Elevation and training

I live/train at 3500 ft elevation, and often travel to Houston (sea level) to visit friends or for work. When going down to sea level, I understand my ftp should go up. According to Joe Friel, going from sea level to 3500 ft, you are limited to ~94% of your ftp, does this mean I should be doing my TR workouts at 106% when I’m at sea level?image

Its a good question, as most of the studies I’ve seen investigate the effects of increasing in altitude, and not dropping down to lower elevations.

The studies I’ve seen on effects of altitude show a decrease in VO2max of 6-7% for every 1000m of elevation gain (and all else equal, similar effect on FTP), and that you can recover approx 1/3 to 1/2 of the loss with multiple weeks of acclimatization.

So let’s say you move from sea level to 1000m (3300 ft), your FTP will drop from 100% to about 93%. But then after multiple weeks you may acclimatize and recover to, say, 96%.

So if you go back to sea level, will your FTP return to 100%, or 103%? I don’t know, but my guess is somewhere in between. Maybe you can answer the question for yourself by doing an FTP test at lower elevations?

Good question. I would be curious to hear the results if you do an ftp test.

I’ve got a trip planned in a month that falls near the end of my recovery week, so I’ll test at sea level then again back at altitude in a few days.

So with that being said, how will 5 days at sea level and going back up to altitude affect my testing if it’s scheduled for the next day?

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I don’t have any good answers to your questions but a few more questions to pose for the group! How will the trip itself and going down from altitude and back up affect results just on its own? Will you be doing the ramp test? The old 20 min test seems to be a bigger effort so would take more out of you and may hamper subsequent FTP tests just from that standpoint (if within same seven day span).

I was going to do a ramp test before I left and one while I was gone to compare the results of the two.

But I’ve been back for 2 days after spending 10 days at sea level, and I couldn’t finish Leavitt +2 today at 100% after training at 106% the entire time I was gone. Originally I was going to test after I came back, but after seeing my performance today, I think I want to test before I go.

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Interesting. The tables would suggest 100% should be doable after 10 days where your workouts were at 106%.

Did you do a lot of riding at sea level, and maybe were a little fatigued?

Separate from the numbers clearly showing you were stronger at sea level, how was RPE? Did you feel like you could recover a lot quicker from hard efforts? I’ve noticed this when I’ve gone from altitude to sea level …

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Agree with @DaveWh comments. Seems like something else must have been in play (fatigue, etc) other than just elevation. Perhaps, body has difficulty when going back and forth quickly from altitude? However, that seems to be the whole precedent behind live high/train low philosophy so maybe not.

Also, was training any different at sea level than at altitude or was it typical routine?

I was at sea level for 10 days and I rode TR for 6 of them, so it’s less than my normal routine of 5-6 rides per week doing Sweet Spot base mid volume. Rides at 106% at sea level felt easier than 100% at home, both on the legs and the lungs, so RPE was definitely lower at sea level. Maybe it was just a hard first workout back, not really sure but I nailed today’s workout so maybe it was fatigue yesterday that wasn’t bike related.

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An update to this thread.

I screwed up the testing protocol, but still some interesting findings from some of the fallout. But here’s some background:

I’ve been doing SSB 1 mid volume, and the way I had moved things around in my calendar, I was scheduled to start my recovery week on Friday Nov 16. I’ve traditionally not been able to finish the last couple workouts of any plan due to fatigue, difficulty, whatever and this also proved true. My last 2 workouts (Galena and McAdie +1) I was only able to get halfway through before I couldn’t muster another minute of the workout. I was only able to get 24 minutes into McAdie +1, so I followed it up with Pettit to complete my scheduled 1.5 hour ride as I was already awake at 6am. The next 2 days I did Carter and Taku as my recovery rides, and Ramp tested on November 19th at 3500 ft elevation. My FTP had gone from 245 to 248 after 2 or 2.5 recovery rides (however you want to look at it), so thought that was good, and that if I had a full week of recovery I would increase my FTP further.

I flew to Houston on the 20th, rode Bald Knob on the 21st, a group ride outdoors on the 22nd at 0.66IF, Truuli -1 (my usual ramp test opener) on the 24th, and Ramp tested at Sea Level on the 25th. I screwed up the testing protocol on the 25th because I had gone out for a few drinks on the 24th and only slept 6 hours and didn’t feel 100% like I normally do when I test and tested at 228 (vs 248 just 6 days prior at 3500 ft elevation).

I flew back to elevation on the 25th, and my first ride back was the 27th. I made another attempt at McAdie since I failed it before I left, I failed again at 33 minutes. RPE was much higher than usual, I chalked it up to being at sea level for 6 days, didn’t think much of it. Rode Pettit as my normal scheduled ride on the 28th, RPE felt more difficult than usual, then today attempted Ebbetts as my normal scheduled ride and failed at 37 minutes with RPE and HR being much higher than usual for this ride.

Not completely sure what to make of my findings, but on first blush it appears as though living at elevation then going down to Sea Level didn’t make much of a difference to FTP, even though I think this test should be thrown out as I wasn’t feeling 100%. What’s more telling for me is after coming back to elevation after 6 days at sea level, RPE and HR are much higher than usual and I’m now unable to complete any of my scheduled rides.

I’ll try and experiment around a bit more the next time I go to sea level, but I’m concerned these trips are derailing my training as anytime I come home I’m unable to complete my scheduled workouts.