By Garrett Butts
It's been a while, and contrary to last time, lots has happened!!
Since the last blog, a lot has happened! I jumped on a plane at the beginning of October and came home to CO for a nice altitude training camp and of course to get some time at home. I was able to get a few more days of working with Tenderfoot Outfitters in, taking different horseback tours, go for my first 100, mile bike ride, and shoot my bow, just to name a few highlights. Then in the last few days of my stay I was lucky enough to be able to get out in the woods and do some elk hunting. I didn’t end up getting anything largely due to heavy snowfall greatly affecting ⅔ hunting days, but regardless, I was able to have the experience I wanted and unplug from normal everyday life and get back to some of my roots and do something non ski related that I really enjoy. Normally during this time, my team APU would go to Park City Utah for a two week altitude camp, but due to all things COVID, that wasn’t able to happen. Luckily for me, my home of Gunnison CO sits at 7,703ft and fits in perfectly as a substitute!
Those Tidd-Bits I Mentioned ;)
While here in CO I was able to get plenty of good training in, and also get a lot of various data points on how my body reacted to coming back up to altitude. For example… When you come to high elevations from sea level, there are a lot of things that happen to the body, but everything that happens, happens on a highly individual basis. When I got home, I was looking forward to tracking 3 things. How I would do with a 2 day race entry, how my blood oxidation would change from day to day, and how long it would take me to return to being highly efficient at high altitude.
Simply put, a “2 day entry” means racing the 2nd day of being at altitude. There are a few ways to try to optimize performance when going from low to high, but the 2 day entry is one I had not yet tried. The thinking behind the 2 day entry is that you race very soon after you arrive because your blood oxidation levels should theoretically remain at a high level from being at sea level, ie 98ish%. Needless to say it seemed to work just fine.
Most studies show that when going from low to high, your blood oxidation will decrease for 3 days before coming back up/ normalizing after that. For me, my blood oxidation was the lowest the first morning I was home, dipping to 91% from 98% the day before. (Which is a fairly normal level for me at altitude based on numbers gathered over the summer.) Then it came back up to 94-5% for about 5 days before stabilizing at around 92% for the rest of the trip. Needless to say, not what I was expecting based on what most studies show, which just goes to show how individual all of this is. Interestingly enough, based on feeling, I seemed to regain my high efficiency at altitude on day 16ish, which did not exactly correlate with my blood oxidation levels.
The Importance of Mental Balance
While being able to come home to get an altitude camp was fantastic, it made up a small portion of why I was very excited to get to CO. To be honest, I was counting down the days leading up to my departure. I was ready for a change of scenery, blue skies, warm sunshine and some good family time. Essentially, my soul was ready for a good recharge to get me through to Christmas. This brings me to my main point. Whether you are a professional athlete, work an office job, or are a busy retiree, it is very important to take some time to unplug mentally. Whether you do that by taking some days off or just do a different activity that you find joy in, you can reap enormous benefits. For me this took the form of getting to ride my bikes, ride my horses, spend time up in the mountains, spend time with family, eat some good ol’ home cooked food, etc. While yes, if I had to stay in Anchorage, I would’ve been completely fine, however, it would’ve likely taken a little more out of my mental bank than I would’ve liked. Now I can go back, recharged and revitalized and can continue to train day or night, rain or shine, (so in Anchorage, all dark and lots of precip:))without having a problem with motivation or anything else of the likes. As they say in all forms of sport… “Happy head, fast legs.”