« on: March 02, 2014, 10:10:40 PM »
Some of our community members ask me what I am doing for training. I'll share what I've been doing lately. First, I have to tell you that my hips are shot. Yep, they are bad. I have big bone spurs that grew at the end of my femurs and project into the joint space. There's also some cartilage and ligament damage from injuries in there too. I had to give up running until I can get my hips replaced. I don't have much money now, so the surgeries will have to wait quite a while. Yet, I am not crying about the situation. I've taken up cycling. Since my time is incredibly limited due to business and family commitments, I have about 30 to 60 minutes to exercise per day. I've been stationary cycling the last few months, about 3-4 times per week. Mostly I cycle 30 minutes. I have a power meter on my bike, so that makes it fun for me to see what my training is doing for me. I see the actual improvements right in front of me: the numbers tell the stories, just like the race-time for running told my story to some extent.
I cycled in the 1990s and ran at the same time. I had an interest in duathlons, which is running-cycling-running in the same race. I did several 5k runs, 40k bikes ,and 5k runs. Normally I was a 16:30-17:00 5k run on both ends of the event and 60-64 minutes for the 40k bike in the middle. I didn't have a fancy bike and only had clip on bars to get into a lower time-trial position. My Trek bike was about 21.6 lbs, and most of the guys who I competed against had 17-18 lbs bikes with a seat post angle tailored for time-trialing, while mine was more reclined and suited to long distance cycling. I think maybe a better bike would have given me 2-4 minutes lower time. Anyway, the skills I learned from cycling in the 1990s have not been lost. I know how to push the pedals to make a fairly smooth circle, which helps create more power and efficiency. I know that the fatigue sensations in my legs are different than they were when I was just running. Cycling requires a lot more leg power (unless you are runing uphill), so doing squats or lunges or step ups become hugely important for generating cycling power/speed. I know the I can hydrate often while cycling, which is really a big deal for me since I sweat a lot. In running it's hard to drink often, and that always hurt me. I know how to stretch for cycling, just like I do for running, so my legs, glutes, and lower back don't get so jacked up with muscle tightness like they did before I learned how to stretch properly. Yet, I didn't cycle from the late 1990s forward for 10 years. I started some small amount of cycling about 3 or 4 years ago, which was good for getting some neural memory for pedalling to come back to me. Now, I am fairly smooth, though there's some room for improvement.
In mid-December, I tested myself for 7 minutes @ 100% power. I scored a 384 watt average. That's okay I thought, considering how little I've been cycling. For those of you who need to understand that number in terms of running pace, that's about equivalent to 49.25 for a VO2 max at my weight, which is equivalent to 6:35 per mile pace. Not great, but not bad for a Joe who is overweight. Take away the extra pounds I'm carrying and my VO2 max was quite good for someone age 46. My VO2 equivalent is 4,816 mL of oxygen (if I were 70 kg, like I was in the old days while running in college, that would be a VO2 max of 68.8, which is oddly the same number I scored when I did a VO2 max test on a bike when I was a junior at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. In March of that year, during spring break, I had surgery on both of my lower legs (calf muscles). I had very bad compartment syndrome, which is swelling in the compartments surrounding muscles. The on-campus doctors misdiagnosed the problem for a year, so by time they figured it out I was way beyond a point where simple therapy would rectify the problem. Following surgery, I was in casts for both legs at the same time for 6 weeks. It was really hard to get around campus in casts, I can tell you! I was late for nearly all my classes.
About 3 weeks post-surgery, I started riding a stationary bike in the athletic training room where the other athletes were getting treatment(s). It was really hard to bike with casts on, but I did it anyway because I had a hope of getting back into a couple of races before the outdoor track season was over. The trainer thought I was nuts/crazy for trying. My legs got really itchey with the sweat that built up between the casts and the cotton liner inside of them, covering my legs. A week after I got the casts off, I ran my first mile in 9:53 and laid on the grass exhausted. I couldn't believe how tough it was. That was on a Friday. I ran 1.5 and 2 miles over the weekend and improved. My legs were returning (two weeks later I ran a 4:23 for 1500m and a week later I ran 4:17).
A few days after I started running again, I volunteered to do a VO2 max test, which was on a Monarch bike (it is stationary, and the technician puts on a resistance weight for the flywheel according to the subjects (my) body weight and then adds more resistance as the test goes on. I was hooked up to a mask with a hose that was connected to a Siemen's gas analyzer. The analayzer measured my air volume (ventilation), the amount of oxygen I was inhaling through the one-way valve and how much oxygen was in my exhalations. Hence, the fraction of oxygen absorbed was multiplied by the total ventilation volume of air and subtracted from the original value to figure out how much O2 my body was absorbing while exercising. I did well on the test and scored a 68 and change (I think it was 68.8 or 68.6, one of the two). The odd thing is that my cycling VO2 max was higher than my previous running VO2 max. According to Mr. Tesch, the brilliant lab director, I was on par with some top cyclists he had measured in the lab, though certainly not elite. I imagined that had I trained in cycling my VO2 max might have reach 15% higher. Maybe!
Anyway, yesterday, when I retested my number, I was glad to see a some improvement and VO2 equivalent values that would put me at a good competitive level. I first did a 90-second test to see what my anaerobic capacity was, and I rode 550 watts. But, I really had no idea what I could do, so I underestimated what I could do the first minute. I was about 510 watts thorugh the 60 seconds mark, and then I rode in the 600s after that. I soft pedaled (this was yesterday) for 6 minutes to get rid of fatigue, but I really recovered quickly - say 3 or 4 minutes, and so the 7-minute test that followed went well. Again, however, I underestimated what I could do. I averaged 462 Watts, though my first 3 minutes were a 444.44 watts average and the last 4 minutes were a 475 watts average. My equivalent VO2 in milliliters is 5,683.6. If I were 70kg, that would be sweet, and my relative VO2 max would be 81.19. That would make me world class. I'm way overweight, so I am just 58.17 mls.kg.min. In truth, I just dont think I could possible get down to my college weight, even if I was 100% disciplined about eating and I increased my exercise rate from about 2 hours of training per week to 10 hours per week. I think maybe 77 kg is about as low as I could go, which would put me at 73.8 for relative VO2 max. I wish I could knock 30 years off my body and start over as a teenager in cycling and live somewhere warm - like California - where I could train year-round. Who knows what could have happened for me?
At a 73.8 relative VO2 max (milliliters per kilogram per minute of work) would equate to a velocity at VO2 max of 351.43 meters per minute, which is 2:50.73 per kilometer or 4:34.76 per mile. That's the pace I could hold for 7 minutes. If I could convert the potential for cycling (if my weight were in-check) to running, my equivalent 5k time would be 14:49.64. However, presently my weight is too high, so the equivalent is 18:31.69 for 5,000m (at 58.13 mls.kg.min.).