A Durango-based organization dedicated to helping endurance athletes maximize their training looked to perhaps the iron
man of all times for its name.
The Philippides Project draws on the exploits of the Athenian herald who, according to the ancients, ran more than
300 miles in a week during a Persian invasion. Although he dropped dead as he announced the Greeks' victory, his
glory remains untarnished.
The Philippides Project - so new it doesn't yet have its nonprofit 501(c)3 status - joins other organizations
dedicated to advancing cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary performance that recently have opened their doors in
Andrea Mull, president of the Philippides Project, said last week that her short-range goals include testing and
monitoring endurance athletes, providing financial help for young athletes, promoting research in exercise science, and developing and financing annual cardiac screening for high school and collegiate athletes.
Although it won't happen soon, Mull wants to establish an annual conference in conjunction with the Iron Horse
Bicycle Classic that focuses on exercise science, sports and human performance.
Mull is looking for quarters of her own, but for the moment, Philippides uses the Durango Performance Center
established by her husband, Bruce Andrea, a cardiologist.
"We want to stay mobile," Mull said. "We'd take our equipment to where athletes train."
Equipment includes a portable EKG, a bike frame that allows cyclists to pedal in place while measuring heart rate and
oxygen use, and a metabolic gas analyzer to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Test results show runners, cyclists, cross country skiers, kayakers, rowers - and coaches - their strengths, weaknesses and potential health problems.
Michael Engleman, a former professional cyclist who has ridden with Lance Armstrong, said in a telephone interview
that fitness testing is vital for keeping athletes and coaches up to date on conditioning.
Engleman formed the U.S. Women's Cycling Development Program to help cyclists reach their full potential. The
organization is based in Dolores.
Sarah Tescher, a professional cyclist and co-founder of Durango DEVO, said she would love to test some DEVO riders
for high performance through Philippides - but at the right age.
"Testing to make sure a youngster's heart is in working order is a good idea," Tescher said. "But when it comes to
performance testing, only a handful of our team members need it."
Durango DEVO - short for Durango Junior Development Mountain Bike Team - offers riding experiences for 5- to
18-year-olds. The goal for the youngest set is to have fun, Tescher said. Racing is introduced at middle-school level
but is not mandatory, while all high school-age participants are racers.
"It's important to establish all children's cardio condition without pushing them to the limit," Tescher said. "But
performance testing is super useful for elite athletes."
Tescher cited a growing number of 20- to 25-year-old athletes suffering heart attacks as a reason to go cautiously in
endurance training and knowing one's limits.
Miles Smith, 24, who is majoring in biology at Fort Lewis College, was at the Durango Performance Center on Thursday
where Jen Servais tested his lactic acid threshold.
"I ride professionally," Smith said. "I'm taking a semester off to concentrate on my mountain-bike racing career,"
The testing can help him perform at an optimal level.
"We measure to see where athletes transition from an aerobic state of exercise to an anaerobic state," Servais said.
"Once in the anaerobic state, it becomes harder for the body to flush out lactic acid. The more lactic acid that
accumulates, the closer you get to 'crashing' or being unable to continue exercise at the given workload."