A look inside the B.A.A. High Performance team’s trip to Mammoth Lakes, CA
Throughout October and November, the B.A.A. High Performance team will be training at high altitude in Mammoth Lakes, California, in preparation for the fall and winter racing seasons. While in California, the team will work on all facets of their running, from strength work to endurance and drills.
Among the B.A.A. High Performance Team members currently training at altitude are three-time Olympian Jen Rhines, Katie Matthews, Emma Bates, Juliet Bottorff, Sarah Pagano, and Emily Lipari. During the first week of training in Mammoth Lakes, B.A.A. High Performance coach Terrence Mahon snapped many photos of the team. In the posts below, he describes what its like to run in Mammoth.
Mammoth Lakes is located in the Eastern Sierras. The town is at an elevation of 7,800 feet, and sits just South and East of Yosemite National Park. Once you come off the mountain then it is a valley of high desert area for as far as you can see. The main areas where we train have the Sierras to the West and the White Mountains to the East.
The athletes train at a variety of altitudes depending on the workout plan for the day. If on an aerobic building uphill run, then we will extend up beyond , 9000 feet (as seen in the photo of the Minaret Vista). For long intervals we travel 30 minutes down the road to Round Valley where they can run at 4,500 feet. Tempo runs and short intervals are done at the track and on nearby roads where the altitude is 7,000 feet.
At this time of year we can see the Aspen trees in full with their bright orange and yellow colors standing out against the desert browns. Alongside with the Aspens are plenty of sage brush and evergreens. Although not nearly the full color spectrum of an East Coast fall, it is still quite a beautiful site.
The main reasons to get in altitude training for endurance athletes are to build up their oxygen carrying capacity and improve their overall pain tolerance. Since everything is harder at altitude (even walking up steps) it changes your concept of what hard really is. Athletes that come out of altitude and down to sea level to race feel like it is not nearly as hard as it used to be. Combine that with the added red blood cells that have been produced in this hypoxic environment and you are ready to run fast!
Whether in Mammoth or Boston we always get in our ancillary training. The team hits the gym four times per week. Two days are dedicated to building upper and lower body strength while the other two days are focused on core strength and total body flexibility.
The best part of the trip has been how well the athletes are embracing the challenge of this training camp. Bringing an athlete 8000 feet above their normal training environment can be a tough ask, especially when we also increase their training volume and intensity. There are no easy runs when training in the mountains, but the smiles on their faces each day show me that they are taking it all in stride and enjoying the opportunity that the B.A.A. has given them.
We will be in Mammoth for just over 4 weeks. Sports scientists have shown that it is best to be at altitude for a minimum of 3-4 weeks to get the maximum benefits for increased oxygen carrying capacity. We decided to have the camp be situated between the U.S. 10K Champs and the U.S. 12K Champs (in Arlington, Virginia, on November 15) so that we could see how the athletes have handled the training camp. The results will help us define timelines and racing dates going forward for each athlete.
I like to think of this camp as a test run for future Championship races. Once we can dial in how an athlete responds to altitude and when they race best coming out of the mountains then we can use this to our maximum benefit prior to the top U.S. National events, including next summer’s Olympic Trials.