Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The indignity of riding indoors

Shredding the Savoie- Photo Dave Martin

Of late I have been very fortunate to ride in some amazing places. Only a month ago I was in France shredding endless lift accessed descents on my trail bike. After a week in Morzine I got my enduro on at the Trans-Savoie which were both a great introduction to the alps. Life without 4000m of descent a day was always going to be a tough transition, so to fill the gap Heidi and I went slightly north to Newcastle for the HuRT, a tough course which pushed the boundaries of fun. It rewarded perseverance with some of the ‘best trails ever’ and memories of the endless hike-a-bike have already begun to fade.

AK & Ollie at the start of the HuRT- Photo Brad Mertens
In the context of these recent adventures I can’t expect much sympathy for my current predicament. You see for the last week I’ve been trapped in the confines of Port Moresby’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. The only chance I get to escape the musty air-conditioned atmosphere is on the dash between lobby and car, or car and office.  I’m forced to breathe recycled air mixed with people’s flatulence, and this has the combined effect of crushing my spirit.

One redeeming feature of the Crowne is its gym which features amongst other well used equipment, treadmills, stationary bikes and a rowing machine. While I’m the first to scoff at people who flock to gyms for spin class despite glorious outdoor sun, I’ve been forced to reconsider my position in light of the strict constraints that PNG poses.

First amongst these is the security situation. While often blown out of proportion by news media and security briefings, the fact remains that Port Moresby has one of the highest crime rates in the world. While I place a high value on fresh air, it isn’t worth getting shanked over! We can’t safely walk the streets, hence the need for a car escort wherever we go. Time constraints are also a factor, with the long days of a World Bank mission schedule I’m forced to squeeze any Ollie time into the early morning hours.

With an outlook like this, I decided that rather than an easy session on the treadmill and bike, I might as well make the most of the situation and incorporate some suffering, the type that you can only get from stationary machines in poorly ventilated gyms. My regime was to start with a run, putting in some 1 and 2 minute intervals down whilst trying not to drown in my own perspiration. I’d then move to the bike, where a set of 1 minutes efforts reduced me to a dizzy and drenched wreck.

Scary post workout selfie
I’d finish exhausted but slightly elated. The sessions have been a good reminder how much of the enjoyment from exercise comes from the sheer exertion.

Technogym's finest indoor model
The so called stationary bikes bear little resemblance to the beautiful machines they are supposed to model. The features of the Technogym include a saddle large enough to seat a hippopotamus (or the target American demographic fatty). This forced a forward pedaling stance which was far from comfortable. Handlebar rise of almost a foot required a posture normally reserved for the most upright of adjustable stem equipped hybrid bikes. The heartrate monitor couldn’t decide whether I was flat lining or at maxing out, so I largely ignored it and the occasional warning about unsafe HR. Finally, lag on the resistance that meant I could pedal for 10 seconds before I felt any change.

There were however a few redeeming features, namely a serious range of resistance which my puny legs didn’t dare push beyond level 18 of 25, with a sensation similar to riding through treacle resistance enough. Perhaps the best feature (especially in light of the rubbish heart rate measurement) was a power readout, and this allowed me to repeat my intervals with precision (although probably not accuracy). I’ve always wanted to train with a power meter and while the bike itself was far from a dream, it was nice to have.

Filter added to simulate dizziness. Note 'awesome' features.
So this is how I maintained my sanity for my week working in PNG. Safe to say I’m looking forward to returning home where the security situation means I can hit the streets without fear of shanking. Makes me feel pretty lucky, and that is even before I think about the awesome roads and trails around Sydney.
Wonder if I could take it back to Sydney?

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