Monday, January 30, 2012

Testing for Lactate Threshold in Cuevas

Saturday and Sunday were spent in the hills.  They were also the last 2 days of a recovery week for me. This week featured 27 miles of easy running, with the exception of the final workout (being easy that is).

I usually try and schedule a test at the end of each recovery week to confirm the Heart Rate Zones I'm using to guide my training.  That said, this was the first time in quite a while that I've actually undertaken the protocol.  The methodology is relatively simple, but the implementation is anything but.

I've written about this before, but I think it bears repeating.  I try to follow the training philosophies laid out by Joe Friel in his many Training Bible books and more recently his book Total Heart Rate Training.  Back when I was a cyclist, I used the Cyclist's Training Bible to great success.  I can claim a sub 55 minute 40 kilometer time trial and an overall win in a 70 mile road race thanks to the rapid improvements I made while training using his methods.

Today, I'm not as concerned with going fast, nor am I really all that interested in a rigorous structure to my training, but I still believe that proper use of Heart Rate as a guide today is essential to being able to get out and train again tomorrow.

The key to heart rate training is establishing the correct zones.  Joe advocates zones based not on maximum heart rate, rather he suggests using lactate threshold.  What is "lactate threshold"?  From Joe's Blog:
As your body uses carbohydrate to create energy it creates a by-product inside the working muscle cells called lactic acid. As the intensity of a workout increases this liquid begins to seep out of the muscle cell into the surrounding space and blood stream. In so doing it changes its composition by giving off hydrogen ions. It’s now called lactate.
The hydrogen ions interfere with the function of the muscles while lactic acid is actually the fuel muscles need to keep going.

The free hydrogen ions lower the pH of your blood and cause the burning sensation felt during intense exercise.  If the intensity is increased, they will eventually force you to stop.  Lactate threshold then is the point where the decrease in pH is tolerable, and the body is able to neutralize the ions about as fast as they are being produced.  Joe says that a well trained athlete can maintain this level of effort for about an hour before becoming exhausted.

Why base training zones on Lactate Threshold instead of Maximum Heart Rate?  Everyone feels the same kind of crappy at their lactate threshold whether their pace at lactate threshold corresponds to a 9 minute mile or to  a 4 minute 50 second one.

After that bit of dissertation, perhaps you can see where I'm going with my workout.  Saturday I set out thinking I'd get in about 5 miles.  Joe's methodology for a Lactate Threshold test is simply a 30 minute long time trial: run as hard as you can for 30 minutes, press the lap button 10 minutes into the effort and the average heart rate for the final 20 minutes of the time trial represents your Lactate Threshold.

I warmed up by running a lap of the trails in Cuevas.  There we've got 1.2 miles of trail with a couple of moderately challenging hills.  I set out thinking that the day was not good for this test and really wondered how it would go.  By the end of my warm up, I was feeling no more confident about what was about to go down.  I ran the warm up in 13 minutes and 2 seconds.

I left the grounds and headed toward Samaipata.  The road up to El Rancho is really pretty flat and therefore ideal for this kind of test.  I increased my effort to where I was simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable.  At the end of 10 minutes I punched my lap button: I'd gone 1.5 miles and my average heart rate was 172 with a max (coming less than 30 seconds before the end of the lap) of 177.

I kept going for another 5 minutes toward El Rancho and was really starting to suffer.  I kept looking at my watch, "Is it time to turn around yet?" Then once I made the turn, "How much longer is it until I can stop?" Really questioned whether I'd be able to finish out the effort, but somehow I did.

I was 20 seconds per mile slower on this 20 minute lap - I went out too hard, but I was ended up with an average heart rate of 178 for the lap - precisely the number I've been using for the last 6 months (the last time I really laid down an official test).

Anyway.  It was tremendous to have the hills of Dissertation Ridge looking down on me while I questioned my sanity: they actually provided just enough distraction to keep me going.  Last thought in a long post:  while it's been some time since I've actually executed this precise protocol, I have gone out and run a couple of fast 4 mile loops on the last Saturday of a recovery week.  I never broke 7 minutes per mile.  During this test I ran 4.5something miles in 30 minutes (6:45/mile): Happy.

Thanks for reading and consider that blood's normal pH is actually slightly basic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ooof. Wondering how Tomorrow is going to Feel.

Pretty well rocked after my last two runs.  I made the jaunt up to Cuevas Thursday in the late morning. 
We’re having some work done on the main rental cabin.  It’s not hugely off-putting, but while the work is in progress, we can’t really rent the cabin.  It turns out that there are a number of long weekends and a couple of major holidays on the way (Carnival and Mother’s Day) - more than one person wants to spend the night up here.

This weekend represents a long weekend and Nataly rented the cabin we have been using as our base of operations for 3 nights.  That meant I had to get our stuff out of Cabin 2 and into the cabin where the work is ongoing, Cabin 1.  Not a great deal of work, but it had to happen by the end of the day Thursday. 

Once I moved us, I made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches, choked them down, and prepped for my run. 

Regarding the sandwiches…I bought some bread at the supermarket and will never do that again.  It was stale and barely suitable for making croutons.  Yuck.  Make the time to make your own bread, Jay.  Here's the 33% WW Multigrain Nut Bread I made a couple weeks ago...

Thursday’s run once again took me out the Road to Bella Vista.  I set out thinking initially I’d just give the hill a decent effort and cruise for the rest of the outing and that’s just what I did until I got to the 3 mile mark of my 8 mile trot.  There I saw a couple of familiar faces, waved, smiled and looked at my watch and realized I was pretty well flying. 

The 3 mile mark on the road to Bella Vista signifies the start of a mile (plus) long flatter stretch which cuts along a stream channel.  There are several minor crossings to be negotiated, but it’s a really good, fun stretch of track. I ran the mile to my turn around in just over 8 minutes. 

I got to the turn in 35 minutes, maybe a bit under.  I knew I only had 1 mile of climbing left, 1 mile flat, and 2 miles of descending left.  I decided to try for a big negative split and increased my effort for mile 5.  I was actually pretty disappointed when the lap flashed and showed me 1 second slower than I was for the preceding one.  Oh well, I still had those 2 miles of descending.

The road gains a solid 500-600 feet in elevation over the next mile and there are stretches which force me to hike.  They’re short, but this mile ended up being the slowest of my run by more than a minute. 

I made that time back in the first 3 quarters of a mile of the descent back to Cuevas.  At this point, I was running as hard downhill as anytime since my last Imogene Pass Run (I’ll be back in 2014, Imogene).  My last 2 mile splits were 6:53 and 7:03.  That last mile includes a vicious little climb of about 150 feet vertical in a quarter mile, otherwise I may well have been under 6 minutes for that last mile.

This turned out to be a huge PR on the course.  I averaged under 8:30/mile and until now, I haven’t broken 8:50/mile on any length jaunt on the out and back to Bella Vista.  Needless to say, I’m happy with the effort.

Friday’s run was affected by Thursday’s.  I headed out and my legs felt like they had given a solid PR effort the day before.  I stopped a couple of times to chat with the Gatekeeper and Hugo, as well as to try and call Nataly.  As a result, my first mile splits include conversation, but I wasn’t thinking about setting any kind of land speed records on this run. 

I was actually looking forward to taking it easy and snapping some photos.  I was heading out the Road to Palermo.  I haven’t gone that direction since August of last year when the road was a horrible slick mud disaster.  Despite that, I remember it being beautiful. 

About a half mile into the climb, the vistas open up and the mountains pose for you…
Many roads in Bolivia really are tracks at best.  Cars get beat to hell here.IMG_20120120_115750
The red dirt, when wet, is as slick as wet soap.  My first “run” on this road was unfortunately under those conditions.  I’d probably have been back sooner were it not for the muck.IMG_20120120_120842
My turn around featured a beautiful soccer field and basketball court.  I ran 90 minutes of Futbol and hooped it up for another hour before actually going back.  (um…no.)IMG_20120120_121050
Wouldn’t to suck to have this view out of your bedroom window.IMG_20120120_122652
My running partners for Friday’s effort, literally jackasses.  One even turned its butt to me and kicked.  Jackass…
Anyway.  After 8 hard miles on Thursday, and 14 difficult miles on Friday.  Saturday is going to be slow.
Thanks for reading and if your running partner shows you their butt, watch out for a good swift kick…

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Racing Miles.

One thing my Leadville training plan is really lacking is any kind of competition.  That lack has me thinking about what races I can do in the months leading up to the big dance.

The question is two fold really:
  1. Are there races which fit well into my training program and
  2. can I afford to run them?  
There is one race which satisfies criteria 1 and one race which I can convince myself satisfies criteria 2.  

The Desert Rats Trail Festival in Fruita in April really fits well into my training program.  On back to back days there is a 50 mile race and a half marathon in the desert in western Colorado.  I'm familiar with the course and it would give me the opportunity to try out fueling options and see how much my form has progressed since my first year of ultra running.  With the form I have now, I think I might go under 10 hours on the 50 mile course.  Meaning that my total time would be less than double my time in the 25 in 2010.  The problem with the Fruita 50 is that the financial burden would be close to $2000 for the week.  Kind of steep for a training run.

The Keys 100 is the the race I'm starting to convince myself is affordable now.  For less than $1000, airfare and race entry are covered.  Car rental seems to be coming in around $250, but there are public transportation options of which I could avail myself.  Then there's lodging...

Aaaargh!  Never mind.

This is so freaking frustrating.  

I wish there were a running scene in Bolivia.  There isn't.  It's just me, a bunch of angry dogs, and people who give me weird looks.  The longest race I've heard of is 20 kilometers long and I was injured when it went down.  There are others, but they're more destination events for wealthy European and American running tourists, and they don't fit into my training schedule for Leadville anyway.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I'll enjoy reading about your racing miles - it keeps me motivated.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A long silence.

It's been a busy couple of weeks.  Cuevas was fantastically busy over the holiday weeks and we as a family really needed to spend time up there.

Then, I wanted to make some measurable progress on the website, so I spent some time up there alone and without the interruption of a 2.5 year old gymnast leaping on my back every time I sit down.  I was able to get some stuff done.  It still needs some design work and content needs to be created for a couple of pages so I may spend another day or two up there this coming week to try to finish up, perhaps going up Thursday.

There have been a couple of quite notable things in the last couple of weeks.  I've been logging my two longest runs for the week on back to back days.  This is pretty standard operating procedure for folks training for ultra distance events, but it's new to me.  As far as the running muscles go, I haven't had any huge complaints, but I'm also not logging huge miles.  As far as the rest of the body goes, well...

Last week my long runs were 7 (Wednesday) and 10 (Thursday) miles.  I did them in the middle of the day in La Guardia on hot sunny days.  Hot means 97 degrees and by sunny I mean:

I snapped that photo at mile 5 of the 7 mile run on Wednesday.  At the end of that run, I weighed 85.7 Kilos (a loss of 1.8 kilos).  The next day I went out for 10 miles in similar conditions.  Again I dropped about 2 kilos during my run.

I got a headache.

The headache was so bad, in fact, I couldn't sleep.  It stuck with me throughout the day Friday.  I drank lots of water and even added salt to my bottle, but the pain behind my eyes wouldn't go away.  Acetaminophen helped, sending the headache to a more distant place, but it didn't eliminate the problem by any stretch of the imagination.  I spent a lot of time lying on my bed and in general being grumpy.

Sorry Deneb.

Sorry Nataly.

Needless to say, Friday turned into a day off.  I needed it, because when I awoke on Saturday I still had the headache.  It had eased off, but I was no where near a happy camper.  With the help of the Tylenol, I did get out for my run that day, but it was slow and rather uninspired.

I finally got back to normal on Monday, up in Cuevas.  It was cooler and I think I finally got back on top of my hydration and electrolytes.  Somehow through all of this, I've stayed on top of my workouts.  I have yet to miss a scheduled run, and this week I'll be able to offer Nataly the choice of my running days off.  Which is better for her, us and Deneb: Saturday or Sunday?

That's nice.

Anyway, since last I wrote, I've logged something like 99 miles and climbed something like 9000 feet.  Not a bad 3 weeks.  The vast majority of those climbing feet have come on the road to Bella Vista.  This coming week, I think I'll do my long run on the road to Palermo.  I've only hit that once and I was really turned off by the mud, but obviously it's not muddy all of the time.  Not sure why I've never been back...

Thanks for reading and keep your electrolytes up.
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