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Low altitude simulator helps marathon racers training in Colorado Springs

U.S. Olympic Trials 2024, Marathon
Posted at 11:00 AM, Jan 27, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — It is now just six months until the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

 In the final months leading up to the games elite athletes first face trials and qualifiers.

 “The next big project is like, Okay, how ready am I for this next step?” said Marathon Racer, Afewerki Zeru.

 Jessica Watychowicz, who is also a top ranked Marathon Racer, said, “Everyone's trying to peak at the right time, get ready for the trials.”

 Both runners who live and train in Colorado Springs are going to the Olympic Trials in Orlando the first weekend of February.

 “It's an outstanding achievement, just to qualify to be there,” said Coach Mark Misch.

 The marathon racers are working to improve their competitive edge with some help at the Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Colorado Springs.

 “Making sure everything is completely dialed and you're really optimizing all of your training, nutrition, rest, recovery. This is this is the key time,” said the center’s Co-Executive Director, Dr. Michael Roshon MD, PhD.

 On this morning one week before the trials, it is snowing outside in Colorado Springs.

The city’s elevation is around 6000 feet.

Like athletes who must consider coming from low elevation to high elevation where air is thinner, these athletes have to prepare for a change to an elevation closer to sea level.

 Dr. Roshon said, “If you got off the plane, you've been training in Colorado and you got off the plane in Orlando and tried to run it would not feel right, you'd have a real chance of going way too hard at the beginning because there's so much oxygen, it feels so easy. But you could very easily overdo.”

A sealed, climate-controlled room at the Hybl Center is a significant tool helping the marathon racers deal with variable conditions.

The workout on treadmills inside the chamber.

On this day the interior is heated to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity raised to just above 40%, and the air is altered to simulate what it is like in Orlando, Florida at an altitude below 1,000 feet.

“We're expecting the worst conditions and if it's not, if it's a perfect day, that's even better, right?” said Zeru.

 The training is for both the body and mind.

 “Running is incredibly mental,” said Watychowicz, “As much preparation as you do physically you have to be mentally ready to endure any possible scenario.”

 “I've done a two and a half hour long run in there, where once you get in there you just never come out until the work is done,” said Zeru.

The athletes endure repeated sessions in the chamber.

“The ability to train under those conditions slowly and gradually getting down there where you're exactly recreating those conditions-- that takes time, but it gives you a huge advantage,” said Dr. Roshon.

 On race day these runners can think less about how environmental factors will impact them.

 It allows them to focus on other elements of their 26.2-mile race.

 “Once that gun goes off, then everything gets left behind and it's time to race,” said Watychowicz.

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon take place February 3, 2024, in Orlando, Florida.

Close to half dozen runners who live and train in Colorado Springs will be racing.
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