15 August 2010

Altitude is heady stuff

I suffer riding a bike at altitude
I want to go back to France, not so much to remain in eternal vacation mode, but mainly to avoid having to ride a bike at altitude. Yesterday I rode an awesome ride in the Denver, Colorado area. Here in Colorado, it seems to take me about 12 miles to warm up. If I don't warm up slowly, I begin to suffer and don't emerge from that suffer-zone until about mile 30, at which point it gets much better. I know this, yet I forget it - every time.

Yesterday I started on a climb, deciding I was going to try to beat my personal best time to the top. The major suffering began about half way up. I began to doubt my entire lifestyle of why I even ride a bike, at the same time trying to recall if I had suffered anywhere close to this level while I was in France. I think not. Riding a bike at altitude is punishing on the body, and on the mind.

After my ride, I came home to the news that Levi Leipheimer had won the Leadville 100. A 100 mile mountain bike race located in the mountains of Colorado. I laughed at the video interview of Levi in Leadville after the race saying, "this was just, this was ridiculously hard", stating he was, "not used to the altitude". I agree, it is really hard to ride a bike fast in Colorado. We have amazing mountain roads and expansive scenery and very good riders, but we have no oxygen.

When I move my body at altitude, the feeling is noticeable. When I try to race my body at altitude, the feeling is pure pain. I feel an indescribable all-over body pain, my heart rate is high and my lungs seem incapable of fueling what my muscles became accustomed to in France. Supposedly it takes 2-3 weeks for a body to adjust to altitude. I have been home for 2.5 weeks and am just starting to feel normal again.  

When the world's best professional cyclists come to Colorado next year for the Quiznos Pro Challenge race, we are going to hear a lot more about riding a bike at altitude. The riders are going to experience it first hand. Someone needs to tell them now - Colorado might have nice hotels, but we have no oxygen! 
A route announcement for the Quiznos Pro Challenge is expected at the Interbike tradeshow in Las Vegas in September.
Some interesting articles: 
Overcoming Altitude by Neal Henderson
Altitude and Athletic Performance training versus competition
Altitude Adjustment  by Mark Harrison 
Acclimatization is key for high altitude mountain bike racing by Edmund R. Burke

COLORADO - altitude of the Mountain Passes in Colorado
Mount Evans: 14,160 ft (4316 m), 15%
Pikes Peak Highway: 14,115 ft (4302 m), 8%
Trail Ridge Rd: 12,183 ft (3713 m), 5.4%
Independence Pass: 12,103 ft (3689 m), 6%
Loveland Pass: 11,992 ft (3655 m), 6%
Hoosier Pass: 11,541 ft (3518 m), 8%
Slumgullion Pass: 11,361 ft (3463 m), 9.4%/7.9%
Fremont PAss: 11,318 ft (3450 m), 5.7%
Monarch Pass: 11,312 ft (3448 m), 6.4%
Vail Pass: 10,666 ft (3251 m), 7%
Leadville 100 course: low point is 9,200 ft (2804 m), highest point is 12,600 ft (3840 m)

FRANCE - altitude of the Cols in France

Col de la Bonette: 9,193 ft (2802 m), 6.6% [Alpes]
Col du Galibier: 8,681 ft (2646 m), 6.9% (with 10%) [Alpes]
Col du Tentes: 7,240 ft (2207 m), 5% (with 8%) [Pyrenees]
Col du Tourmalet: 6,939 ft (2115 m), 7.6% (with 12%) [Pyrenees]
Col du Lautaret: 6,752 ft (2058 m), 6.9% [Alpes]
Col de la Croix de Fer: 6,781 ft (2067 m), 5.1% (with 9.5%) [Alpes]
Col du Glandon: 6,312 ft (1924 m), 6.9% (with 13%) [Alpes]
Alpe d'Huez: 6,020 ft (1835 m), 7.7% (with 12%) [Alpes]
Super Bagneres: 5,905 ft (1800 m), 6.3% [Pyrenees]
Port de Bales: 5,758 ft (1755 m), 6.3% [Pyrenees]
Luz Ardiden: 5,643 ft (1720 m), 7.7% [Pyrenees]
Col d'Aubisque: 5,607 ft (1709 m), 7.5% [Pyrenees]

The bike ride I rode yesterday was the Deer Creek/CityView/High Grade Rd loop ride in Littleton, Colorado. It is an excellent ride and they just repaved both City View and High Grade roads (fabulous climb and descent!). In two weeks the Deer Creek Challenge ride is happening on August 29th. The Century route is 100 miles, 12,751 vertical feet elevation gain. The Metric Century route is 62 miles 6,052 vertical feet elevation gain. Yeah, I'm no fool; I'm doing the 62-miler. 

And just because I stumbled upon this cool link: The 19 most complex and dangerous roads in the world