Anyone who’s been handcuffed to their seat by an air marshal before being deposited at the nearest airport and forced to stand naked on one leg in their own blood in a stifling jail a cell for three days knows that alcohol and altitude don’t mix. It’s a lesson we all end up learning.
Happily, I learnt it the easy way while mountain training in Nepal.
At 4,500ft above sea level, running in the Kathmandu valley allegedly affords athletes the opportunity to build an unusually high concentration of red blood cells. The air’s thinner, you see, and that’s the body’s way of compensating for the scarcity of oxygen. The idea is that when the runner returns to his or her sea level home (Brighton in my case), performance improves for 10-15 days. Now this might be inexcusable crap but, ever the corner-cutter, I thought I’d give it a whirl. At the very least I’d see some nice hills.
And, as an early aside to this post, here they are. Captured by my own fair iPhone.
Operation red blood cell: the results
I tend to run 10k two or three times a week and I record my times with this here Nike running app.
So, comparing my fastest weekly times for 10k in the run-up to Kathmandu with those during and after, I was able to test the theory. Here’s what I found.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve done the altitude training and I’ve not been this piss poor at running for weeks. I’m not even at square one. Baffled, I looked back through my holiday snaps. Was there some subtle clue hiding among them as to my drop in form?
So I compiled a second graph, this time comparing my 10k times to my ‘fuel’ intake (i.e. food and drink) – just in case there had been a change in behaviour I had not spotted. And that’s when I detected something.
Using the scientific method, I had unearthed evidence that beer might have played a factor in my downfall. Looking back, it makes sense. What I haven’t mentioned so far in this post is that my brother, Frankie, was my host. He is a foreign correspondent, international jetsetter and one of Kathmandu’s most notorious residents. Frankie won’t mind me telling you he prefers trepanning to drinking his Merrydown and is up till the small hours most nights working on his new invention – a sherry that is 103% alcohol.
Needless to say, we mixed training with leisure and that, ladies and gents, is why I’m now as mobile as a plate of shepherd’s pie with six weeks to go until my triathlon.
Triathlon, you say?