In my efforts to understand more about how to get faster and stronger on my bike, I have been using a power meter for targeted zone training. Now, I’m finding out more about how zones connect with my personal physiology through tests at the Human Performance Centre, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford.
I become a lab rat
The door opens and I enter the testing lab. It’s a large room with a vinyl floor. Two walls are lined with floor and wall cabinets making it look like a fitted kitchen. But no cooker or microwave or kettle in sight. Instead the surfaces are covered in computer monitors and wires trail across to keyboards and printers and other machinery that is alien to me. It all looks very clean, almost clinical, with lots of wipe clean surfaces. In one corner is a treadmill. But my eyes are drawn to the middle of the room and the stationary bike. This is what I am here for.
I’m not really sure what to expect. The guys in the shop who are members of the Flamme Rouge Cycle Team have had some testing done at the HPC. All I heard from them is how hard it was. And I have seen the picture of Jack collapsed in a heap on the testing room floor, face all red, hair dripping with sweat.
This is why I approach the centre with some trepidation. What is it going to be like?
Lactate profile measure
I have signed up to do two measurements, with sessions over two days.
Yes, blood is involved
The first is to measure my lactate profile. This involves taking regular blood samples from a pinprick in my finger while I cycle to exhaustion. I was a bit worried about the “cycle to exhaustion” bit. Surely this would take hours?
I meet the two guys conducting the tests, Shaun and Ryan. They are MSc students at the university and provide continual reassurance throughout the tests, reminding me that I can stop at any time.
But first it’s a blood pressure measure. This is to make sure that it’s safe for me to go through with the testing today and critically for later in the week when I do the VO2 max measurement. This complements a health questionnaire I have already filled in.
My first measure is through the roof. Not surprising really, I’m nervous and anxious about what is to come. After five minutes it has gone down but not enough. Ryan gives me some advice: don’t cross my legs and take deep breaths. I chat to the guys about what the tests will show and I feel myself relax. My final blood pressure measurement is well down and I have the green light to go.
And so it begins
Ryan takes a resting blood sample, now all seriously attired in white coat and plastic gloves. He tells me I should only feel a small scratch in my finger. He’s right and I hardly feel it as he squeezes a dark red globe of blood out of my finger. He uses a small pipette to suck up the blood and rushes over to a magical machine in the corner which spits out results on a strip of paper within seconds.
The before picture