Over on Da Gram, folks I follow from Montana to California have been asking all sorts of questions about me running in a ventilator when it is smoky outside. During summer 2017, I was deeply focused on an ultra running project when the Diamond Creek Fire broke out ten miles from my home in the Methow Valley. Instead of running indoors at the pinner gym in the valley or giving up my gnostic mileage altogether, I decided to innovate.
SOLUTIONS > excuses
Enter: Darth Vader Bitch in no shirt and a power braid. I hope this brief guide keeps you moving on the trails when clouds turn to ash. Enjoy your sore-throat-free run in the smoke!
Ventilator model: I am more prone to finding solutions than to allowing adverse running conditions keep me indoors. Last summer I spent most of August and September running and lifting in this ventilator. If it is your first time training in a ventilator, expect a ventilator that is effective in protecting against smoke inhalation to obscure your breathing - it felt like running at about 9000' elevation to me. Be aware of hypoxia due to the restriction of breathing and moderate your pace and the steepness of the terrain you choose to run accordingly.
When to don it: When the air smells like wildfire smoke, when I can't see Mount Gardner from Winthrop, or when I get a slight headache from the smoke I put on my ventilator. This happens around 75 AQI. With the high volume of training I do, I can't chance a case of bronchitis or the presence of a splitting headache anymore than I want to axe a planned run. If a large amount of visible particulate falls from the sky I do a different form of training as I don't want the particulate in my eyes.
Achieving a seal: Allow the sweat to build up around the ventilator (in the space between skin and plastic) and don't wipe it away. That sweat creates an excellent seal of the mask to your face. Be sure to move the mask aside every fifteen minutes for a bite and a sip. People with facial hair might struggle to get the thing to stick completely to their faces.
The stimulus: Given that the mask will function as yet another stimulus in your training and, paired with the likely heat that will accompany it, you may perceive a dip in performance as your body acclimates. When you restrict oxygen input, your body works furiously to produce more red blood cells. When you add heat, your body increases plasma volume. With these things happening simultaneously your bod is indeed increasing its performance but it will feel discouragingly slow.
Measuring the stimulus: Pace is nearly always the poorest measurement of training impact; time in zone is nearly always the best way to meter out your endurance production. Quit with the competitive thinking already, learn your CUSTOM/INDIVIDUAL zones, and watch your performance rise while incidences of overtraining, insomnia, and injury decrease. Especially in the mask, releasing the ego's attachment to pace and measuring the success of your run only by time in zone is of vital importance.
The ANS: Hypoxia leads to the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and that is a bad thing for an ultra endurance machine like you. With an activated nervous system during persistent endurance training you risk poor proliferation of oxygen, inappropriate metabolism of your precious calories, poor decision-making, lack of connection with the divine, and even adrenal fatigue.
Minor logistics: In this model of ventilator I've found a hat to be more compatible sun protection than sunglasses, a high ponytail (power braid suggested) helps hold the dang thing up better than a low pony, and wearing it with headphone cords is a hassle. Be warned that this ventilator obscures your peripheral vision - about as much as if you were wearing ski goggles. Choose your trail surface accordingly.