Training at Altitude, Half Ironman Prep

I’ve spent the last week in Vail, CO adjusting to a higher elevation in preparation for Ironman 70.3 Boulder on Sunday. While there was some training involved, we have also done a lot of rest and relaxation as well (to the point where I feel lazy…) The start of the World Cup means that I can chill out in front of the TV for longer than I would usually be able to on my full rest day today! As I sit outside on the deck of the condo and write this while drinking peppermint tea, it is very tempting to go on a long run, hike, or ride. The sun is out, a breeze flutters the aspen leaves, Gore Creek rushes loudly by, and the mountain looms over Vail Village in all its summery green colors.

My friends and I did get some rides, runs, hikes, and even a swim in this week. Julie is racing 70.3 Boulder with me and Anna is running a marathon in Alaska next weekend so we made my parent’s condo in Vail our training base for the week. With the village at 8,150 ft. we will actually be moving down in elevation to around 5,000 ft. in Boulder (and Anna will go down to sea level in Anchorage.) None of us are expert trainers, but Julie and I knew that we might be kind of miserable come race day if we didn’t acclimate a little bit.

I had never swam at a high elevation until we went to a recreational pool the other day. It was an heated outdoor pool and the experience of finishing a set and then looking out at the Rockies was pretty neat. But the breathing was difficult, both Julie and myself started out the swim too fast and had to adjust, slow down a little and settle for a slower pace until we got more comfortable. Tomorrow I’ll drive to Boulder and get in another swim, this time in the Boulder Reservoir in my wetsuit, hopefully I’ll get all the initial breathing/pace issues out of the way then.

Biking up Vail Pass is a consistent climb of almost 3,000 ft. in just 15 miles. On a week when we are not trying to overdo it – we were tapering for the race after all – that kind of climbing can take it’s toll. Instead, the climb didn’t take as much out of us as the 15 miles of windy descending back to Vail Village. A storm blew through the valley that day and buffeted us around on our bikes, especially Julie who was on Zipp race wheels. The views were still gorgeous though and it was kind of bizarre to still see ice on one of the small lakes we passed!

I love running in Vail, whether it is short sections of trail running on the mountain or on the quiet roads that wind through the golf course and pass by beautiful houses. I never get sick of it. It was nice to not have any hard run workouts this week since I feel like I’ve busted my butt on some speedy runs and track workouts lately. These conversationally paced morning runs were as close to perfect as they come.

Being that 70.3 Boulder is only my second half ironman distance race, I feel absurdly calm and prepared for it. I am not putting any time expectations on myself because I know this race is going to be totally different than 70.3 Raleigh was last year – different elevation, weather conditions, course routes, etc. All in all though, I feel like my training has been really good: I had my first sub 2 hour half marathon a couple months ago, lots of running on tired legs with the Smoky Mountain Relay, a good start to the season with the Olympic distance Rev3 Knoxville, a long 70 mile bike ride with over 5,700 ft. of climbing, and even a 5k PR thrown in there. Throw in the relaxing taper week I’ve had in Vail and I feel like I’m in a good place right now.

No matter how the race goes, I’ll have friends and family there to support me, not to mention I’ll get to see some incredible pros in the race, so I know I’ll have a good time! I really do love this sport and can’t wait to have another Half Ironman in the books!

Hopefully I’ll have a race recap up by the end of next week after I drive halfway across the country back to North Carolina!



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