Timing arrival at altitude for a race

I used the search function but really didn’t find much about this, even on the leadville threads.

I am racing the Telluride 50 in two weeks, elevation between 9-11k ft. I had covid in late may/june which severely affected my training (was not sick but recovery took forever, ~6 weeks), with a ~20W drop in ftp from mid 280s (3.6 w/kg) to 260ish. I am back to normal endurance and even higher training volumes than I have done in the past (12-18h/week following my coaches plan). I have had about 4 weeks to hit it hard to try to get some fitness back before the race, and will hopefully be much closer to where I was although I haven’t tested. FWIW my power curve isnt a curve, its basically a flat line, so FTP isn’t that high but my sustained power is.

Anyway, with the background out of the way. I have two choices. I can arrive there at the end of this week and race next weekend, so approximately 7 days at elevation. I believe I would have no real time to get any actual adaption, but I figured this option would allow me to get ‘used’ to the elevation so I wouldn’t feel so slow.

The other option is to arrive thursday night, and race saturday. I have heard if you arrive and do your event quickly enough you can get through it without as many negative effects, but I am not sure how ‘quick’ that means. (<48h i think?).

I also am spending a fair amount of PTO/money on this trip, and would rather not have to just sit on my hands and rest while ‘adapting’. Being sick seriously derailed plans, so my only goal is to finish.

I have never been to this sort of elevation before, and have no idea know how rough it can be on your body. I have not found much online as I mentioned, and I am listening back to old TR podcasts to see what there is there. But any advice is helpful.

Try searching “cycling elevation acclimation” and some articles will pop up. You might try that term and throw in the word Leadville too.

I literally just heard amber talking about this on a podcast. Wish I could remember which one. Maybe try googling trainerroad elevation

Did a quick google search. This might be it. Not sure.

This is something I’m interested in too as I’d like to get into Leadville for next year, and really only have one personal data point myself. I went to Leadville (not for the race) in 2020, I was driving across country from sea level and did it in two days, so pretty much went straight to altitude arriving Sunday night. When I woke up after one night there, Monday morning, say 12-18 hours at altitude my Blood O2 had dropped to < 90% per my Garmin, and I was having slightly labored breathing just drinking my coffee on the first morning. It was noticeable. By Wednesday, Blood O2 was back to normal close to 100% and was back to feeling normal, and I did a big hike up to almost 13000’ without issue and I was back to “Game On”. Probably not 100%, but felt overall great.

I’ve heard people say the “Arrive and Race” but my own personal experience would make me very worried to do that unless it was literally driving up that morning from lower altitude. Make me decide personally right now based on my experience, the latest I’d show up is Wednesday for a Saturday race.

N=1, YMMV.

Here’s the TR advice I’ve heard:

Days 1-2 are always the worst for me. Trouble breathing with any exertion. Last year I did Silver Rush and Leadville both and I had never ridden my bike above 10k and had trouble with anything above 7k in the past. So I was concerned… For both I arrived 10 days early and spent time at elevation - a week at 6-7k and then a week at 9k. I had no issues breathing even when up at 12-13k in both races. My legs were another matter…Power loss at elevation is real.


For what it’s worth, if I do get into Leadville next year I think I’m going to plan on spending at least a week there in advance, potentially two. But pretty easy for me to work remotely on a short term basis, and not everyone can pull that off.

10-4 on power loss. Based on coming from sea level I think I have to discount my FTP by ~20% for pacing (depending where I am on the course) even when acclimated.

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+1 on this. I know some people say to just show up and race immediately if you can’t get up really early (like 2 weeks?), but that would not work for me. You lose significant power regardless, but I feel so much better after a few days. I usually arrive a week early, which has worked well. This year, I’m heading up to leadville a full 2 weeks early because I can work remote and I’ll be volunteering at the stage race. I’ll be riding sweeper, so I’ll be arriving Friday nice and sweeping up columbine saturday morning. Glad I won’t be racing right after arrival, sweeping should be soft pedaling (and walking) pace from what I understand.

Thanks so far for all of the advice. The personal anecdotes are what I was looking for, as it’s been hard to find that kind of information about how people feel day to day. Not enough about general feel rather than absolute performance etc.

I’d try to get there and race within 24 hours. For Master’s Nats in ABQ (at only 6.5-7k feet at highest point) I stayed on the outskirts at 4k and then came in the day before the race. I’m a wuss with altitude at even 6k messes with me. When we were at Colorado Springs a few years earlier I got there 3-4 days before the road race and felt sick the day before the RR.

Hope you have a good experience; I hear Telluride is hard!! Go crush!

I haven’t re-listened to the podcast and may be wrong, but I think the studies tend to point to the optimal timing being either to arrive within 24 hours of the race, or to arrive at least 3 weeks beforehand. My experience is somewhat different than that, however. I grew up at 7000 feet / 2100 meters, and I return there for a week or two most years (I’ve been living at sea level for 30 years). I feel worst on the afternoon the day after I arrive. I feel pretty good after three days, and don’t notice any ill effects after a week.

If I were in your shoes, I’d show up a week before the race and not do much training. And hydrate a ton.

And then when you return home after the race, after a week of essentially farming red blood cells in a WADA-safe way, you’ll enjoy crushing the group ride!

Good luck!

This is my weakness. I live at sea level, so when I get to the mountains, all I want to do is ride and hike. Then the big day comes, and I’m totally cooked. I think it’s worth it to maximize the vacation though.

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