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Third in a Four Part Series on Getting High: Nutrition Considerations at Altitude

Planning to spend fourteen to twenty one days at altitude before competing is not directly a nutrition consideration. It is however, worth mentioning because adjustment time can indirectly impact nutrition by altering appetite and, how the body feels overall.

Unfortunately, before some of my biggest mountain races I haven’t had the extra time to hang out high up. So I searched for clean short cuts of which I learned, are limited.

In short,  there are not short cuts for adapting your body at altitude. It takes the time it takes. How much time it takes specifically will vary because, as with nutrition, how the body responds is individualized.  Everything I have read says get to your altitude twenty-one days ahead of your race.

With work, kids, and other obligations it just isn’t realistic to get that kind of time at elevation (unless I move there!).  So here are some the strategies that helped when time at elevation is limited:

Go up the night before if you can’t do two-three weeks! So save the PTO and head up the day before. Going up on five to ten days before puts the body into a race while smack-dab in the middle of the acclimatization process, which can be extra tiresome.

Push the training at sea level to get used to low oxygen. Talk with a coach about specific training to mimic low oxygen state so you get used to running through it. For me this looks like lots of stairs or hill repeats to the point of puking. Fun times!

Propose a telecommute option from altitude. If you have a job that you can take anywhere and the other humans counting on your presence are flexible, this can be a great option.

Convince the office to provide a hypobaric conference room. This is a long shot but, given the number of active people in my office who prefer to compete in the mountains, it is possible.

Convince spouse/partner to sleep with a hypobaric tent over the bed each night. I have never been able to present a convince argument or budget for this. I have also “heard” it is of limited value.

Drink up beet juice concentrate per usage instructions.  Studies suggest it can help some with oxygen efficiency. I find it does help. It could be placebo, but does it matter?

The best option for me has been to accept that I will be slower, it will be more difficult, and slow my roll to enjoy the view from up there.


Selfies in London Continued: Riding Bikes

I could think of no better way to see London for the first time than riding a state-of-the -art road bike on the closed-to-cars streets past some of the world’s most recognized landmarks. Actually, I could think of a better way, running on foot.

I am not a cyclist so when I learned that my role at the Ride London event was to ride forty-six miles with a bunch of athletes and journalists while spouting off nutrition information, I was a little nervous.

The curly handle bars, pointed seat, and narrow tires on paved streets with pot holes and who knows what else are discomforts and fears that have turned me away from road cycling towards other athletic pursuits.  Those things aside, this actually sounded like an opportunity of a lifetime, and no place for irrational fears. So I saddled up for a different kind of an adventure. The ride was everything you could imagine cycling through and around London without worries of cars to be, complete with a finish in front of Buckingham Palace.

What struck me most is the thousands of people who also showed up to cheer, ride, and celebrate despite real fears about would could happen. London has been terrorized by a few but, the masses prevail despite fears by still taking part in the joys and challenges life presents. Happy riding.

P.S. Ignore the amateur hour off-kilter helmet #hownottowearyourhelmet

Selfies in London (with Friends) Day Two

Today’s selfie infused run (that started out as six miles for me and ended in eleven miles) was joined by my superstar colleague at CLIF, Serena and her husband Sean. We looped the Thames River and reveled in the opportunity to be here, running together before we Ride London in a few days. Last winter Serena and I also worked hard promoting CLIF and nutrition at another amazing opportunity space – The World Ski and Snow Board Festival.

Reflecting on opportunity, my mind has been turned inside out.  It isn’t our jobs that afford us opportunities. Our jobs are simply a means of expressing the opportunities we create for ourselves. Thankfully, my company brings people together who seek opportunities and have creative curiosity about what we can accomplish together not because of our jobs but, rather through our jobs.

It will be important for the next generation not to measure their worth and value on the job, position, or title they hold. These things are not only fleeting but, also less important in a digital world where opportunity is increasingly accessible.  In this world our true value (skill, knowledge, talent, creativity)  can shine.

It is my hope that I can teach my boys they each have unique gifts, skills, and talents to contribute so the can be ever more confident and conscious of their value and worth much earlier than I was.

Then they will see, that every conversation, calculated-risk taken, or challenge accepted is what opens us to opportunities like running and biking around London to make observations and connect my company to the culture. Carry on.

Selfies in London Day One

Rise and shined from my morning nap to hit the streets to see what I could see. It has been a long time since I explored a new city and, even longer since exploring an international city. I contemplated running my sleepy self around. Then I thought I again. Why hurry through? This is time for meandering.

My Mom has a fascination with the stories of Henry the VIII and his wives.I am embarrassed to say that thanks to the HBO series, The Tudors, so do I. Who needs history class when you have dramatized fiction based on history? So Mom, you will be happy to know The Tower of London was first on my list of attractions this afternoon. I crossed the Millennium Bridge, breezed by the free version of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and footed it over to The Tower. Much to my surprise The Tower is actually a compound of structures and tours with history and exhibits worth multiple visits. I got my money’s worth today though and covered broad ground with a close of the Armory exhibit. I also got a close up of the encryption  in the walls of a tower that kept ‘prisoners’ through the centuries.

After my tour I continued my walk across the iconic Tower Bridge and looped back for the comforts of my hotel.  Walking back during evening commute I caught many runners with backpacks obviously combining their commute and their run. My novel idea is not so novel here. It makes perfect sense. Urban run-commuting through London is probably the most efficient use of time.

I did find myself lonely and thinking of my family often. Man, I can cover a lot of ground on my own but, it just isn’t as fun as sharing it with my people. They make everything more interesting for sure. They also make everything more challenging.  I literally had to pee for like two hours before I found a bathroom and, I was starving! No kid of mine tolerates that for ten seconds. Nor should they. It isn’t good for a person. My boys keep me on track.

When I as trying to figure out how to reach Aaron through hangouts I stumbled on this gem:

Just a Normal Week

First of all my Ridge Run training is in the pooper this month. Second of all, I can’t afford the time or money to run it this year as much as I want to. My Mom says I have to make choices. Admittedly, when I was young choices were not my forte but, I have improved. So the choice was made.

Why can’t I take our family on our annual summer pilgrimage back to my Montana homeland? Well, because I am learning what it means to buy a new house, move completely out of our home of the past nine years, fix it up to bay area standards , and list it all while continuing to work and parent my very active and emotionally-in-transition boys all in the span of one month plus an international work trip! My training goal at this point is to just maintain fitness to salvage some of the fall running fun. And if that wasn’t enough, I am traveling to London for work.

What could a dietitian working for CLIF, steepeded in parenting, adventure, and running nutrition possibly be needed for in London?

Good question! I will be providing nutrition news and education to some of London’s food, health, nutrition journalists, mingling with British nutrition experts and get this….riding a bike for forty six miles representing CLIF and bikes at Ride London. 

Now, let’s be clear, I own bikes for commuting and jigging around mountain trails but, a road bike? This should be interesting given running forty six miles sounds more comfortable. Show me what you got London.

Can Any Body Be an Athlete?

Anyone can be an athlete. It is true. Not having enough time, only have one leg, or fear of swimming can all be overcome. I have met climbers missing fingers, mountain runners with one leg, Olympic marathoners who previously lost their ability to walk and they are doing it. It is in us if we want it.

Then there are the busy people – really busy – like full-time jobs and five kids busy – who make it happen because they want it that bad.

When someone says to me “Oh, I could never do that” – ‘that’ being something seemingly out of their reach like running a five kilometer race, climbing a mountain, getting up every morning and running ten miles on a tread mill – I don’t believe it.

I have had the privilege of getting to some of the world’s best athletes. What they all have in common is something we all have within us. That is the gift of perspective on limitations. Limitations don’t become boundaries. Instead, they become challenges to what is possible. See here for one of my favorite inspirations. No, I don’t climb but am none-the-less inspired.

The professional athletes I have met are dedicated to their sports. They prioritize it. They may seem special and different but, like a movie star they choose to focus on this, and that what makes the so good at what they do.  Genetically, they may have some advantages that push them to the top. We can all however, learn to change our perspective , being the best we can be in context of our own genetics and goals. There is an athlete in all of us, it is a matter of prioritizing fitness, food, and self-care within our own circumstances to find the athlete within every body.



The Organized Circus

The “organized circus” is a phrase I recently used with a friend inquiring about how things were going.  This means  that there are many moving parts of the collective adventures in being a mother, writer, runner, wife, and employee right now that are loosely planned. Last Thursday night, in a very late night and organized fashion, I packed up the car t for a weekend in Tahoe with my kids while my husband was out of town. This was an ambitious adventure in its own right but, the plan also included spending Friday at my office with kids and puppy in tow on our way to the mountains.

There is no denying this was highly ambitious  but, it seemed worth a try.  We had also just spent the week packing up of our entire house so it could be painted.  It was probably the lack of sleep that lead to my inevitable tears of defeat a few short hours after attempting to manage at an office that is also an organized circus of dogs and business.

Once I had recovered from my sob fest and the realization that the only thing my kids had to eat this morning were day-old donuts and a CLIF BAR, I accepted defeat and hightailed it to our happy place.

As my organized circus pulled out of town my thought was it is all a part of the family adventure and, it is all training for something.


Second of Four Part Series on Getting High: Nutrition Considerations at Altitude

While I am a back at sea level for the moment, my attitude remains elevated post adventures above tree line.  My Broken Arrow Sky Race  experience has my giddy weeks later. The run started off slow for me as one can expect going up a mountain at elevation. The air, however, was crisp, sky clear, and snow (in June) slushy for bombing down the mountain without wiping out on jagged rocks!

Toeing the starting-line a running friend asked me for last minute nutrition advice for running at elevation. Scanning my mind for tidbits that would be useful to her on short notice, I opted for this piece of intel:


Eat early and often!

Experience (aka fails) has confirmed for me that the body indeed runs at a higher intensity at altitude (as if there is room to doubt) due to the stress of less oxygen. This stress results in an increase basal metabolic rate, respiration, and heart rate creating increase demand for energy (food with carbohydrate calories).

The trick is to remain conscious of eating regularly, at least every thirty minutes beginning at the start. Early race adrenaline, excitement, and fresh legs can leave even me to forget that I need to begin fueling in the first hour. My Broken Arrow choice was an organic energy food pouch followed by three energy chews which, I let each dissolve slowly, one at a time, for full effect on mind and body (check out this sweet science).  If I don’t get my energy nutrition in early I can forget strong quad moves for seriously stellar descents like the one from KT-22 to the bottom of Shirley Lake Canyon at Squaw.

Add the fact that  altitude has been  shown to blunt appetite, and it is easy to get behind on energy nutrition needs from the start. This is of course where I like to preach about planning out ‘what to eat when’ to maximize all the fitness and training. Having a plan that has become so routine through practice and mind replay that I don’t have to think is ideal.  Having a plan doesn’t mean I don’t adapt my intake based on what is happening. Rather, it allows me freedom to assess my body and adapt as needed from a solid foundation .

Realizing my running friend asking for last minute advice may not have a plan, I don’t want to freak her out. So I ask her  what nutrition she is carrying. Great! She has enough to cover the minimum of thirty grams of carbohydrate per hour. That is likely not going to be enough so I tell her what is at the aid stations where she can pick up another thirty grams in the form of the most familiar looking carbohydrate source on the table – which for her is likely gels.  Then, set the alarm on the watch to go off in thirty minute intervals to remind the brain to eat something and drink.

The old alarm trick is a classic sports dietitian recommendation. But, I must be honest! I have NEVER done it. Why? Perhaps it is because I am a dietitian who is entertained by tracking consumption against miles, time, distance, and how my body feels. I am always assessing where I am at and what I need next. Climbs are also useful as a checkpoint for nutrition intake. I find it difficult to breath, chew, swallow, drink, and move all at the same time at elevation. So, I eat as I approach the climb so I can focus on the footing and breathing.

Many athletes underestimate their needs at elevation and then over compensate with too many calories and carbs at one time trying to recover when they hit the “wall”. This can do a number on digestion. Steady consumption is what is needed throughout, just like the pace.

Note: I happened to know my friend  is not fat adaptive and she has a pretty fast top gear so this amount of grams of carbohydrate suited her. Some people do just fine with thirty grams per hour. We are all different.

First of Four Part Series on Getting High: Nutrition Considerations at Altitude.

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.

Here is the first consideration I will be applying at Broken Arrow in a few weeks and the Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run later this summer for the third time.


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!

What worked for you in treating and preventing blisters?

Blisters are a big deal! I have made the mistake of thinking otherwise but, blisters can impede the ability to train and participate in athletic adventures as much as an injury or illness. My advice is to take blisters seriously especially of you feeling one heating up under foot.

Here are a few of my go-to treatments and prevention tools:

When have blisters  bust: I used this and made it through Ragnar Trail Relays with blisters that had popped before the event even started. I also added these where needed

Super awesome for blister prevention that I use to reduce friction on new shoes and with my orthotics is this ease, simple solution