Friday, May 10, 2013

VO2max Results

Actual result: 65.5 ml/min/kg
Winner: Jaime Yebra (guessed 64.7)

Thanks to everyone that played the Vo2max guessing-game, I hope everyone had fun.
This was inspired by Brandon's previous Boston marathon-time prediction contest.  I think it's fun to look at real-world examples of exercise physiology and training and try to make sense of it all -- not just for competitive, elite athletes, but also sub-sub-sub-elite athletes.

Here's how the guesses looked (mean 63.1, n=12)


A pretty impressive wisdom-of-the-crowd, I must say.

Ahead of time, my own "best guess" would have been based on Jack Daniels's Running Formula, in which he attempts to describe and calculate a normalized, performanced-based index he calls "VDOT" which roughly corresponds to VO2max.  You can calculate VDOT based on performance here and elsewhere.

VDOT and performance correlation is of course a population statistic, so the actual correspondence to VO2max for individual performance is fraught with caveats and limitations, which I won't fully get into here; but should mainly note that the point of VDOT is more to normalize and equalize race performance efforts across various race and training distances. It is on the same scale and uses the same units as VO2max, and it is useful to a degree.

Based on performance capabilities alone, a good guess for my VDOT capability would be 60.2, yielding the following race times:

1600 m4:55
3000 m9:48
3200 m10:31
2 mi10:35
5000 m17:00
5 mi28:04
10 k35:16
15 k54:09
10 mi58:21

When trained for those distances in the last year I've been at or near all of those race times, with the notable exception of the marathon, which I've run (at best) 8 minutes slower.  This isn't new information: I'm better at shorter distances (or worse at longer distances) -- relatively -- despite my stubborn insistence and desire to run longer!

So I expected to be somewhere in the 60s on my test.
Going in, I knew that either the result would be very close to my VDOT, and would really be a statistical confirmation; or it would be noticeably higher or lower, suggesting either over-performance in some capability; or underperformance, depending on point of view.  It could reveal some weaknesses and strengths.

Actual result: 65.5 ml/min/kg

Any interpretation should be holistic and individualized, while understanding the point of the various measurements.  Based on these, taking the pessimistic yet motivational interpretation, I already know that I underperform in longer distances especially, and underperform compared to a cohort of athletes with this VO2max.  That suggests that, given this VO2max, I should focus more on running economy and efficiency.  A classic example of this is the VO2max of Frank Shorter (72) vs. Bill Rodgers (78), with consensus of Shorter's stride being more smooth and fluid, and performances being comparable (if not better for Shorter), despite the a sizeable gap in VO2max.
(And then consider Lance Armstrong's 2:46 marathon PR, despite an EPO-induced VO2max in the 80's).

As I get fatigued, especially, I am aware that my strides are anything but graceful.  On the rare occasion that I was able to see myself on video, I have to turn away in horror as I devolve into choppy, stumpy strides.
So I kind of already knew this, but it's more information: I would do better to focus on efficiency drills and workouts, more than increasing VO2max or even worrying so much about raw distance numbers (if it comes at the expense of training more tired and inefficiently); and should be mindful and focused on remaining fluid throughout races.  If you have different interpretations or suggestions, let me know!
Thanks for following, congrats to Jaime for some free beer!


  1. Hell yeah! Not sure what I win but you can find me at the Horsetooth Aid Station helping out tomorrow morning!

    I'll make sure that folks like Patrick G and JT go the wrong way. Not because it'll help your placing but simply because it will be fun for me.

  2. That would absolutely will help my placing, I offered for them to stay at my house for that exact reason! PG's fast so he might accidentally oversleep tomorrow, JT always surprises me. There's a list of other people that would help my placing as well, it's about 30-40 long though.

    Thanks for volunteering -- how long are you sticking around?

    What would you say your favourite beer styles are; top 3-5ish beers overall; and/or fav Fort Collins beers? I'll try to use that information to get you something enjoyable and possibly new. Cheers!
    (Here, or email yahoo with 'mahinter')

  3. 65? No way. You need to be drug tested right away.