Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Playing at Altitude

In the 2010 GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run, Paul Shippey’s teammate (and fellow Boulder resident) Paul Mandel suffered Acute Mountain Sickness, along with a host of other participants.   Racers got used to falling asleep at night to the background sounds of the mountain wildlife, rushing streams…and vomiting.     But along with a few strong others, Mandel toed the line each and every day, overcoming the practically debilitating headache and nausea that comes with altitude sickness. 
So when Paul and Lori decided to be partners for the 2011 race,  altitude was a big topic of conversation.  Lori does much of her training at sea level, and Paul wanted to make sure she gained enough experience at altitude to hopefully avoid Mandel’s fate.    Each person’s susceptibility to altitude sickness is different, so Lori needed to properly test hers.  Paul wisely advised her to find opportunities to train or race in places that will most closely resemble TransRockies conditions. 
It wasn’t necessarily what Paul had in mind, but Lori convinced him they should gather some friends and give the ToughMudder Colorado race a go.   ToughMudder events are not your typical footrace or mud run.   They are a test of all-round strength, stamina, mental and physical endurance. Each event is a 10-12 mile mud/trail run over uneven, hilly and wet ground peppered with 18-25 military-style obstacles.   And by ‘obstacle’, we mean things like icy swims,  12-foot wall scales, and 10,000 volt electroshock.    While this hardly resembles the TransRockies course, Lori’s rationale was that it is still an endurance test at altitude, and, wildly entertaining as it is, could rightly be considered a form of training. 
At 9am on June 26, Paul and Lori started the 9+ mile course, crossing the summer slopes of Beaver Creek amongst a crowd of high-fiving, highly-revved, and often comically-dressed racers.  They found it more mentally challenging than physically so, because the British Special Forces-designed obstacles are intended to test a variety of fears (e.g. claustrophobia, water, falling) . 
Two and a half hours later they were sitting on the grass near the finish, beer in hand, laughing about the slogging, sliding, shivering and shocking bonanza that proved tremendously fun for participants and spectators alike.   The verdict?  The altitude did not seem to hamper Lori’s ability to compete.   Glasses up – here’s to mixing some serious fun with your serious training.  

Next year, costumes. 

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