Getting Race Ready: High Altitude Edition

Well, it’s that time again! Bill’s next challenge is almost here, and it’s a doozy.

In January I showed you how he was getting ready for a 100 mile race near Buffalo, NY. Basically he needed to run a lot in extremely cold weather. His training seemed to pay off!

This time it’s about altitude, elevation gain & loss, remote locations, and as if that’s not enough, even further distances.

Bill has signed up for the first ever Grand Slam of 200’s (three 200-mile trail races in the mountains of the western U.S.) beginning with the Colorado 200, from July 13 – 17, 2015. The next two races are the Bigfoot 200, in Washington from August 7 – 11, 2015 and the Tahoe 200, from September 11 – 15, 2015. The Grand Slam originally had four races but the Arizona 200 had to be postponed for 2015.

All of these races will have significant elevation as well as gains & losses in elevation:

Colorado 200
(Actual distance: 205 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 41,570 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 41,570 feet
Total Change In Elevation: 83,140 feet
Maximum Elevation: 12,713 feet
Minimum Elevation: 8,310 feet
Average Elevation: >10,000 feet

Bigfoot 200
(Actual distance: 205 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 50,000 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 48,000 feet
Total Change in Elevation: 98,000 feet
Maximum Elevation: 5706 feet
Minimum Elevation: 888 feet

Tahoe 200
(Actual distance: 202.5 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 39,800 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 39,800 feet
Total Change in Elevation: 79,600 feet
Maximum Elevation: 9743 feet
Minimum Elevation: 5500 feet

Although we live in a very hilly part of the world – Western Pennsylvania – it’s not remotely close to any of that elevation height or range.

To be exact, our lives at home happen between about 700 – 1200 feet above sea level.


Bill’s had his work cut out for him getting ready for this endeavor.

The first part of his training has been increasing his mileage. 

When not training for a race of over 50 miles, Bill usually runs about 40-60 miles a week. The schedule is 7 or 10 miles four mornings a week and 20 miles on Saturdays but those are preempted at times by work, weather, and family.

He increases his miles according to the length of the race he’s training for. In preparation for this Grand Slam, Bill has been aiming for 100 miles a week. It’s been as high as 136, but also lower than 100 some weeks. To get more mileage he’s added some 10+ mile weekday afternoon runs and significantly increased his weekend ones to two longer runs.

The second part has been training for the type of terrain & location.

If a race will be on a flat rail-to-trail course (like Beast of Burden) or a relatively flat to hilly road (like The Running Dead), Bill does his training on the roads in our area and some miles on a local rail-to-trail path. For trail races, Bill logs weekend miles on the local trails.

The Grand Slam of 200 races will be on mountain trails. Since we don’t have those kind of mountains in our part of the world, Bill spent as much time as he could running on the best, toughest viable training option he knows of in the region: the Laurel Highlands mountains of Western PA, where there are ski resorts and where Bill had competed in the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Ultra. We traveled there four weekends in May & June and he ran between 30 & 50+ miles on the steepest and hardest part of the trail over and over, along with some shorter distances when special occasions or storms were involved.

When not in the Laurel Highlands, Bill logged hundreds of trail miles in a local park on weekends and weekday afternoons. He’s also participated in two 50 mile trail races during this period of time – the Glacier Ridge Trail in May and Hell Hath No Hurry as I type!

But the mountain trails in the Grand Slam races will also be so remote, far and demanding that the runners will have to carry mandatory gear. This includes items like a survival blanket, water purification system, first aid kit, water bladder, food, batteries, headlamp, waterproof jacket, extra clothing, etc. And that’s beside the supplies Bill likes to carry, such as an iPod, gum, lube, Tums, and ginger chews. Normally he carries his few items in a waist belt, pocket, or a pouch in his handheld water bottle holder.

This means that the Grand Slam racers will be running with extra weight mile after mile after mile. 612.5 miles to be exact (if they don’t get lost…). Inside a backpack that will be jostling around and rubbing against their shoulders, chest, and back.

So Bill started wearing his backpack on his trail runs at the end of April, filled with water and some other supplies.

711003           5597324

1100118           3309481

9454080               6472863

On his final Laurel Highlands training run, Bill added a 5 lb. weight to mimic the added weight he’ll have with the mandatory gear. We both wish we would’ve weighed his pack that day. I guessed 20 lbs. but Bill thinks it was more like 25.

The final part of training has been preparing for the altitude.

This will particularly be a factor at the Colorado 200, but Bill also felt dizzy and woozy in the highest elevations of last year’s Tahoe 200 so he wants to get his body used to it for all of the Grand Slam races.

So as if we don’t have enough running-related contraptions, supplies, and paraphernalia around our house, Bill informed me that he needed a special oxygen tent to sleep in and mask to exercise in. Both attach to a (loud) machine.

I haven’t taken a picture of him sleeping in the tent but here he is riding the bike.


And Bill already had this other mask, which apparently isn’t quite as effective but it’ll do in a pinch when you can’t be tethered to a pesky (loud) machine. Perfect for lawn mowing and such.

We keep our neighbors talking, I’m sure…


So there you have it! He’s put in the miles on the best terrain available, got used to running hours and hours with a full backpack, and is trying to get his body ready for the altitude. There’s also been cross training in the gym for added strength.

Bill will be tapering (cutting back) the next two weeks until the race, and in the meantime wants to remind everyone that he’s fundraising for his niece, Jess, for these races. Please read her story and make a donation to her medical fund!


Thanks so much!

Pressing on,

share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress spam blocked by CleanTalk.