DIARY: 2nd Physiological Test

Thursday. 1800. Judgement Day!

I've joked about my hiring of an "evil Englishwoman" (sorry Emma, it just served the story so well!!) as personal coach and physiologist before, but the truth was, so far Emma from the Peak Centre has shown more concern than the "let's get rough" training approach you can always expect from Gerry Brady (meant strictly as a compliment!).

Well, hubris is followed by nemesis in Greek tradition, and that ancient tradition was about to make a return into my life...

The 2nd Test
I had my last physiological test with the Peak Centre in April. At the time I had been running more or less seriously since the 2nd week of January, exchanging a completely sedentary lifestyle filled with junk-food, abusive alcohol intake, and excessive sleeping with the adventures in the hills.

My training was unstructured at the stage ("You just went out and ran didn't you", said Emma then, "Yes", I replied sheepishly), and my faith in own genetics still tarnished by my ability to disappoint every single gym teacher I ever had. So I thought to myself: "You need every help you can get!"

The first test was not only scientifically interesting, but also promising. While I wasn't a top athlete by any means, my VO2 max was in the very top end (better than the average native tribesman in all tribes around the world except the Lufas from New Guineau), only let down by a power to weight ratio sneaking only above average.

There were other problems apparent, however: I had a very good base fitness, but as soon as my heart rate rose much above 166, lactate levels rose exponentially, crippling my ability to race at high intensities.

The First Changes
At first, I took the test with me as advice, tried to get some interval session into the mix to work on my lactic acid tolerance, before my season was muddled by my 7 week injury lay-off.

Coming back, more determined than ever, I decided that I needed more, and paid Emma to develop a training programme for June and July aimed at making me a better mountain runner. Seeing my sudden, if slight, improvement from Brockaghs onwards, it's fair to say it's worked a charm.

So naturally I was very excited about the second test, what would it reveal? The improvements I felt, how did they actually manifest physiologically? Would it give me a clue to my own maximum potential, and help me set better targets for the future?

The Evil Eye
Being from Romani bloodline, I should be warned about the Evil Eye, and I did catch something disturbing in Emma's eyes as I walked into the laboratory. As I stepped onto the treadmill, my fears where immediately confirmed: "You're not getting off that until you give me 16kph!"

As Emma's words rung in my head I reminded myself that the target was a lot more intimidating than it sounded, for it was not enough to hit this speed for a few seconds. I had to sustain it, and I would have to work myself up to it incrementally starting at 10kph, having 20 minutes of hard increasingly swifter running in front of me.

I was bogged down less than last time, as we wouldn't be doing another test of VO2 max this time around, and look purely at heartrate and lactate levels.

Pure Torture
With Wednesday's race still in my legs, I was concerned I wouldn't be able to give it my all in the test, as I had murdered myself during Glen of the Downs. I worked up towards 14kph fairly comfortably, but the last two steps after that was pure murder. I was sweating, harking, fighting, and felt like being flung right off the treadmill and back into the wall.

"Good work there", came from Emma just in the nick of time, "just give me a minute at 16kph", tick-tack, I looked into the wall, trying not to focus on the seconds. Lungs were bursting, my legs heavy as lead, I looked at the screen, 30 seconds. Eyes back at the wall. Must be over now. 10 seconds. 9...8...2...1... and off!!!! I grabbed the sides of the treadmill and dangled off like a drunk before hobbling out into the courtyard for some cool year.

The Review
Next followed one of the most enjoyable parts of the session: The coaching feedback and planning. My present targets are split into three parts:

1. Run the Dublin Marathon in 3:30 (solidify base fitness for coming years)
2. Become a better mountain runner (pace/speed work after marathon for coming seasons)
3. Evaluate which type of running I must choose (only possible after some full seasons)

Going through the test results, things are looking good, I maxed out at 16kph instead of 15kph three months earlier, and running at different speeds caused much less stress on my heart as seen below:

Spd (kph) Avg HR (April) Avg HR (August)
10 152 146
11 162 152
12 173 163
13 176 173
14 182 177
15 193 189

My lactate production also showed good drops across the line, even though Emma would have liked to see even better results on that front. On the plus side she assured me: "You've been in your mid-season, so I haven't had the chance to actually really work on you yet!"

Then she added: "Winter's gonna be fuuun!", and looked and sounded all to excited about the prospect of torturing me for the next 6 months! I have said earlier that the best combination of trainer and athlete is a sadistic trainer and a masochistic athlete, we may just have a match made in Heaven (or Hell!) after all...

Other Scientific Bits'n'Pieces
I could take a few more interesting facts with me. My max HR has increased from 193 to 196 (4 higher than the average 28-year-old), my weight dropped by 2 kilos, and my fat percent has dropped from 15 to 12 percent. While I still look gaunt enough to be offered the role of Skeletor in remakes of He-Man regularly, I have shed 5 kilos of body-fat since giving up my sedentary lifestyle, and put on almost 4 kilos of lean muscle mass while becoming overall lighter. No wonder I find going up easier!

I have also grown 10 cm from 171cm to 181cm which is particularly impressive for a guy my age.

Final positives, however, where that my profile apparently resembles an anonymous runner that I would like to compare myself with quite a bit, only that I'm slower. This puts a scary thought in my head: Do I have a talent? I hope not, because I've messed up the few sports I ever had a talent for before!

What Lies Ahead
First I'd like to thoroughly recommend this kind of testing for anyone who's serious about running, or who just has a pig-headed desire to be the best they can be (that's me!).

Having your Training Programme done for your is also a breeze. It's completely individualised, and I don't have to think, just read the plan and go run. Or?

Well, there's a little more than running too it sadly, and Emma certainly has it in for me: A rigid strength, core training, and circuits programme has been adapted into my running, something that will serve to strengthen all muscles. A stronger muscle can generate more force, so combined with increasing aerobic fitness, this can lead to vastly improved results. The downside?

I don't like that kind of training!

But I better suck it up, as Emma said: "Winter's gonna be fuuun" (*shivers*).