South Boulder, Bear, Green, Bear, South Boulder - And Altitude Training and Energy Costs During an Ultra
I figured that the day after Thanksgiving would be a good day to do the Skyline Traverse, as I would most likely run into some other runners and have some company. Not so. In fact, I didn't see any other runners out there, which was odd. Isn't today Fat Ass Day One? Either way, there were tons of hikers and walkers, but no one to share the trails with, so I went solo. Parked at the newly re-opened South Mesa trailhead and cruzed up the newly re-routed Homestead trail. As with other trails in the Boulder Park system that get re-routed, the new Homestead trail is nice and smooth. A tad longer, but not as steep and with less stair-steps and rocks. I don't really understand this trend to re-route trails to make them smoother and easier (well, I can see OSMP's logic in terms of the general populace, but it does take away from the "adventure" part of being in the woods). After Homestead, which now drops you onto the S. Mesa trail at a different spot then the old trail, I went up Shadow Canyon, which is one of my favorites. It is the closest trail to being in the mountains that I know of on the front range - steep, lots of rocks, stair-steps, etc. The flood exposed a lot of roots and added a ton of smaller cobbles to the trail, making it even more fun then before. No one on top of S. Boulder, but a gaggle of people on Bear. Cruzing down Bear's West Ridge is always fun, and the new Bear-Green trail is super smooth (like the other re-routed trails - buff or butter smooth as some say). Green's summit had a bunch of people, more walkers coming from the West Ridge route then Bear (which has more hikers). Once I tagged Green, I turned around and returned via the same route, tagging Bear and S. Boulder once more.
I'm always amazed at how vertical can make things go so much slower, and make the miles feel so much longer. Yesterday (T-day) I did 13 miles with 6 mile repeats thrown in in 1:25. Today, with all of these peaks, I only did 16 miles in 4:03. Of course, there was 6,838 feet of climbing, but it really still strikes me the difference in perceived physical and mental effort.
A new article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discusses altitude training, VO2max, and haemoglobin. They conclude that altitude training can increase one's VO2max by half the magnitude of the increase in haemoglobin mass. That is a fairly large increase in VO2max! Of course, as they note, that may or may not translate to better race performances because of other factors. However, it seems pretty hard to argued against altitude training if one is planning on racing as sea level.
The other article, in the Journal of Experimental Biology, looked at factors affecting energy cost of running during an ultra. To cut to the chase, the authors found that greater muscular power and a lower foot-print index result in better performances in ultras. Foot-print index is basically your arch height and amount of your foot that hits the ground. So, in a way, they found that if you are stronger and run with more of a mid- to fore-foot strike pattern, you have a chance of performing better in ultras then if not. Of course, like above, there are TONs of other factors that go into solid performances, but it is something to think about. No heel-to-toe running, even when tired. And practice good form, over and over and over again.