When Training at High Altitude, Hydration Is Key

Jul 14, 2021

Running, whether on trails or the paved paths around town, is a popular summertime activity for residents and visitors alike in Mammoth Lakes. With hundreds of miles of trails, and a variety of running-focused events throughout the season, the town fosters a great culture for the sport.

As part of Mammoth Lakes’ July 4 celebrations, the Mammoth Track Club hosted its annual Footloose Freedom Mile fun run, which kicks off the parade down Old Mammoth Road and Main Street. The race raises money for the Mammoth Track Club and the Mammoth High School Cross Country Running teams.

This year, the event drew 500 participants, 50 percent of whom were under the age of twelve. Mo Lee Thornburg of Bishop won the women’s division in 5:12, beating the course record by one second. Upon crossing the finish line, all runners (and walkers) received a mini American flag to wave during the annual Fourth of July parade.

Earlier this summer, MTC elite athletes Daniel Tapia and Reid Buchanan, raced in the U.S. National Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, CA. The track meet was contested in 100-degree heat, adding a bit of a challenge for each competitor.

Daniel was up first in the men’s 10,000-meter race. Shortly after the gun went off, Daniel took the lead for the first six laps of the 25-lap race, finishing a strong 30:25 for the distance.

Reid Buchanan had a superb race, finishing 8th in the men’s 5,000-meter run. His time, just four seconds off from his personal best, was 13:31 for the 12.5-lap race.

Both of athletes earned a contract with Skechers Performance as a result of their performances.

Whether you’re an elite athlete training for an event or just running in Mammoth Lakes for fun or exercise, hydration is key. And I’m not just talking during your training. Hydration should be a major focus throughout the day for runners at high altitude.

When an athlete trains at altitude they loose water much more quickly than at sea-level. Why? Well a couple of things are at play here.

First, at 8,000 feet, Mammoth Lakes is a low humidity area, so your body tries to equalize with the environment (i.e. the dryer the climate, the quicker the water from your body evaporates).

Second (and the biggest factor), we breathe at a faster rate here because human respiratory rates increase as we get higher in altitude. When we take a breath, our body assimilates the oxygen, breaking it into two components, water and carbon dioxide. What happens to the water we produce as our bodies process oxygen? We exhale it (think: breathing on your lenses to clean your sunglasses). Since we breathe more rapidly at 8000 feet, we lose water from breathing at a faster rate.

To combat high-altitude dehydration, drink water throughout the day. Shoot for 4-6 oz. of water every hour you are awake and increase the volume with activity. If you plan on going for a run over an hour long, plan to hydrate with an extra 2-3 oz. of fluid every 20-30 minutes.

Muscles cramp when the body hasn’t received the necessary hydration or nutrients. Staying hydrated can play a major role in preventing muscle cramps on a run or hike.

Lastly, limit your caffeine intake. The Looney Bean, Black Velvet and Stellar Brew don’t want to hear this but, coffee has a way of depleting an athlete of their vital water stores and electrolytes needed for training. Personally I have switched to drinking decaf coffee in the afternoons to help preserve my water/electrolyte balance and retain fluids for when I need them on my next run.

Andrew Kastor

Andrew currently resides in Mammoth Lakes with his wife Deena (Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and American Record holder in the marathon and half-marathon) and their daughter, Piper Bloom. He’s the head coach for the Mammoth Track Club.

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