Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dropping Science: Part 1

There is a lot of scientific research that goes into cycling, including materials, technique, and physiology. And while some of this research is motivated by trying to make a new product to make the heirs of the Trek fortune slightly wealthier, lots of it addresses how our bodies respond to cycling and what we can do to keep them working as effectively as possible. So when I read that cyclists need to intake X amount of Y for every hour of exercise, I've been curious to find out where these numbers come from and how they apply to me. So to add some insight to this, I've been participating in a couple of clinical research studies. Yes, I've been playing human guinea pig. 

When I explain this to people (particularly people who do not write on cycling-related blogs), the following conversation typically ensues:
Me: "So I'm participating in this exercise science experiment."
Friend: "Huh, really? How much do you get paid to do that?"
Me: "Um, nothing."
Friend: "Nothing? Why are you doing it?"
Me: "For SCIENCE."
Friend: "You're an idiot."

Yes, so, as the first part of this series, I'll try to explain why I thought this would be a good idea.
1) For the benefit of Science. 
I work in the sciences, so I realize the importance of collaboration. So when I can help out a fellow scientist, well, how can I refuse?
2) For the benefit of cyclists.
When I watch those Gatorade commercials about how they tested it on University of Florida football players, I kinda feel bad for those players. I mean, regular, old school flavors taste like sweat, watered-down with generic orange drink, so I can only imagine that the prototype was even worse. Think of the poor dudes who had the formulation with too much salt. Or the dudes who had the formulation with not enough carbs. Or the dudes who had the formulation that contained natural alligator colors and flavors. We should salute these athletes. We should salute the persons who tested Heinz formulas 1-56. We should salute the unknown souls who tested Preparations A through G. We should salute the choosy mothers who didn't choose Jif. We should salute the people who tried, but were not satisfied with Pabst's red ribbon-winning brew and told those master brewers what they needed to do to improve it.
3) For my own motivation.
Some folks feel inspired by wearing the team kit of their favorite rider. Some folks feel inspired riding a pro-level race bike. Some folks have posters of their favorite rider winning a race or a grand tour stage. But the image I always conjure up in my mind is a rider in some lab somewhere, with a bunch of electrodes hooked up to them, maybe a tube in their mouth, suffering terribly, with a bunch of white-coated scientists looking on. This is hardcore. This, for some sick reason, is motivational.
4) For my own training.
An hour on the trainer at high intensity is an hour well spent. Which is to say, an hour on the trainer is a stupid and miserable experience. We ride bikes to get outside and have fun. And riding a trainer indoors satisfies neither of these virtues. However, it is an investment in making that time spent outdoors more enjoyable. Fitter. Faster. Feistier. Well, that's the theory, at least.
5) For my own science.
Knowledge is power. And I need to increase my power output. I figure, if I can figure out in all of this little factors like when, specifically, I need to eat and what I need to eat during a race, it could make a big difference. I don't really care what the sample population does. I want to figure out how I tick. 

And so we begin. In the next episode, The Experiment.


DukePirate said...

Your science: it blinds me.

DukePirate said...

Every time I glance at the title to this post I see "Doping Science." It's possible that the current state of professional cycling (and professional sports broadly, it should be noted) has got me a little jaded.