Monday, June 18, 2012

The fine line between hobby and insanity

I am two months out from the Leadville Trail 100.  Before I signed up for it I knew that acclimatization to altitude would be my biggest challenge.  (Running 100 miles is no sweat, right?)  After all, my home in Raleigh sits at about 330 feet above sea level. The town of Leadville is at 10,200 feet.  The highest point on the course is 12,600 feet, which I will have to cross twice.

Because I have an amazing wife, she didn't even blink when I told her that I wanted to run Leadville and that, in order to do so, I would need to get my hands on a hypoxic chamber in which to sleep.  She said that if we were going to do it, we might as well do it right.  After quite a bit of research I came up with Hypoxico Altitude Training System.  They will rent or sell you a compressor and tent that you can use to simulate sleeping at altitude. The only other option was to spend a month in Colorado prior to the race.  As I am not independently wealthy and have a job that requires regular attendance, this was not an option.

It was decided way back in November when I registered that I would get the tent, so it was just a matter of when I wanted it.  Well, that day has arrived.  When I got home from work on Thursday I had two large boxes waiting for me in the driveway.

The child in me wanted to open it and set it up that night.  The adult realized that it would be too much, too late by the time the kids went to bed.  So I compromised and got out the compressor and mask and just watched a little TV at 12,000 feet.

Last night I finally had enough spare time to assemble the tent.  It is designed to fit over a mattress, allowing me to sleep at the desired altitude for the next 7 weeks or so. This will, in theory, force my body to produce more red blood cells so that I won't feel terrible and/or die during the race.

I have to say that putting up the tent was not easy.  If we had a smaller mattress it would have been much easier.  While Hypoxico says the tent will fit a king size mattress, that was not my experience.  It took forever to get the mattress into the tent, and it is not a good fit.  However, it is up and functioning.

Wendy and I slept at 6,000 feet last night and didn't suffocate.

I woke up feeling fine. No headache or other symptoms.  I will gradually increase the altitude over the next several nights until we are comfortable sleeping at between 9,000 and 10,000 feet.

So far the pros far outweigh the cons.
Pro - The kids think it's awesome
Con - The kids think it's awesome so they want to play/sleep in it
Pro - I think it's awesome
Con - Most people think I have crossed some sort of invisible line and am now completely insane
Pro - See the Con listed immediately above.  (Perception of insanity can be a bonus sometimes.)
Pro - It is WAY cheaper than a month in Colorado.
Con - It's hot inside the tent. I don't mean "hot" in a vapid, Paris Hilton sort of way.  I mean HOT.

I have heard it said over and over by many different people that at the end of life we don't regret the things we did as much as the things we didn't do.  This whole adventure will not go down on the regret list.  No matter how it shakes out.

Happy Running.