Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Altitude Camp

Today is the 8th day of our pre Olympic training camp set deep in the Alps along the Swiss/Austrian boarder. Not a particularly bustling place, a few mountains, some cows, a few wooden huts and a 2k long dammed off reservoir. To be fair though Norman Foster couldn't have designed a better place to train at altitude. There's a nice little hotel at the top, which caters for and looks after us, while we stay in converted army barrack style huts just below the base of the dam. Surrounding us is an incredible backdrop of glaciers and skyscraping mountains feeding down at the base to an ice cold lake on which we row. Although very simplistic it's actually perfect for getting away from normal life and focusing on the rowing and the crew you are in. No traffic, no noise, no pollution, no stress. The only annoyance is the cows who persistently patrol around our huts at night with their incessant bells ringing from around their necks. It gives the impression of sleeping in a graveyard.

The reason we come up here is because it's almost exactly 2000m higher than sea level. At this height the air is thinner meaning we have less oxygen to breath effectively with. As a result if you stay up here for a prolonged period, about three weeks, your body tries to adapt to this new environment by creating more red blood cells for you to carry oxygen with. The idea being that when you come back down to sea level where we'll be racing you have more red blood cells in your body to transport oxygen than you would have otherwise. For an endurance sport like rowing this can be vital to success. Given that the last coxless four Olympic final was won by 0.08s it's easy to see how it might well have made the difference.

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