DIARY: Low haematocrit

After last year’s UCD testing, I feared WADA would be sniffing around the door as my haematocrit value came out as 45% (50% triggers doping suspicion although men are considered within the normal range between 40-52%). This year I came out with a result of 39%.

Haematocrit measures the percentage of red blood cells to the total blood volume, so essentially the test showed that my blood is “a bit thin”. This can mean anaemia but this is not the case as my haemoglobin count, that is the protein in red blood cells that increases oxygen-carrying capacity, shows up in the normal range (13.7 with the normal range being 13.5-17.5). It has dropped from 14.1.

I asked Romain Denis about whether this was a result of my body adapting to the current workload and currently being in the recovery phase that precedes what is called “supercompensation” – meaning I am currently in “a valley of performance” where my body is attempting to shake off the initial training load and move into the “super-compensation” phase where it functions at a higher performance capacity than prior to the training.This was part of my post-test exchange with Romain:

Rene: “Could the low haemoglobin count be a result of the fact that this time I did the test after the 2 first very hard weeks, meaning my body may have been knocked down by the mileage but not yet have super-compensated, whereas last year, I did the test after 7 hard weeks, meaning my body may have begun to reproduce higher ratios of red blood vessels to compensate (so, for instance, this may be the “slump” and if I continue training well, I should see a rise back towards 45% or higher).”

Romain: “Yes, this could explain the low haematocrit level. Haemoglobin was in the normal range (14.1 g.dl-1).

Talking about training before the test, if you want a re-test done, I’d recommend to come to the lab. in a more rested state. In the 48h before a threshold – VO2max test, I usually do two 30 min easy jog including a few accelerations in the second jog.”

Some sage advice here, which I will take before the next test and ensure I’m completely fresh. These results also have some implications for this weeks training. I have been feeling like I am still “in recovery” so I am not pushing upwards the total load of my weekly mileage this week as planned but rather dropping it a bit especially as I have worked the Rathdrum 3 mile and Ballycotton 10 mile races into my fast aerobic workouts for the week.

Lydiard always said “you cannot train hard and race well at the same time”, so with the current low haematocrit level it’s important not to read too much into this weeks results. My plan is to employ the same strategy as on La Santa and begin the runs solidly around the “safe” lactate threshold and then crank it up towards the end leaving me tired but not going to the well. Full efforts are not desirable in the aerobic phase. Either way having never run a 3 mile or 10 mile race, PBs seem assured!