Friday, July 8, 2011

Altitude acclimatization, cuss words included

Okay, so apparently you don't really feel the effects of living at altitude within the first 36 hours or so of arriving, which was when I wrote my last post stating that I "haven't really felt any difference living at altitude".

Well, holy crap let me take that back right now!!!!
The body goes through a couple physiological changes in the days and then weeks after arrival at high altitude. First, because of the pressure gradient difference between my lungs and the air from sea level to ~1900m (which is where I live), the oxygen that I breathe in simply does not diffuse as easily into my lungs, and similarly from my lungs into the hemaglobin cells in my blood. What happens? High resting heart rate. CHECK.

My RHR, which usually is somewhere between 49-53, depending on how tired I am, jumped to 62-64. Holy crap!

Secondly, after that initial 36hr "grace period", the high altitude punches you in the heart, the lungs, and the brain! While riding and running on those first few days, my HR was skyrocketing, but more than that, my muscles felt like jelly and I just couldn't GIVE any huge efforts. Swimming has been the worst (and it's my favourite of the 3 sports). I usually breathe every 3 strokes and just before the flip turn every 5. Just don't do that here!!! The coach and the swimmers I've joined for masters here in Colorado Springs were amazed that I was trying to keep that up. BREATHE EVERY 2, apparently. Well, that feels pretty wuss (and I don't want to become uneven), so I am still breathing every 3 but every so often I breathe every 2 just so my brain doesn't feel like it's going to explode and I don't feel like I am about to go into 1900s-esque fainting fits.

Finally, I'm at the stage where the heart is starting to quiet down and stabilize in terms of heart rate (but it will always be higher at elevation, both resting and at work). Now, despite a low heart rate while spinning on a bike, I seem to only get as much oxygen to my lungs as you would breathing through a straw. A very thin straw. I'm winded at 136bpm.

It's been a fantastically interesting process so far, and thank goodness for the little things...

  • I'm house-sitting for my coach, and he's got an AMAZING selection of triathlon, run, bike, swim-related books. Check out this bookshelf:
I'm currently reading "The Great Swim" by Gavin
Mortimer. It's the story of how a couple females in
the 1920s challenged to swim the English Channel
and pretty much revolutionized women in sport.  
  • Food in the United States is cheap, so I'm making fabulous, healthy, anti-oxidant rich salads and other yummy food. 
On the left, "Spicy Southwest Salad", on the right "Mango
Salad" and on the shelf above "Cucumber Dill Salad". 
I should make a post in the future that includes some recipes, but for now... I won't. This post is probably long enough as it is.

  • Lastly, despite the acclimatization to altitude, it's pretty darn beautiful here. More photos, more pretty stuff. 
To the east and north of Colorado Springs are more open
roads. They are either very gently rolling or false flats.
Some are set in open fields, others are more protected in the
so-called "Black Forest". 

Palmer Park, a local excellent place for short trail runs. 

Up a bit higher above CO Springs (at approx 2300m), on the
Palmer Red Rock trail. 

This is a tree.

I found a notebook at the top of a climb in which you
could contribute and share whatever you felt like sharing.
It was posted there atop of a small garden, in memory of
someone's mother that had passed away. 

Next up: ??? who knows!

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