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I Am a Guinea Pig!

Aug. 22, 2012

by The Rabin Law Firm

I got asked by local tri trainer, who is doing a study on exercise (they won’t give me the details until after it is over), to be part of an experiment. I will travel to SUNY Cortland a few times and undergo some tests on a stationary bike. The tests involve a VO2 max test (which I don’t really understand, but MUST do, because every real athlete talks about it and has one) and some other “maximum effort” tests. He says you must be willing to go all out, and endure pain and discomfort, or the test won’t work. I’m in!!!

I already went for the VO2 max test, which involves getting a mask strapped to my face, like a fighter pilot, and then riding the bike while the resistance gets cranked up each minute until I simply can’t pedal anymore. But, if I stop too early (if I quit mentally before physically) then the test won’t work. I’m in!!!

So, I’m in this laboratory, with machines, computers, guys with clipboards and heart rate monitors and a large TV screen with my performance data on it, for all to see (including me. Can you imagine? Like a mirror in the bedroom, except I’m not proud of my biking abilities). I’m still in! But I start to wonder – why?

The mask goes on, and I start “easy” pedaling, and right away I can’t breath. I become sure the “real” test is how quickly a subject passes out from a mask that delivers NO oxygen! And then the resistance goes up more and more, and my mind can’t decide which is worse – the fake mask, designed to suffocate me, or the getting really hard to pedal thing. I’m still in – in pain and discomfort (as promised) and really? I WANTED to do this?

A few more minutes and I’m dying here – I just want to rip this thing off my face and BREATH. Oh, and also stop shoving my burning legs around in circles against what must surely be Tour de France hill climb levels of resistance. But then for the first time it occurs to me – OTHER people do this test, and what if they make it longer than me? I can’t quit! I’m still in!!

During this whole test, which lasted approximately 3 hours or 11 minutes, depending on whether you go by my internal clock or the 9 timing devices that are part of the experiment, I have some guy shoving a clipboard in my face, asking me to rate things like comfort level, arousal (no, not that kind), and level of exertion. I can barely see the chart through the sweat and mask, and my brain is having enough trouble just telling my legs to keep moving much less answer annoying questions about how I feel when I clearly feel REALLY bad. I’m sure one of my responses to the poor guy involved the F word.

Finally, as the resistance goes up one more time, I simply can’t do it anymore. The legs, no matter what I do, just won’t push those pedals around. And I can’t breath! I stop, and, after the mask gets removed, I glance around expecting to see the amazed look in the wondering eyes of the scientists who surely must be in shock at the astonishing (and better than everyone else’s) effort that I just put forth, because I MUST have been the best so far. But nothing. They write things on those *^%$#!@ clipboards, put away equipment, and suggest I warm down a bit. Really? That’s it? No clapping? No congratulations? I don’t even get a “thank you” from anyone!

I have a some time to consider what I’ve done, and will be doing, while I’m driving home, and realize . . . nothing. Except that there are 2 more days of this left. And maybe this will help somehow with IMLP. And I’m still in!