Hypoxia Information

Tuesday, Jun. 16 2015

Here is some information on hypoxia from fellow competitor Jeff MacPherson.

Getting Hy in Colorado


Hypoxia is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole (generalized hypoxia) or a region of the body (tissue hypoxia) is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Variations in arterial oxygen concentrations can be part of the normal physiology, for example, during strenuous physical exercise. A mismatch between oxygen supply and its demand at the cellular level may result in a hypoxic condition. Hypoxia in which there is complete deprivation of oxygen supply is referred to as anoxia.

And from there it gets worse…ultimately you become less cognitive and your decision-making ability becomes that of indifference.

On multiple occasions, I have spent time testing tourists with a pulse oxymeter at the top of the cog railway, the Pike’s Peak Summit. The results are interesting in that no matter where you live/travel from or how healthy you appear to be…or not, the results were truly significant in that all were deficient to some degree.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that pilots use supplemental oxygen anytime you spend more than 30 minutes above 12,500’. At their high altitude study lab, they recommend the use of oxygen anytime you fly above 10,000’.

Regardless, I would estimate that a number if not all of the “excursions” in the upper sections over the past years have been primarily caused by the onset of a hypoxic condition.  It is an interesting study in physiology if you like…but the bottom line is that you are potentially performing at a far lower level than you want to be…especially with horse power in your hands.

There are additional “environmental” considerations that enhance the onset of hypoxia, let’s see if any of them are likely…

  • Fatigue  Hmmm, got up as early as 2:45 this past week…
  • Dehydration  Yeah but I if drink, I gotta pee…
  • Alcohol  Aww, come on…we’re at Pike’s Peak!
  • Nutrition Ahh…I had a muffin and a Red Bull?
  • Monoxide  Carbon monoxide attaches to your red blood cells many, many times more readily than oxygen making it more difficult to recover.  Internal combustion devices are everywhere on the hill, pits and startline
  • Stress  No biggie here, it’s just a quick run up the hill…

What to do?

Use supplemental oxygen, it’s easy to install and use.

How do I find what I need?

These Precise Flight guys make great quality stuff and

Bill Hoback has an easy kit:

Others sell this equipment as well, or borrow a kit from a pilot friend…?

Whomever you decide to go with, just “Tell them you are flying a car between 9,000’ to 14,000’ (…potentially much higher atmospherically”).

Why doesn’t everyone have a problem?

We are each unique physiologically and as stated there are many “factors” that contribute to each individual’s performance.

Regardless, try to avoid getting too hy in Colorado.


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