Here comes the science bit

I can see my house from here! Nearly.

I fancied doing something different yesterday.

Nothing too outlandish; After careful consideration, I don’t think the world’s quite ready to see me hurtling naked through town on stilts while singing Hi Ho Silver Lining. For starters, I couldn’t “hurtle” if my life depended on it.

No, the “something different” I chose was something a little more conventional, and more than 77% less stilty. I decided to have a little go at the bleep test.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of the bleep test, it goes as follows…

  1. Line up on the start line when the well-spoken chap on the bleep test CD tells you to. He’s got quite a stern voice, and as the bleep test has a peculiar habit of striking fear into some people’s hearts I have, over time, developed a bit of a back story for him, just to take the edge off a bit*.
  2. When the bleep sounds, run to the other line. Yep, there are two lines. And they say there’s a recession on! The distance between the lines is 15 metres – well, it is on the version we use at least. I know the more common one is 20 metres, but with a different amount of time between bleeps, so the two tests are pretty much on a par with each other.
  3. You need to make it to the other side by the time each bleep sounds, and as the levels increase the bleeps get closer together.
  4. Keep going for as long as you can.
  5. There are a few other rules, but they’re far too dull for a thrilling seat-of-your-pants blog like this. Ahem.
  6. That last one didn’t really warrant its own bullet point.
  7. Neither did that one.

The thing that makes the bleep test difficult isn’t so much the running itself; it’s more about the turns, constantly accelerating and decelerating every few seconds. In fact, I’ve just had a look, and to get to level 21 you will have run just under 5k in a total time of 22 minutes. A fair proportion of serious runners** can easily knock out a 5k run in that time, often dressed as Bananaman or pushing a wheelbarrow, and yet level 21 of the bleep test is said to be achievable by only the most elite of athletes. This tells me just one thing – Turns are nasty.

So anyway, I had the gym at work all to myself yesterday, so decided in my new “variety is the spice of running” mindset to do the bleep test. My previous PB was somewhere in the level 7’s but I thought I’d just have a go and see how far I could get. To cut a long story short (well, a short story even shorter really) I managed to get to level 9.1 before my furry little legs and my fiery little lungs decided to gang up on me and call it a day. After a few seconds rest I played with the test for a bit longer, turning it into a quick interval session by running for a couple of bleeps and then resting for a bleep. I kept these shenanigans up until Nigel*** kindly informed me that it was level 12 and probably time to stop being silly. Well, he didn’t actually say that last bit, being a pre-recorded voice and all, but you could tell from his tone of voice that he was implying it.

Now that I’ve secured a shiny new bleep PB, I might as well build it into my weekly training schedule (when I actually get round to writing one). It doesn’t take long, leaving plenty of time for a foam roller session or a spot of kettlebelling, and it might even satisfy my hunger for stats and targets so I can then just settle back and enjoy my other runs for the rest of the week.

Apparently, the purpose of the bleep test is to determine a persons VO2 Max. I say “apparently” because I’m basing this on what I’ve been told by people who know far more about this sort of thing than me. I assumed that VO2 Max was some sort of haircare product, which would at least explain why, while my legs are still slow and heavy, my levels of nourishing Panthenol and Ceramide R have gone through the roof.

Running: Because I’m worth it.

PS: On an entirely unrelated note, I thought I’d share the high point of todays LSR. I’d just passed the halfway point and found myself at the top of a hill in a residential area on the outskirts of town. Turning to take in the view I spotted a familiar landmark that was waaaaaaaay over in the distance, right on the horizon. It took a few moments to get my head around the fact that that spot was where I’d started my run. My Garmin told me that I’d covered just over 4 miles, but from this vantage point my starting point seemed a world away. It was a funny old moment, humbling and inspiring in equal measures, and carried me through the rest of the run on a sweaty high. As runners,  I think we get used to seeing our mileage on a map or a GPS display, and it’s easy to get detached from the significance of those distances. Whether it’s one mile or 10, or even a hundred, the fact that we’re getting out there and covering them is in itself pretty damn awesome.

*Nigel, 47, from Kent. Spent most of his adult life in the agricultural insurance business, but harboured a dream of being a costume designer for the Cirque De Soleil. A frugal man by nature, his only indulgence was to set aside £3 of his wages every week to spend on sequins, which he stored in shoe boxes under the spare bed. His wife Diane, who he met on a ghost-hunting tour of the Norfolk Broads, knew nothing of his dreams and the two drifted apart in 2006. The final nail in the coffin of their marriage came when Diane vacuumed his entire collection into dusty oblivion during a vigorous spring clean, failing to tell him until after bin day. She said it had been an accident, but the doubt was too much for Nigel and he left, never to return.
His spangly dreams in tatters, Nigel started to lose focus on his day job, to the point where one gloomy Wednesday he was called into his manager’s office and told that his services were no longer required. Destitute, he spent the next three years living in an abandoned windmill, his only companion being a squirrel who visited occasionally. Mr Nutty spent many an hour watching Nigel quizzically as it nibbled on an acorn, and this gentle companionship was all that kept him going during these dark days. Deep down, Nigel knew that it was likely that it wasn’t actually the same squirrel the whole time, especially given the habit that Mr Nutty had of changing colour and size and of sometime being a badger. But it was enough, and eventually Nigel found the strength to move on. His epiphany came one autumn morning when he spotted two runners on the bridle path that passed by his makeshift home. He overheard their breathless conversation, in which they were bemoaning the lack of beeping in their daily runs, and as they jogged into the distance one said to the other “and I wish there was a bit more turning too”. “And counting”, said her friend.
That very day, Nigel sold his collection of stuffed squirrels and used the money to buy some basic recording equipment. Just a few short hours later, his work was done, and Mr Nigel Bleeptest was finally about to make his mark on the world.
Nigel still lives in Kent, where he spends his time walking his two chocolate Labradors, Spangle and Nutty. He is a keen mime and a budding saxophonist.
**I am not one of these.
***If you’re wondering who Nigel is, you obviously haven’t read the first asterisk thingy. Which begs the question – why are you reading this one?

I bet HE uses VO2 Max


3 thoughts on “Here comes the science bit

  1. Impressed, as I always am by your witterings, err I mean writings (damn autocorrect!) two questions are raised:
    1. Can you walk on stilts
    2. What happens if you end up with fiery legs & furry lungs?

  2. Ugh. The bleep test was the bane of my life at school. I assume I can’t have been the only one who just ran until a sufficient number of people had dropped out so that I didn’t look like the most unfit kid in the class. But I read this and thought ‘hmm, sounds interesting, maybe I should try the bleep test again’. Must be a good post! Or I’ve forgotten what torture it was…

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