verlo. La vida decían alguna vez “cobra sentido cuando se hace de ella una aspiración de no renunciar a nada” Leadville estará ahí esperando, y si regresare, aún no se cuándo, por ahora mi vida cambia en sentido de las manecillas de un reloj forjado por Dios y no por mi. Derrota, victoria mmmm eso es algo muy mío… Pero puedo decirles que como humanos cometemos errores, aciertos, nos metemos en enredos, y lo importante es seguir viviendo al punto de las carcajadas y las lágrimas… “No hay mejor espectáculo que la vida” diría el libro de Agua para Elefantes no hay mejor sensación que sentir que se aprende constantemente, y ese aprendizaje da dolor y a veces hiere, pero regala libertad, conocimiento y una increíble guía. Nos seguimos leyendo…

Leadville 100 training - week 1 recap (running shoe hell)

That was actually pretty tough.  I was expecting a pretty easy week since the volume wasn’t really anything more than I’ve been previous doing.  But a confluence of physical issues really added to the difficulty.

First of all, a warning to others and reminder to myself.  If it feels like your shoes aren’t getting the job done anymore with respect to support and shock absorption - get new shoes ASAP.  I failed to take that seriously and my training went downhill in a hurry as the week progressed.

My Tuesday run went fine.  But I decided to wear my newish trail shoes on Tuesday to try to break them in.  They’ve been really agitating my 4th toe on my left foot.  And the 7.8 mile run on them just made things worse.  It hurt to walk for the rest of the day.  I followed that up with 10 miles on pavement with my 2 month old, 250+ mile road shoes that have also been my primary everyday shoes since March.  And it was horrendous.

In a panic, I went to REI and Boulder Running Company Thursday night to return my Cascadias and try to find something else.  I tried on 8+ different trail shoes, in addition to the others I tried on last fall.  I ended up in Montrail Caldorados because despite being super rigid, they felt the most normal.  Then I ran on them Friday and they also bothered my toe.  I’m going to hope it was residually screwed up from Wednesday and give them another couple of tries.  Mainly because I’ve tried on almost literally every trail shoe possible and none of them work.

I didn’t want to wear those trail shoes on my dirt 15 miler on Saturday, so once again I wore my old Ghosts.  And I suffered pretty much the entire time and felt awful afterwards.  And I limped for the rest of the day (hurt right ankle, hurt left knee).  Then this morning I cracked open a fresh pair of Ghosts and things actually went okay.  Imagine that.


I don’t want to blame it all on the shoes.  I came into this training weekend with some patellafemoral pain and skating dangerously close to IT band pain.  So I’ve been really hammering my quads and hips with resistance bands to try to get the knees under control.  And in an awful cycle of pain:

  • the strength work makes my muscles tired.  
  • Tired muscles make my connective tissue absorb more impact
  • More impact on my connective tissue hurts and messes up my biomechanics
  • Bad biomechanics make other things hurt
  • Throw in bad shoes and I was a mess

So after a pretty tough week, I’m going to really start week 2 dangerously.  I have a horrific schedule of work and meetings and appointments this week and finding time to get in a bunch of miles is looking really difficult.  So I’m going to abandon my weekly day off tomorrow and keep going.  So my Tuesday easyish run and wednesday speed work move up to Monday and Tuesday and I’m taking Wednesday off.  If I can survive this, I should have a pretty easy time this weekend after actually having a mid-week day off.  We’ll see how it goes.

Weekly snapshot:

Leadville 100: Understanding the Challenges of High-Altitude Racing

It’s good to be back at a relatively “moderate” elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level after spending the weekend in the even-thinner air up at 10,200 to 12,600 feet in and around Leadville, Colorado. I was in Leadville to race the Leadville 100 (LT100) mountain bike race – “The Race Across the Sky” - for the sixth time, and to support and encourage the 178 athletes that Carmichael Training Systems helped prepare for the event. It was a great race and a ton of fun, but both living and exercising above 10,000 feet can be quite difficult – as the pro road racers competing in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (USAPCC) next week will also find out.

The town of Leadville, CO sits at 10,200 feet above sea level. Both the Leadville 100 MTB Race and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge send riders to 12,000 feet!

The basics of altitude work like this: As you go higher the air becomes less dense, which means the oxygen molecules are more spread out. As a result, when you breathe in and fill your lungs, there are fewer oxygen molecules in that volume of air. Most people from sea level don’t notice any difference at elevations up to about 5,000 feet above sea level, and between 5,000 and 8,000 feet most healthy people feel perfectly fine at rest and might get out of breath more quickly while exercising. The impact of “moderate” elevation is relatively minor because your lungs are very good at extracting oxygen from air, and even as the air gets thinner you’re still able to satisfy the body’s needs.

Once you get above about 8,000 feet, things are a bit different. At these higher elevations people who normally live at sea level get out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs. Your heart rate and breathing rates at rest will be slightly elevated as your body tries to pull more air through the lungs so it can grab the oxygen it wants. And when you exercise you reach your maximum sustainable pace or intensity level much more quickly than at sea level. This means that if you can produce 250 watts of power on the bike at lactate threshold at sea level, at 8,000 feet above sea level you’ll likely reach lactate threshold at about 225 watts (a 10% decline). You’ll be slower riding uphill, or you’ll need to push yourself harder than normal to achieve the same speed you can hold on a climb at sea level.

As you go from 8,000 feet to 10,000, and then to 12,000 feet, your maximum sustainable power output declines even further. Power meters on the bikes – both road bikes and now mountain bikes as well – enable us to measure the extent of the decline. As riders approach the 12,000-foot summits of Columbine Mine (Leadville 100), Cottonwood Pass, and Independence Pass (USAPCC), their maximum sustainable power output is about 70 to 80 percent of what it is at elevations below 5,000 feet. To put that in perspective consider this: At sea level a pro might have a lactate threshold (LT) power output of 350 watts, and a fit weekend warrior of the same body weight might have an LT power of 275 watts. At 12,000 feet that pro’s LT power may come all the way down to 245 to 280 watts; even to the supermen of endurance sports, high altitude is like kryptonite.

It gets worse. Up to now I’ve been talking about max sustainable pace or power. But the worst thing about racing at high elevations is what happens when you dig deep to go even faster – like when you attack to break away or win a mountain-top finish. At lower elevations extreme efforts are difficult, but your body can recover fast because you can get a lot of oxygen to your muscles very quickly. At high elevations, however, extreme efforts exact a much heavier cost. When you push yourself over your sustainable limits for too long, your power output suddenly goes way down, you pant uncontrollably, and slow to a crawl. That can happen at sea level too, but it passes quickly. At high elevations it can take several minutes to recover from hard efforts; by which time you may have completely lost contact with the pack.

Innovations for Exercising/Competing at Altitude

Our understanding of the impact of altitude on performance has improved dramatically in the past 40 or so years (the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was a major turning point in the science of altitude training). Here are some of the ways LT100 and USAPCC racers cope with the elevation:

  • Acclimation: Spending time at higher elevations enables the body to adapt and increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This improves your ability to deliver oxygen to the brain and working muscles at all levels of activity, including high-intensity exercise. But true acclimation can take three weeks or more, so it’s often unrealistic to schedule.
  • Altitude Training: It is difficult to train and recover optimally at high elevation, so some top athletes strategically plan exposures to altitude (spending a few weeks living and training at higher elevations) throughout the year. This enables them to gain the cardiovascular benefits of acclimating to altitude, and then return to sea level where they can train at higher intensities and recover from training more effectively.
  • Acclimatization: (different than acclimation in that it requires proactive steps) Some athletes use specially-designed tents or rooms that simulate the conditions of living/sleeping at high altitude. For some athletes, this can produce an increase in red blood cell count similar to actually spending time at altitude. But the results are highly individual – some people are “responders” and see a benefit, while others do not.
  •  Hydration: The air at higher elevations is very dry, so sweat evaporates quickly and you lose a lot of fluid moistening/humidifying the air as it enters your lungs. As a result, you dehydrate very quickly at higher elevations. That means less fluid in your blood, which in turn can lead to a higher heart rate because your body has to move the remaining volume faster in order to continue delivering oxygen to working muscles and your brain. If you don’t increase your fluid intake throughout the day you’ll soon have a headache. If you don’t drink enough while exercising, your power output and performance decline very quickly.
  • Pacing/Power Meters: Altitude changes racing strategies because some athletes cope with the conditions better than others. Riders who live at high altitudes or who have spent time adapting to high altitude have an advantage, and they can push the pace to put their low-altitude rivals into difficulty. But all riders have to understand where their limits are and be careful about when and how often they exceed those limits. For athletes who don’t have time to adapt to altitude before coming to ride/race at higher elevations, it’s important to be conservative with pacing so you go as fast as you can handle without pushing yourself to the point where you’ll have to suddenly slow down and recover. This is where power meters on the bikes become very useful, because they help riders gauge their efforts.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will be broadcast live on Versus every day from August 22 to 28, and the final day will be broadcast on NBC. Many of the top riders from the 2011 Tour de France (including the entire podium of Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, and Frank Schleck; as well as American Tom Danielson and others) will all be racing. Here’s something to consider as you’re watching: The summits of the highest mountain passes covered in the Tour de France just barely hit 9,000 feet above sea level. The entire 100 miles of the Leadville 100 are contested at elevations between 9,100 and 12,600 feet. And there will be stages during the USAPCC when the riders will be at between 8,000 and 12,000 feet for the entire day!

– Chris Carmichael, Elite Cycling Coach

Chris Carmichael rode the Tour de France in 1986 with 7-Eleven and recently finished his sixth Leadville 100 mountain bike race. He is CEO and Head Coach of Carmichael Training Systems, the premier destination for coaching, training camps, and performance testing since 2000; and Official Coaching and Camps Partner of Ironman. Follow Chris on Twitter at www.twitter.com/trainright, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carmichaeltrainingsystems, orwww.trainright.com

My daddy was a hard-rock miner. And when you’re a hard-rock miner you go way down into the pit and through the tunnel, and you come to what is known as the Face. And at the Face you’re alone in the cold, and you take that steel and you drill. You drill and you take that dynamite and you blast and you walk on rock until you’re done. You don’t quit and you keep going. The Face is called the Truth, and the Truth is where all of you are today.
— 

Cole Chlouber

He was talking about running 100 miles, but it still hits something inside of you, doesn’t it?