Mammoth Lakes: A Triathlete’s Dream
Ironman Champion and two-time Duathlon National Champion, Matthew Russell visited the Mammoth Lakes Crib as he prepared for Ironman Canada on July 27, 2014. Russell, a triathlete specializing in the Ironman distance since 2010, won this event in 2012 and came in second in 2013.
As part of his high altitude training he participated in the 2014 June Lake Triathlon held just 20 miles north of Mammoth Lakes on July 12 and handily won the Half Ironman competition.
Russell agreed that the local tri’s tagline of the “Toughest Race in the Most Beautiful Place” was appropriate, even with all of the triathlons he’s done.
“The altitude definitely make it tough,” he said.
Based near Santa Monica, Calif. and sponsored by the likes of Timex, Trek, Skechers, Destination Kona, X Endurance, Cyclologic (to name a few!), Russell explained that Mammoth Lakes has a “different pace of life.” In addition to great training grounds for all three disciplines of triathlon, it’s this type of lifestyle that makes Mammoth Lakes ideal for endurance athletes.
“[Mammoth Lakes] is a triathlete’s dream,” Russell explained. “You can swim in Whitmore Pool, ride Benton Crossing Road, and then run tempo on the road and finish up on the [Mammoth] track.” All of these amenities are within walking distance of one another, making for easy training access.
In addition to the pools (there is also an available pool at Snowcreek Athletic Club), Matt cited the available open-water swimming as another benefit to his training plan.
“It’s difficult in other places to do open water workouts,” he explained. Since the races he competes in are all open water, it’s good to have opportunities to get in some training in that area.
Lara Kaylor: What else makes Mammoth Lakes a great training ground for endurance athletes?
Matt Russell: It’s easy to get to. You can fly in. There are great climbs for the bike with low traffic, plus a good variety of running. Some of the climbs are considered some of the toughest in California as well as in the U.S.
LK: Why is high altitude training such a benefit for endurance athletes?
MR: It helps you build more red blood cells. A training block at altitude in a place like Mammoth also provides a place with minimal distractions. It’s good to go to different areas to provide variety. It’s gives the mind a mental break. Plus, I enjoy exploring the outdoors.
While people respond differently to altitude, Russell said he is an “altitude responder.” Even though the effects wear off soon after he returns to sea level, those first few days back he finds he can go harder than usual. So, prepping for a race at altitude can definitely have its benefits.
Timing, however, is everything.
“Sometimes it [altitude] can make you feel sluggish if you go high to low with too much time before a race,” Russell said.
The best-case scenario is to train at altitude and then head to the race about three days before it is set to take place. That way the high altitude benefits are at their peak.