Showing up is still a mind game…

This morning I was scheduled to do a cycling lactate profile. I’ve described these in other posts. The goal is to do them every 8 weeks. I’m not yet that organized, so I do them when I remember to schedule them.

The last test that I did was only 4 weeks ago. During that one, I “bonked” and was unable to complete the session. I was very frustrated. Johnny said the problem was due to inadequate energy, or improper nutrition.

Over the past 4 weeks, I’ve been working on eating more energy-producing, muscle nourishing foods. I’ve also been reducing my fat intake. This includes healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. The fried foods have mostly been eliminated too. I notice that my typical afternoon slump goes away when I eat healthy stuff. When I do eat fried food (potato chips, fried chicken, etc) I definitely feel their impact on my body. I’ll generally feel bloated for prolonged periods of time, I also notice that my energy level can plummet quickly.  My mouth is very, very happy, but my body rebels.  I’ve also added magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin C to my daily regimen. Magnesium to reduce the foot cramping that I was experiencing. B and C vitamins for energy and general health. 

I did not wake up eager to do this test. The ghosts of my past tests were weighing heavily on my mind. I’d been traveling and working quite a bit the past several days and didn’t feel fully recovered.  I think I was just looking for an excuse to not show up. 

I got my ass up and went to do what I needed to do… kill the excuses and check my progress. I didn’t change my morning routine, I had a cup of black coffee and spend a little time writing and thinking about my day, then I left. 

We set the bike on the CompuTrainer as usual and he had me warm-up at a cadence of 70 for about 15 min. While I was warming up, I discussed my training over the past week or so, what I’d done and how I had been feeling. Just to get a status check from him. He reminded me of how important it is for me to stay dialed-in to how I’m feeling. Being a road warrior adds more stress to my body and puts me at greater risk for sickness and injury. So, when I feel extra-fatigued, I should either skip the workout or train in low zone 1. That approach is healthier than continuously pushing through and ultimately causing a collapse of my system which could take weeks to recover. 

Begin the test

When I was ready, we were off to the races. He takes resting blood lactate and heart rate measurements (baseline values. He then increases the resistance every 3 minutes. He also takes a blood sample after he checks with me to see if I’m good to continue. If I give an affirmative, we go to the next intensity level for 3 minutes and repeat the cycle for 6 or 7 cycles or until I cannot maintain a cadence of 70. 

Once I started, I actually felt good. My legs were feeling strong, my butt was hurting on the hard-ass seat, but I was able to ignore the discomfort. Once it got hard to maintain, I became really curious how much I had left in the tank. One of my concerns during a race is how long and how hard can I go once my legs begin to hurt. Today I was determined to find out.  Better to learn here and now than be hesitant on race day. 

At one point he told me that I had gone longer than I’d ever gone in the past. I really struggled on the last two sets, I felt like I was giving my maximum effort. To help me make it to the end of the last sets, he began coaching me on how to breathe so that I adequately blew off the CO2 and oxygenated my blood to buffer the lactate that was accumulating and causing the muscle fatigue (burning, really). Through sheer determination, I made it through all the stages of the assessment… the first time ever! Oh, how good it feels to break through a perceived limit and do more than I’ve done before. 

And the results are in

The results were surprising. 

  1. My Onset of blood lactate (OBLA) [4mmol/L], occurred significantly later than it did previously. Meaning, my leg muscles are operating more efficiently. From July to today, I was able to produce more power, 192 vs 215 Watts with an almost equivalent heartrate.   
  2. My maximum power output increased from 200 to 266 Watts.
  3. The greatest concentration of blood lactate that I was able to sustain went from 4.5 to 7 mmol/L 
  4. When looking at the area of the purple row in the chart and comparing the green line to the yellow line (my very first test to today’s test) I see the magnitude of the progress I’ve made in 7 months. The bottom of the purple bar is the beginning of the lactate accumulation due to exertion and the top is where the body switches from aerobic (fat burn) to anaerobic (using glycogen)- a greater effort with rapid breathing. In January, I was at maximum exertion (the top of the purple section) producing 170 watts whereas today,  I had not entered the lactate accumulation phase (bottom of the purple bar) at 170 watts. Not until I was producing 178 watts did I begin to see the onset of lactate accumulation. If I were to race myself from 7 months ago, I’d blow myself out of the water.

These results demonstrate to me, again, why the testing is so important.  One month ago, the testing revealed a deficit in my nutrition. I began addressing my how and what I eat and today’s results show the benefits of those changes. Remaining consistent with my workouts is important too. I know that I still have a lot of learning and tweaking to do get better at “fueling my engine” and these results show me that it’s worth the effort. 

I really feel like I’m flying today.