Monday, April 04, 2005

 Running to get high 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm beginning training for the Pikes Peak Ascent coming in mid-August. The Ascent is a race from Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak mostly along Barr Trail, going a half-marathon's distance of 13 miles. The total elevation gain is over 7,800 feet, and it is almost entirely uphill (I would hope so!). So what is my plan for getting myself ready?

Well, at this point, I'm simply trying to shed a little more weight. When I started working desk jobs back in 1998, I gained nearly 20 pounds in the first few months. Being sedentary and indulging in yummy but fatty lunches contributed equally to my bulging. After a few months I did finally start exercising seriously, and I also switched to healthier lunch fare at the office; but in all the time that I worked in the private sector, I never got my weight below about 150 and change. And in the late months of 2004, I found my weight going up again, topping out in January at nearly 165. Ugh.

Then came Gym of the Rockies to the rescue. 2 1/2 months of spinning, stairmaster, weights, and outdoor running (5 times a week of at least some type of exercise) have helped significantly, and today I weighed in at 153. I'm hoping to get trimmed down to the mid 140s or so, at which point I'll focus a little more on strength training. But in the meantime, all this is doing wonders for my endurance.

Certainly the best thing I'm doing so far is the trail running. Most of these outings consist of roundtrips between 4-7 miles, with elevation gains of 300-600 feet. Doing this kind of running at 5100+ ft. elevation here in the Front Range is fantastic, and I am finally beginning to feel like it's coming more easily now. (I was huffing quite a bit back in February.) I'll be doing a few more such runs around here, but shortly I plan on actually driving up to Estes Park at 7500 ft. and doing some extended training runs up there on nice long inclines.

Cindy and I are also doing weekend hikes to some of the local summits. We've done Horsetooth Rock twice now, including once this past Sunday. That tops out at 7255, with about a 1500 ft elevation gain. Our next couple hikes that I've scoped out are about 2000+ ft gains, rising to 8400 and 9000 ft respectively. But mid-summer, I think we'll do a few nice hikes in Rocky Mtn Natl Park, and time-permitting, maybe even a 14er or two.

And of course, to help with acclimatization, we'll be trekking in the Peruvian Andes in mid-May. Our trek starts at around 12,000 ft, and over the course of 4 days, we spend nearly all of it at or above that, topping out on day 3 as we cross Punta Union pass at 15,700 ft. Fortunately, before we get anywhere near that high we'll have spent over a week in Cuzco, which itself sits at over 11,000 ft. Cindy and I are definitely learning to live with less oxygen.

The big challenge for me though in the short term is shedding the next 5-8 pounds. The last few pounds are always the hardest. But I can see the fat on me in the mirror, and I know that I didn't always have it.

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