It’s the elevation, dummy!

Living most of my life in Maine, I haven’t had much experience with running at altitude. One exception was when my running group in Seattle decided to enter a relay race in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Teams consisted of 10 runners, each running two legs of about 5 miles each. I had done two similar events with the same group, but those had both entailed three legs each, so two legs seemed like it would be a walk in the park. However, the race start was at 6253 feet, and I was the leadoff runner. Because of the long drive (~14 hours), we arrived only a couple of hours before the start (done in waves, with ours at 2:30 AM). Immediately upon exiting the van, I felt a raging headache come on, I felt sluggish and dizzy, and food was unappealing. I had no idea what was going on, until someone pointed out the elevation. At least that first leg was downhill, so gravity was in my favor..my second leg entailed a 2,000-foot gain in elevation! Coming from sea level, we were all slower than our predicted times by one or two minutes per mile. Too bad I hadn’t had an exercise physiology course in college because then I would have strongly recommended that we arrive a day early to allow our bodies to produce enough BPG to facilitate oxygen delivery!

Hey, where's all the oxygen?

Hey, where’s all the oxygen?

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