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Part of our newest educational series: Training for Trail Running

In this episode, Alyssa sits down with coach Martin Zhor to discuss running in extreme conditions like altitude, heat and cold. They kick off with recommendations for acclimatization before racing, and different strategies to utilize depending on time and finances. They break down the higher caloric and hydration needs at altitude as well as the changes the body goes through at altitude. They then tackle running and racing in heat and heat training strategies that can help the body adapt more smoothly to the stress. They also touch on nutrition and hydration factors in heat as well as cold. Finally they wrap up with proper preparation and gear management for cold weather running to stay safe. For those reaching for higher and more complex races, this is the podcast for you.

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Training for Trail Running: Running in Extremes Transcript 00:00.00 Alyssa Hi everyone welcome to the Uphill Athlete Podcast our mission is to elevate and inspire all mountain athletes through education and celebration. My name is Alyssa Clark and I will be your host today. I’m psyched to welcome back one of our favorite coaches, Martin Zhor to discuss running in extremes. So Martin you’ve been up to some interesting endeavors, particularly in some extreme temperatures and climates so can you tell us a little bit of what you’ve been up to. 00:36.45 Martin Hey Alyssa hi everybody, yeah, it’s good to be here. Thanks for inviting me and yes I just recently got back from Pakistan so that was a great experience. Ah you know with altitude and cold and and some heat as well. 00:41.38 Alyssa Of course. 00:54.42 Martin And I’m living in the alps in the mountains. So you know it’s kind of everyday life for me and in the past years I spent a lot of time at altitude on a daily basis. So I’m happy to share my experiences and also kind of dig into the physiology behind it. So let’s do it. . 01:15.49 Alyssa Awesome! Ah yeah, so Martin has a lot of experience at altitude. He is also currently studying for a master’s in the specifics of altitude. Actually, what is that exactly? 01:27.69 Martin So my kind of background is I have a bachelor’s degree in sports science. Ah, and now currently I’m studying in a master’s program at a university in Sweden and it’s actually a master in research. So there’s less theory. Let’s say but mostly I’m doing a research project. And I’ll be writing a thesis based on the data that I’m getting and it’s really specialized in the altitude physiology. So very super excited about this topic for a long time because I really like mountains and so when I was studying my bachelor in the u k. I was actually living in Chamonix whilst doing that but I wrote my final thesis on a faster acclimatization. So like really cool topic about whether we acclimatize faster when we go back to altitude ah is there any such thing in the body. So when you actually start digging and doing it into it and try to find studies explaining that there is actually not much about it because we just don’t know or don’t know much about it and so now currently with the master we are looking again into this topic and it looks promising so I started actually. 02:56.22 Martin This last winter and I was planning to go to the high altitude expeditions in Ecuador and Pakistan later on in spring so we actually quickly created this plan and tested myself so I was actually being tested and we basically did a pilot study on myself seeing if there is any result and now it seems really promising and we’re actually in right now in the process of getting more people so that I can actually say do a study with more subjects see it’s necessary. Otherwise, you know when you do research with just 1 person and 1 subject that the data is you. You cannot draw any conclusions from it. So now it’s really interesting and relates to everything I’m doing you know with altitude with my clients and most of them are going to high altitude I’m learning a lot. 03:55.23 Alyssa That’s excellent. Yeah, I’ll be so curious to see what your findings are from that. With this though with the topic of trail running, we were actually talking before this about what category of altitude that most trail racing falls under. So I would say on the high side you’re looking at three thousand, thirty-five hundred meters which is gosh 14ish, 13 to fourteen thousand feet does that sound about right? 04:29.92 Martin Yeah I think that’s about it. 04:32.47 Alyssa Yeah, which is considered kind of mid-range altitude in your studies correct? 04:41.14 Martin Yeah, so there’s different categories I would say it relates to well where people live most of the time. I think most populations live ah sub 4000m even then in ah, high altitude countries like in South america in the tibetan plateau, in eastern africa so I think the maximum is really about 4000m. Then I would that I would call maybe medium altitude, than high altitude until 5000 and I don’t think there are any like long-term settlements above that altitude that’s really hard on the body and it’s pretty much impossible to live long-term, so ah, anything above 5000 is considered extreme altitude. But well many people go there anyway. Just for the you know for mountaineering or for trekking or just people that go there I guess for different reasons, they don’t really spend that much time up there because it’s really hard. Ah obviously on the body. We are not supposed to be there for too long. 05:53.52 Alyssa Definitely. So if we’re looking at say that kind of 2500 to three thousand meter range for trail running because I think that’s where we kind of fall when we think of altitude in trail running. If you are taking an athlete, who’s been at sea level or relatively close to sea level. How are you helping them to prepare for a race that is going up over say two thousand meters what are your best strategies for that athlete? And maybe a couple different if you’re looking at someone who has a lot of time and a lot of resources and someone who’s much more limited in time and resources. 06:38.26 Martin Yeah, I think what is important to say at the beginning is the acclimatization. So the way we adapt to altitude whether it’s the most moderate altitude or the high extreme altitude is very individual and again from their like research. We don’t really we still don’t know why that is we know some things but we don’t have like simple tests as we do in you know, normal like performance we can do VO Max testing and we can do physiological testing to be able to predict quite well for example in Marathon running. We can draw some really good conclusions if the person is sped is able to run a marathon or whatever endurance price there is but as it comes to altitude. There’s no such thing at least not yet and so it’s really important for me to like do proper analysis to talk to the client first see. Okay, do you have an experience from before have you been to altitude before how did you react? How did you perform if you had problems? What were the symptoms like, where do you live? Do you live at sea level? Ah, you know all these questions are obviously relevant. Then when I prescribed it training ah I would say then for most people you start to experience something about let’s say maybe two thousand meters but some people already react to even maybe eighteen hundred meters. 08:11.62 Martin At that level I think the body starts to sense the hypoxia I don’t think there is much happening at least not much relevant that is below fifteen hundred meters, so if you actually are going to altitude for training purposes to enhance your performance. So if you go below that level I don’t think that is actually not worth. It’s not worth your time because not much will be happening physiologically so yes, then if you are planning for a race that is happening above two thousand meters even three thousand meters then the factor the altitude factor will be quite big and important so it’s important to prepare for it. And then, it really is then hard to say individually. Okay, will this person get sick or will it be okay I mean the most important is to come to the start line really fit. Obviously, that’s the best we can do with the client. But then, the next step for me is to actually a look at the race so you got a race that will happen actually at two thousand meters and will actually not leave that level you will not drop below the two thousand meters so that’s actually a specific situation weary. Altitude will be a very important factor so we need to really invest in acclimatization that’s really the best shot that’s the best strategy but there are some races where you run over some mountain passes. Maybe one mountain and you drop down to the the valley right? So the actual time spent at that moderate altitude. But above two thousand meters will actually not be that long. So for me then it’s good to know that. But maybe it will not be that worth spending the time acclimatizing because yes, the person might be a bit uncomfortable. You know the client will have to slow down a bit and maybe there will be some additional fatigue but most of the training spent should be just really getting fit for the race and that’s the most important part we don’t need to focus so much on altitude and acclimatization. And obviously, when it’s about 2500, three thousand meters I mean we can expect the release starting to see some symptoms even of like AMS Acute Mountain sickness again, that’s very individual super hard to predict before, so yeah, that there’s you know all these questions and I first ask. And then yes if the altitude is a very important factor then we can develop strategies. So, I mean that’s probably the next question. But, we can dig into that. Okay, okay, well, . 10:46.16 Alyssa Go for it? Yeah, no, that would be great. 10:55.10 Martin There were different ways. So it’s really important than how the acclimatization works. Ah, it takes a while there are different adaptations in the body and they all take a bit different time. So first when you get to altitude the body senses the like of oxygen in the system. Let’s say detect hypoxia so called and so the first adaptations are that your breathing goes up you start to breathe deeper and the rate of breathing goes higher and the heart rate goes up, you start to feel like your your chest. Ah your heart is pumping in your chest and you know that’s totally normal like your body is trying to compensate by increasing breathing and the heart rate to increase the cardiac output. It’s not very comfortable obviously but it’s really the first kind of adaptation. Ah, you can imagine that it’s kind of taxing on the body so you don’t really feel that great. Also when you try to sleep. Ah, you know it will affect the quality of your sleep. You might really struggle with sleeping so these are really normal symptoms of acclimatization. So this is really the first reaction and it happens within minutes and maximum hours when you actually go to altitude. But then what happens next is that the body has this cascade of adaptations and it starts up pretty fast, but still you want to think about probably minimum six days when we talk about the moderate altitude at least. 12:27.84 Alyssa I agree. 12:29.40 Martin So if you’re preparing for a race that will happen above two thousand meters between two thousand and three thousand meters that first week is really hard on the body because yes, the body needs to adapt and there’s a lot of energy invested into it so you can imagine that the performance will go down. So then when it comes to me as a coach and the client I need to ask the client. Do you have time to acclimatize before that race? It’s a very simple question you know and if the race happens on the other side of you know on another continent like utmb for americans right? So it’s not super easy. Ah, you know it’s very costly. It’s very expensive because you need to be there. You know in the mountains. Ah, one week before the race and it can be really expensive to take that kind of holiday. Also, you’re away from your family and you’re away from your job. So all of a sudden it’s not like a race that lasts one day. Ah you know we have to even invest one more extra week. So that’s not easy for most people. So then there are other strategies. How can we go about that? So yeah, so many different options, but I guess it comes to the beginning when I talked about how big of a factor. The altitude actually is the acclimatization is it actually worth spending so much time and energy on acclimatization? How will it affect the training you know? So first of all I need the first the client to be fit. That’s the first and foremost and then obviously the acclimatization is is. 13:58.67 Martin It’s great if the person is acclimatized but we also need to know that being at altitudes you need to reduce your training stress because the altitude is an additional stress so that would be too much. You need to reduce something so, you know you need to make sure that makes sense in the overall long-term plan. You know that before you start acclimatizing, you are already really well-trained you are really well-prepared for the other attributes of the race. You know all the uphill downhill the distance and everything because when you started with acclimatization. You need to reduce the training load. And so all these things are important in the overall picture. So what is actually I think is important to say is if you have a week or less. It’s actually maybe sometimes better to just arrive the day of the race. That’s what’s been observed. So if you say oh I’m arriving 3-4 days before the race I’m just going to go up to the with the left I’m going to three thousand meters. 00:00.11 Martin Is and where the training the fitness is so, you know obviously if there is no time to acclimatize or you have less than one week. I think it’s really better to just really keep the fitness do the good taper and come the day before the race. I think the research says it’s really maximum 14 hours because past that it really is then the body starts to go through the acclimatization process the first days until maybe day 6 are really hard and taxing so we really need to make sure that you know. The cost and benefit it will just cost you too much. You will benefit a bit but it will cost you more. So maybe that’s a good tool to think about when it comes to that. You’re maybe somewhere. Where you live and you have options to go to the mountains not where the race is but somewhere in your area. So ah, that totally makes sense I would encourage you to do that. I would say what is important to think is you want to spend more than six days, six days maybe until 2 to three weeks for it to be really worth it and there is then a lot to talk about how much time and you should spend like sleep at that altitude or do you train at that altitude or both you know there are different strategies so they are called like live high train low. 01:25.81 Martin Live high train high or the other way. Anyway, we don’t need to go into that now. But I think the most important is to spend some time at altitude to relay that the body senses the hypoxia and starts to make these adaptations that will help you in the process. And the performance I believe in the one is the pass if I call so either just stay there just kind of working or just spending some time sleeping but also the active which means the exercising. There’s a really specificity about it obviously and that’s very important in training and there are really important adaptations happening in your body. Ah, when you’re actually active in hypoxia really important then to make sure that you reduced load at least in that first week so make sure that the intensity goes down a bit and then you know the client can do like report on the rpe you know, really respect that because you might just do too much so really primary. 02:34.71 Martin Primary focus is the acclimatization during that time, and I think we. 02:38.70 Alyssa And Martin would you lean on rpe over heart rate during that time period. 02:50.35 Martin I think you want to follow both. But yeah, the heart rate will for sure reflect the intensity and the altitude to some extent as well. Ah, you know one of the symptoms of especially the first stage of acclimatization is dehydration. So the heart will need to work harder anyway because you know when you rehydrate it and yeah, it’s just really hard to move the blood around for the heart. So it will reflect in the increased heart rate. But it’s really hard to say how much and to what extent so at. You know at some point the hard rate might actually not make sense. Related to the intensity zones as you are used to at sea level. So I would say the RPE is the best you know the the perceived effort and so I would probably rely on that more than heart rate. And then ah I think within one month before the race. Whatever you do at altitude will help you but it’s important to know that if you go back down to sea level or low altitude in general you will start you lose those adaptations to some extent but the body will not keep them forever. That’s important to know. So ah, the best to go with is to, kind of stay at altitude until two weeks ten days before the race not longer. But I would say you know you might lose some but you still keep some within one month I think it’s fine. But yes, the best is to actually keep those adaptations until you know closest to the race. Obviously, again I really want to stress out that if you’re preparing for the running race. Your fitness is really important so you can imagine that if you training at two thousand three thousand meters you will have to slow down. 04:39.16 Martin Training might be an issue, especially if you’re trying to win the race. So you really need to make sure that everything is included in the training plan and you might do some training sessions at that elevation. But you might actually just benefit from going down so train low and stay high so stay high for acclimatization. But do quality speed sessions at lower altitudes. So you know all the factors matter and it’s really up to you and your coach to develop a good strategy. 05:09.47 Alyssa That makes a lot of sense and also I mean I think a lot of people are like well if you’re an athlete. Why don’t you just always live at high altitude and a lot of that is because the quality of your work is not as good as you are able to do like speed work etc at sea level. 05:26.39 Martin Yeah, totally so again then I think the very important question to ask at the beginning is what are you actually trying to achieve by that or either living at altitude or training at altitude you know. So again, it’s good to see where you are. 05:44.57 Martin Ah, what’s your experience with altitude and acclimatization, and then what’s your race when is your race? Ah how much of a factor the altitude and acclimatization is for that race if it’s you know race like in Nepal I think there are some running races I think like state race. 05:59.85 Alyssa Another couple in. 06:02.93 Martin It is happening at 3 four thousand meters or even maybe even higher so you definitely want to invest in acclimatization because otherwise you will suffer or you will just not perform really well. But you know on the other hand if the race is maybe at fifteen hundred meters at two thousand meters I think the best is to write. Get fit and stay at sea level stay there in your home where you used to train sleep. Well recover well and and be prepared. You know you will not benefit so much from acclimatizing for me I think most of my objectives recently in the last years were kind of extreme altitude. So I know that the acclimatization is so important so I was doing a lot of that like living at altitude but also training at altitude and even like extreme altitude so I needed those specific adaptations. But if I was preparing and you know. Some mountain lower mountains I don’t think I would be worried so much you know about that acclimatization. So it’s all it all depends. What you are actually trying to achieve by that again? 07:13.10 Alyssa 2 questions, if an athlete say it’s one of their first times ever racing at altitude and they’ve really only done most leave. They’ve lived and spent most of their time at sea level. Do you see a benefit in them doing some kind of like test piece even if it’s not necessarily acclimatization for the race but more just seeing how their body responds to altitude or is there just such variability in how the body can respond to altitude that 1 exposure to it really doesn’t give you that much evidence for later on. 07:58.90 Martin I think every experience will count. You know I guess it depends on what out you do are we talking about? But again the best is really to go out there and to test yourself see how you feel see how your pace changes you know at the given intensity. You know. 08:05.21 Alyssa And. 08:16.73 Martin I would really watch the heart rate I would watch the saturation you know and you can really see okay like my body really reacts badly or I’m fine. You know that it’s really hard to predict. It’s not really based on fitness either. That’s what’s been observed more like the high altitude and extreme altitude. Ah, there are probably other mechanisms in the body that actually determine how well you acclimatize or react to altitude. So fitness doesn’t seem to be the most important factor at all. So you know, but again if we are talking about the moderate altitude. You really want to be prepared the best you can. Ah, what is interesting maybe just to throw it in there. In this topic is that the people with high fitness. So when we talk about high VO Max you know they you lose your big capacity with going higher to high altitude. You know the higher you go, you will lose more. Ah, so imagine compared to sea level I think the on 50%. It’s about six thousand, maybe seven thousand meters zero and the at half of your aerobic capacity. But that’s not really that it’s really the atmospheric pressure that is 50% of the sea level. So it might logically should reflect in also your VO2 max and aerobic capacity. But it’s been observed that like high fitness people. Let’s say higher VO2max they will actually lose more compared to you know people with lower VO2 max. 09:43.29 Alyssa Okay, interesting. 09:49.18 Martin So they might tend to when you go to eight thousand meters like really extreme altitude. They might be at the really like thirty-forty percent but actually, the ratio goes higher with the people with more fitness. So I don’t really know why. I don’t think many people know why. But again we were looking into that but anyway, let’s try to talk maybe more about that moderate altitude and what happens or what happens there? So I think any experience again will be important for you. 10:25.50 Martin To try to see okay, what can I do better if should I invest next time more to acclimatization and you know again, it’s really super hard to predict before. 10:38.40 Alyssa Yeah I think that’s one of the trickiest parts of talking to clients about these races and such you can. It’s kind of this like well we can try everything and we can do the best we can but we still cannot one hundred percent predict that you will have a positive negative neutral outcome out of this situation and so I think that can be really frustrating for people. But it also I think just has to be a consideration that you take when you are doing races in this you know 2000 to three thousand meters it’s just that’s kind of the way it is and we just have to accept that to a certain extent that there is a level of unpredictability. We can do everything right and still have not the best outcome. 11:32.84 Martin Yeah I think so and I think you know again, the depends on what the race you’re doing or what kind of adventure you’re doing and you know it’s an adventure out there. So I think it’s a big part of it. 11:48.24 Martin I think you know you invest so much into your training. Maybe you know you took 1 year to really prepare for 1 specific race. So you really want to make sure that you do things right? So I think then you approach us as coaches for example at Uphill and you really really want to find out. Okay, what is the best strategy here? What should I do? But kind of plan and so I would say if you have the opportunity to go throughout that year to test yourself and you know we can really get data get the experience and make a plan for it and then again depends really on so many factors so most mostly where the person is where the client lives sea level. Okay, then. 12:27.66 Martin On a daily basis. It’s the training that is important and the recovery and then okay, let’s get you to some you know to do the mountains and do some specific training there see how you react, and then ah before the race. Okay, do you have time to spend some time there just before the race or we can plan for some trip acclimatization training camp ah 2-3 weeks before the race and you know and then once when you fly to the race we can assure that you’ll be ready for the challenges of the race of the altitude. 13:04.13 Alyssa Definitely, yeah I think that acclimatization piece is your surest bet to perform your best. Even if it’s not exactly where the race is being able to get out and spend time and acclimatize. Yeah, ideally I’d love if every client was able to do that. I know that that’s not always the case. So let’s get into a couple of other pieces of altitude and we are going to try to touch on heat and cold as well. But, nutrition and hydration change when you are at higher altitudes. 13:41.84 Alyssa So Martin how do you help athletes adjust to these changes in in hydration and nutrition needs. 13:52.64 Martin So when I talked about the acclimatization process how long it’s taking and what actually happens physiologically in the body. So that’s what’s really important and relates to the nutrition and what changes and what can we do about it. So what’s important to know is that first. Well some of those first adaptations in the first days and the first week let’s say is that the body loses water. You know this weird how to say I call it like the really strange adaptation that you know the body tries to get rid of the plasma to increase the hematocrit which then actually makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around so it really makes it very uncomfortable. The increased pee raises through the urinary loss so you just lose water so you want to make sure that you hydrate more specifically that first week and so that I would say that that is really one of the more important. Things to do to pay attention to in the first week at altitude and then and, what is it then important to know is that your base ah basal metabolism is increased so you’re kind of spending more energy. Whatever you’re doing if you’re exercising or not, you’re. 15:17.36 Alyssa To exist. Yeah. 15:20.28 Martin More and yeah, that’s really important to know and so it will just cost you more so make sure that you reflect that also in your nutrition that you maybe get more calories in and but also just. Make sure that you’re aware of the increased stress on the body specifically that first week is important after that it starts to stabilize more you will notice if you spend more than one week at altitude for most people. What happens is that the heart rate goes down the resting heart rate or heart rate if you compare it on a daily basis. You will notice that it starts to calm down your rate of breathing goes down. So it’s also something that with the increased rate of breathing as I talked about that’s really one of the first adaptations of the body to try to get more air and oxygen and you also breathe out the water so there is more water lost through the breathing the increased breathing. So these things start to come down because the adaptations that take longer will start to take place and so that but then the body can you know, put things into order and you know try to go down the heart and then the breathing as well. Then like you know there are obviously other challenges and other things you can do with nutrition but I’m not the specialist in that area. But I think these ones are. 16:51.00 Martin But important, especially at the beginning. So ah, you want to make sure that you pay attention to it and, yeah I think now you can understand that. Whether you’re training there or you just kind of live high and train low. You know it’s an additional stress so make sure that you invest more into recovery and maybe you reduce the training stress so that might one week if you just keep going with training like nothing happened. Ah, you might pay you might overdo it. And so that’s really really important to be aware. 17:32.76 Alyssa Definitely well. Those are great and I think that I’ve mentioned it before on the podcast. But so often we can feel really excited and dialed in our nutrition. At sea level and don’t take into account that there’s a tremendous amount of difference at altitude and so I think just really being conscientious of those changes happening I experience plasma dumping I always have to pee so much when I first start getting into Altitude. Yeah, it makes a difference and it’s something you really have to take into account and make sure you’re staying on top of because unfortunately you know you can do everything right? And just not be accounting for the extra fueling and hydration and that can be, kind of a factor that takes you down. Unfortunately. 18:27.27 Martin Yeah, kind of it’s a big part of the old picture. So, yeah, again, so many scenarios there but you know when you go to the even higher altitude you know than usually how what happens is the suppressed appetite. You know so you don’t know that they’re hungry. So that’s kind of a challenge because you know you actually need to get more calories because ah everything costs more energy the basal expenditure but energy expenditure is increased. So but you’re not that hungry. So it’s quite a challenge and usually the results If you’re spending more time, especially on the expeditions in extreme altitude. So you usually tend to lose weight and, that might be a problem because then it’s not all it might be in the form of the muscle and then obviously you lose your losing your muscles is not the best it will affect your performance. I don’t think that’s such a big factor in moderate altitude as you know when we talk about the races and those scenarios. 19:30.43 Alyssa Yeah, I do think and also yeah, just the acute nature I mean when you’re in an expedition, you’re out there for a month plus where there is the constant weight loss whereas for a race. It’s much more immediate. I think, ah just a much shorter timeframe of when you’re dealing with it but that actually relates to 1 last question and then one more point we want to touch on with altitude. How do you take into consideration races like Tor Des Geants for example. 19:56.37 Martin For yeah. 20:12.49 Alyssa That is you know 3 4 5 six days long and you are kind of doing that vacillation of like being high dropping really low. So but because of the length of it. You are spending a fair amount of time up there. And also if you do that kind of rapid drop in the day before the race you could start feeling the effects of the altitude on day two day three I guess have you thought about that type of a race and what would you do? What would be your considerations for people? 20:46.44 Martin Yeah for sure. Well, it’s in my area I know it’s going to Chamonix where I live So and I know I will start really well all those valleys. So this race is so brutal I haven’t done it and I’m not sure I really want to even though there were a couple of seasons ago I was really looking into that. But no I mean to the question. It’s a good question and I think it’s actually one of the races if a client approaches me and asks me if I need to invest into acclimitization. My question is yes 100% because it’s really a big factor tor in the whole you know, but the performance and so if you don’t if you arrive yes as I said within one day before the departure before the start I mean you’ll pay some of those buses are I think close to three thousand meters if I’m not mistaken. 21:39.29 Martin And it’s really, ah, you’re going up and down up and down and all the way to the end of the Aosta Valley and then the same on the way back and you’re you know on the shoulder of the four thousand meter peaks with some of the highest mountains in the alps so, yeah I think it’s really smart if you really already invest. So much time for the preparation because it’s a big race. It’s two hundred miles or so ah, you need to take it into consideration, obviously it comes with all the other factors with it. So the dehydration comes with it and the increased energy requirements etc so those obviously will be addressed by the acclimatization process. Anyway, you know that you should be more careful. Direct devises will be not as high as the beginning as in the first days or in the first week so for example let’s talk about what I would suggest is to really come to three weeks before if you can and really train there and obviously you can stay low in the valley. Ah, you don’t need to sleep up at 2, three thousand meters but you can really train and spend time on the actual of the actual Race trail so really you’ll get the specific training in and also the altitude and the exposure. But yes it means that you will actually have to take a reading a long holiday. It will cost you quite a lot of money. But then again I like to to think about it from the custom benefit ah point of view or perspective. How much will it cost me and how much will I benefit I think this point and this example. The benefit is really high. So yes, even if it costs me, you know the benefit is really important. But yes if you’re living in the States and you want to raise the tour and, you can spend some time in Colorado and you know invest in the high altitude camp. 23:48.84 Martin 2 three weeks before the race, and yeah I think you’re ready to a large extent. 23:57.23 Alyssa Nice. Yeah I think it’s just a really I mean gosh I feel like the tour comes up on every one of our podcasts but it is a really fascinating and very unique situation that I just wanted to touch on and yeah I would totally agree. You know it’s a huge investment. It’s expensive. It’s time and so I feel like it’s worth taking that extra bit of the whole thing because otherwise I mean you are running the risk of not finishing it and then you’re you know you’re taking away everything you work towards. So yeah I totally agree. 24:25.44 Martin Yeah, yeah I mean it’s sort of like an expedition right? It’s ah such a big adventure. So I mean for me, it goes without saying but as if clients don’t really know and I really try to break it then into ah like. 24:32.30 Alyssa It’s worth the extra time. 24:47.71 Martin These factors are really important to address. Okay, you have this time to train you have this your life at sea level. Okay, well we need to really make sure that you spend some time at the altitude because as you say you might just fly halfway around the world to race and you will just fail. Because ah, you didn’t invest into this really important factor in other cases the races. You know they just kind of touched the moderate altitude and you will spend maybe 5% of the whole race whole time at that altitude which might cause you trouble. But you know. The majority is actually at quite a low altitude. So yeah, it’s not so such a big factor and so we don’t really need to spend so much time and energy and money ah resources on that and you know so it really is about looking into the whole picture make an analysis of the race and really determine how important those factors are and then invest in them. 25:53.48 Alyssa Definitely yeah, it’s so true you have to make that investment. Unfortunately I mean fortunately unfortunately like oh darn got to go spend some time in Aosta Valley like it’s truly amazing. So would recommend it. . 26:05.42 Martin Yeah. 26:10.49 Alyssa So I guess the last thing I’d like to touch on and we could go I mean I think we are going to do a podcast series on altitude on its own see it will be a big part of that. But something that athletes will sometimes try to lean on is more on the medication side of things and so we just want to give a few safety precautions about using medication to mask symptoms or to kind of like quote unquote treat the symptoms of altitude and, just recently I was looking into diamox and that’s quite often prescribed for altitude and it is illegal for at least the utmb series races. It’s a diuretic. And so it is banned on the wada list and so utmb uses that as their governing principle and so just for a heads up diamox is not allowed. Honestly for health reasons, I can absolutely see why so really just make sure that you’re checking. All of your medications for racing in terms of what is banned. That’s hugely important. But Martin do you want to touch on anything about medications or using those types of things when it comes to altitude? 27:41.97 Martin I mean and I’m not really an expert in this area, to be honest, so I don’t really want to say that you know I will give you some relevant information here. So maybe like from a personal perspective. You know I think moderate altitude I think you can do without any medication you should be able to. I mean there are usually specific cases and I think it’s more about you talking to your doctor and with specific expertise you know to relay making requirements and if you’re ah, let’s say elite athlete. Ah yes, these things are actually being controlled and so. For example, the diamox. That’s the usual medication that is being used for especially higher altitudes. It’s banned so you need you, you cannot use it. But for me personally I used to work on aguille du midi which is ah the high altitude lift in Chamonix and so I also used to sleep up there as a part of my job and this the top is a three thousand eight hundred meter so let’s consider it high altitude. And, even though being really acclimatized throughout the season I was there pretty much every day. I still struggled to sleep. It was really interesting I don’t really know why was random some days some nights I was okay I slept really like a baby but most of the of the nights were really tough. 29:08.67 Martin So I used to take Aspirin I’m not saying that I encourage people to do that. But it is just a thanks to this diluting effect of Aspirin I think that’s one of the effects that it has I would say that really helped to you know with with the platform easier how to say date, really made a difference I was able to sleep much better. That’s one thing and another kind of a funny funny insight. There is actually 1 research paper on that. So the scientists did a test on the huts on mon blanc which is the cosmique d’arete hut and hutter hut and they actually tested the urine in those huts without people knowing it was anonymous obviously and they tested it for the drugs and they found ah quite an interesting, very long list of the different. All kinds of different drugs and all the way to cocaine and so it’s kind of hilarious, just interesting. What people actually take to you know, make it easier for them to climb on mt blanc or maybe it’s also anxiety to help with the anxiety but it was quite remarkable. What was actually found in the in the toilet. Yeah. 30:28.90 Alyssa I love that I mean that’s pretty incredible I mean I don’t wow. Yeah, honestly that is a very bold move to be like oh we’re just going to use cocaine to get to the top of a mountain but interesting people are willing to do a lot of things. 30:39.28 Martin Yeah, no training. 30:47.41 Alyssa I guess the stance that we’ll take on it is to be very careful to consult your doctor and also to check wada and really I think you know all of this is to protect your health I mean when you start getting into situations where you are masking symptoms that can often lead to other really serious health issues and so just being safe is the number 1 thing and sometimes taking medication can mask our ability to be as safe as we should be. Yeah. 31:20.34 Martin Yeah, be conservative and I think test yourself first before going for some serious race and acclimatize if you can I mean maybe one the last thing I forgot to mention is the use of the normal barrack hypoxia which means. Using actually the tents with reduced oxygen that actually has a pretty good effect and sort of simulates altitude when you’re at home. So, it is basically a machine that pumps out the air of the tent you have this tent of your head and you sleep you sleep in the tent and it’s not exactly. Actually, it’s not at all like altitude but in principle it works quite well, we’ve tested this. With the clients and so it’s one of the options if you don’t have the option to travel to high altitude ranges to train or you don’t have the option to go to the place where the race takes place. You have this option too. It’s a bit costly. Obviously, these tents are quite expensive. You can also render them all. This is possible and again if you and your coach decide. You know altitudes and acclimatization are really important. 32:46.27 Martin Ah, for the performance you don’t have any other option this one. Ah, this one could help. So, you know ask around you know, contact us set up to athlete and we’ve tested this before and it works not exactly as the real altitude. But it works pretty well. 33:08.12 Alyssa Awesome! Yeah, no, that’s a great place to, wrap up the altitude conversation which again we can continue on for much longer. But we do want to touch on 2 other we’ll call them extremes. That we face in trail running and that is heat and cold. Ah, you know when we’re thinking heat we’re thinking badwater. 33:40.95 Alyssa Okay, so the other ah extreme that we’ll be talking about is heat and cold and when we think of heat we have examples of badwater I think Marathon des Sables is quite hot. So the crossings desert crossings even western states is quite a high heat race, and then with the cool we have the Iditarod. We have races up in the Minnesota area. 34:17.44 Alyssa Like the arctic ultra. You know there’s some very big extremes of temperature. So Martin I think especially heat is becoming more and more relevant to us. Sadly, what are some of your key pieces of advice for hot weather racing? 34:38.60 Martin Well heat is a really big factor and the thermal regulation is really one of the biggest let’s say physiological factors when it comes to performance and the overall functioning of the body. So it’s really good to realize that our body functions within quite a narrow range of what is considered healthy and actually what is really within where we can actually function and live. So I think when your body temperature drops below 34 maybe I think I’m not really sure about the exact number but it’s pretty impressive actually that within a really narrow range. That’s where the body functions if it drops below and if it goes over like 40°C I mean, then we are in trouble real fast. So this is really important and so our body has a really amazing way to function and to actually keep this. They especially called the core temperature. So, there are really various ways to, ah adjust to keep this temperature within these narrow boundaries. And this is challenging. Obviously when we talk about the cold and about the heat right? So, yeah, what is important to also realize is that when we are active that when especially with the exercise. 36:10.20 Martin We are creating a lot of heat in the muscles. So called Metabolic Heat. So the body then needs to get rid of this heat because otherwise it just, you know we just we can overheat and obviously this is very challenging when the outside temperature is also hot. So there are different ways for the body to get rid of this heat. So basically, the 4 types of heat transfer and general are the conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation. So I think most people are familiar with the operation. So the body uses sweating to get rid of the heat. The most basic way to transfer heat from the core of the body to the outside is through the blood. So that’s also very important when it comes to exercise because as you can imagine most of the blood is actually used to bring Oxygen to the exercising Muscles. So ah, then if the body then needs to also term regulate so part of the body needs to do that as well because that’s super important but it will. The body will prioritize it because it can all be forced from the core of the body for the organs and the brain the crucial organs in the body to overheat. That’s out of the question if it happens then you’re in trouble you faint you lose consciousness you know and even die. 37:40.83 Martin And the extremes and so obviously that’s the priority. So you realize that when you’re running and it’s really hot then you know you get sick or you just really feel it. You have to slow down you have to do something because the body’s actually trying to thermoregulate what is good is that we can actually train this we can get better at this. Actually with the heat specifically with the heat. Ah, we can this can happen real fast and actually compared to altitude faster and so, yeah, the maybe just the very important one, the sweating. For example, the sweat rate can really double within a couple of weeks of a good training so there are different ways to do this. So obviously it depends where you are where you’re based if you’re preparing somewhere in the cold or in a normal climate and you’re preparing for a race like the badwater and the other marathon des sables like these extremes. You know you should spend some time invest some time and training for this specific condition or the heat. So ah, this the different ways you can train in the heat you can train when you’re overdressed to bring this stimulus for the training while maybe the most convenient and practical one is to use the sauna. It’s basically doing a training and then actually go to the sauna right afterward because, you are actually slightly overheated from the training from the heat created by the muscles. 39:13.44 Martin and then you top it out with the sauna and you can do this maybe not every day because that can cost you obviously or you know if you do this every day then you you will probably have to reduce the training load. You know this will affect the training quality. So you know, just be smart about it. Just ask your coach and create a good strategy just know that these set adaptations going to happen within a couple of weeks and so, usually it’s good to start maybe with more intense maybe almost every day and then keep it for every 2 so 2, 3 days just go to the sauna. And keep the stimulus the heat stimulus and then the body will recreat and keeping these adaptations until your race. 40:03.37 Alyssa Excellent, yeah, it’s super important to be able to adjust to it and part of that also is figuring out how to keep yourself cool. And so and also how you fuel when you are in the heat, with that being said, digestion becomes a lot more challenging when it’s super hot so having foods that are much easier I think of gels like spring energy. You know also a lot of liquid calories versus trying to eat a heavy dense thing will be a lot easier for you to digest when it’s super hot. And also things that have more liquid in them inherently will add to your hydration as well and so it can be kind of that dual purpose. Yeah Martin do you want to add to that. 40:59.41 Martin Yeah, definitely I agree to with that and I think that here experience is super precious I think you want to test yourself there. This is also very individual reaction to heat everybody sweats differently. Ah, everybody’s sweat will be different you know some people will lose more salt compared to others. You know some people will just lose more fluid rather than salt. So ah, these are things you can actually test relatively easily without any complicated testing. And so that will give you a great idea. Okay, you tend to sweat more you tend to lose more salt so you really can then create a good nutrition plan for the race but also knowing that by the heat training as we spoke about. Ah you know you can even double the amount of the sweat rate. So that’s a good thing because that’s how you get rid of the heat the excessive heat and all that helps you to thermoregulate your body. So ah, you actually want that. But then also you obviously need to replace that the fluids and again back to the point that I spoke about before. 42:12.46 Martin Is that most of your blood during exercise will be in the muscles or bringing the oxygen and nutrients to the muscles so less blood will be available for digestion. So that’s the obvious challenge. That’s why nutrition is such an important part of the whole performance and training and exercise and so yes, ah, eating anything solid complicated to digest will turn into the disaster because you know your digestive system will just reject that there is no capacity. You will not be able to do that. And also very important is if you’re dehydrated especially seriously dehydrated anything else like the digestion and and absorption of nutrients of food will be very difficult so you know obviously you want to hydrate first and but yeah, there’s so much to talk about. About nutrition there are many more knowledgeable people than me what is. 43:18.70 Alyssa Well same but I think just kind of general guidelines or just even I think alerting people to the fact that strategies will have to change in all of these extreme situations is super crucial. 43:35.60 Alyssa Yeah I think people are just like oh yeah I know what works. It’s like well that might work great at sea level in a nice 60 degree or like yeah you know 18c perfect day. But you know you start adding in different factors and it it changes a lot. 43:47.90 I call it train for adversity. You know if you only train in the ideal conditions. Ah well you will come to the race and the weather will be bad and well. 43:55.27 Alyssa I like that. 44:03.53 Martin You’re not ready you know and mostly on one way or the other yes I think it’s really important and important as you spoke about the carbohydrates or eating more like the fluids and the calories in the fluids. 44:04.68 Alyssa Yeah, exactly. 44:21.38 Martin I think it’s really important to keep separate the fluids and also the carbo drink because if you only have the carbo drinks you might run into trouble because you’re kind of stuck with either one or the other. So I think it’s important again, but talk to the coaches and the nutritionist before. And really to know test yourself again test your sweat rate and test your sweat what is actually in it. You know how much so like how much salt do you tend to lose through sweat because these are important because then you can really adjust your nutrition for the rice. 46:09.25 Alyssa I participated in two races that were unexpectedly warmer than anticipated as in far far over. Well yeah, the one in April was 35 to 40 C and the one most recently was about 30 C which was a very big surprise in Wales and one of the things that is very key as you are racing and your trying to maintain a higher pace. The higher effort is cooling yourself and your cooling strategies during the race. And so often I think people actually just don’t quite know how to cool themselves. So for me, that looks like every opportunity at the race that I had of canyons. Ice down the shirt, ice in my hat, dunk my head in you know, just get wet and to cool my outside. I did and the same thing for dragons back was shockingly hot and it’s the same thing where I just try to get in streams like put my whole head in, get my hat wet. You know, just cool my body my exterior down because that ultimately and Martin’s going to explain why that is so useful. that ultimately will help you to make a difference 48:23.58 Martin Yeah, so again I think it’s really key to to keep the core temperature within the limits as we spoke about so really try to help the body get rid of the heat. So it comes to yes the cooling the different strategies for the cooling if if that’s an option. But also wearing the right gear the clothes right? So you don’t want to wear black clothes because you know that will not be great. It really attracts more heat and so you’re getting into more trouble there. When it comes to the cooling if you have that option if there are streams along the trail or rivers or ice at the aid stations. What happens is actually you’re not obviously don’t jump into the ice river glacier or the ice bath there. You probably will bring the core temperature down at some point but in the most more practical sense like what happens quickly is you’re actually cooling the surface of your skin and your surface of the body and so you’re actually increasing the gradient. So the heat inside your core. And compared to the surface. So then the body actually is able to get rid of that internal heat ah faster and better and that’s very important so that you really, helping yourself there and you need to take every opportunity if that happens during the race. 49:52.93 Martin Yeah I think ah it really depends. Obviously they own the situations in races and I just had a couple of clients in verbia they ran and it was pretty hot. You know, very unusual for September but I guess this is now the new normal. You know what used to be the you were in the mountains it was supposed to be quite cool and now all of a sudden you’re facing these challenges you’re running in hot conditions and so, the heat factor is super important. You want to be ready for that. 50:31.45 Alyssa Absolutely I guess we will touch on the last bit which is cold which is seemingly less and less of a factor which is a huge bummer. For many reasons but just quickly like what are some of your key pieces of advice for tackling colder weather efforts. 50:52.65 Martin Yeah, well to be honest I like cold I like it much more than the heat because I don’t really work well in the heat. But I guess some people do. But anyway I guess ah me as more like a mountaineer. You know I have to be ready for the cold weather because it can really be dangerous. You know, ah it comes to you can come to the point where you damage your body like frost bite and more serious versions of it. When it comes to running I guess it’s really about experience about being used logic. You know, being prepared for that having the right gear, knowing that yes you can afford to not overdress because your body is creating heat with the exercise. Why because the metabolism and the way that the body works is not exactly efficient. You know some of the energy goes to the work of the muscles but some of the energy is wasted as heat so we can then use the body heat to actually keep it quite warm. During exercise and so obviously then if you’re really cold and if you cannot move for example, then you start to shake involuntarily right? So that’s actually ah how the body is trying to bring up the heat by actually these the shaking right? So, all these things are really important to know. If you are running in the codes you want to have again the right gear the right clothes protect your eyes as well because you can also freeze your eyes. It’s important to know and also avoid constrictions. Constriction of the body parts because why you want to allow the blood flow be free and because if you reconstrict the blood flow. The blood actually brings the heat to the surface or to to the tissues. And so if you restrict that well you’re not doing yourself a favor and so it’s important, especially at a high altitude the boots. And, if you’re doing ice climbing. You know your fingers. Ah you tend to freeze your fingers a lot because well you kind of squeezing and grippping the ice too right. So it’s super annoying. 53:17.40 Alyssa Screaming barfies. It’s so painful. 53:23.60 Martin Ah, big and annoying for sure. Yeah, don’t use cotton materials because then you know from your sweat you will just have the moisture on your skin, and then by the conduction you will lose a lot of heat so you want to use Merino and and the wool materials for sure. That’s super important. I guess it’s more about experience. There is not that much actually adaptation or by training when it relates to cold. Ah, so it’s really more to adapt through. One is the experience of being smart so you know if you go out there to run some winter trails or then the races or expeditions you need to really know what you’re doing have the right gear and be able to change quickly. You know when you sweat. And we need to stop so I would say the experience comes there. 54:24.48 Alyssa Ah, it’s great. What about any adjustments for fueling strategies for the cold? 57:04.26 Martin Yeah, when it comes to nutrition strategies in the cold. So again, be smart. You know you still need to you still need to drink well and regularly. But you probably want to maybe carry a thermos bottle and by drinking warm water. You actually helping to keep the core temperature up and I would say that you know the fueling kind of stays similar by actually eating digesting you’re creating this metabolic heat as well. So you know, obviously, it will help you help your body to keep the core temperature up. 00:00.00 Alyssa When we think about running at these extremes we are increasing more risk because we are on the edges of what we’re trying to do whether it’s the edge of extreme heat, the edge of extreme cold, at the edge of a higher altitude. Obviously we’re not going into super high altitude but higher altitude and so the most important factor is safety whether that means carrying an extra jacket whether that means bringing extra water or hydration. And whether that means taking a little bit more time to acclimatize. It’s very important to take those extra steps to take that extra precaution because you’re not just talking about a faster finish or a better result you’re talking about safety and you’re talking about making sure that you come back to your family in one piece. Healthy, happy and safe and ultimately that’s what we want our athletes to do. That’s what we strive to do and help people to prepare for. So do the best you can and make sure that you’re prepared when you’re heading into these more extreme situations. Martin do you want to wrap up with anything else? 01:19.89 Martin Sure? Well I think now, people can understand that the environmental factors are really important in terms of performance and so for us coaches. It’s obviously the first and foremost important as you mentioned is the safety and the health of the client so don’t harm the client. Really important of it most important. But then when it comes to the performance during the races. Ah and when the environmental factors are really important then what is important to know is that we can actually to quite a large extent change it improve. Capacity of the body to deal with these factors and so you know then it really comes to understanding well the physiology and you know how much of what we can do to to improve. Ah, you know how much can we benefit from the training at those serious conditions. Ah, extreme conditions. How much will it cost to do the math and then you know to incorporate the smart training plan? 02:21.85 Alyssa Excellent. Yeah, we do have tools to make this better to make this safer and to help you do your best. So thank you for listening to the uphill athlete podcast if you can rate, review, subscribe that helps us a lot Martin it was a joy to have you on and bring so much wisdom and experience to the podcast and I know that our athletes will take a lot away from this. So thank you It’s not just one but a community we are uphill athlete.



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