analysis of Hilary Stellingwerff’s physiological testing:
Test 1: Feb 2005: University of Guelph, Canada
This test was several weeks before Hilary’s participation
at the World Cross-Country Champs in France. Thus, she was
beginning her taper after a long-period of aerobic development.
Furthermore, the period immediately prior to the test featured
a fair amount of high-end sessions at or above VO2max intensity.
In terms of testing for maximal aerobic capacity, since she
was pretty much at peak championship form, this would have
been an ideal time to attain maximal 2005 values.
11 steps, over 20 total minutes: starting at 10.8 km/hr and
going to 18km+4% grade (=~21km/hr on the flat).
2: April 2007: LEPHE – Paris, France (V. Billat’s
This test was conducted 5-days after her return from a 3-week
altitude training stint at St. Moritz. This was probably one
of the hardest 3-week training blocks of Hilary’s career,
which had a focus on high quality volume, peppered with a
few sessions targeted at or above VO2max intensity/speed.
At this point in the season, there had not been a lot of lactate
tolerance based sessions. Thus, training would suggest she
was aerobically strong, but anaerobically intolerant at this
point in her seasonal periodization schedule.
10 steps, over 27 total minutes: starting at 11km/hr and going
to 20km/hr. Also conducted a VO2max “on” test
(ie. how quickly an athlete can ramp-up their VO2max), which
was 110%of VO2max (=20km/hr at 5% grade for as long as the
athlete can go).
Hilary’s VO2max in the 2005 test was 64.1 ml/kg/min,
while in the 2007 test it was 64.5 ml/kg/min. Although these
numbers are remarkably similar, there are many differences
in arriving to these points. First, as mentioned above, the
time of the season that the tests were taken were much different
in terms of periodization towards peak championship form,
suggesting that Hilary was probably in a more ideal training
state to hit a relatively high VO2max in 2005, than compared
to 2007. Secondly, the two tests were conducted on different
metabolic collection systems (it is most ideal to use the
same metabolic cart, same treadmill, same style of test).
And third, the ramp test used in Paris was much longer than
the University of Guelph ramp test I had implemented. The
prolonged ramp test in Paris allows for a better and more
accurate assessment of the training and metabolic fuel zones
outlined below. However, it has been shown that prolonged
tests (>20min) can cause increasing peripheral fatigue
prior to reaching a ‘true’ VO2peak. In other words,
currently with more VO2max training sessions, a championship
peak/taper and VO2max test of less than 20min, Hilary would
most likely be able to increase her current 64.5 ml/kg/min
to over 70 ml/kg/min without too much difficultly.
Threshold Data (or, some would argue, “onset of
blood lactate accumulation-OBLA”)
Although I did not use linear regression analysis modeling
to place the two intersection lines, both tests show that
Hilary’s ventilatory threshold is about 51 to 52 ml/kg/min.
This works on to being 78.8% of VO2max for the test in 2005
and 80.1% of VO2max in the 2007 test. Having the ability to
run over a sustained period at a high-percentage of VO2max
is a very important requirement for 10,000m and marathon runners;
much less so for middle-distance athletes. For example, Olympic
marathon runner Frank Shorter was reported to be able to run
at 90% of VO2max for up to 2 hrs. Nevertheless, Hilary has
improved this parameter by ~1.3% over the 2 year period. The
lactate threshold data shows nearly exactly the same, with
the OBLA being reached at a slightly higher 53 ml/kg/min.
Fat max is the speed or intensity when the athlete is burning
the maximal absolute level (g/min) amount of fat as a fuel.
This test can be highly dependant upon the recent feeding
pattern of the subject, as overnight fasted athletes show
a relatively much higher running speed (or
% of VO2max) for fat max than compared to when recently
fed. For Hilary, fax max appeared to be coming down from a
maximal value at the slowest running
speed of 11km/hr. For this test to be more accurate, it
would have been advantageous to also collect VO2/VCO2 data
at slower running speeds, as it is obvious we ‘missed’
the actual fat max. This is quite slow and at a quite lower
% of VO2max compared to some of the scientific literature.
However, the scientific literature uses subjects that are
overnight fasted, while Hilary did this test in the fed condition.
Fat max is very important for longer duration races (ie. marathon
runners) and less so for middle-distance athletes. Nevertheless,
Hilary’s ability to utilize a high proportion of fat
at lower to moderate running speeds appears to be underdeveloped.
Therefore, making sure that all easy/long running is done
well below threshold, to fully utilize and maximize fat/aerobic
enzyme capacities, will slowly develop this ability.
“ON” Kinetics: only assess in 2007 in Paris
The nature of modern elite middle-distance racing is that
it is nearly a sprint for the entire race of ~2 to 4 min.
Thus, one of the most important physiological criteria for
a middle-distance athlete is the ability to “turn-on”
on the aerobic system to maximal values in as short as time
as possible. Therefore, assessing VO2 “on” kinetics
is a vital test for middle-distance athletes. This was done
by having the athlete run at ~110% of VO2max for as long as
possible (in this case at 20km/hr up a 5% treadmill grade).
Hilary was indeed able to reach VO2max again, and in only
about 2min and 30 seconds. My limited understanding of this
test (but in communication with Paris Professor V. Billat)
was that this was very well developed in Hilary and of a very
training targets from the physiological thresholds
Taking the ‘projected’ fat max, lactate/ventilatory
thresholds and plotting them against running speed and HR
allows one to figure out individualized training target zones.
targeted running speeds to both recovery, but also to develop
fat/aerobic enzymes and pathways is ~10 to 12 km/hr (or about
8min/mile, and building from there).
runs should be at a HR of ~180 to 185 beats per minute and
is about 16km/hr (or 6min/mile). This has been improved, as
2 years ago, threshold pace was ~15.5 km/hr.