Just like my cycling performance assessment on Monday , I completed a run assessment today. I typically schedule them in the morning so that I don’t have anything on my mind prior to the test. That way start out with a feeling of accomplishment and progress which sets a wonderful tone for the remainder of the day. 

The assessment is performed on a treadmill with the same methodology as the cycling test. Johnny takes a baseline lactate measurement, then I warm up spending for about 10-15. After the warmup, I signal that I’m ready and he takes another lactate measurement along with my perceived effort (rated on a scale of 1-20) and we begin.

The speed of the treadmill is increased every three minutes for as long as I can maintain the pace. A finger-prick blood sample is taken and I report my perceived effort immediately prior to each increase in speed.  Things get difficult fast – extremely difficult shortly after that! After the maximum speed is reached, he slows the treadmill back to low zone1 and I run for 20 minutes to flush the lactate from my muscles. 


Diagram of performance results (figure below)

  • Improvements in my heart rate (red line) with increasing speed.
    • When I began this journey, Jan 2019 (green dot), I had a very rapid increase in my heart rate once I reach 3.5 mph =17 min/mile and I maxed out at 6 mph (10 min/mile).
    • Now, May 2020 (blue dot), I have a more gradual increase in my heart rate. At 4.2 mph I’ve got a lower heart rate than before. Although my maximum speed is significantly higher now (8:13 min/mile) than in Jan 2019 (10 min/mile), my heart rate remains lower the entire time. 
  • Managing heart rate is the key to surviving endurance sports. The lower I can keep it, the longer I can sustain the effort. So, training my body to move faster while maintaining a low heart rate is a major objective.  
  • This chart also shows improvements in blood lactate concentrations (blue lines). The higher the concentration, the quicker the muscles will fatigue and ultimately fail. So, another key goal is conditioning my muscles to be more energy efficient so they produce less lactate with increased activity. 
    • The curves (blue lines) show that last January, my lactate levels increased rapidly with relatively low effort when compared to the concentrations obtained today (blue dots). I’m running much faster at my peak lactate levels (8:30min / mile vs 10:00 min/ mile). That’s the type of change I want to see. 

Overall, the graph shows that when compared to Jan 2019, I can run faster, my muscles fatigue slower and my heartrate remains lower. 

Threshold changes

  • Top end performance 
    • In Jan 2019 – 6.0 mph with 173 bpm heart rate and a blood lactate of 6.1. – 
    • In May 2020 – 7.2 mph, heart rate was 166 bpm with blood lactate of 6.2. – meaning I am able to run faster, with a lower heart rate and a lower blood lactate concentration. 


Training Zones

The table below shows my training zones. They didn’t change much from the previous performance assessment. One of the major mistakes that I made while training was going too hard. I should be spending most of my time in zone 1, which is “slow and steady”. Instead, I gave in to my desire to go faster and would push myself during my training runs. In addition, I was not training fasted, I was using my Infinit energy drink. Working out this way has trained my body to burn sugars for fuel instead of free fatty acids and lowered my lactate threshold. If I wanted to be a sprint or Olympic distance specialist, I’d be in good shape. However, I am training to race an Ironman, a true endurance endeavor. To compete my body has to be trained to burn free fatty acids first, not glycogen which is generally utilized under anaerobic (high intensity) conditions. By training in zone 1 and being in a fasted state for the short workouts (less than 1.5hrs) I can shift my metabolism to burning fatty acids for energy. 

Finally, my form needs to be developed. Running is a very unnatural feeling to me and I want to change that. After the performance assessment, Johnny said that I looked like Fred Flintstone. My feet out in front causing heel strikes as I run. Without correction, this improper posture will lead to increased fatigue of my legs, caused my hips to drop and lead to knee pain and possibly other injuries. 

So, instead of training to increase my speed, which is what I really want, we’ll work on exercises and routines that are designed force me to develop a more proper running form. Once I have the form, we will begin working on my speed. To try both is simply an invitation for an injury.