The Kübler-Ross Model As It Pertains To Running

If I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately it’s due to the fact that I had my blood lactate test done last week at Peak Centre Vancouver.

I actually thought that I did pretty well.  I ran until I couldn’t and was proud of not falling off the treadmill.  And then I got my results.

First, a little bit of an explanation.  Now, I fully understood going into the test that I would be told to run my long runs slower.  Heart-rate based training is a pretty exact science if you get tested.  You run on a treadmill and, in my case, blood is taken every 3 minutes.  Eventually you “voluntarily” quit and where you top out is where your maximum heart rate is determined.  Your blood is then tested to determine how fast you accumulate lactate.  Obviously the less lactate the better since that’s what makes you feel like you’re dying when you run.

So here’s why I haven’t posted.  I’ve been processing.  And I have to admit that they way I’ve dealt with the results is a lot like grieving.  Hence, the reference to The Five Stages Of Grief:

Denial:  What?!?!?!  They want me to run my zone 1 how slow?  That’s a walking pace! (Note: pace is personal.  My standard for slow is slow to me.  It may be way slower than yours or you might think it’s super fast.  For that reason I will not be discussing my actual paces.)

Anger:   WTF?!?!?!?!?!?  Here’s part of a fb email to my friend (who understands as she’s been tested too): I’m going to be walking my effing long runs.  I did my run yesterday entirely in the middle of zone 2.  And that felt ridiculously slow.

Bargaining:  Maybe I can just sneak in a few kilometres in zone 2.  That won’t make much of a difference, right?

Depression:  I can’t do it.  I paid good money to get tested and they’re telling me to freaking walk?  Why’d I even bother?  Another excerpt: Anyways, sitting here bawling my eyes out.  Maybe I should just drop down to the half.  

Acceptance:  I know how much this will make me a better runner.  I will follow it religiously so that I don’t get stuck where I’ve been for the last couple of years.  I’ve seen how it’s benefited those friends who’ve stuck with it.  It will be hard, but it will make me stronger.  

Luckily I experienced all five stages in one day.  I’d kind of sucked it up after writing the top part of this post.  I just wanted to make sure I got it down while I was feeling that way…  I’m still pretty emotionally traumatized by the whole thing to be honest.  It felt/feels like such a blow to my running “career”.   I know it won’t last forever, but, with an “it’ll probably be 6 weeks until you see improvement” philosophy, it will seem that way!

Here’s a quick and probably insufficient explanation of heart-rate based training*:

  • When you run you produce lactate.  Lactate produces fatigue.  It’s that fun “I feel like my lungs will explode and legs will fall off” burning feeling.  You want to train your body to run longer before feeling that way!
  • Generally in distance running you want to stay within your aerobic threshold (zone 1) which feels like you can run all day.  
  • Heart-rate based training helps you increase your aerobic threshold by teaching your muscle fibres to eliminate lactate more efficiently.
  • We have slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres, as well as intermediary fibres.  The more zone 1 training you do the more you train your intermediary fibres to act like slow twitch fibres.  Peak’s example is of a sink: the fast twitch fibres produce lactate to fill up your sink and the slow twitch fibres are the drain.  The more you train your slow twitch fibres the better they are at removing the lactate – it’s like widening the drain so the lactate leaves your body more quickly.
  • Intermittent zone 3 and 5 work, which are higher intensity work, will help elevate your lactate threshold. 
The best news that came out of my test is that I have a lot of room to improve!  My massive zone 2 range means that I can increase very well as long as I do the runs correctly.  

About 90% of my running should be done in zone 1 to increase my aerobic threshold.  The rest of my runs (10% or once a week) should be in zone 3.  It’ll take a while and a whole lot of discipline to get there, but I know that I’ll see results eventually.  I’m going to have a kick-ass marathon in October!

Anyone else out there had this test done?  How’d you feel about your results?  Does it get easier/better?!?  



*This information is how I understand what I have been told by Peak.  I am not a doctor, lab tech, or scientist.  If anything is incorrect the error is mine.  

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3 responses

  1. I hear you…I follow the same testing that Peak Van does. I didn't follow the training properly last summer so when I got tested in Nov…my Z1 paces are 8:30 to the 11 range. Brutal.
    It has been tough to follow but follow I have and I have seen improvements.
    You have to follow it though….Z2 is badddddddd…,

    February 28, 2012 at 2:56 am

  2. Great job on your test! I knew that you would do great. I honestly felt the same way after my test that you did. However, I have learned over the last 2 weeks to embrace this new training idea. I actually kind of like it. I have run the most miles I have ran in years and I feel awesome. It is helping me not to run “balls to wall” in every workout and allow my body time to recover in between. I won't say that this new idea of training is a success until after the Eugene Marathon, but so far I think that it is working. Good luck!

    February 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm

  3. I had it done too, last November. And I had the same results, for the most part. My “prescription” was to stay in zone 2 (150-160 hear rate) for one month, and then I could gradually integrate some zone 3 intervals. (I used to run almost exclusively in zone 3.) And it's been HORRIBLE, I'll agree. I was never fast, but having to run a 12:30+ mile just about killed me at first. It's definitely better now, and I'm able to go longer/faster in zone 2, but it's still a struggle. I actually just bailed on training in December and January, because I just didn't want to do it. But I understand now how I should feel physically during a run, and I'm not completely wrecked at the end of a long run. My rebound is a lot faster. It's worth it, I think, but I realized, like you, that it's going to be a very long road to breaking 5:00 hours for a marathon PR. Here is a suggestion–in order to get through the long, slow miles, I would grant myself a “treat” at the end of each run, of a little hard effort. A few blocks, or even just one, of real running, as fast as I can, helps you feel like you're still a runner. And a short fartlek interval at the end of a run isn't going to damage your progress (or, at least I hope it won't!). Hang in there, is all I can say. You're realistic, you know you just have to do the work, and the speed will come. It's good training physically, just not easy mentally.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

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