I just returned from Altitude Camp with the Brooks Beasts in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I’m still on a running high from the weekend. This is my 6th season as a Brooks Running Ambassador and I fall more in love with the brand (and people) each year.
So what is Altitude Camp? It’s the Brooks Beasts’ annual training camp at 5000+ feet above sea level. The majority of elite runners will train at altitude for a portion of the year to reap the benefits of training in the thinner air. At altitude, our bodies will experience an increase in red blood cells, which leads to an increase in oxygen. Altitude training works because of that increase in oxygen.
Due to how our bodies adjust to changes in elevation, you need to train for at least three weeks for optimal benefits. Unfortunately that means the long weekend I spent at Altitude Camp won’t really effect my performance, but the Brooks Beasts are in for the long haul with a 4-6 week commitment at altitude.
Here are a few takeaways from my stay at “Camp Brooks.”
1. Track workouts at altitude are no joke.
Hello, Florida girl here. I’m familiar with training in hot and humid conditions at sea level, but track workouts in dry heat at 5000+ ft above sea level? That’s a whole new ball game.
For our first big adventure at Camp Brooks, we headed to the track to get a taste of what a Beasts track workout at altitude is like. We were split into teams and I was placed on Beast Katie Mackey’s team. Go Team Aqua!
After a quick 1-mile warm-up around the track, I knew I was in trouble. The sun was blazing and I found it slightly harder to get a full breath with the thinner air. It wasn’t a crazy difference, but definitely noticeable and I felt it.
- 3:00 min @ 5K pace
- 2:00 min rest
- 200 m @ 1 mi pace
- 5:00 min rest
- Repeat x3
Man, do I miss the track. It was hard, but it also hurt oh so good. I really miss pushing myself like that and I forgot how motivating it is to run with other runners on the track. I was definitely dying, but I managed to reach deep and find something to keep me going. Surprisingly, my splits stayed pretty consistent and I was happy to (somewhat) keep up with the pact.
The breathing thing was definitely weird and killed my lungs, but I finished feeling great. I need to do the same track workout at home and compare my times asap. Also, I need to find a real track and team to train with.
2. Stepping back into my running comfort zone
On Saturday we hit a local trail and completed an out-and-back 5K with the sunrise. Words cannot even begin to describe how amazing this experience was.
My experience with trail running is very limited, so I was very nervous hitting the trails. I was nervous I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with my friends, I was nervous I would fall, I was nervous that the altitude would catch up with me (the trail run was at 6500 ft), but I had nothing to be nervous about. I actually felt more at ease with running that I have in a long time. There was something about being surrounded with friends on the trail that opened me up. I felt like me again and it felt great.
The views were gorgeous, the weather was amazing, and it was hard not to run with a huge, goofy smile on your face.
3. Nothing is one size fits all
If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s NOTHING is one size fits all. From workouts to recovery to nutrition to shoes to apparel, everyone has their own unique approach to what works best for them and the secret is finding what works best for you.
So how do you know what works best for you? Honestly, it’s a lot of trial and error, but mostly learning to listen to your own body and ignoring all of the outside fads and noise. I think sometimes we just need to hear that to know we’re on the right path. With the elite athletes, they have coaches that are guiding them on best practices, but at the end of the day it’s up to them to get past that mental edge and make it happen.
I have a few notes for myself personally regarding all of the above, that I plan to test and apply and report back on.
4. Elite runners… they’re just like us!
We crashed the Brooks Beasts’ house on Saturday night. During Altitude Camp they all stay together and we heavily joked that it must resemble a season of Real World. However, we were told that if they were filming for Real World, it would be pretty boring since the most drama they experience is whose turn it is to use the car.
They train as a team, but you can tell they’re also close-knit group of friends who truly care and lookout for the other team members. I’m sure they have their bad days – doesn’t everybody? – but at the end of it there’s a bond there that keeps the laughs flowing.
I really enjoyed having a chance to get to know the Brooks Beasts athletes over the weekend. They’re down to earth, approachable, and at the end of the day they’re all twenty-somethings just trying to live their lives.
And, yes, I did see them (most) of the Brooks Beasts enjoy a drink or two on Saturday night. Shh… don’t tell coach. 😉
5. Rediscovering my Run Happy
I needed this weekend. I don’t think I knew how much I needed this weekend until I got there. What I love most about running is the community that comes with it and lately I’ve been missing that community. My runs have been stale, uninspired, and routine. I’ve felt stuck and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. Due to the time constraints of my current schedule, all of my runs have been solo. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I met a friend for a run or workout. I fit my runs in when I can, and that’s usually on my own before most of the world is awake. I didn’t know what I was missing until I had the opportunity to run with friends again this weekend. What. A. Difference. I felt inspired, free, and 100x better than any of my most recent runs. I ran farther, kept pace, and had a goofy smile on my face the entire time. THIS was Run Happy. THIS is what I’ve been missing. I missed that bond that comes with running with friends, I missed the distraction, I missed my friends.
So my takeaway is I need to stop making excuses when it comes to meeting friends for a run, and start getting out there and making an effort. I need this for my sanity and I need this to remind me why I love this sport so much.
Once again, thank you to Brooks Running for taking me on this adventure. I’ve already said this, but I truly love this brand and everything it represents. I’m honored to be a Run Happy Ambassador and wear that title proudly.
Also, MAJOR shout out to my fellow Run Happy Ambassadors:
- Lora – Crazy Running Girl
- Emily – Daily Garnish
- Jesica – rUnLadyLike
- Ashley – Healthy Happier Bear
- Tina – Carrot ‘n’ Cake
- Anne – fANNEtastic Food
- Kristen – Fit Bottomed Girls
- Janae – Hungry Runner Girl
Cheers to another successful trip!