Lessons Learned at 10,000 feet
So there I was. After many years of dreaming that one day I would sit atop this mountain looking down and bask in the glory of the Utah sun and cold. I traveled to Snowbird with 3 other trainers for a 4 day trip during the first week of February at the tail end of a record breaking 100″ of snowfall. The locals were beside themselves and the energy on the mountain was a snow lover’s dream.
We got there early on Wednesday so that we could get a few runs in and we were booked through until Sunday where we could get a few runs in before heading home. It had been Waaay too long since I had been on a mountain trip and the last time I went snowboarding with friends was in Vermont which served basically only to whet my appetite for bigger, more challenging terrain.
I feel like I had finally found the exact right spot for me when we got there because I was neither the best rider in the group nor the worst. In fact we were all fairly equally matched for skill and conditioning but my age showed a bit and my preparation could have been better. What I may have lacked in either case I made up for in sheer determination and a risk accepting attitude, probably the reason I broke my wrist 18 months ago, but it has kept me knee deep in fun all my life.
Whether you are planning a big mountain trip, a casual escape to a ski resort, or looking for a little extra excitement, there is no better feeling than being well prepared for the adventure.
Please…Learn from my mistakes.
Good Preparation. All good trainers analyze the demands of the sport they train their clients and athletes for. I underestimated the volume of effort that we would be putting out during our trip. I should say I underestimated my sheer ability to go crazy, take risks, charge ahead and get in trouble. Getting in trouble on a snow trip means if you make a wrong turn you could end up waist deep in powder that is practically like quicksand. It really takes tremendous effort to escape from and at elevation can cause intense hyperventilation.
Lesson Learned: Figure out where you are going and what you are going to do Surfing? Skiing? Mountain Biking? Estimate the amount of time you will spend each day and make some adjustments to your workout routine. Adding a few extra sprints and hard cardio sessions would have acclimated my body to some of the demands that the altitude and the deep snow placed on my system.
Water. 11,000 feet meant hyperventilating and I did a tremendous amount of it because when I wasn’t stuck in the snow I was barreling down a crazy hill making tight turns and screaming I was having so much fun. Add that to the competition to keep up or lead the guys in my group down a steep pitch meant that there was very little rest and a lot of full body movement. Which means I spent most of my four days gasping for air. All that gasping meant there was a huge increase in the amount of air I was exchanging and water I was losing as vapor. Exercising at altitude means I needed a lot of water. Exercising about 5 hours per day more than I was used to and I needed to at least double my water intake.
Lesson Learned: We did use Camelbak hydration systems. They are basically backpacks of water with tubes that run to your mouth via your shoulder straps so you don’t have to fiddle with bottles while you are on the move. They work very well IF you keep them filled. On one day I managed to go through my water supply and I never refilled it so by the time we finished I was already dehydrated. Use a Camelbak, and use it well. Even if you think you feel fine drink more water. It is nearly impossible to drink too much water so drink up. Worst case scenario you pee a lot more.
Calories. If you are going on an adventure trip, a hiking excursion, spending a day at the beach, or just out for a long bike ride you need calories. Don’t make it part of your weight loss routine. Concentrate on having the fun. I bought a backpack for the trip so I could carry my calories and that worked well on two of the four days. The rest of the time I thought I would rely on the lodge or on some trail mix. A couple days this left me without the calories I needed to support my exertion levels.
Lesson Learned: Pack your lunch! Pack two lunches! Don’t underestimate your need for fuel. The protein bars and the trail mixes are an ok supplement but a sandwich goes a lot further. Find plenty of variety in your fuel sources and you will never run out of energy while having your fun. You will also supply your body with the fuel needed to repair damaged muscle and if you are adventuring then you will surely need it.
A little too much partying. Thank the Snowboard gods I was with trainers who are basically healthy guys. I like to drink when I am social and if I was hanging out with drinkers then I would have boozed it up a little more and that would have dehydrated me further. As it stands we had a couple beers each at dinner and that seemed to be plenty. Drinking at altitude can be quite taxing on your system and even though you are on vacation and should let loose a little bit if you are exercising then beer and wine make poor recovery drinks. I am not in the habit of grabbing a beer after the gym so grabbing one after 6 hours outside playing doesn’t make much sense in hindsight.
Lesson Learned: A little less beer and a little more water would have done wonders for my recovery. Try to limit your intake while on your exercising vacation. You will be able to play harder and far longer if you do.
I really should have taken more advantage of the jacuzzi and the steam room. The steam room, especially at altitude, helps to salve the dryness and irritation of the lungs from the volume of air exchanged. Our rooms came with humidifiers as well and I should have used that at night. I probably would not have come back with that rough cough as a result. The jacuzzi would have helped. I did take a soak but only on one night. The mistake was in not going out there every night to let the warm water and jet streams help to ease the tension out of my muscles. A massage would have done me pretty well too.
Lesson Learned: Steam, Jacuzzi, humidifier, and massage will help you in your recovery and as you age the name of the game is recovery. The faster you can recover the more fun you can have.
So there you go. I went and made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Please take a couple notes so that you can have more fun and feel better during your trip. And please share your experiences in the comments.