Thursday, November 11, 2010


I had a VO2 max test today.
I almost didn't: part way into it I suffered one of those moments that threatened to turn into panic and I had to stop and regroup. I thought I'd moved past that, leapt that hurdle, taught myself that panic is all in my mind and completely unnecessary, but apparently I'm not quite there yet.

it began in the gargantuan lifetime fitness center in sandy, utah. I like to call myself a city girl, living in my little space on the fringes of salt lake, urban but not too urban that I don't have grass and trees. whatever I might desire is not too far away, and I love the eclectic feel of this mix of people, styles, and tastes that surround me.
then there's sandy, where too many people live. it's a big place, there are people and roads everywhere, and you can find whatever you might desire, you'll just have to find it in a superstore or a chain restaurant. or in the largest fitness center on earth, where I was this morning. I've never seen so many machines, or so many slender women with artificial---oops, back to my story.
my bike is loaded on the trainer, the watt meter attached, and I am given a neoprene mask to put on so that my exhalations can be measured and oxygen content assessed. I try not to freak out.
and I do a pretty good job for the first five minutes or so, and then I feel the anxiety rising. I push it down, and it pushes back. harder. I try to talk myself out of it, and it outshouts me. in mere moments I know I've lost the battle and I have to unrip the velcro and peel the mask from my face.
casey, patient test-giver, lets me spin for a while until I can get myself back under control and commit to trying again. I am not about to walk out of there a failure. I will get past this. just before I'm quite ready, I tell him I'm ready and let's do it again.
casey, kind and knowledgeable guy, eases me back into it and then starts taking me through the protocol at a quickened pace. we're moving up by watts produced, twenty at a time. we jump from sixty to eighty, then one hundred, then one-twenty. the speed of movement from each zone to the next doesn't allow my mind time to fixate on whether or not I'm going to die because I'm so focused on moving to the next level, and we out-smart my little panic-producing mind.
before I know it, I'm done, and on to the recovery phase. I like this phase. all tension off, spinning it out, breathing normally, knowing that the worst is over.

and then you get the results. fitness, awesome, recovery, fabulous. woo hoo! all these years of effort have truly paid off. I am strong, I have a great power-to-weight ratio, and my heart is one extremely healthy organ. (this is powerfully important to a girl whose grandmother died of heart disease. I am not going to go that way. I'll probably go slipping on a weed on a bike path.)
and then the bad news: I'm not doing so well at burning fat for fuel. in fact, I'm not doing well there at all. casey suggests the reason is probably too many aggressive workouts, and I grin. yep. casey then suggests I retrain my body to burn fat (which our body stores easily, which burns cleanly without side effects) instead of carbohydrate (which our body can't store much of, which doesn't burn as cleanly and which produces things like lactic acid). I can do this by adding more low-intensity workouts to my regimen.
which brings forth the discussion of base-building, which fall is supposed to be all about for us cyclists. we are supposed to be doing long, low intensity rides, which build this base, which gives us the fat-burning skill which will benefit us when we start working in the higher heart rates early next season.
they call these lsd rides: long, steady (or slow) distance.
for me, it has to be slow because I have to hold back so much to keep my heart rate low. casey tells me he puts a piece of tape over his speedometer when he does these rides so he can't stress about how very slow he has to go.

so this afternoon I braved the cold and went on a zone two ride. I spent an hour keeping my heart rate under 140 beats, and it was NOT EASY.
but I am a good student, and I will obey the rules. it helps when it's 37 degrees and snowing in the canyons . . . we'll see what happens when the sun's out, the temperature hits the upper 40's, and emigration's bike lanes are dry . . .


chris said...

it is a strange thing when the panic starts to rise. You did the right thing by going back to it and doing it again!

susan said...

the mind is a wicked thing at times. I chant to myself,
I am greater than my mind, I am greater than my mind . . .