Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Running For Beer, Episode II: The Treadmill Strikes Back

After a few crazy weeks around these parts, I'm back with more tales from the human performance lab. When we last left off, I'd attended a meeting, filled out paperwork, drank some beer and read about what I was going to do. I left excited and nervous about being one of a small handful of people doing the testing, and with a bit of a complex when I realized I was the average chick among some really awesome runners in the room. I put that out of my mind and figured I wouldn't think hard about it, and would just show up for each day's activities without worry.

A few days later, I returned to the lab for my very first VO2Max test. First, though, I had to sit in that egg-shaped thing called the "Bod Pod." Let me tell you guys-I was less than excited about this. Nothing like getting down to a swimsuit or tight fitting yoga-type clothes in front of a room full of dude researchers in the lab. Let me be clear...NOBODY was making me feel weird or giving me the judgmental eye. This was all my own doing. It was like going back to junior high again and being insecure with your body. Luckily, this test did not take very long. I climbed in, the door was shut, and I sat inside it, keeping my body as still as I could. This test can take up to five minutes, but the lead researcher let me know after about thirty seconds that it had done its thing one time already, and after it reset and did it again, I was finished. Phew. I spent no more than about two minutes total in there, and ran off to change for the VO2Max test.

Up next would be the beginning of the real guinea pig action. There was a small treadmill set up in the middle of the lab (bummer, I wasn't going to get to run on the "green monster"-photos to come). In order to properly measure the gases coming out of my mouth, I would have to run with this helmet thing with a mouthpiece attached. It had a soft rubber mouthpiece to gently bite down upon-think going to the dentist. The mouthpiece attaches to a tube that runs back to their fancy computer. So, yes, this means that test subjects run with mouths wide open. This would be awkward enough, but to add insult to injury, the nose must be plugged as well. The first time they hooked me up to all this, it was very disorienting. I'm sort of a clumsy treadmill runner but the one thing that has always made it possible for me is being able to "spot" the console on the front of the treadmill. That is, if I just focus on it while I run, I don't get off-balance or shift too far to one side, forward, or backward. This just took away all point of reference to where I was on the machine.

I also do not normally run with a heart rate monitor, but this was another important part of the test. I had more crap attached to me and more people watching me than when my son was born by emergency c-section. Very strange for someone who is used to being a solitary runner much of the time, and with as little as possible to get through the run.

Once everything was properly fitted, the treadmill started. One of the researchers immediately commented "she's nervous" because my heart rate was apparently through the roof at first. The head guy in charge commented that he knew it would come down-other first-timers in the study also had the same thing happen-and sure enough, he commented that it had settled down a minute or two later. They gradually upped the pace until it reached 8 miles per hour, or a 7:30 pace mile. This felt all right, but I knew that soon the incline would be increased every few minutes until I cried mommy. The first increase wasn't too bad, but the whole helmet face thing was quite distracting. I felt like I was drooling out of the corner of my mouth. Yeah, sexy. I could see that there was a VO2Max reading on the screen but couldn't quite read what it said.

When we moved to 4%, I was REALLY starting to hurt. I felt pretty pathetic for being ready to give up already. I knew one of the other women had made it to 8%, and I really wanted to get there too. I pushed on, and the research team was being nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging. The incline was upped to 6%, and I was ready to throw in the towel. The guys were going apey offering encouragement, saying "looking good" and all that but I knew better.

Finally I was sagging and sliding back to the point that I finally did my rescue jump to stand on the side rails, feeling exhausted and a bit like I wasn't up-to-par for what they needed in this test. I was told that it was a gutsy test because I'd actually hit my VO2Max awhile before, and to keep going at all beyond that point was awesome. I am not sure if it was true and it didn't exactly make me feel better, but I didn't have much else to give. I knew one thing, though-I was happy to have that mouthpiece out and the nose plug gone. With that, day one of research was on the books. I was due back in the lab later in the week for my first depletion run and (woohoo) beer and pasta dinner.


L.A. Runner said...

Cool, cool, cool! What a neat study. I would totally feel self-conscious, too, with all those tubes attached. Good for you for putting yourself out there!

RunKathyRun said...

I am so intrigued by all this; I can't wait for your next session. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

"I felt like I was drooling out of the corner of my mouth. Yeah, sexy" - literally lol'ed!! talk about stepping out of your shell! i would have been freaking out...

looking forward to the next lab adventure. :)