Hell in a half minute.

I’m doing this ETS program for cycling development at the Talisman Centre. ETS stands for Endurance Training Systems, and the program involves measuring the athlete’s power output in watts through a special kind of stationary bike trainer. I signed up for it because it seemed like a pretty good way to stay motivated, keep pedalling through the winter, and make suer my recently repaired knee stayed strong. If I neglect it for too long, my poor left leg will start to atrophy away and I’ll be limping around again like I was 4 years ago, when I did the same thing to the right knee.

The first class involved doing an erg test, or ergonometer test. The point is to get your max wattage over a 3 minute time trial. You then rest for 12 minutes, and go ahead and do a 30 minute test.  Your coach crunches the numbers and you end up getting a personalized chart of your own specific training zones, form 1-4. Very scientific. You can know, 100%, exactly how hard you can go and still stay within your aerobic threshold. Very handy. Very grueling.

The time trials are hell. You start out in a gear that feels not too bad, feels powerful. You want to push yourself as hard as you can, so that your chart is accurate. The three minute one isnt bad as long as you don’t start out too hard, but the 30 minute one? You know after about 6 minutes if you’re gonna make it. If you go out too hard, you blow up, crack, and can’t finish. You end up unclipping, getting off the bike, and going for a walk. Or puking, which is pretty common.

For the last 2 minutes of the 30 second time trial, I was very, very tempted to shift my chain off the bike, or tip over, or anything so that I could stop. There’s no coasting, and absolutely no hiding. You just gotta keep going and it’s fucking hell, your body is in a type of shock. This type of training is as neurological as much as physical. You are teaching your system to suffer and how to cope with it, so next time you can take it just that margain further.

But never have I experienced such an eternity in someone counting down from ten. There’s just this white hot light behind your eyes and your heart pounding like hell in your ears as the guy calls out in slow motion…t-e-n……n-i-n-e…..e-i-g-h-t…..and everyone is just gritting their teeth and totally bloodshoot grinding out the last seconds. I felt like a astronaut, totally glued to the sound of this guys voice for that time-frame – it was like holding onto a white hot stove element, but the cool thing is I actually totally loved it, and I know for sure I wasnt the only person in the class that did. I can’t wait to do it again.

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