Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Experiment Number 1 - Fail

Ok, so this is the first time I've trained at altitude, a new lifestyle, a new diet etc. I always knew it was a bit "trial and error" to start with and there was always a risk I wouldn't run well in my first race coming down from altitude.

My result in the CPC half marathon in the Hague was 69.23, my slowest half marathon for a number of years, rather than give up thinking it's all been a waste of time I have to look at the reasons behind the result. During the race pretty much from the start my legs felt very, very flat and the further into the race the heavier they felt, after about 10km I couldn't run at a pace that got me out of breath. I think a number of factors played a part. Firstly, this was my first race since November so I can put it down to being a little "race rusty". Second, I had a long journey from Iten back to the UK, then a long trip over to the Hague. The third possible explanation and the one I now think is the most likely is that some people when coming down from altitude get this "jet lag" type effect which usually happens after a few days of being at sea level and can last up to 2 weeks. The general rule of thumb that I have seen is to race either within the first 48 hours or after two weeks. When I raced I had been back at sea level for four days.

Has anyone else who has trained at altitude had this or a similar effect? If so I would like to hear any theories or solutions you may have, you can either leave a comment or email me at tompayn@live.com

So a big learning curve which has made me change my original plans about when I come back from London.

I went out to Kenya in 65 minute shape and there is no way I am now in 69 minute shape. Anyway I am back in Kenya now to put the finishing touches on my marathon training, I'm glad to be back but is was nice to see my parents (Hi mum, good walk yesterday!!) and I had a good trip to the Hague with John Hutchins, who ran a pb but needs to control the shakes if he is to beat me at pick-up sticks!


  1. You'll be fine dude - spot on about the altitude. After Font Romeu - these are 2 trainng logs:

    48hrs after returning: PM - 92 mins with 3 x 15 mins threshold. I was expecting to feel pretty amazing here, and also wasn't quite sure what pace threshold would be, having been running at altitude. It started well, but then I realised I'd had the wind behind me along the canal, and the last 15mins I felt pretty crap. I possibly pushed too hard early on, although the pace wasn't lightning. I was pretty downbeat after this really, as it shoudl ahve felt so much more comfortable. (5.22, 5.06, 5.16, 5.09, 5.17, 5.27, 5.24, 5.30, 5.37). There are gates and bridges so it's not all fast running but even so. The first half is clearly faster than 2nd half. 168 bpm (16)

    and then 4 days later:

    5k at 10k/threshold, lap jog, then 3 x 1mile threshold off 1min, all on the track. Really pleased with today. I wanted to feel good late on in this 5k and be able to accelerate a bit at 3k without hurting myself. I was able to do this and was surprising myself with how quick I was running compared with effort levels. It was pretty windy, and I was telling myself to ease back on the mile reps, and they were still fast. When you compare this session to my race at the Southern Mens League (15.08, working pretty hard) and the week before Poole 10k (15.30) it's coming together at a good time.

    5K: 2.58, 3.02, 3.00, 2.56, 2.54 (14.50) (184 bpm)

    Miles: 4.50, 4.50, 4.50 (174 bpm) (11)

  2. Moses Kiptanui says Kenyans decide how many days to come down from altitude before racing by "the science of the plane ticket". The race organizer sends the ticket and they catch the plane then.

    My own racing after altitude has similarly been dictated by when my flight is, the need to get back to work, and when races are available when I get back. I have raced well 6 days back from altitude, but also had a cold on another occasion in the first week back, or had races cancelled because of bad weather. When I've had disappointing or poor races, they've usually been followed by a period of very good training and I do get training partners commenting that I'm always tough in training when I come back from Kenya.

    In short, I'm sure your own assessment of your fitness rather than the HM in the Hague is to be trusted, but racing after coming back from altitude can be hit and miss when doing it for the first time.