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Old 09-02-12, 04:49 AM   #1
bruce19
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Lactic Acid questions

This year I've been having more problems than usual with lactic acid. It seems to come on as soon as I make any serious efforts at climbing in particular. I don't remember it being this bad last season. I've been spinning much more this season and I'm wondering if I should work harder to induce the burn to build up a tolerance. Any thoughts? It's very frustrating 'cause my climbing is marginal and is limited not by heart or breathing but the pain of the burn.
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Old 09-02-12, 04:59 AM   #2
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Are you taking any medications. Years ago I was taking atenalol and just changing that to something else made the difference.
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Old 09-02-12, 05:31 AM   #3
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I don't see that spinning more this year will be creating a problem. Are you sure you are comparing like with like? From your other posts it sounds as if you may be fitter this year than in the past, so perhaps you are simply trying to climb faster than before?

In my experience, the only thing to do to improve your climbing (apart from losing weight, especially in my case) is to climb. Long steady climbs in the saddle, some OTS efforts, hill repeats. Tedious and hard work but it pays.
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Old 09-02-12, 05:31 AM   #4
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Had Lactic acid build up when I eased off at the top of climbs but not during a climb. Cure for me was to "Silly" spin. Lowest gear and cadence of 120 or above. Not certain if the spinning helped or if it would have gone away naturally but when it does come on- I will try anything to ease it.
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Old 09-02-12, 05:39 AM   #5
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I don't know about lactic acid but my wife and I have both experienced a drop off in energy/endurance this summer, especially on hills. Maybe it is the heat and humidity.
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Old 09-02-12, 06:07 AM   #6
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All these comments are pretty on target to me. Humidity is killing me this year. But my gf and I just avoid riding when it's really bad. I am more fit (dropped 10-12 lbs since April) and trying to climb faster with some success. No medications btw. Zero.

My typical "style" of riding goes something like this.....pretty good on the flats (sustained flat speed of 20-23 mph), really good in corners (motorcyclist mentality), good but increasingly cautious on downhills and then there are hills. Where the better climbers attack hills I gear down to my 39x25 and spin until I get near the top at which point I will either gear up seated or (depending on slope) stand and power over the top. At some point lactic acid is having it's way with me. The good news is that I recover really well. Once over the top and on a flat I can take a few pedal strokes and crank it up. Then I start catching people. I seem to be able to do this quite a few times on a ride. Yesterdays 45 mi. group ride was a case in point. The only time I wasn't able to catch the front group of 6 (there were 18 of us) was at the very end and I finished about 100 ft. behind. Might have caught them except there was a short, steep hill at the very end and I was toast when I hit it. I've heard that you can build a tolerance to anerobic efforts by doing more of them. Don't know if that's true.
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Old 09-02-12, 06:11 AM   #7
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I should have mentioned that group rides are a little tough for me because a group doesn't ride my "style." I can roll some hills but in a group other riders either get in the way or are just climbing rather than attacking hills. And, I don't want to be the jerk who goes flying by everyone into a hill like a pseudo racer although it's much easier for me to climb that way.
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Old 09-02-12, 06:32 AM   #8
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I've heard that you can build a tolerance to anerobic efforts by doing more of them. Don't know if that's true.
It is true, but it's of marginal relevance here. In my opinion you really don't want to be going anaerobic on a climb unless it's a very short one or you are close to the top and want to sprint over the crest. Once you redline it in the middle of a longer climb things get very very hard. They do for me, anyway.

It doesn't sound to me as if you have a huge problem, Bruce. You're recovering well, you're spinning up most of the hills. Keep training. Maybe experiment with spinning the 39-23 or 39-21 for a while instead of the 25 to develop force. Climb more. It doesn't get easier, but you do get faster, to coin a cliche...
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Old 09-02-12, 07:51 AM   #9
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I remembered that I have a nice Easton rear wheel with hub (was using it with my current DA 10 sp before I bought a set of Mavic Ksyriums) that I could put a different cassette on to experiment. I was thinking I might go to a 13-26 instead of the current 12-25 but I can't find such a cassette. Have to do some research. Thanks for all the solid advice and comments.
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Old 09-02-12, 08:22 AM   #10
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I remembered that I have a nice Easton rear wheel with hub (was using it with my current DA 10 sp before I bought a set of Mavic Ksyriums) that I could put a different cassette on to experiment. I was thinking I might go to a 13-26 instead of the current 12-25 but I can't find such a cassette. Have to do some research. Thanks for all the solid advice and comments.
12/27 is the readily available in any Shimano and 11/28 is in Sram. However- depends how hilly but I have just acquired a Tiagra 12/30 and that suits me for our local area. Only problem I find with the 12/27 is the wider ratios at the top end of the range but it is not too bad. I thought the 12/30 would be worse on the spacing-but I honestly have not noticed it.
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Old 09-02-12, 08:35 AM   #11
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I know, and have experienced, exactly what you're talking about. But the lactic acid buildup theory of muscle fatigue was discredited earlier in this century.

Current theory suggests that in the thick of things, calcium channel leakage weakens muscle contractions. Report here.

Soreness after exercise, called DOMS for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is thought by many to be the result of tiny muscle tears, although this remains to be proven. Article here.

Neither I nor the authors of the pieces I linked to dispute that recovery--light spin immediately following exertion, and again the day after--are effective treatment for the two different conditions.

I'm just calling attention to the theory of lactic acid causing the pain has been discredited. In fact, lactic acid seems to be the fuel used by muscles when we go anaerobic, which in cycling is called "burning a match". The Matches.

The key thing is that the more matches you burn, the longer recovery takes. After burning the whole book, so to speak, it can take up to three days for younger, healthy athletes to recover. So it's no surprise that in older athletes like us who take longer to recover, that going too far anaerobic, too often, can lead to an overall loss of performance and a general weary feeling.

This is why--at any age--the focus is staying on the aerobic side of your LT. Save anaerobic efforts for those times when there are no other choices. It's very, very hard to train for higher anaerobic output since recovery--especially as we age--takes so long.

Meanwhile, I'm off to burn some matches today in my last major hill training day before the Highlander Cycle Tour this coming Saturday. Recovery and tapering through the week...

Last edited by tsl; 09-02-12 at 08:44 AM. Reason: typoze
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Old 09-02-12, 09:19 AM   #12
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Meanwhile, I'm off to burn some matches today in my last major hill training day before the Highlander Cycle Tour this coming Saturday. Recovery and tapering through the week...
Very informative set of links, tsl, thanks. I'm sceptical about the DOMS/muscle tears hypothesis, though, it doesn't seem to make sense in the context of my experience.

As for your tour, that sounds great. I rode through Rochester NY and finger lakes country last year when touring in US and Canada. Very nice.
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Old 09-02-12, 09:29 AM   #13
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Just don't burn matches at both ends.
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Old 09-02-12, 11:52 AM   #14
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Could be you are just tired or burned out. It can be a long season by the time Sept. rolls around. Also, if you have been riding similar rides, then your body gets used to those conditions. It can get stale. If you try to ride outside what you are used to, the legs complain. Maybe take some time off the bike and cross train in other activities. Get back on the bike after that and mix it up with a variety of efforts. Just a thought.
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Old 09-02-12, 12:45 PM   #15
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My season is really long....I ride year round.

I also think mixing it up is a good idea. Change the route occasionally and/or change the distances.
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Old 09-02-12, 01:48 PM   #16
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Are you pushing to much?

As your ability improves, measured by an increase in speed on the flats, the extra energy and leg strength required to hold that pace could mean you have less endurance for the hills.

If you slowed the pace down to 18 - 20 mph, would the hills become easier?

I'm working with an ex-cat 2 racer and we were just talking about lactate levels this week. He said there is no magic formula, you just have to keep pushing your body to handle the load. He rode 7 days a week.....intervals after intervals, long distance rides at speed and motor pacing at 40 mph. He said learning to ride through the pain was key to improvement.

At our age, not sure how much pain I'm willing to endure to gain more speed or climb hills faster. But it does sound like you'll need train even harder if you want climb hills with less effort and minimize the pain.
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Old 09-02-12, 09:27 PM   #17
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bruce19 : You should get a blood test and find out if your thyroid isn't giving you troubles. The feelings are so similar to lactic acid build up. Speaking from experience! Good luck!
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Old 09-03-12, 01:42 PM   #18
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This weekend's rides have given me a little more perspective on my problem. Saturday a group of 18 of us did 45 mi. at 15.3 mph. Other than Dr. Watson (his real name) I am at 66 the oldest in the group by about 10 yrs. Although I did well generally I found myself suffering even more than usual on climbs. At the end there was a lead group of 6 that I managed to catch until the last 100 yds when we hit a little elevation and my legs were toast. My gf and I took yesterday off and then rode 33 mi. today and it was not fun. Again the hills were killer for me but it seemed like everything was harder. I think what I discovered is that I've reached the limit of my leg strength. My heart and breathing are never maxed but my legs just don't have what I need for climbing. At this point I'm pretty sure what I need is some rest off the bike and improvement is only coming if I lose that 10 lbs I need to get down to my college football weight. I'm pretty sure this is the crux of the matter.
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Old 09-03-12, 02:30 PM   #19
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This weekend's rides have given me a little more perspective on my problem. Saturday a group of 18 of us did 45 mi. at 15.3 mph. Other than Dr. Watson (his real name) I am at 66 the oldest in the group by about 10 yrs. Although I did well generally I found myself suffering even more than usual on climbs. At the end there was a lead group of 6 that I managed to catch until the last 100 yds when we hit a little elevation and my legs were toast. My gf and I took yesterday off and then rode 33 mi. today and it was not fun. Again the hills were killer for me but it seemed like everything was harder. I think what I discovered is that I've reached the limit of my leg strength. My heart and breathing are never maxed but my legs just don't have what I need for climbing. At this point I'm pretty sure what I need is some rest off the bike and improvement is only coming if I lose that 10 lbs I need to get down to my college football weight. I'm pretty sure this is the crux of the matter.
That sounds like a good plan...

Also, it is very good news that your heart and breathing remain strong. If I had a choice between a weak heart or weak legs, I think I would take weak legs every time...

Also, a little rest seems in order... For me, I've noticed energy (or the lack of it) seems to come in waves that sometimes last days and weeks for no expliciable reason. But, at the same time, I am also convinced that muscle strength (or the lack of it) is a chemical imbalance that is not well understood. True, the quantity and size of the muscle cells enter into it -- but they can do nothing without the right chemicals to trigger them...

We have always understood sleep to simply be "resting" the mind and body. But, increasingly, medical research is coming to the conclusion that the mind and body are quite active during sleep. And, one of the many benefits of sleep is to enable the body to reestablish its balance of the chemicals it uses and requires... So, yes, I would say a little rest may help a great deal...

As for losing weight! The best way to do that for most of us it to just keep pedalling... It's also the most funnest way to do it!

I would suggest that while you go through all that, instead of lamenting goals you have not achieved, why not just enjoy the journey?
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Old 09-03-12, 05:12 PM   #20
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.....I would suggest that while you go through all that, instead of lamenting goals you have not achieved, why not just enjoy the journey?
+1, George has the right idea Bruce. Best of Luck to you!

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