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Monday, March 16, 2015

Fat, fit, and acclimatized

Greetings and welcome back to my blog.  I spent the last few weeks eating, drinking, and training - oh yeah, and working too.  My priorities these days are a bit different from last year.  Today's post documents those differences.  I learned a ton over the past 2 years and figured my blog would be a good place to document those discoveries.  Here goes....

1.  Getting fat and staying fat.  Yep, I am fatter than I was last year and I feel great!  At this point in my training routine, I tipped the scales at about 162 lbs (73.5 kg) and had a hard time even keeping my weight at that level.  More often than not, I would wake up, step on the scale, and note my weight had slipped below 160 lbs.  Throughout those days, I felt compelled to eat everything and anything regardless of my hunger.  That feeling is gone this time around.  Instead of trying to gain weight at the last second, I decided to bulk up early on in my training and keep that weight on by continuing to increase my caloric intake as my training routine pressed forward.  Today, I weigh 176 lbs (80 kg) and I feel much better than I felt last year.  I am stronger, my legs feel great, and I actually feel healthy despite the hours of training (and stress).  

2.  Targeted training.  Last year, I swam 6 hours each week (4 x 1.5 hours of practice) to maintain or even improve my cardiovascular fitness.  Those training sessions often came at the expense of other forms of training - specifically lifting and running.  This year, I decided to focus more on my legs and less on my upper body.  I still lift twice weekly for upper body strength and core stability but my swimming workouts now take up far less time and energy.  I try to swim once or twice each week.  These workouts allow my legs to fully recover.  Why the change?  I wanted to focus on what mattered most in climbing - legs.  These days, I lift more with my legs and run more frequently compared to last year.  That leg strength will come in handy when I am climbing.  Moreover, the muscle mass I gained this year in my legs will enable me to withstand some atrophy on the mountain and maintain enough strength when it comes time to summit and descend.  Strong legs trump swimming fitness in the mountains.  This year, I plan to be better prepared for the climb; perhaps I will also have fewer sinus infections.  Here's hoping....

3.  Acclimatization going strong.  I spent a ton of time in my Hypoxico tent last year.  
My training in that regard seemed more than sufficient, however, as I noted in my previous post, I altered my training routine for Aconcagua and learned even more than I learned before heading to Everest last year.  Basically, I found that training at altitude was less important than sleeping at altitude.  In fact, the higher I trained, the poorer I slept - even at lower simulated levels.  This time around, I reverted back to my pre-Everest routine and scaled down the tent.  Here (below) is a good shot of the new tent - in his and her varieties.

I now train at sea-level and sleep at increasingly higher simulated levels. Last year, I slept at the oxygen equivalent of 20,000 feet (6,100 m) for two weeks.  Those two weeks were really hard on me because I increased the altitude too quickly.  Many mornings, I woke up with a headache and spO2 values in the lower 70% range.  This year, I plan to have at least 3 weeks at 22,000+ feet (6700+ m) and, to achieve that altitude without too many adverse effects, I am slowly increasing my altitude ONLY after I wake with two consecutive days of spO2 values in the lower 90% range.  Last night, I slept at 18,500 feet (5640 m), woke up at 82% and felt great.  I still have 3,500 feet or roughly 1,000 m more to go until I reach my target sleeping altitude.  Suffice it to say though that I am in a much better acclimatization state this year compared to last year...and last year I was in good shape.  

4.  Seeing more friends and enjoying my preparation more.  Last year, I was more focused and less flexible with my time.  I vowed to be more relaxed about my training and take time to fully recover between training bouts.  My flexibility gave me the freedom to visit my dad and my long-time mentor (Lee Sechrest) in Tucson.  It was a great trip and one I will cherish for years to come.  Lee gave me guidance and support in graduate school and taught me the finer things in life - including Scotch (he prefers Bourbon), travel, and food.  Thanks to Lee, I feel prepared for all things in life.  Below are "Lee's Laws" that bear repeating and apply even when climbing.



Visiting with my dad was great too.  He and I had our daily routines for the 4-day visit but we had plenty of time to catch up.  One of my daily routines included squeezing in a workout or two.  Last Monday, I went back to my old haunt (the "phone line trail" in Sabino Canyon) and ran it to the best of my abilities.  It was a blast from the past and I was so happy to get back for a run on that trail.  Below, I posted a few pictures taken mid-trail.  Yes, I ran with my phone so I could take pictures.




Finally, the time away from my usual routine did come to a crashing end.  My dad and I were involved in a high speed rear-end collision.  His Volvo took a little beating but the fellow who hit us totaled his truck.  Damn, I like Volvos now.  Hope my VW stands up to that test.  We are all fine.  My dad and I are just as crazy as we were before the crash.  
Dad's Volvo.  Not bad for a high speed collision.

The truck that hit us while we were sitting still in traffic - en route to the Phoenix airport.
Makes you want to go purchase a Volvo now, eh?

I am back at home now.  Trying to catch up with work and house cleaning.  I had a great weekend of training and look forward to a few more posts before I head back to Nepal.  Stay tuned for more...