Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Am I'm a doper too?

First off, I have to say I have NO IDEA why blogger is eating comments (I looked around and can't even FIND any type of settings that I could change that would effect the comments, other than to have the comments at the bottom of the post, or in a pop-up-window like over at Jill's.

Possibly they are too LONG? It seems to have taken the cut-in-half version...I'll keep poking around and see if I can find some 'rules' that might explain things. Anyway, welcome back Susie...in a big way! Was wondering when you'd grace us with some nice long crispy rants. Good to have you back in form!

OK...enough on that....Let me lay the background for today's post. Gary (one of the guys I work with, who is an AVID cyclist, and is also just a bit over 10 years older than I am) has been taking those "5 hour energy" drinks before his rides for some time now. I remember he tried one sometime last year, and liked it. He has been rather hooked on them ever since....and sometimes he even drinks one early in the morning (he's NOT a morning person) just to hang in there at work. ANYWAY...lately he has been reporting that his heartrate has been going OVER 200 beats per minute on his rides (his MAX is around 166). Now, I have a MAX hr of 185, and I'm coming up FAST on 51 years old. He turns 62 this Sept, and is on blood thinners and other stuff (has had a stroke in his past). I told him I thought there was no way he ACTUALLY hit over 200 bpm.

Well, on last Thursday's ride he was riding strong ( but says he feels odd, and can feel it) when he reported he was over 200 again. He was wearing TWO different heartrate monitors. I thought it must be still somehow in err...so I timed him a few times, 10 seconds while he did a manual 'count' on his cartoid. He claimed it was well over 30 beats, and he couldn't count them fast enough. So it appears he was right. I thought it was pretty scary, however on our final climb of the night he was right with Alex and I as we fought up the last steep long climb. Which is not in his typical realm...he's NOT a climber. He excels on the flats, and goes downhill pretty fast (cuz he outweighs me...and gravity wins every time). I only own him on the climbs...the longer/steeper the better for me.

But I digress. Today he pulled out his last 3 bottles of this liquid gold and said he doesn't want to take anymore, cuz he is afraid. I thought that was a good idea, so I took them. (note: I've taken a few of the 'regular' 5 hour energy drinks last year sometime when Gary was starting to be hooked, and thought I could tell some small diff, but nothing earth-shattering). Well, these are the EXTRA STRENGTH version he's been getting lately. So...in an experiment I decided to take one for tonight's ride. Overall, Gary, Alex and I are pretty close. I rule the climbs, Gary owns the flats, and Alex is pretty much an all arounder (he can out-sprint me almost every time, as well as climb just as well on any given day).

IF we were to actually race out in the REAL world, what class would we be you might be asking yourslef?

Cat 1/2? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Uhm, no.

Cat 3/4? YeahNO.

Cat 5? Don't think so.

Cat 6? (is this an actual class?) Uhm, not that either, if there IS such a thing I'm afraid.

Cat NAP? YES! That's it! We are Cat Nap division racers.

So....now that we have that settled, I told them both I was taking it for tonights ride, as an experiment (drank it at 2pm, ride time is 3pm). Road conditions: today was our usual wind of late: 20 PLUS mph sustained. Though it was in the mid 60's so it wasn't so bad overall.

We met Alex out on the road as usual and immediately turned directly into the wind. Very quickly both Gary and Alex decided the best option was to let me tire myself out and see how I'd do, so from the start I ended up in the lead with them tucked close behind. The wind was HOWLING strong, and I was feeling quite good actually. I pulled and pulled and pulled, and pulled and pulled and pulled...and pulled some more. An hour and a half later we had made the turnaround point: at 21.4 miles. And I pulled the entire way, and was feeling GREAT! I religiously monitor my heartrate as I ride, and on this leg I only climbed into the 160's a few times. Our average speed was only 14.4 mph, which in the face of that wind, well, there was NO WAY ON EARTH I should have been able to make that pull. I should have buried myself not even halfway to the turnaround, but it didn't' happen. They were rather astounded, as they both kept thinking I'd pull over any time and drop to the back and rest. I was quite astounded myself (and thrilled!). So THIS is what it feels like to be strong! (of course, it's all relative. I was strong in our little group. I'd get KILLED by any really good riders).

But now is the time that I would find out just how strong I really was tonight. Typically after this turnaround, I suffer greatly to hang on as the pace really picks up with the tailwind, and Gary just slaughters me on the rolling flats for the next 5 miles (until we get to the first big climb). Not today...he did pull out in front but I just sat back about 50 yards and let him run, keeping the gap manageable. My legs felt great and I knew that on any one of the small climbs I'd catch him easily if I wanted. The wind was holding around 22 to 23mph (you can tell cuz with the tailwind, at 22/23mph it was dead quiet... you can easily hear the singing of the tires on the pavement and can chat in a normal voice). My heartrate was still much lower than I'd expect for the work I knew that I was doing. By the time we hit the first climb, poor Alex was dropping off our pace. Gary was still quite strong and paced the hill for about the first half. Then he was done and dropped back FAST ("he's going BACKWARDS now" Phil would be saying). I just held my 'easy' pace and didn't crush them even though I felt like I could have (bad for morale). We got to the top and I took the lead, with Gary by my side. He WAS feeling quite froggy tonight, even dope-free! I was rather impressed and told him so, and that's when he remarked that neither he nor Alex did ANY work the first 21 miles other than to hold my wheel.

From that point on Gary was fighting for the lead on any flat sections, and poor Alex was in back, watching the 2 dopers riding away from him. A couple of climbs and descents later we are at the final climb. I dropped them both like a bad habit (you MUST show your strength on the final climb if you've got it) and then we started a fast flat 10 mile lap around the base runway. The pavement is almost entirely new and we have a tailwind for the big long stretch. It was a BLAST! We saw a 'rabbit' ahead when we turned onto the long straightaway, and Alex groaned as Gary and I were both chirping with delight at our luck! CATCH THE RABBIT! (it's a guy thing I believe...we are genetically wired for the hunt I think... so we MUST catch or die trying).

Well...it was a young guy on a road bike, and we flat out BLEW by him...scared him actually! I thought he knew we were coming as he was trying to accelerate as we were coming up on him...but as I pulled (however briefly) alongside I said "howdy" and he almost veered off the road! I shouted back that I was sorry I startled him, but we were pulling away FAST! He immediately gave chase (that is also genetically wired..we get passed, we catch-up or die trying).  He was no match for a couple of old dopers though I have to say. I picked up our pace and we were just sizzling along, and we even dropped poor Alex off the back in our quest to crush the rabbit. But it couldn't be helped (as Gary said: I threw him under the bus). We had a statement to make, and we did just that. The 'kid' fought valiantly but Alex also kept away until the 'kid' finally sat up, knowing he was whipped. As soon as he sat up I slowed our pace, and Alex soon caught back on. The rabbit was vanquished in a big way...he was completly out of sight in my tiny mirrors already. And finally, the last 'small' climb...with a sprint point at the top! I made my jump when I knew I had a good chance, and turns out I was the only one sprinting. Gary and Alex were done. I was still feeling pretty good, but now it was pretty much over. Alex veered off just past the sprint point, as we were back where we picked him up at, and Gary and I made our way the final couple of miles into a stiff crosswind back to our start.

If you were to ask me if the 5 hour energy drink had a NOTICEABLE effect, well, I'd have to say YES. It was liquid EPO, instant energy, all of that. But throughout the ride I had one nagging thought: what if it was all in my mind (the placebo effect)? How would I know? The mind is a very powerful weapon...if you THINK you are stronger, you are. Once you think you are beat, you are. The only caveat is that as hard as I pushed the entire ride, I didn't cramp once. And I am a notorious cramper when I over-do it. And I know when I'm getting close to the cramping point. Tonight I wasn't even CLOSE the entire ride... not a single twinge.

So...is the 5 hour energy drink (Extra Strength) a miracle-drug ? It's legal (as far as I know anyway..they sell them everywhere)...however I have no idea if I would pop positive on a WADA doping control...I'd say it's possible. Was it all in my mind? Some of both? I honestly can't answer that. Do I feel guilty about feeling SO great on our very hard ride? NOT EVEN A TINY BIT! Was it fair? Hmmm...that is a good one. That kind of depends on the answer to the question "did it TRULY help my performance?" And there'in lies the rub. From my "Joe plumber" perspective as a lowly recreational cyclist, it would be SO EASY to be addicted to feeling GREAT on the bike. Hey...it's over the counter...bought at Costco. So....do I pop one of these before every ride? That's what Gary has been doing most of the last year (until tonight, yet he had a pretty great ride himself, dope-free and a decade older). Will I do it again? Hmmm..another hard question.

THIS must be the very same dilemma (although on an exponentially lower scale) that the pro's must face. I can't imagine having to make that decision. It would be SO easy to justify it to yourself....that I can see. Hey...is it REALLY wrong? Who am I cheating? If THEY are on the same stuff, then I MUST do it to have a chance. That can't be wrong, it's only FAIR.

And so...I have to say I won't be rushing out to buy a 24 pack of this liquid awesomeness, but the urge is pretty strong to do just that. It would be SO EASY. I might consider some kind of a 'test' in the future to find out if it REALLY helps, or if it's all in the mind. I would have to find a way to have both real and fake ones, with only Jeannie knowing which is which. I'd prob have to mix it with something rather strong tasting so-as to not give away the fake one from the real one when I drink it. And then just make notes after each ride...how I feel, etc. And after a bunch of them, look at the results an find out if the rides I felt better on where the real stuff or not. And if it turns out that it IS only in my mind, then I just need to find a way to recreate THAT without actually drinking the stuff. If I could do THAT, well...then I'd have something. I'd say it might even be a book deal. Heck, I'd be a zillionaire.

But for now I'll just see if I can not suck too bad on future rides. And revel in the glory of tonight's awesome ride. I was THE MAN. And it was GREAT!


  1. What's wrong with using that stuff? Now, if you were in an official race, it might not be fair, but if it makes you feel better on the bike & able to exert more effort & MOST of all, have an even better time, I say go for it!

    And Matt, I always love your biking write-ups. ONLY you & Fatty have ever made regular cycling ride posts exciting & fun enough for me to read!

    Anyway, have a great time on the cruise! Will you be able to post or comment here while on the ship? That would be AWESOME.

  2. Barbara said...

    All that stuff makes my blood buzz. That's what it feels like to me. I get the feeling my heart is racing, but when I take my pulse, it's normal. That is just standing there. I've never tested it on a ride (or any other athletic pursuit).