Carmichael Field Test Protocol

The Carmichael Field Test can be used to get a decent estimate of your lactate threshold, and then used to set your training ranges. The course consists of two 3 mile time trials with a recovery period between them.

WARNING: There’s a lot of pain to be had here, ‘specially if you do it right. But I found the zones I got from the test to be very useful, and well correlated with my “seat of the pants” estimate of LTH

The steps are as follows:

  1. Find a 3 mile course. Ideally, it will have good pavement, no hills, and no turns or stops. Good luck on that part – my guess is that you will have a bit of trouble doing that. So, if you can avoid big hills and any stops, that will work well. My course is an out and back.
  2. Ideally, you have a HR monitor that can give you an average for a session. If not, you can kinda/sorta approximate with a direct reading one.
  3. Make sure you are well rested.
  4. Don’t eat anything within 2 hours of the test, but have 16 oz of a good sports drink about 45 minutes before the test.
  5. Warm up thoroughly. You need something more than 10-20 minutes – whatever it takes you to get nicely warmed up. For me, that’s about 30 minutes. You also need 2-3 very high intensity efforts of a minute or so to get yourself ready. If you don’t do this, you will find that it takes you half of the first effort to get warmed up.
  6. Begin from a standing start in a reasonable gear.
  7. Don’t start too quickly. You should take about a minute to get up to perhaps 90% effort, and then ramp up slowly after that until you get to max effort
  8. Your cadence should be 90-95RPM, and you should have a steady breathing pace.
  9. Your speed should be one at which you can barely maintain it for the entire time period.
  10. Force the pace

At the end of the 3 miles, collect the time and the average heart rate for the first effort. Recover for 10 minutes at low intensity, and then repeat.

Cool down at the end.

After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll get better at holding a max effort for the whole time.

One you get this, you can set your zones, based on the “average average” of the HR. Include the whole effort, including the part at the beginning.

35 or younger 36 or older
Recovery 50% to 70%
Endurance 91% 86%
Tempo 97% 96%

Okay, so to take myself as an example. My average HR from the field test was 164 BPM. And I’m an old dude, so I use the right column.

My recovery HR is 72-115 BPM.

Endurance sets a limit rather than a range – it’s basically anywhere underneath the limit. So, my limit is 164 * 0.86 = 141. For tempo it’s 164 * 0.96 = 158 BPM. For both of those, you add 4 BPM to get the upper limit of the range (Carmichael say 2-4 BPM, but my experience is that I can hold a 4BPM range fairly easy but it’s a lot harder to keep it within 2BPM). That gives me the following ranges:

Recovery: 72-115 BPM
Endurance: 141-145 BPM
Tempo: 158-162 BPM

I’ll talk about what these are in the future…

Floyd and innocence…

Phatty wrote a post about the recent Floyd Landis verdict, and I thought I’d expand a bit on his theme.

Doping and cycling is a complex subject. I’m not naive enough to think that cyclists don’t dope.

But the question is not whether Floyd doped. The question is whether he can be judged to have doped under the applicable rules. In other words, the question is not one of right or wrong. The question is one of legality.

From my perpective, just as the athletes have rules that they are expected to follow, the officials also have rules that they need to follow.

And, in this case, they didn’t do it. I think that unless the officials follow the rules, they don’t have a case.

Getting faster

Post 1 of several

It’s a pretty common question…

“I’ve been riding for a while now, and I’m the slowest in my group. How do I get faster?”

There’s no simple answer to this question, because getting faster isn’t one thing, it’s a whole lot of things.

 In this series, I’ll write about what those things are.



Popliteus is:

  1. The last european book craze
  2. The right-hand-man of Alexander the Great
  3. The cause of pain and anguish for RiderX

Back in June I was on a ride in Issaquah, on a road that features two things:

1) A “bypass the light” right lane (of 3) that can only go straight at a light

2) A bike lane that stops very soon before that point.

So, I was out riding, and got stuck at that light, with a very impatient car behind me (which, I presume, was occupied by an impatient car, and not possessed in a real-life version of Christine). The light change, I stood up, and go ready to do a bit of a sprint, and then realized that I was about 4 gears higher than I wanted to be. So, in a bit of adolescent bravado that I tell myself I am no longer prone to but, let’s be fair, still shows up now and then, I decide to just go for it.

Which, over the span of the next 15 seconds or so, resulted in two things. First, a fairly pathetic acceleration rate, and second, a strange feeling behind my right knee.

Which I didn’t really think much of – I finished the ride and went home.

A week or so later, the strange feeling had resolved itself, and I was out on a group ride, stood up to sprint up a short hill, and now the leg was hurting a bunch.

Which led to an up and down journey, where I would alternatively take it easy and heal, and then do something stupid, eventually culminating in RAMROD, where the knee and my lack of training perfectly meshed together for it to hurt a lot.

But, then I knew I had to be more serious about healing whatever was wrong, so I did the ice thing, I did the stretching thing, I did the ibuoprofen thing. I went out and rode some steeps before the Summits of Bothel and felt okay, and then SOB was cold and wet and we skipped it.

The only ride I cared about was the mountain populaire (held on Sept 9th), where I hoped to do better than last year. And by “do better”, I mean climb a little faster and not feel so wiped at the end.

So, last Thursday I decided to ride a little harder to make sure I was up to the Sunday ride, and while the knee felt a little weird, it didn’t hurt. And then, near the end of the ride, I decided to chase another rider as he sprinted up a short hill. Which told me what I need to know.

I skipped the populaire and went on a flat 30 miler around the lake Sunday, during which my knee was pretty achy.

Which led me into see a PT on Monday, where I had lots of tests done, the painful area poked and prodded, and learned a new word. I have a problem with my Poplieus, a short muscle on the back of the knee.

 After a couple of weeks of stretching and healing, we’ll start on PT.



Getting fast


 Better aerobic capacity

better efficiency

faster cadence (less tiring)

LT as a higher percentage of HR

Better buffering of LT.

The importance of staying salty…

Salt (or at least the sodium component of it) is perhaps the most underappreciated and under-discussed nutrient for endurance cyclists.

Given my recent history, I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into the topic, and frankly I’ve been surprised how little information there is. That, coupled with a lot of bad press around sodium because of its well-established link to hypertension, means that most cyclists don’t think about salt. They do perhaps think a bit about hyponatremia.

Which is really a bit strange, when you think about it, as many of us have white stains on our helmet straps and that sandy feeling on our faces after a hard ride.

So, here’s what’s going on WRT salt, and a few things that you might want to think about.

When you sweat, you lose salt, along with a number of other electolytes.

Here’s a table I pulled from Burke’s Serious Cycling

Blood Plasma 140 100 4 1.5
Muscle Tissue 9 5 160 30
Sweat 40-60 30-50 4-5 1.5-5

This chart uses mEq/L, which is basically a measure of the concentration of the various elements. What we’d like instead is a chart that shows the actual amount of the substance (which we get by multiplying by the molecular weight). My wife tells me that medicine is the only place that uses mEq/L as a measure…

Here’s the converted chart:

Blood Plasma 3220 3550 156 18
Muscle Tissue 207 172 6240 365
Sweat 920-1380 1065-1775 156-195 18-122

This chart shows the difference between salt (sodium and chloride), and the other major constituents of sweat. For potassium and magnesium, the concentration in the blood is fairly low compared to the concentration in muscle tissue. This means that loses of those two elements through sweat are relatively unimportant to the body’s total supply.

For sodium and chloride, however, the amount stored in muscle tissue is fairly minor. The majority of the storage is in the blood. And there’s really not that much there.

So, say that you’re out riding and only taking in water. Your sodium level drops. Your body wants to get rid of the water, but it doesn’t want to lose more sodium, so it stashes the water between cells, and you’re on your way to hyponeatremia.

This happens more quickly if you’re on a low-salt diet, which is what got me into this topic in the first place.

What that means is that you need to replace the salt. Serious Cycling suggests that you need from 400-1100mg of sodium and 500-1500mg of chloride. ACSM recommends 500-700mg of salt/liter.

Many hydration drinks have some salt in them – here’s a good comparison chart. Searching through that chart, I find that the accelerade that I drink only has about 500 mg of sodium per liter. That’s at most around 50% of the amount I need to replace the salt I sweat out (I’m a fairly salty sweater). Which explains a lot.

Almost all of the the drinks have some electrolytes – as they’re needed to help you absorb the drink – but some of them are pretty low. So, take a look at what your drink has in it, and that will help you figure out if you need supplementation. If you are riding for long periods, my guess is probably *yes*.


  • Fatigue (yeah, I know, it’s a bit hard to judge after 60 miles)
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Aversion to sugary foods (I get this rather than a salt craving, though salt tastes good. This may also just be food fatigue)
  • Weight gain during the ride
  • Lack of urination, especially if you are drinking a lot.

A note on hypertension…

If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), this is an area that you will want to be careful with, and you may want to consult your physician before supplementation.

What supplements to use

A classic supplement is beef jerky, which tends to be around 1000mg per service. If you want a capsule you can swallow, both Lava Salts and Succeed E!Caps have a good reputation on the ultra (bike/run) sites.

A lot of people talk about Hammer’s Endurolytes capsules. The hammer hydration products are quite low in electrolytes (see the chart I linked to earlier), and frankly, I’m mystified by what’s in the endurolytes – they only have 40mg sodium and 60mg chloride, which is a really small amount. They suggest that you can take up to 6 of them per hour, but even that may not be enough. They do have other electrolytes, but you are probably okay without supplementation of potassium and magnesium during exercise.

One final note

As with all things related to nutrition/hydration, people have different responses, so you’ll probably have to play around to find out what works for you. If you are used to sweating a lot, your body has likely adapted so that you don’t lose as much electrolyte when you exercise. Conversely, if you don’t work out in the heat and/or don’t sweat as much, you may be near the upper end of electrolyte loss.


Ultracycling has two great references on this:

Low Blood Sodium

Water and Salt Intake during exercise

Your weight loss goal is reasonable…

I was playing around, and came a cross a diet evalution page. I entered my weight (165 pounds), my height (6’2″), and my desired weight (120 pounds), and hit “go”

It replied with “please go back and change your target weight to at least 140.4 pounds. For the sake of your health, we refuse to accept a lower target than this.”

So, I go back, and set my desired weight to 141 pounds, and it says:

Though your current weight is already within normal limits, your weight loss goal is reasonable, because when you reach 141 pounds, your new BMI will be 18, still within the ‘normal’ range.

Umm… Yeah…

I have some muscle on my legs, not much on my upper body, I’m somewhere below 10% body fat, but yeah, I’m sure I can find 20 pounds to lose somewhere.



It’s happening again.

I’m on acuweather, weatherunderground, and my local news sources throughout the day – trying to find a forecast I like. It’s been a bit wet, but it seems like it’s clearing up.  

I get home from work, mix up my hydration drink, get my newtons ready, put on my riding clothes, and head downstairs to play Halo until it’s time to go. I munch on a Clif bar and drink a tall glass of water. And then it’s 5 after 6, time to go.

I head upstairs, grab my cycling bag, go into the garage, open the door, pull the bike off the wall, pump up the tires, and roll it out to put it in the truck.

And then it happens.

A tickling on my bare arms. I stretch my arms out and stand still.

It’s definite. It’s drizzling.

I wheel the bike back into the garage, and hang it up. Head back inside, go downstairs, and get on the trainer, trading two hours of fun with my friends for 45 minutes of boredom on the trainer.