Tuesday, July 15, 2014

And I Thought I Knew What Pain Was, or A Hurricane Of Lactic Acid And A Sea Of Acidosis Nausea

It is amazing how many different types of pain there are.  I have experienced quite a few physical ones and here I am learning a new one.  Currently on tap is the exquisite discomfort of repeated, short-duration maximal (supra-threshold) aerobic efforts.  Not quite truly anaerobic (although a big component of it is), but definitely well above lactate threshold.

Goodness, give me two weeks and a mid-term of graduate-level exercise physiology and my blog starts to sound like a science journal.  Beg your pardon.

Basically work so hard that your oxygen consumption can't meet your body's needs (aka above lactate threshold).  Everything starts to burn.  It's a lactic acid* hurricane whipping up the sea of acidosis nausea.  Eventually acute muscle failure ensues.  Muscle failure in this case being the inability to lift my arms out of the water to take the next stroke.  Short-term rest (even 5 seconds) reverses it to some degree, but the damage is done.  

I would say that I am reaching that point in about 90% of my swim workouts these days. 

This is me.  Ok, maybe not actually me.  It's Brandon Bass of the Boston Celtics learning to swim at age 28.  The idea is the same for me.

These kids, my teammates, are fast in absolute terms, and the entire goal of age-group swimming is to be absolutely fast.  By comparison, masters swimming takes into account fitness swimmers and triathletes for whom the goal is to have fun or be "endurance fast"...yeah, we just took a sharp turn away from legit exercise physiology with that terminology.  Longhorn does a Fun Fast Friday...every Friday.  

CCiST does Fun Fast Friday...every single day.  Every practice works on absolute speed.  The type of swimming where not consuming enough oxygen to meet your body's needs (and not interrupting your race to breathe) is sort of the point.  This after years - decades! - of physical activity and training where not going (much) faster than the point where oxygen needs surpass oxygen consumption was the entire goal.  Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

I'm still waiting for my first practice where I don't feel like I'm going to vomit. 

Today was not that day.

* Actually not lactic acid, the red-headed bastard step-child of exercise physiology.  It's an increase in H+ ions and decrease in muscle cell pH, both of which are caused by the disassociation of uncleared lactic acid, but that doesn't meet my rhetorical needs.

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