That is of course not so unusual. You'll see the same thing in almost every city across the world. What makes Boulder stand-out is that when you go for your typical lunch time bike or run you may just be passes by:
- An elite Japaneses and or Kenyan Olympic Runner
- The winner of the 2008 women's Olympic marathon
- A member of the Garmin-Chipotle bike team
- The winner of the 2008 and 2007 Ironman Word Championships
- Two time Olympian Frank Shorter
- and the list goes on and on.
So why are all of these elite athlete training in this small town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains?
The answer for the most part is simple : 5240...as in 5240 feet (or about a mile) above sea level. For decades now elite athletes have sought out Boulder because it gives then the ability to Train High and Race Low.
There are three basic approaches (outlined below) that elite athletes use for altitude training. The idea being that by training high your body produces more red blood cells, which carry more oxygen, which make your muscles more efficient, which make you faster.
Does this really work? In other words can training in Boulder and racing in Hawaii make you faster?
But what we can report is that almost every elite athlete we've interviewed here in Boulder strongly believes that living and training at altitude (Live High Train High) gives them a real advantage on race day.
So after you get that perfect pair of running shoes, that top of the line heart rate monitor, that 10K race bike, you may also consider investing in an altitude tent or a change of zip code.
Live High – Train High
Maximum exposure to altitude. Evidence of a positive effect at sea level is controversial, and there is less support for this method amongst experts.
Live Low – Train High
The idea behind this regime is that the athlete is exercising in a low oxygen environment, whilst resting in a normal oxygen environment. There have been some interesting findings suggesting that this technique might work, but there are no good studies showing that the technique makes any difference to the ultimate competitive performance of the athlete at sea-level. Additionally, training intensity is reduced so some athletes may find that they actually lose fitness using this regime.
Live High – Train Low
The theory behind this regime is that the body will acclimatise to altitude by living there, whilst training intensity can be maintained by training at (or near) sea level. Hence, the beneficial effects of altitude exposure are harnessed whilst some of the negative ones are avoided. However, residence at altitude must be for more than 12 hours per day and for at least 3 weeks. With this technique, improvements in sea-level performance have been shown in events lasting between 8 and 20 minutes. And interestingly, athletes of all abilities are thought to benefit.