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Purpose: To determine the effect of altitude training at 1600 and 1800 m on sea-level (SL) performance in national-level runners. Methods: After 3 wk of SL training, 24 runners completed a 3-wk sojourn at 1600 m (ALT1600, n = 8), 1800 m (ALT1800, n = 9), or SL (CON, n = 7), followed by up to 11 wk of SL racing. Race performance was measured at SL during the lead-in period and repeatedly postintervention. Training volume (in kilometers) and load (session rating of perceived exertion) were calculated for all sessions. Hemoglobin mass was measured via CO rebreathing. Between-groups differences were evaluated using effect sizes (Hedges g). Results: Performance improved in both ALT1600 (mean [SD] 1.5% [0.9%]) and ALT1800 (1.6% [1.3%]) compared with CON (0.4% [1.7%]); g = 0.83 (90% confidence limits −0.10, 1.66) and 0.81 (−0.09, 1.62), respectively. Season-best performances occurred 5 to 71 d postaltitude in ALT1600/1800. There were large increases in training load from lead-in to intervention in ALT1600 (48% [32%]) and ALT1800 (60% [31%]) compared with CON (18% [20%]); g = 1.24 (0.24, 2.08) and 1.69 (0.65, 2.55), respectively. Hemoglobin mass increased in ALT1600 and ALT1800 (∼4%) but not CON. Conclusions: Larger improvements in performance after altitude training may be due to the greater overall load of training in hypoxia compared with normoxia, combined with a hypoxia-mediated increase in hemoglobin mass. A wide time frame for peak performances suggests that the optimal window to race postaltitude is individual, and factors other than altitude exposure per se may be important.

Sharma, Saunders, Garvican-Lewis, and Gore are with the Discipline of Physiology, and Welvaert, Innovation, Research and Development, Australian Inst of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Sharma, Saunders, Clark, Welvaert, Gore, and Thompson are with the Research Inst for Sport and Exercise, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Garvican-Lewis is with the Mary McKillop Inst for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Thompson is with the New South Wales Inst of Sport, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Sharma (avishsharma@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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