There’s only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and less than 8 weeks till JWOC 2016 now. Unfortunately, when you factor in university, travel to university, sleeping and eating that only leaves a little time to train even when you multitask eating, sleeping and university (oops). But somehow the long sessions in the gym following gritting intervals on the track are getting done and improvements being made.
When the team was announced for JWOC this year one of my first concerns I raised with my coach was the altitude. The long distance race at Tschierv/Val Müstair in particular will be tough ranging in altitude from 1900-2300m. Why is this an issue? Well at sea level the air you breath contains 20.9% oxygen which is used to power every cell in your body including your muscle cells, in the most efficient way. At 2000m this drops to 16.4% meaning in every breath you are receiving ~20% less oxygen then at sea level to power your body. A shortage of oxygen means your body depletes stored energy in muscles much quicker. This means that the same intensity of exercise which you could cope with for 2 hours fine at sea level could make you ‘hit the wall’ much earlier at 2000m.
This is obviously a problem which everyone who doesn’t already live at 2000m or higher altitude to have adjusted, will face at JWOC this year. The question is how can you best prepare for the altitude? Luckily there are methods of increasing aerobic capacity and making adjustments to minimise the effects of altitude. My coach suggested 3 options: go over a month early and adjust naturally to the altitude (impossible because of university), try making artificial adjustments through using an oxygen machine (expensive) or get really, really fit! To make the gains you sacrifice yourself to pain and there will be a bit of that over the next few weeks!
As the countdown continues stay tuned to see how the team prepares for the most important races of our lives (so far)!