/ How long does the benefit of altitude take to wear off?

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Brooess - on 14 Aug 2013
I was above 3500m for 3 days over the weekend - in Switzerland - up around the Jungfrau/Monch etc.
I've a 10k run on Saturday in London which I entered partly in the hope of a residual effect of being at altitude giving me an advantage.

We came back down on Monday afternoon and I've obviously re-acclimatised to sea level but based on your experience of being at altitude, is there likely to be much of an effect on Saturday or is it too long since I came down?
ablackett - on 14 Aug 2013
In reply to Brooess: Acclimatisation happens in 2 stages, the first is essentially a quickening of the respiration system, heart rate and base breathing rate rises to let your body cope with the reduced oxygen levels.

After a few weeks you get an increase in red blood cells. This second stage is the type of acclimatisation which is useful in races when you get down, and lasts for a while (no idea how long).

I'm afraid you will only have the first type, and that's naff all use for any sort of race. You will loose it as quick as you got it anyway.

I'm no expert, but that's how i understand it.
Axel Smeets - on 14 Aug 2013
In reply to Brooess:

I spent 3 weeks between 4800m - 7300m and noted a difference for about 7 days once I returned to sea level. However, this difference was measured in highly unscientific ways (i.e. "that run felt easier than normal").

I would doubt 3 days at 3,500m would see any notable benefits.
Al Evans on 14 Aug 2013
In reply to Axel Smeets: I think the above comment that you lose it at the rate you gain it at is correct. I remember the first time I went to the Himalaya we spent two weeks on an acclimatization trek up to about 16,000ft. Then (we were in Tibet) we were held up at The Friendship Bridge at the Nepal/Tibet border due to troubles in Lhasa, I think that is at about 5,000ft and we lost a lot of our acclimatization in those two weeks.
Al Evans on 14 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans: Well put it like this, those members of the expedition that got through before the hold up were noticeably better acclimatized than those of us that had to wait. The Tibet base camp for Everest is about 18,000ft and all of us that were held up felt it.
radson - on 15 Aug 2013
Yeah there are undoubtedly a heap of variables mainly due to genetic predisposition but it is my understanding too that we lose acclimatisation at the rate we gained it. An easy answer to a question that is difficult to quantify/study.
Arbu - on 17 Aug 2013
I once spent three weeks in Colombia at altitudes of 2-4000m. Then flew down to the jungle at no altitude for a week. After that I went to 5000m in just 48 hours and, to my great surprise, scarcely felt the altitude. So I suppose that's consistent with what people are saying that you lose it at the same rate as you gain it. I definitely still had good acclimatisation after a week out of the mountains.
ice.solo - on 17 Aug 2013
In reply to Brooess:

heres a weird thing:

i once had haemorroids. on a climbing trip that was mostly above 3500, with lots above 4500 and up to 6000-something, they went away.
they stayed away for about 2 weeks after (that included a brief trip back to 4800m).

later, when theyd returned, but not to the extend as before, i spent 2 months at altitude, most above 5000m.
the haemorroids never returned.

i did ask a doctor once about it (who had some knowledge of altitude) and he was baffled but thought about it. he thought that maybe, as acclimation is a process governed by the endocrine system, that same process affected the venal valves on the blood vessels (not just in your ass, but elsewhere too).

purely anecdotal, and no conclusions, but maybe helpful, especially if you have haemorroids.
chris bedford - on 18 Aug 2013
In reply to Brooess:
Problem is that although you may still have the benefit of time at altitude you may not have anything to show for it because by plodding around in the mountains for many hours each day with a rucksack you may have lost any speed for running 30 - 40 minutes on the flat (takes me weeks to get up to speed after a summer in the Alps).
IainRUK - on 18 Aug 2013
In reply to Brooess: 3 days is nothing.. you'll actually be worse.. you need 1 week minimum... benefits lost in 1-2 weeks
Al Evans on 18 Aug 2013
In reply to IainRUK: Actually I was told once that Airplanes are pressurised at 5,000ft, which is regarded , or used to be, at the maximum ideal height for altitude training for an athlete e.g you can still put in full training effort and get the advantages of altitude. I'm not sure if this is the current truth.
When Lasse Viren used to peak absurdly well for major championships, Brendan Foster asked him how he did.
"Reindeer milk Brendan, reindeer milk"
It was widely believed that Viren went to altitude, had his own blood taken then it was re-infused just before the championships. There was no test that could prove what he had done at the time, I'm not even sure if blood doping was an offence in those days.
matt perks - on 19 Aug 2013
In reply to ice.solo: This suggests that a high-altitude holiday might be offered on the NHS. I'm going to start doing more cycling. If female, you could have a baby...

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