To be one of the most accomplished marathon mountain bike racers in the world, you have to put in the work. Kona Endurance and Adventure Team rider Cory Wallace, well, he puts in the work. Year after year. After a good experience last year’s early season training at elevation in Nepal and India, Cory chose to head to Guatemala this spring. Below are a few excerpts, but there are lots of gems in the longer version, which you can go to Cory’s blog to read!
Words and photos by Cory Wallace.
Marathon mountain bike racing is similar to being a smart investor as it requires a pile of time invested into training during the off-season to prepare for the payoff later in the season when the big races come around. It can be easy to lose your focus in the middle of winter when the weather is challenging and there’s no real immediate payoff for the hard work, but this is when seasons are made and lost. It’s common to be putting in 25+ hours per week on the bike so it’s nice to have accommodating weather!
This winter Guatemala was chosen, partly to take part in the El Reto de Quetzal race, partly to study Spanish, and partly to try out an experiment and to see how training at altitude would payoff. Having good success riding at altitude in India and Nepal last fall and the amazing feeling of having 3 lungs after returning to lower altitudes it gave me the inspiration to explore this avenue a little further.
Doing a bit of research and with past experiences I’ve come to my own conclusions about what should work and it seems living and training at altitudes between 2200 m and 2600 m seems ideal. Anything lower and the concentration of oxygen in the air is still high enough that it may limit adaptations, while any higher and there is not enough oxygen to be able to push yourself hard enoughto keep your muscles strong.
The idea is that the body will increase the volume of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, become more efficient at using oxygen, and due to the lack of oxygen both the lungs and heart will have to work at an elevated intensity. It also seems to be important to break up the altitude training with retreats to lower elevations to help with recovery to put in some strong efforts in oxygen-rich air, and once you return to altitude the body re-kickstarts the adaptations. Time will tell but things are on track right now with the body showing nice improvements every week.
Check out a few more photos below, and read the full story on Cory’s blog.