PS: FWIW, my partner, who was brand new to mountaineering, charged up the ascent without slowing down, hyperventilating or any other issues. It was an impressive sight. His staple training has been some cycling and fast, unweighted hikes of 5,000ft gain/loss or so, 4.5h duration or so. He said he goes fast, not casually. No strength training or weighted carries. Unlike me, his challenge was the descent. Fatigue set into his legs, and as the hours went by he started feeling it more and more. My staple has been Z1 runs with 1,500ft or so gain/loss, 1h15min long.
I might be barking up the wrong tree here, but based on a recent experience where I struggled with elevation I am curious about the telltale signs of deficiencies in one’s training.
Here’s what happened: the trip was non technical climbing (i.e a leg workout, not upper body), mainly hiking and a moderate snow couloir. Starting elevation ~8,000ft, topout just over 14,000ft. All well at the start, took it at a conservative pace – no heroics – at 11,300ft or so I felt more sluggish and my breathing pick up, and by 12,5000ft or so I was panting like crazy. The pack was light, and I never felt like the load was crippling or that my legs were maxing out. I just felt that I had to breathe much faster than I usually do at that elevation, and rest more than usual between steps. It felt as if I just couldn’t supply enough oxygen to the legs. Once we summited, turned around and dropped 500ft or so, I felt strong and my legs never fatigued or gave out during the couloir descent or the 12mi hike out. I came back alive and felt tired, of course, but like I could sustain it for a long time. Car to car took just over 14h, distance was 22mi or so.
This is the 6th year I have been training following Uphill Athlete principles, and there were no signs of poor performance earlier this season, although I hadn’t tried anything that long. If anything, this season (started the training cycle back in September, so it’s been 8mo) I devoted most of my training to base and did not incorporate any higher intensity workouts. I also did not spend much time on muscular endurance through weighted carries, but I did ski regularly to the point where leg burn was intense. I did strength workouts for months that included leg exercises, but kept it at the general strength format throughout rather than shifting to the lower-rep/higher-weight specific strength workout. I also admit to neglecting strength maintenance for the past two months.
Did I slack off near the end? Did I shoot myself in the foot by focusing on hill/trail running at the expense of strength and muscular endurance work close to my objective? Or could it be that I was having a hard time getting used to the altitude for other reasons? I hate it with elevation brings me to my knees.
What are the telltale signs of insufficient base, insufficient strength, insufficient high-intensity training and insufficient muscular endurance training?
Thanks in advance!
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