Testing Times – Lactate Testing

Testing Times

Pete Hawkins undergoes testing
Photo: Dave Tune

Technology and running for most of us go hand-in-hand, with our phones strapped to our arms or some form of GPS watch on our wrist.  I’m sure I’m not unique in my cool-down session usually comprising half an hour poring over my Strava stats.  It wasn’t until I started to follow an intermediate half marathon training programme I’d downloaded from Garmin that I began to question myself as to why.   In the three years I’d been running, I hadn’t improved on my 10K PB I’d achieved in early 2013.  Either tempus was fugiting (Tempus fugit) rather quicker or my training was all wrong.  And all this tech was actually proving to be worthless.

So one afternoon, whilst Sue J was ripping a muscle in two, I asked through gritted teeth about Blizzard Physiotherapy and Dave Tune.  Nigel having been to see Dave before, Sue’s enthusiasm was enough, I went home and booked a Blood Lactate Test with Dave, a former GB International.

Treading carefully

The day arrived and I set off for Dave’s clinic near Bawtry.  Expecting to get straight onto the treadmill, I was somewhat surprised that I had an hour to wait for the torture to begin.  The first hour was spent by Dave trying to prise out of my brain just why I ran, what I thought I could achieve and a little about my pure, non-hedonistic lifestyle. (Dave sends out a form to fill in prior to the session which includes a section on diet.  I was honest..  although the three days worth of food I’d eaten prior was totally atypical to my usual relatively good one….  Dave’s advice here was to eat better!  Such is honesty

So the torture began with a few basic measurements, height, weight, stretchability (I failed by reaching 15cm which is zero on Dave’s Stretchability Scale!) and lung function (here I passed with flying colours notching up a “best I’ve ever seen in three years of doing these tests” comment!)

And then the treadmill.  The plan was to start slowly and every three minutes to take a small blood sample from the thumb and then up the speed to the next level.  Off we set, casually chatting about this, that and the other, as Dave vampired my thumb and he upped the speed.  Soon the chatting became more one-sided as I concentrated on staying on the treadmill and breathing; I’ve never been too good at multi-tasking.

With shouts of encouragement, I saw the test through to the bitter end, and fell off the treadmill to be sent for a shower and a cuppa, before Dave gave me the preliminary results. With words of encouragement – I bet he says that to everyone – he went through the results and what they meant.  Confirmation came of what, if I’d thought about it, I’d known already: my speed, for an old git, wasn’t bad but my stamina was pretty lousy.  His analysis was that I was built to run up to 10K (so why I had a booked 5 half marathons in that year?)

So what to do with the stamina? Dave gave me a six-day a week programme of essentially endurance training, staying within a narrow heart rate zone (144-151) which would build the stamina and endurance.  Still sweating profusely, despite the shower (that’s what Strava is for, see, to cool down!) I headed out into the brave new dawn of structured intelligent training, dreaming about those PBs that would come tumbling and of the 1hour 30 half marathon Dave said was achievable.

Did it work?

Determined not to waste my two hour consultation and the fee (I am from Yorkshire after all), I dutifully programmed my watch for the different training days and embarked on the programme.  I found it very difficult to stay in the HR zone, and when I did,  I was overtaken by more than one snail, I was so slow.  Sometimes I failed totally and other times I seemed to manage.  Things seemed to be slowly progressing but then disaster struck.  Whether it was running six days a week or just bad timing I don’t know, but my knee decided it needed some time out and I had to hang up the running shoes for two months, missing one-half and abandoning another, just 4km into the run.  Once back running, I felt like I was starting again, not just the endurance training but running.  Since then I have shaved time off the last three runs I’ve done: the Great North, Paris-Versailles and the Shelton Striders 10K, the latter being a 10K PB too.

So was it worth the investment?  A big fat yes, if only because it made me think about my running more and gave me a structure to work to.  To get the most out of it, I think i need to go back and see how the HR zones have changed (if) and to adjust the training accordingly.  With the London Marathon looming ever larger over the horizon too, my endurance certainly needs working on still.  A half marathon is one thing, but doubling the distance and still being able to smile at the end is something else.


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