Remember the research study in which I participated in back in September, and promised to write about when I got my results? Well, since I have been waiting for 2 months for my full results from this study (still waitin') and since I seem to have absolutely nothing else interesting to write about these days, I am just going to go ahead and re-cap my experiences, results or no results!
So way back in September, I decided to sign myself up for this research study that was being conducted at the U of A: Effect of Fatigue on Whole Body Mechanics during a Simulated 10 km Race. I thought this would be a great experience to do some epic workouts and get some useful feedback on my running. The first test was a VO2 max test, which is a test to exhaustion that measures aerobic fitness. Turns out all 3 sessions that I was required to complete were to exhaustion! The 2nd session was a 10km race effort on the TRACK, and the 3rd session was a (minimum) 10km on the treadmill, at a race effort determined from your pace on the track. What did i get myself into!
I did the VO2 max test on a Wednesday after work, then I did the track 10km time trial 3 days later, on Saturday, then I did the simulated 10km treadmill run after work on the following Wednesday (so 4 days after that). It was an action-packed week of freakin' hard sessions! The first session also included height/weight measurements, shoulder range of motion, balance tests, and squat test. The VO2 max was hard, but at least it was short. Going in, I was more afraid of the 10km tests than the VO2 max test!
They got me all set up for the test on the treadmill, and you have to wear this mouthpiece that you breathe into which is attached to a hose, which is attached to this sort of headgear thing that you wear on your head so it stays in place. They put a clothespin thingy on your nose, so you are forced to only breathe through your mouth. When the mouthpiece went in (your lips are basically suctioned around it so no air gets in or out), and they put the clothespin on my nose (again so no air gets in or out), I had a brief near-panic moment where I felt almost claustrophobic and had a hard time breathing. I think I just had to get used to the device and breathing only using my mouth, and was okay after about a minute, and then the test started!
The speed got set at a pace that would stay constant throughout the test, and the incline on the treadmill kept getting increased after a certain period of time. I cannot even remember what my speed was, but as the incline went up, it got tough! At this point I cannot even remember how long the test lasted (typically they're not too long, like 12-15 minutes or something). I kept going until finally I could not go anymore. All I know for the VO2 is that my max heart rate was 195 and my VO2 score was 58, which is pretty okay I think and compared well with the other girls in the study. Upon seeing my score for some reason I felt I could have kept going for longer, as I wanted a higher score! But there was no way at that time I could have gone any further.
Several days later I met the grad student at the Foote Field track on a beautiful warm September day (the temperature was 23C, couldn't have asked for better weather!). After a short warm up, it was now or never and I got started on my 10km time trial, around and around and around the track. There were several other athletes training that day, mostly doing sprint stuff and 400's, and I just kept going. If you weren't sure, 10km around the track is 25 laps (each lap is 400m). It was PURE HELL! I was not permitted to wear I-pod or headphones, so all I had were my thoughts. I had to wear a heart rate monitor, and looked at it every so often to check out what my HR was doing, as I never train with one. I didn't feel great from the beginning, so that made the time trial even tougher.
The biggest challenge by far was mentally getting through the distance, going around the same 400m again and again at that kind of effort. Time seemed to stand still. I wasn't sure I was strong enough mentally to keep myself going at that effort for 25 laps. It would be different if I was running 25 laps at an easier pace, but this had to be at a 10km race effort, so as hard as you can go! I struggled and kept counting each lap, and counting each mile every time I finished 4 laps, and watched my heart rate continually increase. It was up to 185 by the last few laps, and I had fallen off my goal pace (can't even remember what that was now!), by about halfway. In the end, I finished right around 45 minutes flat, which was okay for me, considering how crappy I was feeling. I was SO GLAD to be finished! And scared for the final session, the treadmill 10km at race effort! Yikes!
Wednesday came quickly enough and I headed over to the Biomechanics lab after work to endure the torture session. It took forever to get set up for this one, as they had to stick 83 reflective markers all down the side of my body on different anatomical locations and joints, so that my body outline would show up on the digital computer image. This session involved a warm up, then they measured my maximal knee extension force, then the simulated 10km started at a pre-determined pace. After volitional exhaustion was reached (at the end of 10km or just after), maximal knee extension was again measured immediately with no break.
My pre-determined pace was 7.8mph, which started off pretty well, but got harder and harder and harder! I asked before starting how much time I had to be on there, and was told it would be around 48 minutes or so. OMG - I had to run at 7.8 for 48 minutes or so?! I nonestly wasn't sure I could do it. Every kilometer, I had to wear the breathing apparatus/mouthpiece thingy and they used the clothespin thing to plug my nose, and they measured oxygen output for 1 minute. During this simulated 10km treadmill torture session, there was no music allowed, no magazines, no nothing! Again, time seemed to stand still during this session. I basically had to stare at the wall and use my thoughts to push myself. As it got super tough, I just kept saying to myself 'Dig deeper' and imagined those words on the wall in front of me. It was all about using the power of positive self-talk! There was an old research poster on the wall in front and slightly to the right of the tready, which I basically kept reading over and over and over again! The study was about some gymnastics move/jump and the forces required for it or something like that. I should have it memorized by now!
This session was just as hard as the track session, but I'm still not sure which was worse. My HR kept increasing on the tready, again up to about 186-187 by the last part. Near the end, I kept asking how much longer, how much longer, and he kept telling me, 'just a bit more', but no specific numbers! Finally I made it to 10km and was able to make it about 100-200m further than that before I basically hit exhaustion and was able to get off the machine and go right to the leg extension machine. Then I had to do maximal leg extension so they could measure the force when you are exhausted.
Phew! It was over! Good experience, but very challenging! And I'm still waiting for my full results and the digital video! What the grad student was able to tell me was that my form started to suffer a bit as I became exhausted near the end, and that working on building core muscular endurance will aid in maintaining form when you get tired. So that is what I have been working on lately! Once (if) I get the video, I will post it up on here if I am able to, as it will be pretty cool.
Here is a picture of me during the test, with all the markers, etc. I got the grad student take a picture of me so I would have something to document! I must be blurry because I'm running so fast :)
Here's the digital image of me running...
I mentioned before that I was originally planning on racing the Sprint triathlon championships in Phoenix on Nov. 7, but after completing this study and those crazy hard sessions, I decided it was time for a break and I opted out of the race! No more racing until 2011!