This past weekend 5 members of the Olathe Subaru Cycling team headed up to Truman State University in Kirksville, MO for some performance testing. We also got to do some exploring around the local roads and eat a lot of awesome food.
Friday – Pre Test Day Hammerfest
The weekend kicked off Friday afternoon with a little bike ride. Grant, Scott, and myself all headed over to Michael’s house for a 4 hour ride at what we thought would be a casual pace. Knowing there was performance testing to be done the next day this seemed logical. As we were getting ready for the ride Michael informed us he had some threshold intervals on his schedule – because why not?
During the initial few minutes of the first interval I was hurting and really wanted to quit, but once we found our flow it was too much fun to worry about the pain in my legs or tomorrow’s test. Michael didn’t have his power meter so my job was to sit in his draft help him keep the wattage in the right zone, adding a fun dynamic to each effort. There isn’t much draft in the tailwind sections so Scott, Grant, and I all got plenty of work staying on Michaels wheel.
We were all a little cooked after the ride but it was totally worth it even if it impacted our results the following day. Riding bikes is all about having fun and we did a good job of that. After cleaning up and pounding some Chipotle we loaded up the car and started the 3+ hour drive northeast to Kirksville. We ended up getting into Kirksville around 10:30 which wasn’t too bad. We meant to leave a lot earlier but Ian…
Saturday – Part 1: Performance Testing
Our host for the weekend was Dr. Brian Snyder, a member of our sister team GP VeloTek and exercise science professor at the University. In the morning Brian and his wife, Carrie, cooked an awesome breakfast. They made pancakes, some sort of magically delicious sweet potato hash, sausage, muffins, eggs, and coffee. This was the perfect fuel we needed to crush the tests.
After breakfast we sat around to talk shop and let our food digest before loading up the cars and driving over to the Truman State University performance lab.
The first phase in all the testing was to do the DXA scans. For those of you not familiar, DXA is a full body x-ray that gives a very accurate breakdown of your body composition and bone density. We all learned a couple of interesting things during this:
- We all have good bone density – not something any of us were too concerned about but still nice to know.
- We are all a little ‘fatter’ then we initially thought. This isn’t to say that we have a ton of fat to lose, just that commonly available forms of measurement (calipers, bioelectrical impedance, bod pods, etc) all tend to under-estimate body fat %. For example, my skin caliper measurements have always shown 5-6% body-fat and my bioelectrical impedance scale (Tanita) has always shown 8-9%. The DEXA scan put me at 12.4%. The plus side to knowing this data is that I can safely lose more weight body-fat and get faster uphill without compromising performance – assuming I lose that fat in a smart way.
The second phase of testing was the VO2max test. We were all a little nervous about this one, in part because the entire team is watching but mostly because we wanted to do well.
Basically how it works is you strap on some head gear that has a tube connected to a machine and your mouth. This tube measures every ounce of air that goes in or out of your lungs, more formally known as the respiratory exchange ratio. We used a 3 minute step protocol that gradually ramps up the intensity.
To start the test you begin around your tempo wattage. At first being forced to breath through a tube is really uncomfortable and gave a couple of us a little anxiety, but once you get past the first 30-60 seconds that goes away. Then, every 3 minutes you kick up the intensity until your exertion level and numbers start to indicate the end is near. Once you start getting close to the end the person running the test tells you to hit it hard like the final lap of a race and then hang on as long as you can. We all made it around 9-10 minutes before hitting the wall.
I won’t share any of our top secret numbers – just trust me when I say we all have the potential to go very fast.
The final test was the Wingate. This is a measure of our anaerobic ability, both in terms of maximal power and fatigue resistance. It’s only 30 seconds of sprinting but it feels like 4 times that length. You begin by spinning up your cadence as fast as possible (175+ rpm for most of us) then hitting a button to apply the resistance. Once you apply the resistance it starts hurting almost immediately – then you find out you’re only 10 seconds in. Around the 15 second mark you think it should be over. With 10 seconds to go you think you’re barely putting out any power and with 5 seconds to go you’re barely getting the pedals to turn.
Saturday – Part 2: Exploring Kirksville
After testing was complete we went back to Brian’s house. We were met with a huge lunch spread that Carrie put together for us while we were testing. We needed to get on the road before it got too late so we ate a ton of food as quickly as possible then kitted up and started riding.
On the way out we met up with some of the local riders who would be joining us. It was good to have some company especially since the flats heading south out of town were all into a headwind. After an hour or so our riding partners turned back and we continued on.
The next section of road heading south then turning west is definitely on my top 10 list of awesome roads. Super scenic, winding, flowing rolling that were never crazy steep, and just enough rough pavement to keep me on my toes. I couldn’t help but ride fast so we ended up getting a little pace-line action going that turned into a breakaway/chase style effort with Michael, Ian, and myself off the front and Garrick, Scott, and Brian chasing. So much fun!
After the fun rolling section the roads started to get really hilly. Non-stop big rollers that started to really hurt after a while. A couple of us where feeling the days events so we calmed it down a bit from here and kept it steady the remainder of the ride into town.
While the actual pavement isn’t the best – the scenic roads, unique terrain, and low traffic makes it totally worth exploring if you’re ever up that direction. We were all on the same page thinking it would be a wicked place for a road race.
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After our ride we got back to Brian’s for one final feast. Carrie made a Chipotle style buffet that was absolutely amazing. After dinner we had to get packed up and head home before it got too late.
A huge thanks to Brian Snyder and his students for taking us through the performance testing and showing us your local stomping grounds. A second huge thanks to Brian and his wife Carrie for hosting us for the weekend and feeding a team of hungry bike racers. That’s no easy feat!