Saturday was one intense ride. Coach Brian, Damon, and I met at the Malibu Sprint Triathlon course at Zuma to do a thirty minute time trial to test heart rate and Lactate Threshold (LT). Perhaps things would have gone differently if I hadn’t had a migraine two days prior and still had vasoconstrictors in my bloodstream. Allow me to indulge in a little pseudoscience.
Vasoconstrictors do exactly what their name implies – vaso is vascular, or circulatory, and constrictor is, well, just ask a boa. Midrin is the drug I take to deal with my migraines. It tends to stay in my system for a few days, and while it is generally effective to shrink my swollen capillaries and normalize my bloodflow, I think it might affect my performance when I try and go at race pace.
The LT test is designed to test the point at which the body is unable to flush lactate from the blood, and lactate overload is what results in muscle fatigue. Normally, lactate is a good thing, fuel for the liver to produce glucose, which is the fuel for muscles. But overproduction of lactate results in the “burn” of muscles, and eventually, muscle shutdown.
I woke up and tested my resting heart rate by pressing the heart rate monitor to my chest. The Garmin said 61 bpm after a minute or so of waiting. This was the first necessary number for the test. I got up and got my gear ready for the ride ahead.
After meeting at Zuma we started out with a ten minute warmup, but realized that we weren’t quite up to speed so we hooked right at Trancas and shot uphill for a quarter mile. I was feeling good, bounding up the hill and watching my heart rate climb quickly, pegging at 167 from a quick sprint on a 6% grade.
We dropped downhill back towards PCH and Brian told us to start our timers/heart rate monitors at the turn and go at race pace for 30 minutes. Race pace would mean 90% intensity, in order to have some gas in the tank for the 4 mile run we were going to do after. We rounded the corner, started our watches, and began the first uphill climb. I took an early lead, and Damon bounded past me confidently. I laughed and pumped harder, moving past him and feeling good. Then he poured it on again, passed me, and my legs immediately started to burn. Brian was behind us, encouraging us along. He told me to drop a gear and spin it out, which I did and watched Damon put a quarter mile on me in three minutes. I knew I was still in testing mode so I kept pushing, and with Brian’s motivation behind me found my legs again. I focused on the goal and muscled in for the course.
PCH north of Trancas is a long, mostly straight road of deceptively intense rolling hills uninterrupted by traffic lights. It makes it an ideal stretch of road for time trials. The weather was cool and pleasant, the car traffic light, and winds minimal. At minute 25 I was definitely feeling the burn in my legs, and at 28 minutes my right abdominal cramped. Brian said it was OK to stop, so I switched off the timer and slowed my spin. Damon was nowhere in sight and we had gone almost to Pt. Mugu! 9.9 miles in 28 minutes. We turned around and I told Brian that I still had to recover my cramp and if he wanted to shoot forward and find Damon, I’d be OK. I watched Brian shoot like a rocket, which is his normal resting pace. Alone on PCH I reviewed the ride and felt like I wasn’t able to push harder than 75% of ability. I wondered if the medication in my system was somehow limiting how much oxygen was getting into my muscles, which would limit performance. This is probably a discussion I should have with my doctor, or pharmacist. The drug information on Midrin says that it targets brain capillaries. But how does a drug know only to go to one specific set of blood vessels? And let’s just say that it only goes to the brain – doesn’t my brain regulate vascular function in the rest of my body? More unknowns, and in reality, I think I know the real reason I blew up early.
I’ve been getting more competitive lately, and while sometimes it helps me get to new levels of performance, other times it tricks me into going out too hard and blowing up early. I wasn’t fully warmed up and I let myself get goaded into pressing hard at the start of the ride on an uphill. A dumb, rookie move. Later, Brian said that he should have started us 30 seconds apart to avoid the inevitable cat-and-mouse that happens when friends ride together. It’s good to know I’m susceptible to the game.
It took significantly longer to get back to Zuma, partly because of headwinds, mostly because my legs were fried. I came back to the parking lot and found Brian happily chomping a Clif bar ready to run. Damon’s bike was already in his car, which meant he was out running. I loaded up my bike and got transitioned to run just as Damon got back. It turns out he turned around at 15 minutes, the halfway point, and went back. I was so focused on my ride that I never saw him do that.
Brian and I did our run together and got back to find Damon showered and ready to go meet up with his family for a day at the beach. Brian and I grabbed breakfast together and talked about triathlon, coaching, and life.
I went home and unloaded all my gear. Sat down still in my bibs to talk about a date night with my wife to celebrate our 10 year first-date anniversary. At some point I fell asleep in the chair for an hour. I got up, walked to the bedroom, and flopped face-first onto the bed for another two hours. I finally got up around 3pm to get showered.
I sent the Garmin data to Brian for crunching and we’ll see what comes back. I’m definitely going to do the test again after my next two races to see the performance difference. Perhaps doing it solo, after not having a migraine will yield different results. If nothing else, it’s more data to chew on.