Anyone attempting to train at sea level and, also loves mountain running has probably experienced the challenges of a high-elevation race. What is the challenge? Well, let me put it this way, my first attempt at climbing mountains in a race felt like being pregnant while also having a big pile of bricks on my chest. In was difficult. But, as challenges are, also a great opportunity to learn.
Mountain running used to just be me going on a run in the mountains. That however, was when I lived IN the mountains adapted to elevation. Now a seasoned sea level dweller, mountain running requires more attention to nutrition to feel good and have fun.
Why? Consider the dry climate, potentially abrupt temperature swings, and the exposed climbs. In conditions like these, even the most fit and altitude adapted athletes suffer many of the same effects of altitude. There are four key nutrition considerations that I take into account to help me ascend new heights above tree line.
Start hydrated and stay hydrated. This was one of my mistakes the first time I ran Bridger Ridge Run. I didn’t account for how much more fluid I would need up there over that period of time (6 plus hours). I had the water and electrolyte drink, I just didn’t drink enough of it. High altitude brings with it little “gifts” like increased urine production and reduced thirst! High-altitude air also tends to be less humid, resulting in increased water losses with each breath – about twice the sea level rate. Add intense exercise and sweating, and the needs add up quickly.
My approach is conscious hydration before the expedition, staying present to drinking every fifteen minutes during the run, and loading my hydration pack with electrolyte drink instead of water, opting for water at limited aid stations or carrying water in my hand-held bottle.
Also, in the days before, you will see me carrying around my hydration pack and sipping from it as if it is my “comfort lovey”! I go about my regular activities of parenting, working, traveling, and whatnot all with my hydration pack close by. I also fill this pack with hydration drink that has some carbohydrate and electrolyte like CLIF Hydration I helped formulate for occasions just like these. For more details on hydration techniques check out this post.
Stay tuned for the next three important consideration for getting high in the mountains!