We arrived in Boulder yesterday after spending 4 pretty rockin' days in Breckenridge. The visit there was a mix of vacation/relaxing, spending quality time with my aunt and uncle with whom we stayed, and training! That was part of the plan when I signed up for the Boulder race - to arrive early and acclimate to the altitude.
We arrived last Saturday and did not immediately jump out of the car to go for a run, especially since it was more or less happy hour - wine, cheese and crackers, a daily ritual for my aunt and uncle. However, starting early Sunday morning, we made an effort to be quite active at least once a day, often times twice. The altitude definitely affected us throughout the week - each time that I thought that I had fully acclimated to the elevation, we had to walk up the steps of my aunt and uncle's house and found ourselves panting and dragging our bodies upstairs! I hoped that spending time in Breckenridge would help me for next week's event (slight freak-out typing that) and I think that it will. Last week was a pretty low-key week for a number of reasons, so it was nice to feel that I had a final week of "training" - and especially that I could fit in a good ride and some great runs at 10,000 feet!
The time in Breckenridge looked something like this, broken down by activity:
Running - Plenty of early morning runs, starting on day 1. That first run, an "easy" out-and-back, left me huffing and puffing the whole time! We also found some trails that challenged us, especially with the incline! I soon grew accustomed to seeing a much slower pace than usual, but I tried to accept that, especially as my chest and legs felt like exploding on the uphill! The only discouraging thing about running is that I felt just as tired on Thursday as I had on Sunday during our run. So much for adjusting to the elevation!
Swimming - I have to thank my uncle for motivating me to swim. Not that he is much of a swimmer, but he is committed to going to the Breckenridge Rec Center a few times a week for a workout, so I tagged along. I was worried about swimming at altitude because I struggled so much last year. Therefore,it relieved me that I was able to put in 2,00 yards a few times without feeling completely wiped out. I also discovered that swimming in the long, competition pool for most of the summer has helped me! The pool in Breckenridge is great but much shorter at only 25 yards! Maybe I'll be ready to tackle 1.2 miles in just over a week?!
Biking - On Tuesday, we rode from Frisco up to Vail Pass and back. We biked the same route last year and loved the experience, in part because it feels like a luxury to be on a bike path (although it can be frustrating because of all the families that are poking along - sorry to be an asshole!). In comparison to last year, I think that we felt stronger and less winded on Tuesday when we finally arrived at the pass (10,662 feet!). I had forgotten what a long haul uphill it is and that the "flats" on the way to the pass are not flats at all! This definitely made the descent much quicker and tons of fun - we also enjoyed beautiful scenery and some speedy miles on the way back to Frisco.
Hiking - No "Fourteener" this year, but we squeezed in a hike to Mohawk Lake - there are two of them, but we just made it to the first one. I was worried about returning to the house late for lunch, but I should have been thinking about the weather - as we stepped off the trail and on to the fire road, it started to rain and then HAIL and then rain again. Funny, as we ran downhill to the car to get out of the rain and hail, I didn't even think about my lungs once! We did not expect the storm at 11:00 am - definitely thought that we would be off the mountain by the time the typically afternoon showers hit. So much for predictability. I was happy that we were off the trail - parts of it were challenging while dry, so it would have been slow-going for us with the rain and hail.
As I think about hiking, one theme to which I seem to return time and again as I reflect on this training cycle - I do find that I miss other experiences because my focus is so narrow (swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run). Perhaps this is just my own experience and other people doing tri's find a way to stay connected to other activities that they love, I'm not sure. I'm thinking about hiking and how limited our hiking was this year. Last year we 'bagged' a fourteener, and I would have loved to hike up another 14,000 foot peak, but we did not for two reasons. First of all, I did not want to veer too far from my training schedule, as loose as it is, and secondly, I did not want to risk falling (I'm a klutz) or getting terrible blisters or just putting way too much stress on my body. So, no fourteener for us this year, unfortunately.
Not that I'm feeling sorry for myself - being in the "High Country", as they call it here in Colorado, was amazing. I logged in some decent mileage at a pretty high elevation, and even better, Michael and I enjoyed exploring areas around Breckenridge and had a great time with aunt and uncle. Despite the lack of hiking, we balanced the stay in Breck between time with family, training and other activities, and some total rest and relaxation. It was a great place to be for a few days!
And, on a final note - it does seem to have helped us acclimate! Now that we are in Boulder, the breaths come with more ease, and I logged in 24 miles on the bike this morning at a relaxed pace. Nothing too crazy, but I'll take it.