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Learn about this Canadian runner's experience with altitude training in Flagstaff.
I visited Flagstaff, Arizona for the first time in the Spring of 2016. This was my first experience with altitude, and since then I have gone every year, sometimes multiple times a year. I often consider Flagstaff my second home because of how much time I have spent there. My purpose for going to Flagstaff has always been for the performance gains, but the truth is that Flagstaff offers so much more than that. It is this little picturesque town in the middle of the mountains with endless dirt trails venturing through the wilderness. It is truly a runner’s paradise.
With the help of HYPO2 Sport in Flagstaff, we can gain access to multiple high-performance venues at various elevations. During our altitude stints we typically do all our easy aerobic runs, long runs and off-track sessions at Flagstaff’s 6,900-foot elevation. We sleep and live at this elevation as much as humanly possible for maximum physiological adaptation. However, for any specific sessions that require intensities that are difficult at such high elevation, we have the luxury of easy access to lower elevations and training facilities in both Sedona and Cottonwood. This makes it much easier for us to hit sea level paces but then quickly return to higher elevation for enhanced physiological benefits.
Beyond training facility access and things like room and board, HYPO2 also provides a specialized form of testing called Total Hemoglobin Mass Testing for measuring pre and post hemoglobin levels, so we know exactly what kind of blood chemistry benefits we received while training in Flagstaff. Our national team typically brings our own therapy staff but HYPO2 has great physiotherapists and massage therapists as well for when I have travelled to Flagstaff on my own.
Outside of training specific benefits, the City Flagstaff itself offers a variety of awesome restaurants and coffee shops within a 10-15 minutes’ drive from anywhere in town. There are a variety of grocery stores to choose from which are all within an affordable budget and offer a variety of healthy options. Flagstaff is also located in proximity to many National Landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend among many others that are within the town’s perimeter. You can train hard, recover even harder and create an experience to remember for a lifetime. I can’t think of a better place in the world to go in order to become the best athlete you can be. It truly is a town that “Turns thin air into gold.”
Mariah Kelly is a Canadian middle-distance runner from Niagara Falls, Ontario. She competed twice in the NCAA championships before becoming a coach to others.