How to Determine Your Lactate Threshold Velocity

Wed, 12 June 2013 - 1:26 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

Race pacing and perceived effort aside, how do you know if you are running at your lactate threshold? Note that the sought value here is a measure of velocity, LTV. Short for lactate threshold velocity, this is the indicator of how fast you can run at (or just below) the threshold at which you begin to dramatically increase your blood lactate levels.

LTV is the key measure here because we are concerned with the instant lactic acid begins to significantly accumulate in the blood, not some point later at which you are deemed measurably impaired. And though this is a speed issue and not a time issue—because it is a bit like an on-off switch—for marathoners, it can look rather like a time issue. This is a false perception having to do with lost glycogen stores; the body can actually go for quite a while burning fat instead of glycogen if it is running under the anaerobic threshold. The true cause of the trouble late in the marathon is having exceeded the threshold and run out of glycogen: running above the threshold, you need glycogen. If marathoners always ran just below their lactate (or anaerobic) threshold, they would not accumulate blood lactate in a way that causes the cramping and fatigue associated with the Wall.

Running Research News editor Owen Anderson tells us how to acquire our LTV in 30 minutes. There are several ways to determine the actual number of this crucial pace. Jack Daniels uses his well-known VDOT test, and there is a fairly reliable method plugging the results of a 3,200-meter run into some mathematical formulas. The following method is very simple, and will give you a well enough starting point for pacing your runs when triangulated with the perceived-effort and race-pace self checks both Daniels and Brian Clarke recommend as guides: 

 

  1.  On a track, warm up on a day when you feel great.
  2. Accelerate to a tempo you feel you can sustain for 30 minutes, and start your watch.
  3. After 30 minutes, divide the distance you covered (in meters) by 1,800 seconds (30 minutes). This is your LTV.

A runner covering 8,000 meters in 30 minutes would have an LTV of 4.5 meters per second, for a tempo (per 400 meters) of 400/4.5, or 89 seconds per 400 meters. This is just faster than 6-minute miles.

Anderson notes, “This 30-minute checkup produces an estimate of [LTV] which may seem to be too fast. After all, conventional thinking suggests that [LTV] corresponds with average speed during a 15K race, an event which takes all of us longer than 30 minutes to complete. However, bear in mind that… the 30-minute test is a workout, not an all-out race preceded by a taper and performed in a competitive setting.” The calculated LTV is true but will not be as fast as the one achieved during a 30-minute competition.

 

The Complete Guide to Running by Earl Fee, 2005, Meyer & Meyer Sport, New York, NY, pp. 23-25

 

Running Research News, Aug. 2011, Vol. 21, No. 8, “Get Your Lactate-Threshold Speed in 30 Minutes,” by Owen Anderson, PhD, ed., http://runningresearchnews.com/News_And_Events.php?cid=1&iid=71

 

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® January / February 2012 • Volume 30, Number 1)





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