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.