11/26. 10 in 90 Dead on my feet.
11/27. 10 in 87 Not bad for sub-zero windchills.
11/28. 12 in 88 (HRav=154, pk=167) Freezing early, started getting comfortable later.
VO2 Max: The Last Gasp
Entire philosophies have been built around the concept of maximal oxygen uptake, but there are a number of caveats to the idea that this is the major predictor of running ability. Derek Clayton, who lowered the world record in the marathon from 2:12 to 2:08 had a VO2 Max of 68 (Jack Daniels' charts suggest 2:26) and Yiannis Kouros, holder of multiple ultradistance world records had a VO2 max of only 63 (suggesting a marathon in 2:36)> Top cross-country skiers have the highest reliably recorded measurements, but they are not great runners. VO2 Max is simply a measure of how well one performs under the conditions of the test and, if a measure of running ability, correlates well only to races that approximate the test in duration - about 3000 meters.
VO2 max is measured in units of milliliters of oxygen per minute per kilogram body weight, so the easiest way to improve one's number is to lose weight. Clayton and Kouros, both solidly muscled, tested low. Carboloading, salt ingestion and other bloating agents (creatine, glycerine) will lower one's number. The elevation, humidity and temperature all affect the oxygen saturation of the air during the test.
One factor in VO2 max is maximal heart rate, which can't be increased (I've tried). Another is stroke volume, which is inversely correlated to resting heart rate. 2,3-bisphosphoglycerate and proton gradients are involved, but manipulating these is counter-productive (again, I've tried). Lung capacity is theoretically important; whether breathing exercises (pranayama, buccal pumping) help is unknown. Training at or near one's maximum heart rate slows the decline with age of the maximum, increases stroke volume and positiovely affects all the other factors.
One way to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood is to increase the hemoglobin content. This has led to practices legal (altitude training) and illegal (blood doping, erythropoietin injections). Other methods not usually discussed are training in the cold and on a full stomach; the increased need for blood for training, heat and digestion should increase the number of red blood cells.
The reason cross-country skiers have high VO2 max measurements may be due to altitude and cold, but is more likely due to the fact that training on hills causes them to exercise at or near maximal heart rate more often than most runners.
What's my VO2 max? I have no idea. I think one's last race is the best predictor of one's next race. And, if you look carefully, you'll see the experts agree.
6 hours ago