I have been back in New Mexico for 36 days and I just learned something new, the hard way.
After three summers I thought I had it figured out, but after a debilitating run in Frijoles Canyon Trail from Ponderosa campground in Bandelier that I was not recovering from, I went to see a doc, who gave me a good scolding and taught me something new about altitude.
I was pretty confident in what I was doing this summer so I upped my running with the Santa Fe Striders to a 10-miler on the rail trail Saturday morning (7,000 ft) and a 10-14 mile run Sunday in the mountains, (9,500 to 13,000 ft). (about 50% of my weekly mileage in 2 days) After 5 weeks of these back to back runs plus my weekly running in Abiquiu, 4-6 miles each run as it is usually 90+ degrees, I figured things would get easier as I got stronger or they would fall apart. The runs did not get easier but they did not totally fall apart either.
I did crashed and burn on a 12 mile run yesterday, it was just under 3,000 ft of elevation gain, easy compared to our other runs, and without going into details here is what I learned about exercise and altitude:
1. Even if you think you are acclimatized and are living at altitude, stress, dehydrating and weather conditions can still cause altitude sickness.
2. Altitude sickness does not always come with a headache, it can be dizziness, a choking feeling, not being able to breathe, high HR, confusion, nausea.
3. If you have an almost imperceptible heart murmur seen only on an echocardiogram, it can become “significant” at altitude with dehydration and over exertion and even felt in your pulse.
4. Your diet would be 70% carbohydrates with 200 to 300 grams more than at sea level.
5. One cannot eat or ( in my case not eat) the same way at altitude as sea level. In NYC I think nothing of getting up in the morning, eating nothing, running 10 miles, maybe grabbing a bagel later. In fact I will often doing “glycogen depleting runs” of even 15-18 miles without any food and then only water. My mornings in SF of not eating before a run makes 10 miles feels like I am dragging a dead horse behind me.
6. And lastly, drinking a gallon of water a day could be great, but don’t drink distilled water if you don’t eat salt. You will wash away all your electrolytes and that ain’t fun.
Today is nice and cool I am trying to resist running. I have already consumed, 15 g of protein, 90 g of carbohydrate, in three small meals all before 10:00am. The best I have done all summer and one more cool thing I can obsess about.
Signing off from the Land of Enchantment.