Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Interesting question - how much difference is there between doing 3,000m of vertical ascent in the UK or in the Alps???

My friend Pete remarked on my training today, and the fact that I am lucky to be able to train in the mountains, which is not something really possible in the UK, where the mountains are more like hills (except for the Lake district, Peak district, Snowdon and the Scottish highlands for instance).

This got me thinking.  Pete and a few of the others who are also taking part in La Marmotte have done some rides in the UK recently with 3,000 metres of vertical ascent over the course of the ride.  And I have done similar rides but here in the Alps.

To get that kind of climbing in the UK they went up and down lots and lots of small hills, say on average 250m above sea level just for the purposes of my calculation.  I on the other hand did maybe 3 passes to get that same amount of vertical ascent, reaching altitudes of 2,200m above sea level or more.  What difference does this make in terms of getting used to the thinner air, and is the air really that much thinner at 2,200m above sea level compared to 250m above sea level?

I started googling to find a site that would allow me to get a quantitative calculation, and I found this one http://www.altitude.org/air_pressure.php.  You just type in the altitude and it tells you how much % of the oxygen is available at that altitude compared to at sea level.

So basically at 250m above sea level there is 97% of the oxygen available that there is at sea level.  At 2,200m above sea level on the other hand, there is only 78% of the oxygen available that there is at sea level.

All other factors aside, I guess it does make at least some difference to the training.  Also there is the difference in short climbs versus long ones.  In the UK you don't usually spend that long cycling up the hill, but in the Alps you may spend a good hour or two attacking the pass and being at higher altitude.  I wonder though if you could just simulate the thinner air in the Alps by using one of those devices that restricts your breathing - a power breather I believe they call them.

There is also the issue of momentum.  On short climbs some momentum from the downhill section can help you to get up the uphill section.  But that really doesn't make so much difference when the climb is 20km long.

And the last difference I can think of is letting your body get used to the temperature extremes - fluctuating between hot at the bottom of the pass and freezing cold with snow at the top of the pass, compared to a rather stable temperature on most UK rides.

I would be interested to know what others maybe think on this topic.

No comments:

Post a Comment