- Kelly Sotherton's Olympic column
Dreaming of reaching great heightsKelly Sotherton May 5, 2011
I've just arrived back in the UK after spending three weeks training at altitude in the Pyrenees. Font-Romeu is 1800m above sea level - where everything is hard work!
I have done some work in a hypoxic chamber in Loughborough, which replicates the conditions at altitude but it is nothing like having to live, breathe, eat and sleep at altitude as well. It is completely different - it even affects the way you sleep - with the lack of oxygen I had some really crazy dreams while I was away.
Your heart rate is constantly at a higher rate and your whole body has to work a lot harder all the time. Even just walking up and down a hill is an effort. You are also supposed to lose weight, but unfortunately I didn't have that problem!
It was a real eye-opener for me - it was the first time I had trained with endurance runners and I can safely say they are the hardest working athletes in our sport. They say you have to be a bit mad to be a distance runner and I am a little crazy so I got on really well with them all.
It was the perfect place to be - it must be if Paula Radcliffe has been going there for the last 15 or 16 years - she even owns a house out there. We had great weather although it was very cold - it even snowed one day we were there.
We trained hard but it was also very relaxing being away - it's nice to get away from everything - even though it felt very remote. I was sharing an apartment with Helen Clitheroe and Hattie Dean. We had no television so we had to keep up to date with news via the internet - we even had to watch the Royal Wedding on the internet!
I arrived back in the UK at the weekend and I went for a run on Sunday morning and I ran so much faster than normal. When you return from altitude you are supposed to have a little bit of a boost for a few days but that is often followed by a lull so hopefully that won't last too long.
At altitude recovery in between reps takes twice as long - doing speed endurance training was really hard work but I managed to complete all the sessions I was set so hopefully I will reap the benefits in competition.
My time at altitude will have boosted my red blood cell count but they are all baby ones at the moment so when they are a few weeks old that is when I will be at my peak, and hopefully that will coincide with my first competition. So for now I can't really tell just how successful my training has been.
But I have come home with a lot more than just the physical benefits - I learnt a lot from the other athletes - how motivated and focused they are and that has inspired me a lot. If the time out there proves to be beneficial I would definitely look at going out there again next year, although it would have to be earlier in the season - the Olympic trials are in June so I would have to start my training a month earlier.
My first competition of the year will be at the Loughborough International on May 22. I haven't really set myself any firm targets but I just want to put out a nice fast time to kick the season off. I plan to race six or seven times in the next two or three months with a view to peaking at the UK Championships at the end of July, which also double up as the trials for the World Championships later in the summer.
It will be a brand new experience for me - I am not used to flying here there and everywhere to race. In the heptathlon you generally only do two or three events a year but in the 400m you have the opportunity to race more because the recovery is a lot quicker. Even so, I am not going to go crazy and race every week. I don't know how my body is going to cope with it so I will see how I get on.
Kelly Sotherton is a GB Olympic medalist