Tips to Deal with Elevation Change

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Hey TSC crew, Triathlon

Ironman Lake Tahoe is only a few weeks away, and I know a lot of you are racing it. IMLT is in its first year and it looks like its going to be a good but challenging race. One of the challenges that I think a lot of triathletes will face will be the altitude change. Going from sea level to elevation is tough especially for racing since with the drop in air quantity, it is harder to hit top racing speeds. At 6000 feet, hitting zone 3 or 4 is hard and you will often feel like you are gasping for breath.

We all most likely have read about the effects that changing elevation can have on our bike and run splits, but it also can have effect our swim speeds as well. I asked my friend who is racing how he is preparing to deal with the elevation change and he gave me these tips:

  1. Get acclimated: If you can try to get there at least a week before if not more to get used to the elevation. If you cannot acclimate then get there as close to the race as possible. Depending on the person, the effects of altitude will not take effect for a couple days.
  2. Go hypoxic: Hypoxic sets where you restrict how many times you breath per lap can help strengthen your lungs and ability to use oxygen sparingly. Try to go from breathing every 3 strokes to every 5 and finally to 9. You do not have to do this for a whole workout; just chunk out 200-300m from your warm-up or cool down.
  3. Become more efficient: At elevation its hard to hit that top “gear.” Thankfully, in Ironman you rarely if ever will sprint but rather remain in zone two. It is therefore very important to train in zone two as much as possible so that come race day your body is so attuned to what zone 2 feels like you can literally go all day. Staying in zone two for the swim and not exceeding it will be very important to set yourself up for a good bike and run.

These tips can apply to anyone racing at elevation whether at Lake Tahoe, Ironman Boulder next year, or a random swim meet in Nepal. Good luck to all those racing and hope your training is going well!