How to Exercise at High Altitude: a word problem

Oct 5 2012


(This is after the Medical Teams International Big Run
with my sis-in-law, Kim, who feels this pic makes her look schlumpy
but really she’s just schlumping ’cause I’m so short.
Thanks, Kim!)

I ran a 5K last weekend.

It was a miracle.

Four show-offy senior citizens passed me, speed walking, on the course. I didn’t care, though. Pfft; not me. I ran a 5K, folks, just four weeks after starting the Couch-to-5K program again. Last time I did Couch-to-5K, it took me 16 weeks to complete 9 weeks worth of sessions. So my running is slower than old people walk? Whatever. I totally outpaced the lady with the oxygen tank, so I’m marking it in the win column.

Greg and I arrived in Colorado yesterday, and today we completed the Vail Pass bicycle tour. We did it because we’re super sporty.

Sure, I huffed and puffed for the 45-second uphill portions and had to walk the bike a time or two, but, you guys, the guide told me during a water break that we have 25% less lung capacity at high altitude, so neither my huffing nor my puffing was surprising. That’s right, I thought, I have a darn good reason for not breathing, and then I posed a mathematical word problem for the guide — and for fun — because who doesn’t love a good word problem?

I’m pretty sure I get it, I said to the guide. Fill in the blank, OK? What I hear you saying is this: If I run a 5K race at a lower altitude and only four senior citizens pass me, then at this altitude when I run a 5K race…

five senior citizens — 25% more — will pass you, he finished.

In conclusion, I’m never running a race in Vail.

The End

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 P.S. Greg says both the guide and I suck at word problems (true for me, can’t speak for the guide), and that the question as I posed it was unsolvable because I didn’t provide the total number of seniors and allow for a percentage-based solution. In fact, Greg says, if 67% of the senior citizens (4 out of 6 total, since the nice lady with the oxygen tank was walking with a gentleman companion) passed me at sea level, then 100% (6 spunky seniors) would likely pass me at high altitude since they all, in this case boosted by an oxygen tank, would have better lung capacity than me. I say Greg can bite me.

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P.P.S. Free advice for the cautious at heart: always put your bike on a wedge.

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