I arrived in Leadville (10,000 feet) on Thursday, and got lucky as my body gave me one day grace before I felt the altitude. Friday, however, gasp! I was there to crew for Kiki's Leadville race with her awesome friend Heidi, and while Kiki had spent weeks sleeping in an altitude tent, Heidi and I were fresh from sea level. Gasp.
Friday morning I went for a ride. I started with a loop of the Mineral Belt Trail, and climbed up to 10,600 feet on my mountain bike. Gasp. That afternoon Heidi and I went for a swim in the local pool. Gasp. Just walking around town left me out of breath. Gasp.
Summit of the Mineral Belt Trail, above Leadville, Colorado.
Saturday was the race, and Heidi and I spent the day running around the course supporting Kiki who had an awesome race. Just watching everyone hammer for 100 miles at altitude was tiring. Gasp. By this point, I was really missing oxygen; I'm quite dependant on it actually! My sea level body was pushing the limit, and was letting me know by the constant altitude headache, with temporary reprieves thanks to coca tea and caffeine. Gasp.
Sunday dawned, after another fitful sleep thanks to the altitude. Heidi had to leave that morning, but Kiki and I were staying for another few hours as I'd signed up for a 10k road race. Gasp. Why did I think that would be fun? That was the hardest 10k I've ever done, with the last 5k being all uphill. Gasp. I thought I may run faster than normal, as there are fewer O2 molecules to get in my way and all, but I set a personal worst. Gasp.
We headed to Vail, still 8000 feet, still headaches, still fitful sleeps. Gasp. Monday I rode part of the Vail Triangle, from Vail over the pass, climbing 3000 feet to the 10,600 foot summit, then descending to Copper Mountain, where I turned around and climbed the 1000 feet back to the summit. Gasp. There were a couple of times I actually had to stop and catch my breath. I now know what it feels like to have asthma! Gasp.
My little alpine friend, found when climbing Vail Pass.
I left Vail this morning, heading for home. Back to my oxygenated life. Driving the Interstate through western Colorado was spectacular, with several viewpoints (especially through Glenwood Canyon) taking my breath away. Gasp. As I descended, I felt my headache disappear and my chest felt lighter.
Passing Fruita, I had a pang of regret as Kiki and I originally planned to head there to do some mountain biking after her race, but I bailed on her. I woke up Monday wanting to go home, as either homesickness or panic set in. Both of those are new emotions for me - gasp! Homesick perhaps because I wanted Jason to come with me but he was busy at work. Panic because I realized I am three months from Ironman Arizona, and my workouts this past week made me feel out of shape (yes, I know they were at altitude). Gasp!
Tonight I'm in Salt Lake City, a mere 4300 feet above sea level. I was looking forward to taking a deep breath full of glorious oxygen, but there's an air quality warning due to the heat and smog. Gasp.