Quarq was proud to be part of what can be described as a deep dive into the science of suffering. Last month’s Red Bull Project Endurance brought together top athletes and sport scientists in California’s most extreme locales to ask the most provocative questions about human performance.
How much further can endurance go? Can recovery be improved or sped up? What limits endurance, both physiologically and mentally?
That quest meshed well with our purpose at Quarq – helping athletes use hard numbers to quantify and maximize hard-earned gains. The wide array of tests at the five-day event looked at just about everything going on as endurance athletes exerted themselves under extreme conditions in temperatures as high as 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 Celsius). Quarq outfitted bicycles with power meters for Red Bull athletes Karl Meltzer (ultrarunning), Dakota Jones (ultrarunning) and Kendall Norman (endurocross). Quarq athletes Rebecca Rusch (mountain biking) and Tim Johnson (cyclocross) also were part of the event.
The athletes themselves also were monitored with surgical precision:
- Sweat conductivity measured to determine the electrolyte content of sweat –information that can be used to match athletes with electrolyte replacement strategies based on their individual sweat profiles.
- MyOnWear™ shorts outfitted with sensors to measure small changes in electrical activity in muscles from the firing of those hams, quads and glutes.
- Dexcom® meters tracked blood glucose information.
- PhysioFlow® monitors – used for only the second time in the field, with the first being the Paris Marathon – tracked data including heart-stroke volume and ventricular contractility.
- Even when the athletes were at rest, sensors tracked their heart rates and movements to create sleep-quality records.
“Pretty sci-fi stuff going on here,” Kendall Norman said. The technology was cutting edge, the conditions primitive. Athletes performed test workouts in Death Valley at sea level, and then again at about 9,000 feet atop White Mountain in the Sierra range. The athletes also did a 19-mile group ride up Owens Gorge to nearly 9,000 feet, stopping half way for blood lactate readings.
For more fun (at least to endurance athletes), the subjects endured a “Day of Deception” that included a time trial climb where they did not know the length of the race…. They couldn’t even look at their bike computers but instead had to try to perform at a level set during previous testing. The TT turned out to be 6.1 miles and 2,000 feet of climbing. And, oh, after that the athletes were told they’d have to ride the course again after an hour’s rest. Red Bull Project Endurance concluded with a 40-mile training ride using Quarq power meters.
Tim Johnson – a guy who’s used to weathering base elements in cylcocross – said the field tests allow an athlete to really learn. “You’re not going to get a university lab to look like this,” he said.
Training and racing with such crucial information the surest way to ensure human performance is up to the task when the race is on the line. So, we’ll pass on what we learned from Red Bull Project Endurance as results are released in the coming months. It’s all part of our, and your, mission to go faster.
— Information provided by Red Bull
The Red Bull Endurance Project sets up in Death Valley.
Inside the Mobile Performance Lab.
Tim Johnson climbs the hills.
Rebecca Rusch climbs with encouragement from Tim Johnson.
Karl Meltzer swaps his running shoes for a Quarq RIKEN 10R power meter.
Dakota Jones, Tim Johnson and Rebecca Rusch - three athletes from different disciplines - share endurance know-how over a long ride.
— All photos Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool