Here's what happened at my last test. And what did we hope to see this time?
- We didn't expect my aerobic base to really move, because I'm pretty efficient at my base so it would take a lot of work to move that, and it hasn't been long enough.
- We didn't expect my anaerobic threshold to move either, because I haven't been doing extremely high intensity speedwork at a very very high heart rate.
- We did hope to see that the big negative slope in efficiency that we saw between the aerobic base and anaerobic threshold last time would have leveled off some. This would be because of spending a lot more time training at Zone 2 and Zone 3, those uncomfortable zones. This would allow me to race at higher heart rates and faster paces without burning through my glycogen (carb) reserves as quickly.
DisclaimerI'm not an exercise physiologist, kinesiologist, or any other -ologist expertly trained in VO2 testing and its results. I'm an average runner, who passed the test to be an RRCA-certified running coach, and understands a lot of the rudimentary things about VO2. But I may misstate things here, so always do your own research and consult with someone smarter than me!
The Actual Testing
So the test works like this. You wear a super sexy blue mask. And you wear this mask for 10-11 minutes in the middle of the gym in my case in front of the whole world.
|This is what the testing looks like. P.S. This is not a self-portrait.|
Then, my trainer Donnie, who is trained and certified within his gym to analyze the raw data, starts the treadmill at 3 mph. So word of warning, get the test done with someone who is actually trained in it. Not someone who owns the equipment and runs the machine and makes the computer do all the work. Because you really want a professional reading the test data and helping you interpret so that you know what it means!
The wires hooked up my mask read the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to figure out when and how I use the oxygen in my body efficiently. 1-2 minutes at a time we move up to 3.5 mph. 4.0 mph. 4.5 mph. 5 mph. Then we start raising the incline, 2%, 4%, 6%. At 8%, it's starting to hurt, but I'm trying to keep that heart rate in check. Unlike the last test, we actually reach 10%. And I hold on, at 12 minute per mile pace and 10% incline, for about 20 seconds. Until I have to jump off and cling to the sides as I almost spew into my very tight mask.
ResultsOne easy way to sum it all up is comparing my VO2Max number.
- Before: 36.5
- After: 42.1
That's a huge jump! 17% increase in only 68 days! I had a VO2Max that was expected for a normal female, or in my case a female marathoner with bad genetics. Boo. And now I have a VO2Max that sounds a lot more like a standard athlete. Yippee!
From a Runner's World article about improving VO2Max:
"If you want a high VO2 max, choose your parents carefully. One group of scientists concluded that heredity determines up to 50 percent of your endurance ability. Still, that leaves 50 percent that can be influenced by training. While an outrageous VO2 max isn't the only ticket to running greatness--Frank Shorter's and Alberto Salazar's maxes were in the low 70s--increasing it can boost your race times. A five-point jump, for example, can translate into a seven percent improvement, or 90 seconds for a 20-minute 5-K. And a moderately fit runner can increase VO2 max by as much as 25 percent."
Further, the % of calories that come from fat at higher heart rates has gone up. That means I'm more efficient at higher heart rates in Zones 2 and 3. So I can go longer pushing at those heart rates, burning fat calories. See the numbers in Zone 2 - before I burned 37% of calories as fat calories, whereas now I burn 42%. Even better is that strong negative slope of declining efficiency in Zone 2 has almost completely leveled out! And my efficiency in Zone 3 went up quite a bit too. I knew this from anecdotal evidence because I had spent about the last 6 miles of the NJ Marathon, when I was working to finish with a PR, at Zone 3 thanks to cardiac drift. But with increased fat-burning efficiency, I could do that where I could not have before!
More data for those who like data like I do...
Final ConclusionsWhat does this all mean for upcoming races? So where do I go from here?
- It means that I can hang out anywhere in Zone 2 for quite a while and still have a very high fat-burning efficiency. Before, I knew to hang out no higher than low Zone 2.
- I can race for about an hour at low- to mid-Zone 3 where before I would have sputtered out of energy.
- I can use the calories per minute burned calculation to verify that I'm taking in enough nutrition during ultramarathons. I need about 200-250 calories per hour in a race to keep the engine fueled well it appears.
- Do not ever hit Zone 4! Look at how many calories I burn per minute there! 13. And it's all carbs. So a half hour of that burn equals more than an hour of happy fat-burning effort. I'd burn through my energy reserves quick. And even if the heart rate zings up and hits Zone 4 briefly, you can keep burning pure carbs for a while after it pops back down. In an ultra, this would get me to a quick DNF. So no Zone 4!
So Friday it's time for a trip, and Saturday I'll be running Jemez 50K with all this new data loaded into my Garmin Forerunner 910, and all this knowledge driving my efforts and my paces! Jemez, here I come!