Cyclist Joe Barr Triumps Over High Altitude

3 min read

Joe Barr in hospital with altitude sickness

Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the most intense bicycling endurance races. The race spans 3,000 miles across 12 different US states. It involves a brutal combination of extreme weather, enormous distance and multiple changes in terrain. It also crosses multiple mountain ranges totaling more than 170,000 vertical feet that must be climbed. But this didn’t scare Joe Barr, a world-famous endurance athlete. He was ready to tackle RAAM.

In 2012, Joe qualified for RAAM. The race starts in Oceanside, CA. About 1,000 miles into the course, he hit Colorado, one of the several high-altitude sections he would have to endure. At this point he had already survived the scorching desert heat and was climbing up the leaderboard. He was excited about how the race was going.

Race Across America is one of the most intense bicycling endurance races. ...  But this didn’t scare Joe Barr, a world-famous endurance athlete.

Thin Air Takes a Toll

Once he climbed to around 8,000 feet, the altitude started to impact his performance. This is the point where altitude sickness can start to kick in due to low amounts of oxygen in the air. Generally, altitude sickness is mild, causing nausea and headaches. But it can particularly impact those trying to exercise at high altitude. The body simply doesn’t have enough oxygen to keep up with the extreme physical demands. 

Joe was able to push himself and make it to 11,000 feet, but started to feel like something was off. He had absolutely no energy left. He couldn’t ride more than a few meters at a time. At the next checkpoint, although Joe wanted to continue, his crew pulled him off the course. They were extremely concerned for Joe’s health and well-being.

Joe was taken to a Colorado hospital and diagnosed with high-altitude pulmonary edema — a severe side effect of altitude sickness that involves fluid accumulation in the lungs. Pulmonary edema occurs when the lungs are working so hard to get enough oxygen that fluid starts to back up into them. Pulmonary edema requires immediate medical treatment and can be fatal if left untreated.

After his discharge from the hospital, Joe had to descend back to a normal altitude slowly to prevent complications. He had to use oxygen for a period of time. It took about three months to recover from the event. 

Joe Barr Rises Again

But Joe didn’t give up on this race. With the help of proper training and Altitude Rx, a supplement designed to help the body adjust to high altitude, Joe was able to complete the race and place first in his age group in 2014. He is one of only 300 people to complete this race. In 2019, Joe came back to RAAM at age 60 to win first place in his age category, riding through three deserts and three mountain ranges — 170,000 ft of climbing in just 11 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.

Interested in a competition that involves high altitude? Altitude Rx can give you the support you need. The combination of adaptogenic herbs and antioxidants help the body use oxygen more effectively and improve blood flow, reducing the symptoms of altitude sickness. Proper training, hydration and acclimatization can also help reduce the risk of severe complications of high altitude, so you can achieve your biggest fitness goals.

Take the next step in your training regimen: Try any BRL Sports supplement risk-free! If our natural nutritional products aren’t the best you’ve ever used, simply return your purchase for a 100% refund — no questions asked!

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