The last gasp (2016)
Sport is now a science that analyses and inspects the athletic body in minute detail in order to fine tune and achieve the highest performance possible. As part of my investigations into failure and the ageing female body, I signed up for some gruelling tests at the School of Physical Education at Otago University, one of which was a VO2 max fitness test on a Velotron exercycle machine.
A VO2 max test measures the rate of oxygen consumed during a prolonged session of incremental exercise and requires a physical effort sufficient in duration and intensity to fully tax the aerobic energy system. The resistance on the cycle is increased by 25 watts at two and a half minute intervals and you must keep going until you are fully exhausted. As one of the technicians helpfully put it: you must keep going until you collapse.
After filling out a medical questionnaire and signing a waiver, I set off. At the beginning, there was a gentle rhythm to the cycling but as time passes, I begin to succumb and (despite the vocal urgings from the technicians), pink-faced, I gradually and unceremoniously collapse over the handlebars – so that by the end of the footage, only the very top of my head can be seen in the frame. This video captures those final moments.