COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It is now just six months until the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
In the final months leading up to the games, elite athletes are competing in their first face trials and qualifiers.
“The next big project is like, 'Okay, how ready am I for this next step?'” Afewerki Zeru, a marathon racer, said.
Jessica Watychowicz, who is also a top ranked marathon racer said, “Everyone's trying to peak at the right time, get ready for the trials.”
Both runners who live and train in Colorado Springs are going to the Olympic Trials in Orlando the first weekend of February.
Close to half dozen runners who live and train in Colorado Springs will be racing.
“It's an outstanding achievement, just to qualify to be there,” Coach Mark Misch said.
The marathon racers are working to improve their competitive edge with some help at the Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Colorado Springs.
“Making sure everything is completely dialed and you're really optimizing all of your training, nutrition, rest, recovery. This is this is the key time,” the center’s co-executive director, Dr. Michael Roshon MD, PhD, said.
Like athletes who must train differently when they come from low elevation to high elevation where air is thinner, the athletes in Colorado Springs have to prepare for competing at an elevation closer to sea level.
“If you got off the plane, you've been training in Colorado and you got off the plane in Orlando and tried to run it would not feel right, you'd have a real chance of going way too hard at the beginning because there's so much oxygen, it feels so easy. But you could very easily overdo," Dr. Roshon said.
A sealed, climate-controlled room at the Hybl Center is a significant tool helping the marathon racers deal with variable conditions.
They workout on treadmills inside the chamber.
The interior is heated to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity raised to just above 40%, and the air is altered to simulate what it is like in Orlando, Florida at an altitude below 1,000 feet.
“We're expecting the worst conditions and if it's not, if it's a perfect day, that's even better, right?” Zeru said.
The training is for both the body and mind.
“Running is incredibly mental,” Watychowicz said. “As much preparation as you do physically you have to be mentally ready to endure any possible scenario.”
“I've done a two and a half hour long run in there, where once you get in there you just never come out until the work is done,” Zeru said.
The athletes endure repeated sessions in the chamber.
“The ability to train under those conditions slowly and gradually getting down there where you're exactly recreating those conditions-- that takes time, but it gives you a huge advantage,” Dr. Roshon said.
On race day these runners can think less about how environmental factors will impact them.
It allows them to focus on other elements of their 26.2-mile race.
“Once that gun goes off, then everything gets left behind and it's time to race,” Watychowicz said.