Friday, 4 September 2009

Live High, Train Low - in Europe

I've just got back from a couple of weeks training in the alps and things went pretty well. After numerous trips to altitude over the last 5 years i'm now at the point where acclimatisation happens very quickly so I can basically continue normal training as soon as I arrive, with a few adjustments to pace. Even this only amounts to about 5 seconds per km at this altitude. This rapid adjustment makes a hug difference in a two week trip whereas once upon a time I would have spent the first week taking it easy and acclimatising.

St Moritz is my favoured location (below, in the distance as viewed from Muottas Muragl) for the same reason as many others use it as a summer base. Plenty of trails, easily accessible track and reasonable cost at this time of year. We were particularly lucky with the weather this year. After a miserable July that included snow August turned out to be stunning with blue sky and temperatures in the 20s most days. You really couldn't ask for more.

With the Worlds on during my first week there weren't too many top athletes around though Kara Goucher and Adam were around until 3 or 4 days before her race which I found interesting. Not many mzungu runners can race well coming straight down from altitude - i've tried it several times and only had one good run (15km XC), the other efforts have been woeful. Clearly they had worked something out that was good for her and i'm guessing it may be something to do with sleeping in an altitude tent most of the time which would make the 6000 feet of St Moritz feel OK. After the championships the rest of the Salazar group appeared and american readers would have been dribbling into their Gatorade at the sight of Rupp, Ritz and Teg on the track.

Anyway back to the title of the post and the Goucher bit was a weak attempt at a link to 'live high - train low'. While in St Moritz we paid a visit to Muottas Muragl, a 2500 metres (8000 feet) bluff overlooking Pontresina and the inspiration for Bloefeld's lair in Ian Fleming's 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' (although the movie was filmed in the rotating restaraunt on the Schilthorn). Perched on top of the cliff is a hotel (left) and heading out into the mountains behind it are a number of trails on which you can do easy runs. The hotel is used by a number of Swiss athletes, especially triathletes and marathon runner Viktor Rothlin who was in residence with his wife and 'rabbit' when we visited. while the 10 minute funicular railway ride to the valley floor is a bit of a pain of you were doing it several times a day it is manageable and their are plenty of trails from the bottom of the railway in both directions along the valley floor at 1800m.

First week back at sea level has gone really well, after a couple of days feeling flat the legs have felt good and I'm really looking forward to racing again and testing my fitness in advance of my October marathon.


Unknown said...

Hi Andrian. I have been looking at your blogs and I am very interested in your experience about 'live high-train low'. I am far from your standard of running, but I am interested in trying the concept for a marathon in October 2010.
When you were in St Moritz, what altitude where you doing your runs? And did you find it of any help? IS there a centre/organisation that puts together this kind of training in St Moritz or is it self organised?
Thanks for your help

Adrian Marriott said...

My experience is live high/train high, I only visited the hotel at Mouttas Muragl (I think it is closed for renovation this year).

St Moritz is 1800m and there are many places to run. It is self organised and very easy to do. Book a hotel, turn up and run !

In my experience most people benefit in some way from a training trip to altitude though the exact benefit and when you get it is individual.

Go for it


Anonymous said...

Thanks Adrian!!!