January 17, 2006

My Science Threshold

Morning Workout
BIKE (on the trainer)
45 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: Riding a bike on a trainer can be a very tedious event. The only time the scenery changes is when you blink. I'm not sure if it's actually more difficult to pedal on the trainer than to ride outside, or if it's the boredom that makes it seem more difficult, either way, it ain't always easy. Which makes the trainer a really great reason to have TiVo. My workout this morning was 45 minutes. By fast forwarding through all of the commercials, West Wing lasts 42 minutes long. Which left 3 extra minutes of focused bike time. As it turns out, they were the most difficult 3 minutes of the workout.

Evening Workout

Main Set: 1 x 250m / 2 x 200m / 3 x 150m / 4 x 100m / 5 x 50m

Random Comments: A funny thing happened at the pool tonight. I was swimming along in my lane when all of the sudden I started smelling cigarette smoke. There is no smoking allowed in the YMCA, much less in the pool area. And that's not even the thing. The thing is that I was swimming. You know, face in the water swimming, turning my head only slightly and inhaling through my mouth. And there's definitely no smoking allowed underwater in the pool. At first I thought I was imagining things. Then I swam another lap and still smelled the cigarettes. Next lap... same thing. It was really wierd. Well finally I finished my set and stopped at the end of the lane for a brief rest. In the lane on my left was a 20-something girl. In the lane on my right was a 40 something man. They were talking to each other - in French. They were French. You see where I'm going with this one?! French people smoke. It's what they do - like drinking wine and eating brie. They smoke. Yet when I stood between the two of them, I couldn't smell the cigarettes. It was only there when I swam. Is that the wierdest thing, or what.

Tomorrow is test day for me. Tomorrow night I meet with the trainer (Coach Gareth, for those of you who forgot) and get my latest Lactate Threshold run testing done. Since the output on the run and the bike are different, I have two separate tests. As I just said, tomorrow is the run test. On Friday night I have the Lactate Threshold test for the bike. You excited? Yeah... me too. You know why? Because I love running faster than I knew my legs could move and pedaling harder than I thought is possible while having somebody stick a needle in my finger every four minutes to suck out more and more blood from my body, and continuing on until I've pushed myself beyond all possible limits and am somewhere past the point of hallucinating and just before the point of tossing my proverbial cookies. And, believe it or not, I pay to have this done. It's really a sick sport, this triathlon malarkey, and what better proof than Lactate Threshold testing.

Hey wait, do you know what the Lactate Threshold is? Honestly, I barely do. I just get the test done for the challenge of it all. Thing is, I never did very well in chemistry. Or biology, for that matter. I did so poorly, I don't even know if the Lactate Threshold conversation is a chemistry or biology subject. I was more of a physics guy. Come to think of it, I pretty much sucked at the electro-magnetic physics side of things. Couldn't figure out how a light bulb worked and really didn't seem to care. As long as it turned on when I flipped the switch, I was fine. Even if the bulb didn't turn on, I knew I could go down to the store and buy a new bulb. That was my expertise in electro-magnetic physics - a trip to the Rite-Aid. Truth be told, I was more of a mechanical physics type person. You know, which will freefall faster when dropped from the top of a tall building, a hard-boiled egg or Sarah Jessica Parker. That's the kind of problem I liked thinking about more. And even then I wasn't the brightest bulb in the Crayola container.

So when it comes to all of this Lactate Threshold testing, I mostly know that it helps me get a more personalized training schedule which helps me go faster in the long run. I leave the rest of the mumbo jumbo to Coach Gareth and his computer. I supply the blood, he supplies the training schedule. That said, I recently learned what the whole Lactate Threshold stuff means so let me impress you with a quick lesson before I forget... Please keep in mind that everything I'm about to say could be completely wrong.

The harder you work during exercise, the more lactic acid your body produces. In fact, lactic acid helps your body perform at high intensities. That's what it does. And that's good. High intensity is good. However, too much lactic acid for too long of a period, shuts down the muscles. That's bad. Muscles not working - bad. There is a point during exercise when your body starts producing lactic acid at a rate faster than it can process the damn stuff. Once you pass this point, you're workin' on borrowed time. That point is the Lactate Threshold. It used to be called the "Keep This Up And You're Really Going To Be In Big Trouble Threshold," but apparently they felt that name was too long. I don't know, it kinda flows to me.

You can probably imagine that ones ability to maintain an exercise level at the lactate threshold would increase their endurance abilities. Even more, the faster you can move and still maintain balanced levels of lactic acid in your body - well, that right there is a formula for success in endurance racing.

As you can see, this whole triathlon training stuff is quite the science. A fascinating one, even. Rather, I'm sure it'd be fascinating if I really paid more attention to it. As for me, I've always been more of a right-brained guy anyway.