By Charlie Teeter - High School Runner
Training at altitude is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. For the first two days in Peru, nobody ran. We just took this time to get used to the lack of air. At this point, I didn’t notice any difference in the air when I was doing daily activities. The next afternoon we went for our first run. Things felt weird. I did 4 miles at about 8-minute mile pace, but I was breathing as I normally would running 6:50s on my easy runs back home. As the trip went on, we began doing some pretty taxing service work throughout the community in Pisac. One day, I spent an entire morning carrying dirt, fertilizer, and roofing up a mountain to help a local farm relocate to a nearby school. I must have made fifteen to twenty trips up and down within a few hours. This was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. We had about twenty people in our group helping out the three or four people who worked the farm. We saved them countless hours of work by coming to help, and it was clear how genuinely grateful they were (I also got an amazing workout out of this, so that never hurts). Our running gradually increased in intensity as well. At about two weeks in, I did an 11 mile run at 7:45 pace, and I was holding back a little bit to stick with the group (I would’ve liked to drop the last 3ish miles closer to 7:15 pace to push myself a little). I was really happy with this run, considering we had only been at altitude for a little over two weeks.
There were sometimes when I worried about not getting good enough training. Every run we went on was pretty easy paced, and we only did one or two workouts while I was there. (EDITOR’S NOTE – See Flotrack workout video where CU Buffs legendary Head Cross Country Coach urges his men and women to keep the pace easy on a scheduled long run because the hills and altitude would provide the workout). I was forgetting that just sleeping at 10,000ft is good training for your body. I was more worried going into our last week of the trip because we weren’t really going to have the chance to run at all during our four- day trek to Machu Picchu. I thought I was missing out on four days of training, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the course of four days, we covered about 50 miles, reaching a high point of 15,300 feet above sea level. We climbed up and over multiple mountains, and my legs were absolutely destroyed from so much walking. (EDITOR’S NOTE – Most Elite Kenyan runners include long walks into their early training phases. It is not untypical for Kenyan runners to conduct three long walks of over 2 hours in duration into their early season conditioning programs). I don’t think I’ll be having much trouble with hills this cross country season after this experience.
Traveling to get back home was tiring. I took a bus and four planes to get home over the course of about 22 hours. As one would expect, I was very tired when I finally got to my house. I had a good dinner with my family and got some energy back, so I decided to go for a little shake out run that night. This is when I noticed the effects of being at altitude. My legs didn't feel great, but my three-mile run felt easy at 6:35 pace. It’s incredible how much air there is closer to sea level. It was almost as if I was taking in something that I didn’t know was there. It just felt good to be going a little faster again.
This experience has taught me so much about myself, running, and life as a whole. Spending three weeks practicing another language, getting to know local market workers and their children, immersing myself in another culture, and making new lifelong friends is something I’ll be forever grateful for. I’m excited to use this knowledge to reach new heights on the cross country course this year. Thank you, Peru.