I was told it existed by the likes of Prof Tim Noakes and Ross Tucker who recon that something in our brain is the true limiter to our athletic performance and not the size of our calf muscles!
So with this in mind I signed up for some research at the Sports Science Institute of SA. In fact the test took a little longer than anticipated due to one of the machines breaking (ok, ok not my fault at all- I promise). My last week’s training ended with a rather heavy session on Sunday so I was not very optimistic sitting in my car in the car park Monday evening. I figured mind over matter would have to do in posting a half decent effort as I strode into reception.
A quick weigh in (73 kg) like a boxer going into a title fight and then suddenly I stood on the treadmill. Under 20 mins is all that it would take to see where this Mr Central Governor was hiding. Theresa switched the dinosaur on and I kicked my legs into motion. A short walk, then the angle and pace increased. Ok keep the cadence up, nice and relaxed, another 3 mins passed and the incline went up again and so did the pace. Still easy, no time to get distracted though! Legs comfortable, breathing ok despite the rubber mask. The tube making a regular clunk as it swung around and hit the safety railing. No swerving now! Concentrate on staying on the belt. Stay relaxed, breathe easy. Stage four and Theresa all of a sudden became more animated cheering me on. I almost felt like I was doing quite well but nothing was happening yet. Mr CG was nowhere to be seen.
Bang! Seconds later there he was. Out of the blue. Nobody else could see him but he smacked me so hard that I had to dig to keep it going and not just bail there and then. All of a sudden I was falling a little bit back on the treadmill. Dam it pick up the pace to not fall off the back of this thing. Momentarily I thought I had regained control but it was only an illusion. He hit me again. It was so hard to keep going. I could hardly think it was happening so quick. Theresa (as the only spectator to my suffering) was very encouraging and certainly made me feel like I was beating Usain down the last few meters with her cheers.
I am not sure what happened but in a millisecond I doubted and questioned and then the invisible thread was gone and I could not hang on anymore. Grabbing the safety rail, sitting down and having the mask taken off my face I sat there gasping.
As soon as it was all over I wondered if I could not have hung on for a second longer. I guess that is the beauty of this test. I felt stuffed for the rest of that evening. In fact I woke up on Freedom Day and dragged my duvet in front of the TV to have a cup of tea and regroup. I felt exhausted and my body was sore. Just going onto the www the voyeur in me had to look up my values (VO2 Max: 59, Max HR: 182):
So some geek recons a 1:19 half marathon and a sub 3 marathon should be theoretically doable. Hmm…
One thing is for sure: if I ever want to do battle with Mr Central Governor again I know where to find him.
Seriously though I can recommend this test to anyone and I am proud to be part of some research that may help us train better in the future – even if it means spending less time doing hills but more time on a couch (a shrinks one that is).