Getting Used to Running at Altitude

Altitude. Something I knew I was going to have to deal with once I moved to Boulder, but I really had no idea what "getting used" to it would look like. 

Boulder is 5,260ft above sea level. I've only ever lived and run in cities that are at sea level (Houston & NYC), where you have access to all the oxygen you could ever want. 

I met up with a new friend for a run around Boulder Reservoir (yay, new friends!). She's originally from Texas, but has been living in Boulder for a year now, so she's familiar with the adjustment to altitude. I was so thankful to have her there to push me, and also to let me know that it's okay to slow down and okay to take a break. 

At one point, only 4 miles in, my head started spinning and I kind of felt like I was suffocating. My body just wasn't getting the amount of oxygen it's used to. I had to sit for a little bit to catch my breath. 

I called it quits earlier than I had planned to, only completing 6 miles at an 8:39 avg pace. What a humbling experience -- to meet a new person for the first time for a run and totally just not hack it. I guess if a person is still willing to run with you and be your friend after you're totally a buzzkill the first time, then they're probably a good friend?!

My virtual half marathon is next weekend, and it's gonna be SLOW! I think I'll have to do it at a 9+min pace just to be able to finish without dying. 

When I was talking to my new friend during the run, I asked her how long it took her to get back to the paces she had been running before, and she said she's still not quite there. She said it'll take probably 6 months to feel normal running about a minute slower per mile and then you just have to work on pace after that. 

I'm curious what that means for the NYC marathon. If I can't get to a BQ pace while training here, will I run much faster at sea level? And if I am able to get to a BQ pace here, does that mean I'll win the whole thing in NYC?? (Joking)

Why Is It So Much Harder to Run At Altitude?

At high altitudes (more than 2,000ft above sea level), the reduced air pressure causes oxygen to diffuse more slowly into your blood. This means that your blood isn't fully recharged with oxygen as it goes through your lungs, lowering your VO2 max. For every 1,000ft above sea level, your VO2 max drops by approximately 1.9%. 

A lot of Olympians apparently train at altitude because it improves their sea level performance significantly. 

Anyways, so this is my life currently. Embarrassing myself in front of new people who are used to the lack of oxygen in the air here. 

Have you ever trained at altitude?