Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week 9 Update: August 10th, 2013

Week 9 Update: Aug 10, 2013

It was a great week with many new insights. Here are the highlights:

  • When I don't feel like training, I can always increase the altitude and back off on the intensity.
  • Pulmonary function testing last week showed what I already knew - I'm an asthmatic. There were a few other surprises though…
  • Continuous spO2 monitoring during sleep revealed some really interesting results.
  • Something weird happened on the way to tapering off my swimming (today)
  • A 6 and a half hour training day ain't that hard for a 47 year old guy provided he gets in a long nap.

Workout Progress

It was a banner week where I trained for 19.5 hours with today (Saturday) being my longest day of training yet. Today, I swam for 3 hours, rode my bike and worked out on the elliptical for an hour and 45 minutes each (3.5 total). Patrick and I had double-feature day indoors. It was hot and muggy so we spent the day watching movies that Kathy would never want to see. You can see from my usual figure that I eliminated running still and offset the lack of running with more bike and elliptical training. A great day capped off a great week. Next week is my last workout week before we take off for Portland.

plot of chunk WeekEx

Just as I mentioned above, the figure below shows the huge Saturday I just finished. It is almost 10pm and I am wrapping up the day by finishing this blog post. Soon, I will be sleeping at 10,000 feet alone. Kathy returns tomorrow from her midwest triathlon. I can't wait!

Today was a big day because a local masters swim team put on a challenge workout. The workout was 131 x 100m. For those of you who do not swim, the workout was ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY ONE times swimming back and forth in a long-course (50 meter) pool for a total of 13,100 meters or 13.1 km. Yes, it was a long practice. I was reluctant at first but decided during our team party of Friday (never a good time to make decisions) that I will be our team representative. Well, I went and represented our team. I won't say I represented them well but I was there. It was a loooooonng workout with too much rest in a chilly pool. I rarely get cold but after 3 hours I opted for the shower. So I swam for 3 hours today. It was fun and tiring but that just set up my hour-long nap so well.

plot of chunk DailyWL

Amazing how these 15-20 hour weeks start adding up. The little bit of gray you can see from the line and the shaded region are the hour and 20 minutes (1:20) that I failed to complete in the last 9 weeks. The 20 minutes came in the first week and the hour from last week. Lost workout time is lost; I have no plans to make it up.

plot of chunk CumWL

Weekly Summary

As I stated before, I am so excited about this last week of training. Brian gave me some great tips on phasing in altitude training. Those tips opened up my eyes to the true trade-offs between cardio fitness and high-altitude acclimation. When I switch from normoxia (sea-level oxygen levels) to hypoxia, my workload goes down dramatically. Typically I workout at about a 120 to 130 bpm heart rate for moderately easy training days. Those heart rates are just not possible when I put on the hypoxic mask. Furthermore, my work output in normoxia with that heart rate is about 220 to 250 Watts; with the mask, I am lucky if I can sustain 175 and often my work output falls around 150. Increasing my altitude level - via the hypoxic mask - from sea-level to 12,000 feet resulted in almost a 40% reduction in my work capacity. Pretty amazing, no?


I think the hypoxic training is taxing me cognitively. As hard as it is to admit, I just cannot concentrate as long as before - perhaps as recent as about a month ago. The confound in this whole causal inference is that I am also nearing my vacation time when I get to check out and climb. I need a work break. Now that I can handle the warmer sleeping temperatures, I am ready to hit the glacier and the cooler temperatures in the Pacific NW. Darn! I am not sure I will be excited to get back into my hypoxic tent after sleeping in the cool NW.

plot of chunk Mood

Hypoxic Training

My total hypoxic training this week consisted of 5 days at 7500 feet or above, 6 workouts totaling 4 hours, and 2 sessions of IHT - not bad for my first full week of serious hypoxic training. I played around with my hypoxic training altitude. Yeah, I couldn't resist. Brian suggested that I start my workouts at 12,000 feet but I wanted to see what it was like to train at 15,000 feet. Well, I found out. Without proper acclimation, I experienced some really weird things. First, my fingers tingled after a while. What a strange sensation that is while working out. Second, I got light-headed not while working out but right after. So the tingling fingers and spinning head told me that I should stick to the 12,000 feet training plan and slowly move up the mountain when I am ready.

The greatest part of being able to manipulate the oxygen levels at home is that I can control my recovery and training. Consider Monday as a prime example of this benefit. I was tired on Sunday and that fatigue carried over to Monday and I did not really feel up to my scheduled hour bike and hour elliptical workouts. Instead of doing straight training on those days, I split the hour into 30 minutes of regular normoxia training and 30 minutes of hypoxic training. I still got the benefit from 30 minutes of cardio training AND instead of burning myself out, I substituted hypoxic training for the other 30 minutes. The work intensity drops dramatically with hypoxic training but I still benefit. I love this training routine; it is going to really save me when I start preparing in March for the climb. My suspicion is that I will taper back the normoxia workouts and do most of my training at high altitude. For now, I was excited that I could rest but still train. Oh, I failed to mention that I dropped the tent altitude down to 7,000 feet so I could recover - climb high, sleep low.

plot of chunk Hypoxia

Updates for the week

My updates…

  1. I started continuously monitoring my spO2 at night and the results were a bit frightening. There are times at night when my spO2 levels dip WAY down. I plan to post those figures in a day or so. Stay tuned for a special post on continuous pulse oximetry data.
  2. Due to my continuing struggles to manage my asthma, I followed my brother's advice and sought local, professional help. Yep, I saw a doctor. The long and the short of that visit was that I had to get a pulmonary function test - actually two of them. I failed both but for different reasons. On Tuesday next week (3 days from now), I should have the complete results and will post a summary. Many of my favorite activities require breathing but I apparently don't do it very well. I guess I need to make the most of what I got.
  3. Last week I mentioned that work was a bear. Well it was last week. I had five deadlines on Thursday and not much sleep to show for them. Next week is a two-day workweek and then we are off to the beach to visit family. We can't wait!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for two blog posts in the next few days.

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