Lactate Threshold Testing at University of Louisville Fitness Center

Today was a very encouraging day for me.  I’m a huge numbers person, and seeing them move the way I’d like to is a huge encouragement.  But not only does it encourage me… it also motivates me to keep working harder to continue seeing the gains being made in each of the three disciplines.  It also helps me reason that the money I spent on a power meter and a coach are well worth it.

About a year ago, I did a step test on the bike without measuring blood lactate levels to get a rough estimate where my lactate threshold was to help me dial in my training.  It was roughly 300-305 watts.  Good, but nothing outstanding.  Recently, I’ve had some friends, such as Troy Shellhamer and Beau Hollis, do some testing at the University of Louisville Fitness Center to get their lactate threshold for running.  They spoke highly of it and after a little thought, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do.  But, instead of checking my threshold on the run, which I’m pretty confident that I know based on race and training data, I wanted to get tested on the bike.  Additionally, biking is my weakest link.  So, if I was going to spend the $75 to get tested, it made the most sense to do it for the bike.

I got to U of L around 11:30 and set up my computrainer in the lab so I could ride my own bike with my own power meter instead of using one of their bikes.  I also knew that the computrainer reads slightly lower than my powermeter since the computrainer reads power from a source further away from the original source (the cranks).  It was the first time that anyone had brought in their own bike, so the grad students weren’t exactly sure on how it would work.  I showed them how to increase the wattage manually and we got started.

While warming up, they said they wanted to start me at 100 watts and increase by 50 watts each time.  I looked at them a little shocked and started wheeling-and-dealing!  I suggested started at a higher wattage and increasing by 25 watts.  Increasing by 50 watts at the beginning seemed reasonable until hitting the 300 watt mark.  I felt like the numbers would be more accurate by starting at a higher wattage and doing increases in wattage in smaller increments.  With some reassurance from one of the faculty members that knew me, the grad students agreed to do the test the way I suggested.

Getting warmed up

We started the test at 200 watts… which is just above warm up effort.  We increased the wattage every two minutes and slowly entered the pain cave.  I tried not to keep track of the number of times we increased the wattage so I wouldn’t know what I was pushing so my head wouldn’t get in the way of my body’s performance.  However, I’ve been training long enough with a power meter that I can tell within about 10-20 watts of what I’m pushing just by feel.  When they drew blood and said my lactate levels were 4.4, I knew that the end of the test was close… one or two more steps at the most.

Drawing blood

Pick a finger, any finger

The students and faculty that was there (about 6-8) really started giving me some encouragement when they saw I was beginning to struggle.  I made it one more step after crossing lactate threshold (4 mmol/l).  The watts were increased to 375.  I made it through the test with a blood lactate level of 6.7 mmol/l.   I was tired enough from that effort that once they increased it to 400 watts, my cadence dropped below 85.  I just couldn’t turn the pedals anymore.

Nearing the end of the test

After cooling down, they showed me the numbers from my test.  Lactate threshold was 339 watts.  But what is more important that that is the amount of watts per kilogram, since weight is very important in cycling.  My watts/kilogram came in at 4.63.  From a year ago my power at  lactate threshold increased by about 35-40 watts and my watts/kilogram improved by 0.46!

These numbers are obviously moving in the direction that I want them to… however there is still a lot of work to be done.  They are better than last year, but still not good enough to win big races.  For example, Cameron Dye can push about 365-370 watts at his lactate threshold… not to mention he’s a faster swimming.  But all things are achievable in time with a little bit of effort.

And, I’m looking forward to putting in the time and effort!

I’m planning on doing this again before leaving for Panama for my first 70.3 of the 2013 season to see if improvement has been made and to redefine my power zones for training again.

Cya at the starting line…