Friday, July 14, 2017

Living at altitude

On our last day in Colorado Springs, we learned more about how altitude affects your body.  Our day started by visiting the Olympic Training Center for a tour.

This facility is where some US athletes come to live and train.  They have dorms, doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, trainers, and some of the best technology in the world for our athletes.  It was so interesting to see the pools, shooting range, and the para-Olympic basketball team and men's gymnastic team practicing.

We saw a room where they can change the temperature, altitude, and humidity so the athletes can train in the same conditions they will see when they compete.  There was also a treadmill that allowed an injured athlete to run on an injury by reducing their body weight to as little as 20%.  Our guide said injuries heal faster when athletes continue to use their muscles during recovery.

Later that day, we got a real taste of what it feels like when you are at over 14, 000 feet on the top of a mountain.  The Colorado Geological Survey says there are 58 mountains with peaks that are over 14,000 feet high.  Pike's Peak might be the most famous one because the cog railway makes it accessible to most people.

It was recommended that we attempt this trip later in our visit after we felt acclimated to the altitude but when we got to the top after the 1 1/2 hour ride, you could definitely feel the difference in the air density and temperature.

Parts of the ride were just trees on both sides.  But then we rose above the trees and saw this spectacular view.

You could see for miles and we kept talking about what is must have been like as an early settler discovering this and then trying to cross it.  It was interesting to see the old carriage trails that were used to get up the mountain back hundreds of years ago.  There was even a hotel about halfway up!

As we got closer to the top, the scenery seemed more like the surface of the moon.

And, then, as it did most afternoons when we were in Colorado, the clouds moved in just as we reached the peak.  We could see a little but the view wasn't as good as it was on the ride up.

You are only at the summit for about 30 minutes, which is enough.  By then we were feeling a little dizzy and lightheaded.  It was funny how everyone on the train seemed so tired on the way back down.  I guess that is what limited oxygen will do!

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