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Jordan Kerby, Cameron Meyer and the Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation

Jordan Kerby became World Champion in the Pursuit, during the last week. He is local to Brisbane where the Track Cycling Academy live, work, coach, write and ride. Cameron Meyer became World Champion (again) of the Points race. He’s a lovely man and gave a toy koala to my (Michael’s) son at the Australian Championships a short while ago.

The title of this blog sounds like a Harry Potter novel. Riders we know, either personally or through our TV, followed by something mystical describing a dark art. The extreme end of the aerobic system, where blood lactate accumulates, may well feel exactly that.

In the first blog in this series I gave an overview of how training needs to be varied to work the aerobic system to its full potential. In the second blog I wrote about lactate threshold.

Once you go beyond the point of the Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation you are doing exactly that. Producing more lactate than you are clearing.

OBLA is defined as where the blood lactate levels have gone above 4mM per litre. One clinical paper I read recently said that between 2 and 4 is a reasonable range. In simple terms it is a threshold a little above your lactate threshold. 

For Jordan he would have finished with a huge amount of lactate in his working muscles. What this is telling us is that there is a high anaerobic contribution to the energy required to ride under 16 second per lap!

This contribution will probably have decreased with each lap as for every passing second the aerobic energy contribution increases.

In last week’s blog we spoke about buffering lactate and that is exactly what will have happened in Jordan and Cameron’s bodies.

The Ventilatory Buffer is you, the athlete, breathing disproportionately harder for the increase in work. It sees you exhaling a greater amount of carbon dioxide. Via a chain of events this will helpfully raise the pH, or slow the rate it declines in to a pool of acid. It’s not a pool, clearly, but it may well feel to be.

So can we argue that Jordan’s body saw all this coming?...

He worked hard to produce the power to ride at the speed needed to succeed.

It produced enough lactate to trigger the body to temper its effect by making him breath more.

His working muscles didn’t become so acidic as to need to slow down.

Jordan wins.

Our own training needs have components to work at threshold power: The maximum we can sustain for an elongated period of time. Let’s say 6 to 20 minute efforts.

But, provided you are physically and mentally ready, we’d also benefit from going beyond OBLA, doing it ugly, the pool of acid, the hyper-ventilation of glycogen draining work of 2 to 3 minute efforts.

The better you get the more brutal they can become and so are not friendly and conversationally polite. Unlike Cameron Meyer and the lovely koala sitting in my lad’s room...

About the author: Michael Jordan is based in Australia, and works for the Track Cycling Academy as a lead coach and physiological performance analyst. Michael also has an international background in elite sport having represented the United Kingdom in athletics.