Lactate Threshold and Critical Power Testing


Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 1

Over the course of three sessions I’ve been one of many guinea pigs taking part in a study that will essentially assess the effects of recovery on the ability to work at anaerobic levels, and produce a repeatable test to measure it. I think the findings will be published sometime in the future and will undoubtedly contribute to the body of knowledge in Sports Science.  It’s a technical subject but interesting nonetheless and I look forward to seeing the finished article in the future.

From a personal perspective it has given me some up-to-date data carried out in laboratory conditions which I’ll describe here.

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At the first session I was measured and weighed and my body composition was analysed. There were a couple of anomalies with this that are worth mentioning. The first is that I appear to have slightly shrunk since the last time I was “formally” measured. Apparently I am now 174.2cm in height, as opposed to the 175cm that I was in 2005 when I last had a proper medical. A bit of research suggests that we can lose up to 1cm every 10 years over the age of 40 so that kind of explains it, but it was a bit of an unwelcome surprise. The second anomaly was the results of the BodPod body composition analyser. It came out with a 24% bodyfat, even after a second go and a calibration. Which suggested I am overweight and that I’m carrying the equivalent of about 16 bags-of-sugar worth of fat!  To put that into some sort of context – if it is correct and I somehow managed to lose that amount of fat to get down to “lean” levels I could have a power-to-weight ratio not dissimilar to a Tour de France rider – not going to happen!  A series of 9 measurements were also taken using calipers and this apparently resulted in a measure closer to 12%. As all previous subjects had shown a close correlation between the BodPod and the calipers something was clearly a bit weird about me, but it’s probably safe to say the answer is somewhere in between (my Tanita bio-impedance scales at home report between 12% and 16% depending on hydration levels – but these are notoriously inaccurate).  I’m a couple of kilos heavier than I was this time last year – I’m currently in the process of shedding some of that!

Then it was time to have my finger pricked and some blood spots taken to analyse normal lactate levels.

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The ergonometer is behind the VDUs – we didn’t use the Wattbike

Onto the bike test, or more correctly, the ergonometer test. The ergonometer is a very accurate static “bike” that strictly controls the resistance of the ramp.  I was given a face mask and hooked up to a gas exchange analyser and off we went. After a warmup the power started at 100W and then slowly ramped up until I could do no more. I topped out at a tad over 410W and 175bpm. Another blood test and then I had to immediatly go as hard as I could for 2 minutes. The ramp was to clear out my anerobic energy systems and then the 2 minute effort would be all about my aerobic capabilities, from which my Critical Power (CP) could be assessed.  At the end of that it was back to a ramp, this time starting at 360W, I didn’t last long beyond that before I couldn’t turn the pedals. After a cooldown that was it.  The power and HR graph at the start of this post is the trace from the test.

My CP (equivalent to 20 minute power) came out at around a very surprising 333W – which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!

The second and third tests followed a similar approach but without the CP test.

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Test 2

The tests themselves seem innocuous enough until you are doing them.  In total they last about 33 minutes (for me anyway – if you hold the ramp for longer they will last longer!) and run out at around 40-ish TSS.

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Test 3

The ramp itself is reasonably comfortable until you get to the pointy end.  Then I found that I became very aware of the mask and I often had a real desire to scratch my face!  At the point of failure I was gasping for air and my legs were burning, and the guys are shouting to keep going.  The ergononmeter doesn’t let up so my cadence just got slower and slower until I couldn’t really turn the pedals.  It’s a horrible feeling, and then you do it again!  That said, I found the experience very interesting and the data has given me a lot of food for thought.

Edit – results can be found in this post here


High Intensity Weekend

I guess it’s all relative.  To many faster, fitter, younger riders it probably won’t seem like much, but this weekend has been pretty high intensity for me.  And that’s on top of a week where I’ve probably overcooked things.  Last Saturday I tackled the Hopey New Year audax which was very tough in itself.  I took Sunday off and then played football on Monday – on a side with a man down.  Tuesday I took off and then did my normal commute (12.5 miles each way) on Wednesday.  Thursday it was football (again a man down) and Friday my commute.  Geordie Graeme from North Cheshire Clarion had mentioned a Saturday afternoon ride so myself and Paul turned up.  I thought it would be a good warm up for Sunday’s new format “training” club run, which I’d volunteered to lead.  As it was Paul and Graeme drove a pretty fast pace into the wind, and as we didn’t stop, I got my nutrition horribly wrong and was bonking badly with 4 or 5 miles to go, slowing the guys considerably.

Saturday route - NO CAFE STOP!!

707ft ascent

Saturday evening was all about trying to recover.  My “warmup” had really hit my legs so I was into an ice-bath when I got home and then on with the compression tights, much to the amusement of the family.

There has been some discussion about the NCC Sunday club runs recently.  They are billed as social and open to anyone, fitting nicely with the ethos of the club itself.  The trouble is, fitness-wise, I’ve felt myself going backwards as they don’t stretch me at all.  Last summer and autumn it was okay because there was always an audax or a sportive that helped keep the levels up.  But after November, and coupled with the white-off that was December, I’ve gone backwards at a rate of knots.  So we now have sister rides to the social rides – currently known as training rides.  Today was the first and I was leading.  We set off 15 minutes ahead of the social ride, on the same route, such that anybody struggling can be swept up by the social ride.

Sunday route - cake at Lavender Farm

616ft ascent

Including me there were 6 riders up for the inaugural ride, and off we went.  If anything the weather was worse and the wind slightly stronger, blowing West to East – so into our faces from the off.

The ride went very well indeed, with people taking turns on the front and keeping up a decent pace.  As we arrived at the cafe stop after 30 miles we were averaging 17.6mph.  Some coffee & walnut cake helped refill the tank and we set off back.  By now we were turning back into the wind and the heavens opened with cold, driving rain directly into our faces.  As opposed to Saturday where I bonked, today I got within a couple of miles of the end and my legs had decided enough was enough, and I gradually slipped off the back .  Anthony sportingly dropped back and pulled me back on but my legs were shot at the end.

Saturday HR profile - average 156bpm

Sunday HR profile - 162bpm average

HR Legend

The two HR profiles show the level of intensity I was working at on both days.  To put it all into context, in the 603 rides where I’ve collected data, these were 3rd and 8th highest average heart-rate, which I think is either a measure of how my fitness has tailed off, or it shows that whilst I’m pretty good at long distance and endurance, I’m not so good at high intensity.  Put it this way, I feel a long way off the 18.6mph average that Anthony and I did on the Manchester 100.  It’s probably a mixture of both if I think about it.  I’m just not used to these higher intensity rides and therefore struggle when we get towards the end of them.

And that is what the training rides are all about.  Hopefully these will develop my fitness and help increase my ability to work at a higher intensity for longer.  That said, I also think I need to realise that I’m not as young as I used to be, and not get frustrated when I can’t do everything I want to do, at the intensity that I want to do it.

My legs are aching now, and my right knee is very, very sore.  I think I’ll listen to my body now and have a couple of days off.  Hopefully everyone else enjoyed the training ride and it will be the first of many.

Ride Stats : Saturday 43.6 miles in 2hrs 38m @ 16.5mph, 2512kcals used

Ride Stats : Sunday 42.8 miles in 2hrs 30m @ 17mph, 2517kcals used


Colomba Chemo Classic

Okay I’ll hold my hands up.  I underestimated this ride.  I thought it would be easier than a couple of others I’d completed recently and I was wrong.  More on that later.  The Colomba Chemo Classic is a charity sportive in aid of Cancer Research, starting from Richmond in North Yorkshire.  The very reasonable entry fee of £15 also entitled you to a £15 discount on the fine jerseys the Colomba Cycle Company sell, modelled by me in the inset picture.  These are quality Merino wool jerseys and I would recommend them highly.

So it was a 6am start for me this morning to drive there where I met two other North Cheshire Clarion riders – Andy and Martin.  After last nights gales I was hoping the wind had died down, and it had – it wasn’t gale force but still strong enough to be worrying.  The starting organisation was excellent and we were soon registered and off and running.  Straight into a fierce headwind!  Which lasted for about 30 miles, and then died down as we turned for home and it should have been on our backs!

Parts of the route were quite familiar from the Tan Hill Challenge Audax I did in August, and as usual the Yorkshire Dales never fails to impress with beautiful scenery and relatively quiet roads.  Once the wind had died, the odd shower subsided and the sun started shining.

5655ft of ascent

The wind took an awful lot of energy out of my legs, and I felt sluggish and heavy.  The first big climb started at about 15 miles into the wind.  We hit the summit at 26 miles, including a couple of 8-9% sections and culminating with a final push up a 14% incline.  This was Park Rash the other way round.  Scary moment number 1 came on the descent which included a -21% section into a tight bend.  I seriously thought I wasn’t going to scrub enough speed off and that I’d end up over the barrier.  After what seemed like an age, but was clearly only a few seconds, the Swisstop Green blocks managed to slow me enough to get round.  Scary moment number 2 was losing the back-end on another descent as I tried to scrub speed off.  Thankfully, despite my dad’s moans about my tyres, years of skidding practice as a kid mean I’m quite adept at controlling them.

The first couple of climbs I went up with Andy, but by the end he was putting considerable distance between us on the up bits.  He’s a strong rider but I’m normally a bit closer than I was today.  Martin did himself proud being very close behind and getting up every hill.

Another big 11% climb and then we dropped into the feed station at 40 miles for a welcome respite.  Again, very well organised with plenty of free food and drink.  Straight after this it was climbing again with a 2.5 mile 12% hill.  Descending from that we were faced with 2 direction signs – labelled Easy and Hard.  Of course we took the hard one which took us almost immediately up a 16.5% hill.  My new Speedracer Mk2 mudguards sheared off at the front halfway up which was nice.  My legs were stiff with cramp at this point too – something which has never happened to me on a bike before.  One final 12%-er and we descended back into Richmond to the HQ.  Hot and cold food and drinks again free and great organisation meant it was a good finish to a challenging ride.

So to the stats.  Total time out was 5hrs 25m with ride time of 4hrs 39m to give a riding average of 12.9mph for the 60 miles.  5655ft of ascent and  4307 kcals of energy used.  I genuinely thought this ride wouldn’t be as hard as Seasons of Mist or the Macc Monster and I guess the wind had something to do with it.

Colomba HR chart - 156bpm average, 192bpm maximum

Season of Mist HR chart - 140bpm average, 186bpm maximum

Macc Monster HR chart - 148bpm average, 186bpm maximum

You can see the effect the wind and conditions had.  Both SOM and Macc Monster had more climbing (1400ft and 900ft respectively) and were slightly longer and yet my HR was in the red far more today, with both a higher average and a higher maximum.

Scary moment number 3 came when cleaning my bike.  I put the bike on the stand and spun the rear wheel via the crank.  Hitting the brake to stop it I noticed that the brake pushed the wheel off axis and then it stuck against the brake blocks.  It seems when I swapped to my winter wheels I hadn’t quite tightened the QR enough.  I wonder if some of the problem today was a rubbing  brake block at the rear?

My lesson from today is that the NCC social club runs are not providing me with enough of a challenge to even let me stand still.  I feel like I’m going backwards fitness-wise.  So I’m going to have to have a re-think about what rides I attend and when I need to go out on my own for some hard training work. It’s clear I need it again.

On a more positive note, I’ll probably do this again next year and recommend it highly to others.  A good, challenging route, great organisation, a worthy cause and money off a great jersey.  What more could you want?

#Lejog Training Roundup – All the Stats

So I’ve finally finished my training for the LEJOG.  It’s been 20 weeks and I’ve been keeping track of all that I’ve done.

I started when the weather was freezing cold at the end of January, when getting out of bed in the dark on a Sunday morning at 6-30am was a real struggle.  I’ve been freezing cold (a lot), soaking wet (surprisingly not that much), hot and sweaty.  It’s been icy, windy, rainy, sunny and cloudy (a lot).

I’ve ridden around Greater Manchester, Cheshire (a lot), Lancashire, Yorkshire, Wales and flirted with Derbyshire.

I’ve been up hills and down dales, on mountainsides, in valleys, through villages, towns and cities.  I’ve seen wonderful scenery and beautiful countryside.

I’ve done long and lonely hours on my own and I’ve made some great new friends and ridden with great people, and some inspirational people.  I’ve enjoyed my own company and I’ve enjoyed their company.

I’ve fallen off, I’ve hurt my knee and I’ve seen countless idiotic drivers.  My knee has been sore, my fingers have bled and my legs have ached (a lot.)

I’ve absolutely loved it.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • 2,153 training miles (plus another 530 miles commuting making 2683 miles in total)
  • over 142 hours of riding (nearly 6 days solid)
  • 78,400ft of climbing.  That’s equivalent to 2.7 Mount Everests.
  • I’ve averaged 15.6mph across those 2,153 miles
  • 116,706 kcalories of energy burned.
  • Gone from 189lbs to 172lbs and 24% bodyfat to just under 18%.  That’s at least a stone of unwanted fat gone

Weekly training mileage

The graph above shows the build up in mileage that I’ve tried to achieve to peak 3 weeks before the start, and then taper down.

More and more climbing!

Similarly you can see above the amount of climbing I’ve tried to build in on a weekly basis, and the following graph is my average heart-rate – which I think demonstrates that my fitness has improved over the time I’ve been training.

My fitness has been steadily improving

Is it enough?  I’ll tell you in a fortnight!  I was advised that 2000 miles of training would be the required amount and I’ve pleased that I’ve achieved that. Although I have a slight cold at the moment I feel very strong and fit, so I’m hoping that what I’ve done will stand me in good stead.

Cleaned, oiled and ready - the bike that is

Here are some five things I’ve learned

  1. Having a goal is really important – in this case the LEJOG provided all the motivation
  2. Structure works. Planning what you want to achieve, and how, means you can track your progress and build your confidence
  3. Shake it up – the same routes and the same things get boring.  Put effort into making things fresh
  4. Accept that some days will be hard for no reason, physically and/or mentally. For every 2 steps forward you may well take 1 back.  As long as you are moving forward it’s okay
  5. JOIN A CLUB – there really is no substitute for joining a cycling club and riding with others – it makes things a lot easier and more fun

One final thing.  A very big thank-you to my family, who have put up with me disappearing most weekends for hours at a time without a single word of complaint.  They have been behind me every step of the way, coaxing, cajoling and encouraging.  Fantastic support, without which I wouldn’t have been able to do my training.

I’m ready.  Wish me luck.  Better still, sponsor me.

Saturday Club Run

Very windy morning today with a strong North-Easterly giving me a nice boost to the Swan in Winwick for the North Cheshire Clarion Saturday Club run. I arrived 15 minutes early thanks to the tailwind, having averaged 17.7mph over the 20 miles with little effort.  With a brand new guest we set off and did a very gentle 10 mile loop before doing a second 10 mile loop at much faster speeds

The ride back home was pretty tough into what was now a headwind, made worse by the East Lancs road being closed and backing traffic up.

The graph above shows my heart rate over the ride and the training zones I was in.  As you can see the first 20 miles to the Swan with a tailwind wasn’t too hard – with my heart being in the green zone much of the time.  The next gentle 10 mile loop you can see my heart rate is very low, and then it increases for the next 10 miles as we did the faster second loop.  The final 20 miles is the same route as the first 20 miles, but my heart rate is mostly in zone 5,  which highlights the significant increase in effort between a tailwind and a headwind.  It certainly hits the legs too, but a nice crisp ice bath at the end sorted that!

Overall, I did 60 miles at an average of 14.6mph on a fairly flat 1305ft ascent, using 3226 kcals.