Monday, December 6, 2010

Jef relates a tale of two revelations, with a beastly epilogue

It wasn't the best of times nor the worst, but I spent Thursday afternoon enjoying a couple of twin revelations while trying to learn something else.

I was, as I often am, trying to find out what I'm made of. This time I was looking for more empirical information in the form of my anaerobic threshold and VO2 max. So I was running on a treadmill, my left arm wrapped in a blood-pressure cuff, a heart-rate monitor belt around my chest, and most significantly, a mask over my mouth and nose connected to a tube with a valve that fed me fresh air one way and sent my expelled breath another. My job was simply to keep up with the slowly accelerating treadmill until I had reached the absolute limit of my ability.
  • Revelation 1: Somebody actually found a way to make running indoors on a treadmill more miserable.
  • Revelation 2: Tony Venticinque, the staff exercise physiologist at Fraser Bicycle and Fitness' sports performance lab, found a way to make it less miserable.

I've been worried ever since that I gave up too soon or too easily (just like after a race; it's automatic). My heart rate maxed out at 172 beats per minute, a rate I'll normally hold for 30 minutes to an hour on a training run. I'll usually top out in the low 180s. But that's without a big, heavy mask pinching my nose and rationing my oxygen through its valve somewhat more slowly than it arrives via the atmosphere. And really, it's just a weird way to run. Luke, my coach, says these tests are very uncomfortable the first time you do them and it's almost impossible for that not to have an effect. At any rate, we got the information we needed, and I'll re-test in six weeks or so anyway to gauge how my training is coming along. So maybe I've just set myself up for big-time improvement.

Still, after a Thursday run like that, I was ready for an easy Friday effort. I opted to run through the Detroit Zoo. It's about a mile and a half from my house; I'm a member, so I only have to disrupt my run long enough to flash a card instead of digging out cash for admission; and on a wintry weekday, you've just about got the place to yourself. And a lot of the animals are a good deal more active in the colder weather.

It was a nice, low-stress run - for me. Like I said, I just about had the place to myself. Just about. I think I ran across maybe four people. Unfortunately, I scared the bejesus out of two of them. They heard me coming up behind them and thought I was an escaped animal, which I'll bet raised their heart rate a good deal above 172 bpm.

I was so sorry. Yet vain. Sympathetic as I was, I still hoped, for at least a moment or two, they thought I was some kind of gazelle.



Vicky said...

When next you step onto that treadmill for the re-test, keep in mind that so many things can affect the results. My husband found this out first-hand.

For instance, your results will be skewed considerably if you mis-step and lose your balance. This is more likely if you are using back-up equipment that has been hauled out because the main equipment spontaneously failed that morning.

The results will be even further affected if the grab bar that is normally there for balance and is case of mis-striding has been removed to allow for an arch-like thingy to be put in place to hold the jury-rigged breathing apparatus. If someone *happens* to have put the arch-like thingy on *backwards* so that it is behind you rather than in front AND if they have forgotten to attach the cord to you that stops the machine when it is tugged, several things will happen all at once. Any one of these might impinge upon your ability to perform admirably.

Firstly, you will be unable to regain your balance as you are currently travelling pretty freaking fast. The machine will not stop as you lose your balance. You will stagger, whack your head off the arch behind you as you try to regain composure. This will lead to your semi-strangulation by the breathing apparatus tube that has somehow been pulled lose. As you flail madly, the machine will continue to roll along, unperturbed. You will finally lose your composure utterly, at fhit the treadmill sideways and be spit out at full speed onto indoor-outdoor carpet. The resulting road rash will require a over month to heal and runs from ankle to shoulder.

But the worst part will be that somehow the folks in your running club will find out.

So many factors can affect your performance....