Throughout the month of February I had the opportunity to work with the guys at the Sports Physiology Lab at the University of Texas, to get my VO2 max and Lactate Threshold testing done on both the bike and run. In total I visited the lab 7 times, and received some incredibly valuable information. The VO2 max tests were brutal, and will only tell you so much, but help inform the Lactate Threshold testing. My VO2 was measured at approximately 69 ml/mol/kg. I'd never had this testing done, so I didn't have any idea where these numbers might fall. The important thing I took away from this was that I have not raced or performed anywhere near my ceiling, which is a huge motivating factor.
I had my LT testing done with blood draws via a catheter rather than finger pricks. This, I was told, is much more accurate. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, my body is highly evolved when it comes to self preservation. As soon as the catheter was inserted in my arm, my blood vessel would clamp down and say, 'hell no I ain't giving that shit up.' After 5 unsuccessful attempts to insert the catheter and make the initial draw, I went home. We let the bruises heal a bit and I returned a couple days later for more punishment. This time they were able to coax the blood out on the first try, but when I got on the bike and they tried to make the draw at the 5 min mark my body once again responded with 'what are you, insane?! You're exercising and want me to give up blood? Eff that!' It took another 5 minutes to figure out that I had to contort in a half twist leaning forward off the stationary bike, while pedaling to get the blood to eek out into the vial. This wasn't a problem for the first couple draws, but by the end, pushing 320w at 90% VO2 max, in that position, as I was urged to "keep my cadence up,"--it was a bit precarious. When I returned for the run LT testing, I thought we had everything figured out, but once again my blood vessels had other things in mind - 4 needles later I was on the treadmill. Fortunately we were able to replicate the position on the treadmill, that allowed the blood to flow into the vial. While the pic below doesn't show the blood draw, picture me hunched slightly forward with my right arm slumped over like a stroke victim - again not a problem at low efforts but at the end of my last 5 minute segment, when I had been running at 7.0 at a 10% incline, it was not fun.
It is important to say, at this point, that the people at the Lab were exceptionally professional and knowledgeable. My blood draws were an anomaly, and they conducted plenty of others with no issue to prove that - sometimes you just need to raise your hand and say 'it was me - I'm the problem.' I would highly recommend contacting Brian Leary (firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you are in the Austin area, and being a part of this study. Brian and his colleagues were all extremely patient, professional and calm when it came to handling the curveballs my veins through at them.
But then I got the numbers and all was right with the world. I absolutely love data - In the absence of kids, I celebrate numbers. By the way, did everyone celebrate Pi Day? If not, don't fret - Mole Day is coming up in a short 6 months (Oct 23). Anyway, as I said, I learned a number of things:
|I don't have a Mole Day shirt - in case|
someone wants to remedy that.
2) On the run my Lactate Threshold (1 mmol) occurred at approximately 70% VO2 max - HR of 159bpm. The onset of blood lactate was at a HR of approximately 175bpm (4mmol).
3) The discrepancy between where my LT is on the bike and run indicates that I can improve quite a bit on the bike, as long as the correct weaknesses are identified and addressed. Incidentally, this study was hypothesizing that just this type of discrepancy could be related to poor biomechanics. The last two visits to the lab were to have my cycling biomechanics monitored and recorded. The data collection will continue throughout 2015 and results won't be determined until well after that, but in the meantime I can certainly work to improve my cycling biomechanics and see for myself if that helps raise my LT.
March: Early Season Run Races
The week I got back to Connecticut I ran the Bolton 5 mile road race. I had originally planned on running this as a test, but since I had my numbers already I decided to just go up and race and see what happened. The course I was running was a figure 8 - I ran the front side as warm-up, so saw there was a decent climb in the first mile, then some rolling terrain. I ran conservative in the first mile and found myself in a group of about 10 people at the mile mark, in 6:08. I picked up the effort a bit at this point and with the terrain rolling down, dropped a 16:55 5K between miles 0.9-4.0. What I didn't know, and could have figured out if I had just looked at the race t-shirt before I tossed it in my car, was that there was a MASSIVE hill in the last mile (most of the last mile). That thing took what was left of my soul, and left me with a 28:59 total time (6:27 last mile). I was happy with the effort and time, as it was only 66 seconds off my best time, on a much more demanding course.
|Hill NOT to scale...|
Segue to two weeks later, March 22, when I had a 30km race on the schedule, that I like to use as a progression run workout. It was a pancake flat three loop course. I had locked in one of my friends, Liz, to run the race as well. The plan was to run the first two loops together at 6:53 pace and 6:29 pace, then she would try and hang onto that 6:29 pace and I would drop to 6:06 pace. I had two reasons for those paces - one it was a progression from 3:00 marathon pace to 2:50 to 2:40, but also because that roughly corresponded to Ironman pace, stand-alone marathon pace, and half Ironman pace, respectively.
Because of the nature of how we were running, we didn't warm-up. We started near the front. It's not a huge race, but a few guys went off the front; one particularly fast. There was black ice in a bunch of places, some was unavoidable, but the race not being difficult enough Liz choose to seek out ice ponds and scamper across them. To each his own. We settled into a good rhythm and went through the first loop in 42:20 (6:49 pace). There was talking as well, which was nice, but I'm hesitant to call it conversation, because while what we were saying matched up at times, a good portion went like this:
Liz: "There's a girl right behind us."
Jeremy: "I can't wait for pancakes...mmmm!"
Liz: "I can see her shadow."
Jeremy: "...and an omelet too."
Liz: "Is she still there?"
Jeremy: "I woke up in the middle of the night and could taste the pancakes. The butter. The blueberries. It was wonderful."
I was feeling really good toward the end of the second loop, which we hit right on goal, in 40:11 (6:29 pace), and decided to punch it to see just how fast I could go for the last 10k. In my head I had my PR at the 10k which was a 35:59. I hit the lap button and took off - when I looked at my pace, about 1 min into the loop I saw 5:10, and new I needed to settle. I ran through the first mile in 5:33, and felt good, I relaxed a little knowing this pace was probably something I couldn't hang onto. There was a turn around at about 1.3 miles; I saw Liz a lot closer and knew she had dropped her pace as well. She had made her marathon debut in NY 5 months earlier with a 3:06 (7:07 pace) - she was running well! I love seeing people I know doing well and this motivated me to push even harder. I clipped off 5:39 miles for the next three miles. Two miles to go and it started getting rough - not dinosaurs in the lava fields rough, but right around unicorn on the horse farm rough. There was darkness and pain, and it was fun. I finished the last 10k with a PR 35:19 (5:40 pace), fading to a 5:51 final mile, with a 2nd place finish overall in 1:57:51. I was ecstatic and Liz came through the finish in 2:01:09 with a 38:38 last loop!
|Coming in for the finish|
|At the 20k - she's smiling cause she doesn't|
have to run with me anymore...
But the real happy ending to this story is I got my blueberry pancakes.