Into Thinner Air – The Truth About Oxygen in Boulder (Don’t Hyperventilate Yet)

Pin It

Yes, it’s harder to breathe in Boulder, Colorado than it is in Providence, Seattle, Madison, Portland, San Francisco or even Bend.

It’s also true that flying in just in time for the Altitude Adjustment Cross weekend (despite the name) or a Wednesday course pre-ride isn’t ideal, since most studies indicate you should arrive two to three weeks prior to your event, or just hours before the event, for optimal performance. (Unless you’re just trying to get your mind adjusted to breathing harder, or your riding skills honed for colder weather riding.)

It’s also widely-accepted by bike racers that the ideal preparation is to sleep and live high, and train low. However, it’s not very easy to do both, unless you live on Haleakalā.

Some racers, like SoCal native and three-time National Champion Ryan Trebon are focusing on optimal training at sea level, in nice weather, as Nationals prep:

Other racers like four-time National Champion Jonathan Page flew in to Colorado for the second day of Altitude Adjustment Cross, where he placed third. It’s not ideal timing according to studies, but Page told Cyclocross Magazine in our Issue 23 feature on him (mailing now) that he hopes his Altitudetech devices will provide an edge when racing at altitude. Page is quoted by Altitudetech’s website as saying he used the tents to help prepare for his silver medal at the 2007 Cyclocross World Championships.

Jonathan Page on Altitudetech's website

Jonathan Page on Altitudetech’s website

Most Nationals racers don’t have the luxury of such training and sleeping options. But the last thing you want to do is stress your body and mind further by worrying about things out of your control. Booked your flight already to arrive at the wrong time? Live in Death Valley? You’ll still have fun and have a chance to race well. This is still cyclocross we’re talking about.

Racers who raced at the 2010 or 2011 Cyclocross National Championships in Bend and will be racing in Boulder might find comfort in these statistics:

In Bend, Oregon, where the 2010-11 National Championships were held, there is 88% of the oxygen found at sea level.

Oxygen levels in Bend, Oregon are 88% of sea level. graph: Altitude.org

Oxygen levels in Bend, Oregon are 88% of sea level. graph: Altitude.org

In Boulder, Colorado, where the 2014 National Championships are held, there is 83% of the oxygen found at sea level.

Oxygen levels in Boulder, Colorado are 83% of sea level. graph: Altitude.org

Oxygen levels in Boulder, Colorado are 83% of sea level. graph: Altitude.org

Yes Boulder certainly has less Oxygen, but it’s not that different. We didn’t hear much about the altitude issue for Nationals in Bend, but now it seems to be a big concern among racers in Boulder.

It’s just an additional 5% less than Bend. (Or 5.7% for math geeks who use the 88% as the reference).

National Championship racers who raced in Bend can use this info to comfort themselves. When the lungs start burning, just tell yourself, “it’s just 5% less!”

For all the best Cyclocross Nationals 2014 coverage, including bike profiles, race reports, results and video interviews, check out our 2014 Cyclocross National Championship Page here.

 

 

Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
Tagged as: , , , , ,
9 comments
Big_MacCx
Big_MacCx

I imagine Ryan sure couldn't have used the 5% difference in oxygen that Powers was able to use from acclimation for 2 weeks living at altitude before nationals.  1.5% improvement in his lap times wins him the race.  Yes, altitude and spending time before the race at altitude made a difference

Bruce Gullan
Bruce Gullan

Since I'm probably 90% less of a rider those at the top this equation means that those riders are coming back to me.

scottamus38
scottamus38

You should have posted this advertisement 4 weeks ago if you wanted to entice riders to come to Boulder..

Gee, nice anecdotal research here. Ever heard of SCIENCE?

This is why I dont subscribe any longer... This should be in the 8th grade newspaper kids...

Big_MacCx
Big_MacCx

And to think, I train all year to try to improve my lap times by a few percent (1% of an 8 minute lap =+20 seconds over a 40min race).  Yea, it makes a big difference.  #hometownchamps

Scott Hendricks
Scott Hendricks

Robert, you did notice, I hope, that the story wasn't about comparison of cold/snowy conditions, right? It wasn't even really about a comparison of elevation, either. The comparison was just included to give credence to the point that the effects of elevation are often based on perceptions. Folks are concerned about elevation at Nationals because they THINK that Boulder is in the mountains. It's not. It's next to the mountains.

Robert Curtis
Robert Curtis

Considering it was the two most recent national championships - held in extremely freezing and snowy conditions....yeah I would think it would be more of an indicator of comparison than anything having to to with this championships than anything from 3-4 years ago.....

Will Lewis
Will Lewis

CX Mag posts an article with a barometric pressure calculator and you complain about no mention of Madison. I'm sure reading that Madison had 97% of the oxygen you'd find a sea level would be a huge addition to the article Robert.

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

Good point. Madison gets a mention, along with most host cities in the last 10 years...click on the story...but we're only talking altitude here. Never heard of anyone talking about Verona in terms of altitude, but for the curious, Verona should have 97% of the sea level oxygen.

Robert Curtis
Robert Curtis

How about the 12 and 13 championships in Wisconsin....or did those not happen?

Stay up to date:

Search for a product, review, race or racer:

Visit these cx-loving companies:





Support CXM at no extra cost to you: