How to Exercise at High Altitude: a word problem

(This is after the Medical Teams International Big Run
with my sis-in-law, Kim, who feels this pic makes her look schlumpy
but really she’s just schlumping ’cause I’m so short.
Thanks, Kim!)

I ran a 5K last weekend.

It was a miracle.

Four show-offy senior citizens passed me, speed walking, on the course. I didn’t care, though. Pfft; not me. I ran a 5K, folks, just four weeks after starting the Couch-to-5K program again. Last time I did Couch-to-5K, it took me 16 weeks to complete 9 weeks worth of sessions. So my running is slower than old people walk? Whatever. I totally outpaced the lady with the oxygen tank, so I’m marking it in the win column.

Greg and I arrived in Colorado yesterday, and today we completed the Vail Pass bicycle tour. We did it because we’re super sporty.

Sure, I huffed and puffed for the 45-second uphill portions and had to walk the bike a time or two, but, you guys, the guide told me during a water break that we have 25% less lung capacity at high altitude, so neither my huffing nor my puffing was surprising. That’s right, I thought, I have a darn good reason for not breathing, and then I posed a mathematical word problem for the guide — and for fun — because who doesn’t love a good word problem?

I’m pretty sure I get it, I said to the guide. Fill in the blank, OK? What I hear you saying is this: If I run a 5K race at a lower altitude and only four senior citizens pass me, then at this altitude when I run a 5K race…

five senior citizens — 25% more — will pass you, he finished.

In conclusion, I’m never running a race in Vail.

The End


 P.S. Greg says both the guide and I suck at word problems (true for me, can’t speak for the guide), and that the question as I posed it was unsolvable because I didn’t provide the total number of seniors and allow for a percentage-based solution. In fact, Greg says, if 67% of the senior citizens (4 out of 6 total, since the nice lady with the oxygen tank was walking with a gentleman companion) passed me at sea level, then 100% (6 spunky seniors) would likely pass me at high altitude since they all, in this case boosted by an oxygen tank, would have better lung capacity than me. I say Greg can bite me.


P.P.S. Free advice for the cautious at heart: always put your bike on a wedge.


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
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  3. I’m a regular at crappy pictures and so glad I found you. Loving your posts so far and looking forward to going through the archives. Am I weird for finding the ‘bike on a wedge ‘ bit Hillarious!!!!!!?????!! Literally burst into laughter 🙂

    1. Welcome, Christina. Glad to have you here. And, yes, you’re totally weird for finding the Bike on a Wedge hilarious; you’ve come to the right place. 😉

  4. Well done on only 4 senior citizens! I myself always come first at the wrong end 😛

    1. OH MY GOSH! They always say RUN SMARTER, NOT HARDER, and I thought it must be a joke until just now. You are my new running role model. Cannot wait to try this out.

  5. You should totally run a 5k with me, because I surely couldn’t pass you. It’s taking me months to even START the couch to 5k program. I went to bed early last night so I could get up early and get started. I woke up a half hour early and turned off the alarm, then I went back to sleep and got up a half hour late. Clearly, the forces of nature are doing their best to protect my knees. (Which I blew out the last time I tried to run.) I am destined to stay soft and squishy.

    1. Oh, yeah – I’m SO not a morning runner. I tried to be, but it was a no go. I’m an afternoon runner. Good luck!

  6. Wow, you ARE really sporty.
    I do sports. Sometimes my 2 year old and I go on bike rides. I have to go really slow because his bike is 1/4 the size of mine, but it takes a lot of work to balance on a bike going that slow, so…

    1. I bet you have really excellent slow bike-riding muscles, Kendall. Just like I have really excellent slow running muscles. I’m always running, like, twice as slow as normal runners and I think “Oh yeah? YOU only had to run 23 minutes, whereas *I* ran 45… who’s got endurance NOW, friend? That’s right.” Running, I find, is all about finding the right form of self-delusion. That’s mine. 🙂

  7. I moved to Denver from Portland a year ago. I still get winded walking up stairs/hills. I’m pretty sure I aways will. Darn altitude!

    1. Don’t let any seniors climb your stairs, Jen. Just a suggestion ’cause I care about your self esteem.

  8. I’m right there with you on word problems – you lost me right when the bold font started. I totally understood the “P.P.S.” part though. Good idea.
    P.S. Love that pic of you two – awesome photography.
    P.P.S. Any “schlump” (which there isn’t any) would solely be attributable to having eaten HUMMUS at Red Robin the night before. I still can’t get over that. Fries rule.

    1. Heh heh.

      We had a PARTICULARLY rad and lovely photographer.

      1. Wait, Red Robin has HUMMUS???

        1. HA! That’s exactly what Ann said. 🙂

  9. I live in Colorado and i agree, the altitude can be rough!!! Glad you survived it and i am sure you beat the pants off of the O2 woman!

    1. Yep; totally left her in the dust. After I stopped to cheer her on. 🙁 I know – I suck as a competitor.

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