So, now you know about the trials and tribulations of stage racing at altitude. You have put in your training and have got your kit all put together. Now it is time to fine tune all this with your race strategies. While most stage racing plans typically go through several revisions during the race, there are underlying themes that can guide you along the way! Here are some to keep in mind when at altitude.
Mental preparation: Physc yourself up for this. A positive mental attitude can go a long way to getting across the finish line in good form.
Acclimatize – show up at least three days prior to the start. If possible work your way up to altitude by staying at some intermediate altitude prior. This will fend of most of the ill effects with coming up from a lower elevation.
Take it easy – be cautious on the first stage or two. Do not get caught up in the excitement of racing and over do it. Most everyone goes out too hard during the first stage! Remember, you are still acclimatizing.
Calories are your friend – So bring them along. Lots of them. Even if you are not racing hard you will be burning more calories than you are used to. 2,400 kcals a day is a good starting point.
Embrace the Carbs – Tune your race nutrition to utilize more carbohydrates especially while you are moving. They will be easier to convert to energy when you are on the move. Proteins and fats still have their places but at reduced levels even at the end of each stage.
Hydrate – Keep up on your hydration. It is easy to become dehydrated due to a variety of reasons so be aware. Seriously, it can be like running a desert race. Drink early and often!
Push it only when appropriate – While a constant effort is great, seriously plan out your pace to maximize your overall performance. Review each stage and develop your plan taking into account all the pertinent factors (altitude, climbs, weather, how you feel, etc.). Trying to gain a couple of minutes on a killer climb may not be worth it.
Stay warm and dry – This is so important at altitude. Do not skimp on your sleeping system or outerwear. It can be much colder up high and you could be in for some very uncomfortable nights (and days).
Focus on recovery – Recovery is much more difficult at altitude so you need to do all you can to maximize it. Resting and sleeping well should be a primary focus once you cross the finish line each day.
Lighten the pack – With extra food and warmer clothing/sleep system your pack weight can start to increase unacceptably. Placing these items above luxury ones (iPods, cameras, stuffed animals, etc.) is a good idea. Just saying.
I hope that this series has been insightful and helpful for those of you who are planning a high altitude race. As with everything in stage racing YOU need to experiment and find out what works best for YOU. Doing some additional research on your own may also be a good idea.
See you up there!