Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blood Doping and Altitude

Not everyone I'm friends with is into cycling. I'm trying to change that--not by getting new friends, but by educating my current ones. As of late, it is easy to talk about cycling with everyone. That is, with the Tour de France and all, even those who don't own a bike end up reading about it.

Just before the start of the TdF, there was a big doping bust. It was alleged that cyclists were transfusing blood. Mostly, people ask me about Lance Armstrong, but in this case, many people asked me why anyone would do this. I will explain:

Basically, they were getting extra red blood cells. Extra red blood cells means they can carry more oxygen. This is good for endurance events.

Interestingly enough, living at a high altitude accomplishes the same thing. They actually make "Tents" that mimic high altitudes. If you sleep in one, your body will start to produce more red blood cells.

After that long--and somewhat off-topic--introduction...
I live at around 5000'. My brother, James, lives at around 200'. I really didn't think this would make much difference, but I found out otherwise last week.

Back in Oregon (James' altitude), we decided to climb a mountain that was quite daunting when we were young. As it turns out, it is still not easy. It was about 2500' of climbing in about 5 or so miles (the exact numbers escape me at the moment). There we were, grinding up a very steep bit of road, pushing the lowest gear we could. My legs were tired.

Out of nowhere, James asks, "What's your heart rate?" I look down, and to my surprise, it is only around 145. In case this means nothing to you, let me say that here in Utah, it'd be more like 165. I was shocked.

James could only reply, "You high-altitude blood doper!"

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