Running High: Enjoying the Santa Fe Air
Ames, IA: Altitude 932 ft
Santa Fe, NM: Altitude 6995 ft
After reflecting on the push to maintain my endurance, it seems fitting that I take a trip to Santa Fe, NM to push that endurance even further. Last week, I flew out to meet the beautiful epicurean for a long weekend in New Mexico. Neither of us had previously visited this part of the country, and it presented us with some exciting opportunities. Not the least of which, for me, was the ability to hike and run in a completely new environment. On any vacation, I love the opportunity to explore the area via running, and this trip was no exception.
Prior to arriving in New Mexico, I was already somewhat aware of the difference in altitude, and thus the difference in oxygen in the air. The beautiful epicurean had already suffered a unfortunate bought of acute altitude sickness (AMS), which can occur in higher altitudes. The nausea, dizziness, and dehydration is nothing to play down, and you have to be very careful to up your water intake in such an arid climate. Thus, I was certainly worried about the possibility of suffering from AMS myself, and attempted to proactively hydrate myself like crazy! The hydration seemed to work, as I suffered none of the extreme effects she fell victim to when she arrived. It’s also important to note that your level of fitness has no bearing on whether or not you suffer from AMS- some folks are just more susceptible than others. I was also interested to see how the decreased oxygen (30% less in Santa Fe) would impact my endurance.
On our first full day in Santa Fe, we went for a hike up a local mountain, which started at 9600 feet. At this point, the air was decidedly thinner, and it only decreased as we moved upward. We took our time, drank plenty of water, and were rewarded with beautiful views of the mountains. We even ran into some snow that had yet to melt- it’s somehow not as annoying when you are wearing shorts!
The next morning, I went for a run outside of Santa Fe. I headed north out of town, and into the desert. The combination of less oxygen and a much more hilly landscape made for one of the most difficult runs I’ve had in quite a while. By the time I got to a stopping point, I looked back to see the city below me, and I was sucking air like I had been sitting on my ass for the last year! None-the-less, the views were fantastic, and the chance to feel that close to nature made it all the more rewarding.
After visiting and running in this part of the country, I now have a much better understanding of why professional athletes like to train at higher altitudes. By the time I was done, I couldn’t help but think about how much more conditioned I would be if I was running those hills and mountains every day, making due with so much less oxygen. Returning to Iowa and running the next evening, the increased oxygen was certainly noticeable!
I’m going to have to be that much more strategic about when I choose to run a marathon in the southwest, and make sure I hill train like it’s my job!