Lactate Threshold Testing

What is Lactate? When glucose (will interchange with CHO) is broken down during exercise, the two by-products are energy (ATP) and pyruvate which is immediately converted to lactate. This process does not require oxygen, and is often called anaerobic or glycolytic. Lactate is a GOOD thing, because the aerobic system which breaks down FAT into energy also recycles lactate from the anaerobic system and converts it to energy/ATP.

Flat_steepWhy do we test lactate? Like watts, lactate doesn’t lie! It allows athletes/coaches to asses performance over time, and set proper training zones. Testing lactate also provides insight to the strength of the aerobic and anaerobic system of an athlete, and provides several key physiological reference points (Aerobic Threshold, Lactate Threshold, etc) that can be used for structured training. A marathoner with great aerobic power should have a lactate curve that is more “flat” compared to a track athlete doing the 100m or 400m who should have a much steeper curve (more anaerobic power).

3 zone

5 Zone

How do you set training zones based off lactate? A 3 zone (polarized) or 5 zone (Coggan) model are easily created based off the outstanding video lecture by Stephen Seiler, more references below. The reference points are LT1 and LT2, usually set at 2mmol and 4mmol respectively. See the links below for more information.

Does Lactate Cause Burning in the Muscles? No, the hydrogen ions that are released during anaerobic metabolism are probably what cause the fatigue felt when going “hard.” This occurs when exceeding the max lactate steady state or threshold, when the aerobic system is no longer able to clear the lactate and hydrogen ions being produced from the anaerobic system.

Testing, what is it like? This short 2 minute video gives a good overview. On a treadmill or bicycle with a smart trainer, speed / watts are increased every 3-4 minutes and a sample is taken. The testing can stop either after a reading higher than 4mmol is taken, or all the way to failure. The tiny prick does not hurt!

What about just doing a 20 min FTP test? CP20 testing “is not an accurate representation of the point at which an athlete’s body balances blood lactate accumulation and clearance.” Great read @ Fastcatcoaching on this. Easy to overshoot lactate threshold on a 20 minute test. A CP30 would be much more accurate, but that is a long time to endure pain! The lactate test is usually only really tough for the last two stages.

Example of results from a recreational runner getting back on a training program.


Another example (me) from the Spring of 2014 from a cycling lactate test. The VO2 value is measured from a metabolic cart, and not available via blood lactate testing. Major Universities or Olympic training centers will have metabolic carts (big $$).


Metabolic Cart Information: Contact Jeff Plasschaert at 352-733-0834 or email for this type of testing at UF. GO GATORS!!


The red line shows the shift from FAT to CHO utilization, and approximates the 2mmol reference LT1 lactate value. What is notable is that thru base training, fasted training, and a higher fat diet, I was able to greatly shift from CHO to FAT utilization, especially at high intensity levels. Even during step 6 which would be the top of Z4/bottom of Z5 I was still using 33% FAT for fuel. Bonk proofing for endurance events!

The VO2 values are also important. Elite/Pro/World Class athletes can utilize up to 90% of their VO2 max at threshold. At the time of testing, I was using roughly 70% (~48/70ml/kg/mn) of my VO2 max at threshold. Still have a long way to go… : )

References/Further Reading:

I welcome any questions or comments on this topic! Thanks and message Jim @ to schedule any performance testing such as MAP (Max Aerobic Power) or Lactate Testing.

Final thoughts and suggestions


My training this year at close to 10,000km with 3 trips to the Carolinas was enough. I wouldn’t recommend any less, as even with my final placing of 31:00 and 185/600 it was still incredibly hard. I think the training camps REALLY helped. I had done it in practice already, and knew my limits come race day. One thing I could have changed but lost my motivation was race weight. I was at it for most of the spring and early summer at 147lb then gained 3lb I didn’t loose. That’s around 30 min of race time lost, or a drop from 4.12w/kg to 4 w/kg.

Be prepared to be able to handle a day like this:

  Crazy temperature swings and all!


May have been too conservative the first three days. I moved my ranking up significantly on days 4-7. Think if you have done the proper training (big 5-7 day camps in the mountains with cat 1 climbs) and have the base, you can take more risks and go for it. Think that strategy worked for David Gay. I was also handicapped with all the descents that were neutralized. Most of the field was NOT adept at descending, and I could have made up tons of time.

Haute 2 Star Lodging

I was satisfied with all my lodging and some of the places were pretty nice. Only had one sub-standard room in Nice, but even that was ok. Usually each was very close (1-2km) to the start line but had one hotel that was a 15 min bike to the start line in Megeve.

Grand Hotel in Serre Chevalier right at the start line. Breakfast was great!

I tolerated the Overstims on course nutrition just fine. It was similar to Hammer’s HEED line which I like. Coke, bananas, gels and bars at the aid stations. I used my own gels with caffeine, and my own hammer bars. However, there were stages were a 3rd water bottle would have been great. If doing again, I would bring a 3rd bottle for hot days with long periods between aid stations. This contributed to my minor bonk at the end of stage 5.

1500 calories + 300mg caffeine 
Post Race Massage

I got a massage after each stage (except the last). Right after finishing, you need to sign up. It was usually between a 1 and 3 hour wait, usually 90 min before my scheduled slot. Also went with the Osteopath option and had my back that had totally spasmed from hypothermic shivering fixed twice. I recommend seeing the same therapist and tipping them. My massages lasted 20-25 min every time (instead of 15).

Danny and Maxson fixed me each evening! 
Post-Race Food

It was generally pretty good. After 7+ hours on the bike, you will be happy. Also an opportunity to snag a 2L bottle of water and hydrate before your massage. There was only one day (of 7) the food was not good. Rare in France. Some days it was great like in Megeve. And the free appetizers and drinks at the after party below were definitely great. 

Bike Maintenance & Gears

I brought new brake pads with me and Mavic was kind enough to sand my rims and install the new pads. My braking performance was 10x better and gave me the confidence to let it rip on the descents. I ran a 34/50 up front and a SRAM Red 11×32 in the rear. Had a few people tell me during the race they wished they had my extra gear ; )  It just doesn’t make sense to let your cadence drop and trash your legs for ego, when pro teams now use SRAM WiFli for the huge gear range as well. I did see lots of people with weight weenie wheels have broken spokes on day 5 and 6. The roads here are often bad. Bring bomb proof wheels. You can get really good aluminum wheels in the 1450-1550g range. I was using FLO30’s at 1600g not very light, but super aero, bombproof and forgiving wide profile rims.  

What to pack

The 90L Haute Route bag is enormous. I fit a standard sized suitcase inside it. The Mavic HR kit was super comfortable with a terrific chamois. So bring at least 4 kits + the HR kit. You can do laundry after Stage 3 and let it air dry to get you thru the week. Bring one full winter kit (in case you get 40F freezing torrential rain), and at least 2 pairs of: shoes, arms warmers, vest/wind jacket. However, I did not bring sweat pants. This was a mistake because some of the ski resorts at altitude were very cold, too much for just wearing shorts.

Laundry Day – After TT
I also packed lots of extra food, jerkey, recovery bars, dried fruit, oatmeal and instant coffee. Some hotel rooms had their own kitchens. Making oatmeal and coffee in the room saved precious time in the AM.  Another tip, make a baggette sandwich at the breakfast buffet to save for later on the bike. It will be soooo good to not be eating gels and coke at the top of a mountain after 5+ hours of cycling : )
Video Footage

I used Shimano’s CM-1000 action cam. I like that it is tiny, smaller than a GoPro and also easily comes off the bike so you can get better angles of people or views while filming. The Shimano also wirelessly transmits video files to your iPhone. And apple iMovie is super easy to crop edit and stitch video together. Most of my movies were made that way.

A GoPro is locked on the front or rear of the bike, unless you have it in a pocket which then takes up space from your nutrition or clothes. Garmin’s VIRB is another good alternative with a quick release and also pairs to your bikes sensors like the Shimano cam. Video footage is great because there is no other way to remember 21 iconic climbs in the Alps- it just starts to become a blur after a few days of racing.

Stage 7 Recap

The final stage began like usual with an escorted non-timed descent from Megeve into the valley.

  1. Col des Aravis, 1487m (1st class)
  2. Col de la Croix Fry, 1477m (3rd class)
  3. Col des Pitons, 1335m (2nd class)

I packed as light as possible with my thinnest arm warmers and lightest craft vest knowing it would heat up later. My strategy was to hammer the first climb as hard as I could, go straight over the top skipping the aid station straight into the timed descent and then give it hell again for the much shorter 2nd timed climb. Then I could eat/drink/recover on the long descent into the valley. Was very glad I had legs again today, and I took 150mg of caffeine via gels before hitting the first col. As my friends know “I felt fcking awesome” with the caffeine boost and went as hard as I could manage.

On the descent I changed strategy and decided to bomb it. I thought if I could make up time, I could move up and hopefully hop on to a faster group in the valley. I think the decision was good, as somehow I had passed David Gay. Had not ridden with him that far in a stage since day 4! A bit later I miss communicated with David at the aid station around km 56 and stopped for water while he kept going. Au revior David Gay!

The highlight of this stage was me soloing off a huge group during a short descent Sagan style which allowed me to hit a huge 20% ramp with rock Cliff on both sides alone and get to the top first. The peloton behind me had some carnage as everyone got pushed together and slowed down while hitting a super steep ramp.

The last climb I started to fade about 5km from the summit and got passed by a few people, but I’m happy with my effort today and it helped move me up to 185 / 600 for the week. The level of competition and fitness here is just insane!!!

Was very glad and relieved to be done. Will post my final thoughts and reflections on the event soon.

Stage 6 Recap

The day started with a 20km neutral descent down the Toussuire. View of the start line below.

Ascents of the day

Col du Chaussy, 1,533M (2nd class), 1,286M+ over 15.2km, 8.5% avg

Col de la Madeleine, 1,993M (1st class), 1,151M+, 14.3KM, 8%

Col des Saisies, 1,650M (2nd class), 992M+, 15.4km, 6.4%


My legs somehow felt fresh today and better than I could remember in days. So I went steady-hard on both the Col du Chaussy and the famous Madeleine. On the descent down the Madeleine I made up a lot of time, this being one of the few timed descents during the race. In the valley a small group formed and we hammered all the way to the next climb because the clock was still ticking (timed all the way to the finish line in Megeve). 

So I arrived at the start of the final climb Col des Saisies half cooked after rotating in a group thru the valley and the temperature was now 85+ and full sun. I knew right away I was in trouble, and my power was down 15-20% from this morning. To make it worse, I ran out of water at the bottom of the climb! Ended up stopping twice at two small streams and cooled off in the cold mountain water. I suffered bad all the way to the top and was close to bonking (hitting the wall/running out of gas) while cooking in the heat. At the top there was an aid station and I chugged 1/2 a liter of water and drank two glasses of coke- bonk breaker! Was so happy to be descending again with a final short 10k power climb (not as steep) into Megeve to the finish line. Today was my best finish at 156/600 even with loosing all the time suffering on the Col des Saisies. 

After crossing the finish line, I got my bag, took a shower, booked my massage, and headed to lunch. It was excellent today! Can’t believe I ate all that food and drank 1.5L of water. Quinoa salad, baked eggplant, pasta, veggies, two rolls and yogurt! 

It’s now 6:30 and I’m in the final briefing for tomorrow’s Stage 7. This sufferfest is almost done, and tomorrow is the easiest stage crossing the border into Switzerland and finishing in Geneva. Many are celebrating, and the taps are great but I’ll save the booze for tomorrow ; )  

Stage 5 Recap

Stage 5- I was so cooked from day 4 that I couldn’t sleep after the marathon day. Was laying in bed and heart was racing, could feel and hear it beating- it kept me up like Poe’s Tell Tale Heart! Finally took a Benadryl at 12:30AM and got to sleep around 1AM. Not good with a 6AM wake up after the hardest stage of the week. So not surprisingly, Stage 5 was my bad day. I never recovered from the day before and my legs were fried- power was down 20-30w on the climbs. I kept it together the best I could but suffered greatly on the last climb up Les Deux Alps. 

At the end of the stage I went into full recovery mode. Liters of fluids and Hammer Nutrition’s Recoverite and Whey. Then checked into my sweet hotel, showered, and went down for my massage. Had 1st dinner around 4:30 and 2nd dinner at 7:30 after the Stage 6 briefing. Then I got my cycling kit and nutrition ready for the next day and was sooooo happy to be in bed at 9:15 and asleep shortly after.

Nutrition for Stage 6: Hammer Bars x 2, Hammer Gel Flask (4 gels 100mg caffeine), Cliff Gels 100mg caffeine x 2, Hammer Enduroyltes x 2 packs of 4 electrolyte pills, and my bottles with Scratch and BCAA’s (aminos). 1500 calories and a lot of sodium/electrolytes/300mg caffeine!

Day 4 recap

Woke up at 0500 and had a great breakfast at my hotel. Made a baggette sandwich at breakfast to for later while riding. Didn’t realize it would save me in 6 hours! 

View of the start line from my room at 0630. Didn’t know how cold it was going to be (38F) leaving Auron while starting a 30km double whammy climb: Col de Lautaret and then turning straight onto the giant Hors Category Galibier cresting over 8,000′ elevation. Could not find the rest of the team at the start line but caught up with them about 45 min in on the Lautaret and rode up the Galibier with Blain and Shawn, meeting Bill and David at the summit. 

The views on the Galibier were spectacular (video footage to come later) and the fast long descent with lots of switchbacks was a welcome relief. On the next timed section, I rode with Shawn, Blain and David up the Toussuire. After the climb, the descent was timed and I broke away. David caught up to me like 90 min later half way up the 30km Hors Category monster Croix de Fer. We rode together until the aid station 8km from the summit, and that was the last I saw of Dr. G : ) 

I suffered greatly up the last 8km with grades kicking up over 10% with little wind and it was now hot, 82F on the Garmin.  However once again the views were spectacular and can’t wait to share the amazing video footage of the valley. At the top we were now 106km in with around 10,000′ of climbing! I felt a bonk coming on towards the top (running low on glycogen) but still had a hammer bar and the sandwich!! I made at breakfast + a super long timed descent to digest the food. I remembered the descent from this years Tour de France, and it was fast with wide open views of the Alps. Hit 94km on a straight away : O 

After the long descent, there was a non timed section until Les Deux Alps. Found a group and we went real easy to save energy, but I had now ran out of water and food. A Venezuelan rider shared some water with me, and eventually we found an artesian well to fill bottles and a small waterfall to cool off. 

Finally made it to the last aid station, stripped off all my extra clothing, taking my time and refueled. Next I crossed the timing mat after the aid station for the final 8km climb up Les Deux Alps- and I gave it everything I had left in me. 

Think I averaged 255 watts ~ 3.8w/kg which was 15 watts more than the time trial the day before. Crazy. Not sure how but in my head I heard Bob Marley and Randy Rhodes and totally ignored the pain and suffering of an all out 45 min effort after 7 hours of riding thru the Alps.

For the day: 8 hours ride time, 104 miles, around 15,000′ of climbing up 5 Alpine Cols, 450+ TSS (insane), 4,500+ kjoules/calories (insane), 215 watts power (coasting excluded).  

Now getting ready to have dinner with the team, and then get to bed! 

Finally in France

A mostly uneventful flight helped ease us in to a relaxed start of our trip to Nice for the start of the 2015 Haute Route. image image
Arriving on Wednesday before the official ‘depart’ on Sunday would give us ample opportunity to get our legs accustomed to the mountainous terrain that we will be riding for 7 days with a total of 550 miles and 72,000 feet of climbing.
Billed as the worlds hardest cyclosportif, the event will surely test our group of nine riders from the flatlands of St. Augustine, FL.
With the luxury of having a good friend, Scott, living just outside of Nice allowed us to use his home as base camp for our first three days. Nestled in the foothills, it is a great starting point for our first two rides to shake out the legs and test our equipment.
This being Jimmy’s first trip to Europe, he was amazed at how there were no large pick-up trucks or cars buzzing us, and that he felt quite comfortable on each ride.
Our first ride gave us a taste of what will be in store for us, as right out of the driveway is 15% climb up to the main road. From there we rolled through the countryside and onto the Alpes Maritimes climbs. With the goal of reaching Gourdon about 10 miles away. With the sun setting, we made it about three quarters before we had to turn around.
For dinner we walked from our country setting about 1km to the village of Valbonne where we had reservations in he center square of this 400 year old town. We enjoyed the Tuna Tartare and fresh fish dishes as the local children ran around with sparklers and lights as the circus is also in town.
For our second pre ride we headed out on the same course knowing that we would stop off at an old carless village that we saw the day before.
Up the 20% ramps leading in to the fortress town and then in to the narrow streets and down the arch covered staircases gave us a real taste for the old world.
Then up the 9k climb to Gourdon with the view expanding with every pedal stroke. On the cliff we can see a hang glider hovering over the horizon.
The return trip was exciting as a local rider passed us on the first part of the downhill, but David and Robert would have none of that. We chased him down and passed him on the slight uphill before the long descent.
For our third pre ride, we headed down to Antibes and the shore line – my favorite type of ride, heading West toward Cannes and then San Rafael.
Along the coast we marveled at the beauty of the Cote Azur, and the opulence of the coastal cities. Heavy traffic made it a slow but memorable ride with lunch on the beach.
The rest of the afternoon spent touring Antibes and enjoying the local gelato and bocce ball game.
Our five counterparts were also enjoying the culinary delights of nice mixed with light riding.
For Saturday, our final day before the start, we all met up at the race registration along the coast where we got our equipment checked and picked up our complimentary kits and luggage.

We return a few hours later for the kick off parade on the Promenade de Anglais which gives the 500 riders the chance to feel like a pro, as it was very cool to have traffic stopped for us, even if it was just for like 3k.

Then back to the hotel and a quick turnaround for the rider meeting. We finally return to the hotel at 8pm for dinner and a briefing from the tour company. We lastly make calls to our loved ones and do final preparations for the ride in the morning.

Feeling excited for the event and proud of all of us for getting to the start line, fit and ready to have fun. Thanks to all who have supported us along the way!

Sent from my iPhone