We sat down with the Brooks Beasts coach, Danny Mackey, to learn about what on earth they are doing in Albuquerque in January. Okay, so we didn’t sit down with him because he is New Mexico and we are in Washington, but we emailed. That counts, right?
We enjoy seeing the Beasts’ altitude camp photos on our Instagram feed, but we want to know more about physiological benefits of training at altitude. Tell us!
We take the Beasts to high-altitude environments for training because the air pressure (not necessarily the oxygen) is lower in the mountains. Technically, oxygen makes up 21% of the air here — nearly the same as it is in Seattle. When you travel up a mountain, there is less air above you in the atmosphere. Our bodies respond to less available oxygen by making more red blood cells which help carry oxygen molecules from our lungs to our running leg muscles. So, more red blood cells means faster running. (As long as they’re not spending too much time taking photos, of course!) This is our 3rd year doing altitude training and the athletes typically look forward to camp.
From the Cascades to the Rockies, there are many high-altitude destinations to choose from. So why Albuquerque?
I choose “The ABQ” because the weather here is great, year-round. Between the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Academy, we have tons of good running friends and soft-surface training options. For longer runs, we head up into the Sandia Mountains and run along the Rio Grande River. For weight-training, we use The Open Gym. The running community in this city is always positive.
Walk – er, Run us through a typical day-in-the-life at camp!
- Monday: Easy day. 40-60 min run. Drills, Core and speed development sprints.
- Tuesday: Hard work out: the “Distance Crew” will cover anywhere from three to seven miles. The “800 Crew” will cover anywhere from one to three miles. Then, weights for everybody.
- Wednesday: Recovery Day. Four to 10 miles at a very, very slow pace (sometimes I run with the Beasts and I tell them they are not allowed to beat me).
- Thursday: 30-60 minute run, easy to moderate pace, followed by plyometrics.
- Friday: Hill workout or a tempo run.
- Saturday: Recovery day, or day off.
- Sunday: Long run; anywhere from eight to 18 miles.
Just hearing about all that training makes us hungry! Tell us: how do the Beasts fuel up at elevation?
First off, “Danny’s Grocery List” follows the mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do!” I get so caught up in their practices sometimes that I’ll miss a few meals and end up eating granola bars for dinner! For the Beasts, gathering for group meals is good for the mind as well as the body. We stock up the kitchen with fresh vegetables and fruit, eggs and steaks. Simple carbs and Garden of Life products for snacks are the norm. On the menu for tonight’s dinner is pork loin with roasted sweet potatoes and roasted veggies – much better than granola bars!
Give us the low-down on your experience with high-elevation training, coach. What are your greatest challenges and rewards?
The biggest challenge I see is athletes having a hard time appreciating how different it is to train up here compared to sea level. For example, let’s say a runner would normally do a five-mile tempo run at a 4:48 per mile pace. At our altitude camp, the same effort is more like a 5:00 per mile pace. It’s important for athletes to move past a short-sighted vision; when it feels like more effort and less reward. If we train properly and use this new stimulus to our advantage, the Beasts can set new personal bests and win some track races this summer.
We heard rumor of a Beast-style breakfast omelet… Can you share the recipe with us?
Beast-Style Breakfast Omelet:
48 eggs (yes 48 and only for 12 people!)
2 lbs of lean steak (cubed)
1-2 red peppers
1-2 green peppers
3 cups of mushrooms
Cheese, salsa and chives — to taste.
Stir-fry steak and onions in skillet with oil until steak is cooked medium-well. Add peppers and mushrooms, stir-fry until veggies are mostly cooked. Add eggs and cheese and fold ingredients until eggs are cooked through. Serve with cheese, salsa and chives on top.