Using Lactate Balance Point to Increase Speed Up Hills

Use your lactate balance points to adjust your training heart rates and speed uphill during trail runs. This takes practice, focus, discipline and dedication. The Grouse Grind is a mountain climbing trail that a lot of Vancouver residents are addicted to, myself included. I’ll describe a speed workout later on in this article.

My quest to achieve a sub-36 minute Grouse Grind is part of this year’s theme of Seeking the Peak in business and fitness. This mark would put me in the top 10 of those who complete the Grind in my age group. I believe that being physically fit and taking care of your emotional health helps you be a more effective entrepreneur. It also enables you to enjoy the fruits of your labour more easily.
Generally, the maximum speed you can go without having to slow down is your Lactate Balance Point (LBP). I had mine tested in March and again today. The battery on my Garmin ran out, so I don’t have a graph of the heart rates, but luckily Nicola had an extra monitor. The good news is that there is a 6% improvement in speed (greater than the predicted Canadian economic growth!) and my heart rates for different speeds has dropped (a good thing), some even by 15 beats per minute. The bad news is that I am not using Lactic acid as energy as well as I could be.
In the past, the aerobic capacity was the determinate of performance. Mine – measured on a bike in university – was 69ml/kg/min (excellent). Recently there is more emphasis on lactate balance point – speed before lactic acid builds in the blood stream more rapidly than it can be buffered – and this is what forces you to slow down.
How do I beat my 39:56 minute time from Sept 10th, 2009?
First, not every trail run is aimed at obtaining a Personal Best. Set a goal for each training session. Is it technique, maintaining a specific heart rate, training a specific energy system or maybe your focus on your mental attitude?
Each run I do has a purpose. Two areas that I will be working on in the next 6 weeks are: Leg-Power and Lactic Acid use. The training plan below is for developing quick uphill speed, such as when you need to pass someone. It also includes some tempo work. Later, I will write about training your ability to maximize the use of Lactic acid.
The Grind Lactate Workout focused on training my tolerance for having a large amount of lactate in my blood. My recovery during these intervals was not enough to entirely flush out the lactic acid so, near the top, I was unable to speed up during the 1 minute running sections. With a new heart rate at Lactate Balance of 160-163 bpm, down from 170 bpm, I now need to adjust my training.
Going Fast Uphill
Goal: Training the ATP- Creatine Phosphate and Fast Glycolytic system. (depleted in 30 seconds).
Warm-Up – 3:00 min – Dynamic
Start of Timer to Baden Powell Split – Fast as Can Be, You Can’t Catch Me; approx 1:45 minutes
Interval Series 1 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 150-155 bmp
  • 5:00 minutes 150-155 bmp – to flush any accumulation of lactic acid and ensure quality of speed intervals.
Interval Series 2 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 155-160 bpm (slightly below lactate balance point)
Total Time – 39 minutes (minus Warm-Up)

Top of Timer
Heart rate of 165-175 bpm
*Note: these are my heart rates based on my test today. Balance point is usually at the fastest pace you can sustain for a long period of time. Each person will have their balance point at different heart rates. The 30 second sprint is as fast as you can go.
Estimated duration – 40-42 minutes. I will let you know after Friday’s ascent.
Tip: Stick to your own race, stick to the plan, evaluate the results, adjust the plan and repeat.
August 1st, I passed a colleague who encouraged me to go faster, but instead I “raced my own race” and kept with the plan which resulted in a new season best by not over-taxing myself.
Click Here to learn more about the value of Lactate Balance Point testing and check yours out in North Vancouver. Nicola has tested me twice now. It takes about 1 hour and isn’t that painful. It’s just dealing with a little pin prick to take a small blood sample and having the ability to really push yourself.
Janssen, Peter. Lactate Threshold Training; Human Kinetics, 2001. I have this book in my library and refer to it often. It goes beyond the Zone 1-5 of heart rates. Training zones are based on a percentage of your Lactate Balance Point. Great photos and explanations.
Have you had your balance point tested before? How do you monitor your training progress? Leave your comments below.

Seeking the Peak: Race Your Own Race

As we aim for our peak performance or being the best at something, many of us get wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others. But, when it comes down to race day or the day we are making an important presentation, we can only manage what is under our control.

This is a lesson I learned competing in Biathlon. Each competitor trains for months and then prepares in his own way on race day. Whether or not we end up in first, second or last really is not up to us. What we can do is go out and set ourselves up to do our personal best.
I clearly remember my strategy during the B.C. Winter Games in Comox, where I won two golds and one silver. It was to “race my own race.” This was still about pushing myself and wanting to be the best, but the focus was more on my own performance. I knew that my training and pre-race preparation were both excellent, as was my confidence in my abilities.
During most of the race I saw a competitor a head of me, but not once did I decide that “I had to catch him.” I could see that I was gradually reeling him in and eventually I passed him. I think that if I had switched my strategy, I would have exhausted myself trying to catch him instead of having my best race.
With Seek the Peak in July and the Grouse Mountain Run in September, I am aware of what my top physical condition was before I retired from Biathlon and what the top times are in my category. On race day, if I am fitter than I was when I competed in Biathlon and I reach my own performance goals of under 2 hours for Seek the Peak and 31:00 minutes for the BMO Grouse Mountain Run, I will have succeeded; placement is secondary.
Through years of various competitions including the Vancouver Marathon, and in my decade as a Kinesiologist, I have always defined my successes by asking, “Did I do everything I could? Was this my best performance?” Please leave a comment and let me know how you run your own race.
Previous Seeking the Peak Posts:
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Contributing to a Family and Olympic Legacy

During his Unleash the Power Within seminar, Tony Robbins described one of our human needs as the need to contribute. Volunteering for the Olympics fulfilled this need for me in several ways.

I was fortunate enough to be at the same venue as my father. As an only child, family is very important to me. Just knowing that he was out there somewhere filled me with a sense of pride, comfort and joy. During our time at the venue, we were able to see each other several times in the workforce break tent between events. I really enjoyed sharing this experience with him and knowing that we both contributed to the success of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

At the end of the biathlon events, I was dismissed from my role in Anti-Doping, but before I went home I overheard that the stadium and range were going to be dismantled. To me, this was a call to action. Even though I was not part of the Biathlon Range or Stadium crew, I knew I had to lend my two hands and capable body. It was outstanding how well everyone worked together as a team to accomplish this significant goal in about one and a half hours.

Afterward, I stood in amazement on the range with my dad and thought, “Wow! I am at the Olympics with Dad.” I held on to my vision of participating in the Olympics; to me it did not matter that it was not as an athlete. We also took a group photo in the penalty loop, with a bunch of us standing on the podium, including myself.

These are stories and memories that Dad and I will continue to share and reflect on together for years to come.

I took my role as an Anti-Doping Chaperone very seriously, not because I was involved in Doping Control, but because I knew that our interactions with athletes, coaches, officials and team doctors would be part of shaping their Olympic experience and the stories they told when they went home. The feedback we had about Doping Control was that everything went very well. I am proud of our team at Biathlon.

I also spoke with athletes who were at Turin in 2006, who thought our facilities and athletes village were much better. I was also honoured to witness the pride of someone receiving his first Olympic medal. As volunteers, we are referred to as the “Blue Jackets” by John Furlong. We all had our roles and without them, the games would not have succeeded. I am also extremely grateful for all the spectators and residents of Vancouver and Whistler who I met. I noted the enthusiasm and pride they had for the athletes of their home nations, Canada or otherwise, and I was touched and amazed. Thank you to everyone who surrounded me and embraced this unique experience with me.

The legacies of the 2010 Olympic Games are many. Not only do we have new facilities to use for generations to come, but we also have a renewed sense of Canadian pride and memories of all those who journeyed here to participate (athletes, spectators, and athlete families). I hope that this pride carries over and the athletic accomplishments of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes inspires our nation to dig deep and become the champions they have inside themselves.

What are you going to do today to find and unleash your inner champion?

Excitement Building for Olympic Games Volunteer

In late November I invested a whole day in games time training for my volunteer role in Anti-Doping for 2010. I am very excited that I have been chosen to help make Biathlon, the sport I competed in for BC, a fair competition during the Olympics.

During registration we received a deck of playing cards marked Anti-Doping. They are still in the wrapping. I don’t think that will ever change. We started with an ice-breaker game to meet each other, we ended up with our our own cheering team. It started by each person challenging the individual sitting next to them to a Paper, Rock, Scissors game, with the winner continuing on and the loser cheering on the winner in the next round. It didn’t take long before I found myself as part of the final two. Which thankfully was a best of three. The eventual winner, a Doctor from Calgary won the first round, I won the second round and she won last one. The championship was a small gold plastic cup with “Golden Cup” scrawled in permanent marker on the side. (I will challenge her to a re-match when I see her again).

During the rest of the day we were shuffled from room to room for various topics and a well-catered lunch. Some of the information was very general to our role in Anti-Doping, including role playing difficult situations, while others material covered was very venue specific.
I have my shift schedule for the Olympics and know when I will be picking up my uniform, but have still to fully figure out transportation. One thing is for certain, transportation to Whistler is from BCIT, not far from where I live (phew). The organizers have been kind enough to leave us with at least one day between our long shifts to recuperate. VANOC is very good at ensuring that we are well prepared for our roles and that we will be supported at the venue.
As a former Biathlete, I am very excited to be assigned mainly to the Biathlon venue at Whistler Olympic Park. As an Anti-Doping Chaperone we get be on the field of play and interact with the athletes. These will be memories I will cherish for a long time.
Recent News – December 3rd, 2009 Top Ten World Cup Finish for Canadian Biathlete
Are you volunteering or hosting volunteers? I want to hear from you, so leave your thoughts and share your experience below.