Week 31 Update: Jan 11, 2014 for the week beginning on January 5th, 2014
Back at the grindstone now. It was a great week. I missed a few runs due to the cold and Kathy traveling but I made my training goals, sorted out my climbing gear, and finished a few major projects. My training goal was to step up the hypoxia levels (to 14,600 feet from 13,200 feet last week) but soon realized that I might be climbing a bit too high too soon. I am fully recovering but I still have 14 weeks before I leave. My uncertainty lead me to contact Brian Oestrike from Hypoxico for a bit more guidance. Here are some of the points we discussed and a few other things I learned this week:
- I wondered if I was training too soon for altitude and Brian suggested I focus more on aerobic conditioning and strength now rather than ramp up the hypoxic training and altitude. My plans to step up each 3-week training phase over these final 15 weeks might be a bit extreme - at least as Brian suggested. I am recovering fully from these hypoxic workouts but I fear my stress load might be lower than what I can tolerate now and that lower workload eventually may lead to a detraining effect.
- Swimming is just a chore now. I have no swimming goals so swim practice is just a normoxia workout and I have very little motivation. My lane mates certainly notice my unmotivated state.
- Kathy traveled last week and during her absence, my son decided he preferred early morning swim practice. What does that mean? I am the only driver for his 4:30am (4am wake-up) practice. When I was the sole driver in the past, the schedule wreaked havoc on my sleep-wake cycle. For some reason, I changed quite easily and adapted to the early wake-up. I have no clue if I can sustain it but so far, so good.
- Brian Oestrike suggested I start increasing my sleeping altitude - at least to 15,000 feet provided I am acclimatizing well to the current altitude. So far, I show no signs of hypoxic stress at any altitude after sleeping. Every morning, I awake with oxgen saturation levels consistently in the lower to mid 90% range. That suggestion also lead me to get another tent - a smaller one that will go into our guest bedroom. On the days when Kathy prefers to sleep at a lower altitude, we may need to sleep in separate tents. I hate the idea of sleeping alone without my dear wife but I have to focus on the goal of being fully acclimatized to at least 18,000 feet before I depart for Nepal.
- Brian also suggested that I get another high-altitude adapter so that I workout with two hypoxic generators connected to the same mask. Why does this matter? Well, as I increase the hypoxic stress, the hypoxic generator produces less air (output) and I run out of residual air in the hose and balloon (reserve air in the system). In essence, I start sucking against the mask and create a vacuum in the system. Nothing feels more suffocating than trying to suck air from a stopped up mask. I encountered this several times over the past week and he suggested that I combine my two generators, I will have sufficient air flow to breath a bit easier. It is amazing what happens to my oxygen saturation numbers when I hit that vacuum wall; I go from about 80% to the lower 60% range in seconds. Sheesh!
- Hypoxic training definitely affects my cognitive functioning. I have some recent data I might present at a later time but I can make a confident statement now with just a few observations. The more I train in this hypoxic environment, the more I find attention and concentration difficulties. Kathy worries about these effects but I assure her that they are transient - at least I hope so.
After careful consideration, I adopted a new training routine for these final weeks. Each week, I plan to complete 50% of my training hours on Sunday in a “big push” day. These days will mimic the long days of climbing but enable me sufficient time throughout the week to recover. Also, I have to figure out a training routine that fits my work schedule and Sundays are often the best days where I can devote 7-12 hours without too much problem. The figure below shows you the profile - perhaps a bit jumbled due to a slight shift this week. Over the next few months, the profiles will be heavily loaded toward Sunday with a taper off from Monday through Saturday. Also, I might take more than one day off each week (perhaps Friday), to make sure I fully recover from all the workouts.
This week, I had a 7.5 hour Sunday. The next few weeks will have 8-12 hour days on Sunday and I look forward to seeing how I recover.
I eclipsed 500 hours and I am well on my way to reaching my goal. To celebrate my training and the upcoming semester, Kathy and I hosted my lab last night. It was a great party and so nice to see everyone after a relatively long break.
The new sleep-wake cycle along with the increased training load had little effect on me. I recovered well, slept soundly, and felt great.
The figure below is now an accurate depiction of my mood. I felt great; optimism and motivation for life/training/etc both increasing while fatigue dropped significantly (not statistically speaking for those interested in those technical terms). I keep feeling my back even though I am able to do all my usual training activities. Nothing really hurts it - not my pack, swimming, lifting, or cycling/elliptical training - but it still feels sore at times. I think I need a massage.
OK, now we have the most current data to discuss. Jumping back into the tent was quite a shock and I felt the heat at night but somehow tolerated it better than before. I had a bit of a blip on my pulse oximetry data that does not show up on this figure. My resting HR has slowly increased from it usual mid-40's to now consistently in the 50's. Also, I had relatively low oxygen saturation levels this past week - all in the low 90's as opposed to the mid-90's as I had seen in previous weeks. All these changes without changing the altitude levels in the tent. Oh well. I expect I will adapt later.
Recovery (Restwise Data)
My recovery - accoring to the restwise algorthm - appears to be complete. I rarely scored below 80% recovery and I honestly felt great. The sleep changes did affect me slightly but quickly went away after a nap. Sleep remains one of the greatest influences on my recovery score. When I do not sleep enough, I seem to respond negatively on all measures of recovery.
Updates for the week
Third update of the day! Here I will post my thanks. First, I want to thank my entire MRES lab (listed alphabetically - Dan, Eric, Ewart, Fallon, Jake, Jenna, Jess, Kevin, Lisa, Melissa, Sam, and Simone) for coming out to our party. Kathy and I enjoyed your company and appreciated chatting with each of you and your significant (p < .25) others. Second, I want to thank all of you who offered me words of encouragement after my car was broken into before our trip. I really appreciate Ben Eloff's offer for Lightning parts and many of you who chimed in with equal parts disgust and support. Finally, I want to thank my family - immediate, extended, and surrogate - for all their words of encouragement. I love all of you and look forward to the next time we can chat. Thank you all for reading and following my adventure.