“I kind of signed up for the whole thing thinking, oh yeah, it will be good,” Howes says. “But then, as we get closer to the event, it’s like, oh, this is going to be really hard.”
First, there is the altitude. Alex’s home in Colorado is 2,500 metres above sea level, so he is no stranger to thin air, but Leadville climbs above 3,700 metres, where every effort has to be gauged. At that height, there is so little oxygen in the air that the slightest overexertion can leave you seeing stars. It’s very easy to push yourself too hard and teeter into a state of hypoxia. You really have to pace yourself and moderate your efforts.
“If you make any sort of sharp acceleration, you’ll probably just have to lay down in a bush for a bit,” Alex says.
Then there is the struggle to consume enough food and drink. At elevation, your body burns through sugars at an alarming rate as there is too little oxygen in the air for it to rely on fat for fuel. Running low on water is also a risk, since the air is much drier and you lose moisture with every ragged, oxygen-starved breath you take.
— Johannes Mansson to www.efprocycling.com