Letter from Switzerland: Fitness Test

Hey Gang,

I am still in Geneva, and I am still trying to figure out where I am going when I am going somewhere. The maps they issued us are missing certain streets, and they always seem to be the streets that I need. My apartment is really nice. A one bedroom suite in the upper side of Geneva. Having visited other members of the teams digs, I have concluded that I did rather well.

Now the interesting stuff. They have been testing our strength and endurance levels for the past week. The first few sessions have left my body grieving for oxygen. The Europeans have a pretty good handle on how to test. Unfortunately my North American techniques for facilitating said tests don’t work here. So I have lost 3 kilograms and probably will lose some more before it’s done. This is a good thing.

Went mountain biking on Saturday with a few of the boys in France. We arrived at the base of the mountain and started to assemble our bikes. When I was done I turned around and noticed my buddies had put the full gear on: helmet, shin guards, flashy shirts and shorts, etc. My first thought was I better not get lost in the Alps.

Off we went and two hours later we arrived back at the cars, full of mud and sweat. The boys started to laugh at me. I inquired what was so funny, and they told me that the back tire on my mountain bike was a road tire--that’s why I had no traction. They noticed it before the hike, but decided not to let me know so as not to spoil the ride.

Any hoot, the ride was tough as heck, but the scenery was spectacular--I mean really breath taking (get it?). Chamonix in front and Mount Blanc to the side. I will buy a digital camera and send shots next time (also a good excuse for a rest).

Today I met the two Danish brothers who are our sports physicians. Nice chaps until the testing began. First they poked and prodded every part of my body. Thank god I signed my contract before this episode. Next was the cardiovascular testing. There were three of them in total.

First, it’s a grinding machine. We grind for 15 minutes just to warm up. Then it’s a 30 second full out test. I am a strong guy, but at the 15 second point I hit a wall and it was all I could do just to make it to the finish. The Danes then notify me that this is normal. So far so good.

Second, it’s a push-pull machine, standing up. You push and pull with all your might 5 times. Sounds easy. OK, it was easy, but standing while doing it was a little difficult. So far so good.

Third, the last test of the day. A treadmill, a hose, and a clothes pin. SH...! It’s the dreaded VO2 test. People, if you don’t know this one be warned now. RUN for YOUR LIFE. The Good Danish doctor has a treadmill hooked up to his computer to log all the information. The test begins by jogging on the treadmill at 8 km/hr for 15 minutes...OK I can do this. All the while you’re trying to look as if this easy, letting the doctor know you know your stuff... Then they stick a hose in your mouth and a close pin on your nose and hook you up with a heart gauge. The test is to start running while the GOOD Danish doctor increases the treadmill up to 18 km/hr. He tells you that when you have had enough just push the stop button. Sounds easy eh? Well let me tell you how I did it.

I started running at 6 km, then at the 2 minute mark I am going 8km’s--so far so good. Now at the 5 minute mark I’m whipping along at 10 km’s, at the 8 minute mark I am blazing along at 14 km’s. Now the real test begins! At 10 minutes I am doing an uncomfortable 16 km’s. At 12 minutes I am doing a truly unsafe 18 km’s; now this is the crazy part because all I can think about is not being shot off the back of the treadmill. Yes, now at a blistering 18 km’s I decide to inform the GOOD Danish doctor with what I thought was the universal sign for "STOP THE DAMN MACHINE BEFORE SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENS." Apparently the GOOD Danish bloke didn’t know this sign. So with every ounce of power I dart up the machine towards the Blessed STOP button. Now those of you who know I’m 6"5 and 275 pound (now 268 pounds)--imagine what’s going to happen when I hit the Blessed STOP button and my stealth frame is going 18 km/hr.

Apparently the GOOD Danish doctor hadn’t thought about this either. BAM! I hit the Blessed STOP button and continue into the Good Danish Doctor and his gear. He almost gave me a dirty look. But to his good judgement, he took one look at this heaving man and thought better of it. Guess what? I am actually only 27 percent away from being in top shape, according to the Good Danish Doctor. (Or maybe he just wanted to please me...)

We just had two 8-Meters delivered to start sailing with Friday. Finally a little sailing.

Now I am home and ready for a much deserved sleep. Tomorrow is more testing and a trip to Vevey for the hardware layout meeting for our first boat. This will be another exciting day.

Kai Bjorn

Grinder

Swiss Challenge 2003