Surprisingly, Albuquerque has one of the highest elevation of metropolitan cities in the US. I thought Denver was higher, but turns out no, ABQ is about 200 feet higher or so, depending on where you are. During my recent visit there, I ran on trails along the Rio Grande and in Bear Canyon in the Sandia Mountains east of downtown.
Since I usually run between 15 and 200 feet above sea level here in West Seattle, I figured I’d be struggling in my runs down there. Last year when I ran there, I surely did struggle and didn’t end up running much at all. I felt it for sure: just couldn’t ever relax my breathing.
So, color me surprised on my first run, about 3.5 miles along the Rio Grande, a gorgeous day that allowed me to run in a sleeveless tank and shorts–listen, for someone living in Seattle, that’s a huge accomplishment during March. The truly remarkable thing was this: after the first mile, I felt fine–no, I felt great! I could feel the altitude some, but basically it just wasn’t an issue.
The next day I ran what could have been a grueling trail through a popular hiking section of the Sandia Mountains, Bear Canyon. I had low expectations of myself since that altitude was going to be a good bit higher, and the hiking trails include a lot of ups and some downs. Again, a gorgeous day, and while the first mile was a bit more of a struggle than usual, my breathing evened out nicely and I ran about 45 minutes no problem. Awesome!
On Sunday, I was down in the “lowlands” again along the Rio Grande, and this time I was a little tired, but I don’t run 3 days in a row anymore, so I chalked it up to that.
So I’ve been thinking about this experience and here’s what strikes me: you don’t often get such a great experiential measure of improvement like this. While I fret day to day over this and that with regard to my running–speed, distance, hills, stretching before and after, shoes, weather–this quick vacation to the sun allowed me to really experience just how much my running and physical strength have improved in the course of a year. I felt just great about this undeniable improvement–especially after my not so pleasurable recent 10 mile run the previous weekend.
It’s good to have a true milestone now and again–and my ABQ runs gave me that.