Like most people I suppose, I was never fond of test day in school.  Even if I knew the material and would likely get a good score, it was only about getting a grade.  Crossing another class off the list.  Never about understanding or long term retention.  After my last exam in college, it was so cool to know it was over for the testing.  Except for the two tests for my engineering license.

Funny thing though, is that now I test myself daily.  Really.  Because a test is no longer some dreaded thing that proves I am barely passable; it is a tool that tells me if what I am doing is working.  If I practice / train / study, and I don’t show positive results on my testing, then I’M DOING IT WRONG!  No more discussion, start doing it differently.

So how do I test myself?  Actually several ways.  I use an SRS (spaced repetition system) for learning Spanish and Russian.  The software I use, Supermemo, isn’t necessarily the easiest but give lots of cool statistics on the learning process. Charlie sometimes likes to help, but usually preferrs to attack my mouse hand.

 I do ear training exercises and log my results in a spreadsheet.  And of course there is the running, biking and swimming.

For biking I have a computrainer that links my bike with my computer for real time measurement of power, heart rate, rpm…  It even shows the balance of torque between left and right legs.  Right up my alley.  Tonight I decided to do an anaerobic threshold test on the bike so that I can have a benchmark to gauge the effectiveness of my training over the next few months.

This test starts out at 50 watts and the load increases by 20 watts every 2 minutes.  During the test I maintain pedal rpm and gearing.  At the beginning there is little effort required and the load increases are almost imperceptibly.  After a few minutes I realize I am breathing a lot harder, beginning to sweat.  The test progresses into sweating buckets, heart pounding and legs screaming. When does it end?  At failure, when I can no longer continue.

The results never cease to intrigue me.  While exercising aerobically, there is a linear relationship between heart rate and power output.  Just like driving a car in one gear, rpm ≈ speed.  But then you hit the threshold where output increases yet heart rate stays the same.  This is the point where the body changes from aerobic to anaerobic.  The relevant thing here is that once you cross this point, you will be slowing down very soon.  The key to running your best marathon is to know where this point is, and run just below it for the entire race.

So for me, right now, aat on the bike is somewhere 245 watts.  Certainly not elite ironman material, but that isn’t relevant, its where I am today.  It is solely up to me if I want to move this number to the left or to the right.

I told one of my coworkers I wanted to get a kit to measure lactate, then run intervals at descending pace, taking blood samples every quarter mile.  She suggested I might be taking this a little too far.  Perhaps, but what else am I going to do, watch tv?

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