I was in Aspen all last week and happened to notice there would be a Race For the Cure 10k and 5k going on my last day there. How could I not sign up? The race start was 2 blocks from my hotel.
If you’ve never been to Aspen, CO, it is about 12,000 feet above sea level. If you are not used to it, altitude can really impact not only your cardiovascular performance but also cause numerous other effects. Some people get altitude sickness with headaches and nausea. Hydration is really important. The body is forced to adapt to thinner, less oxygenated air which is believed to take about 7-10 days.
I thought well, “I’ve been here 5 days-I’m in good shape. I run 6 miles all the time”. Ha! Plus it’s for a great cause.
So here I am ready to go
As you can see it was a perfect weather day -the sun was shining and it was a breezy 55 degrees. There was bike event heading out right before the race and they were off.
I’ve never seen these pink “Porta Jane’s” before.
The Aspen race was much smaller and more low key than their races in other cities. The 10k had less than 50 people running. As I lined up the start and chatted up some of the other runners, I learned that the course was not through the town of Aspen as I thought, but rather on the Rio Grande Trail. I started to get a little nervous about it but at that point I was kind of all in. It is always very moving to see so many cancer survivors volunteering to help out and also to walk the 5k course. I met a man at the start who had part of his lung removed due to cancer and was about to run beside me. Then hearing some survivors sing the National Anthem almost had me in tears.
As you can see the scenery is absolutely gorgeous and makes for quite a distraction while running. Crossing the start line and beginning to run, I could immediately feel how different the altitude felt. My breathing quickly became labored and I could feel my heart beating so fast. I slowed down quite a bit and tried to regulate my breath. About 3/4 mile into the race, I came to a rocky trail going downhill for about 1/2 mile. This was pretty steep and not what I was used to at all. I rounded a corner and then things got tough with a mountainous road going strait up on the Rio Grande Trail. By that point, most of the other runners had passed me, including the guy with a partial lung! I trekked up hill for the next few miles taking a few walk breaks as well.
Views like this made it more bearable. I also saw 2 deer dart in front of me. I ended up having to walk up one of the hills and I seriously thought someone might need to give me CPR at some point. Well not that bad of course but it was probably the toughest 6.2 miles I have ever run. The altitude and hills together were a pretty brutal combo for me. I ended up finishing about 10 minutes slower than my usual 10k time. Not too bad I guess? I knew it would be tougher to run here, but I had no idea how tough. I figure it was great training and definitely for a good cause. I understand why so many professional athletes train here and how they must feel like rock stars when they then compete back at sea level. I don’t think I will end up with that feeling on tomorrow’s run back at home but who knows? Maybe!
Post race enjoying my Tex Mex meal with lots of guacamole-my favorite!
Have you ever run in high altitude? Have you done a Race for The Cure?