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Ellen Ruby

This is Dr. Ruby’s métier—where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. He is mapping the border between what science knows about human physiology and what humans physically do. It’s an area he considers badly underrepresented in contemporary research. “It’s like, do a publication,” he says. “Oh, it’s got some neat graphs. It’s got stats, that’s pretty cool. But what the heck does it mean? They’re not gonna read that.” Ruby’s hands have begun to float around in front of him, as if he is clearing away oncoming ideas as he speaks. I find myself nodding—not because I know how scientific publishing works, but because I want to agree with him. Anyone this excited must surely be right. “The practice is three steps removed from the actual researcher,” he says. “We want to be the researcher and the bridge. When people say, ‘They say that exercise in the heat causes this,’ who’s the they? We are the they.” He grins maniacally, as if being this ‘they’ were obviously the best job in the world. Ruby is the head researcher at the University of Montana’s Department of Work, Performance and Exercise Metabolism. Enthusiastic and wonkish, he is exactly what you want a scientist to be. He competes in Ironman triathlons and wears alarmingly technical shoes. In his

the door. Inside are heat lamps, an array of fans, and two treadmills with a big, red button between them. It’s the kind of button that movie characters hit at the last second, a button that stops everything. When you see that kind of button, you know you are somewhere that could make you give up. Ruby, Cuddy and Hailes have outfitted me with a sensor of their own design that monitors my heart rate and skin temperature. I am also carrying the aforementioned core temperature device. As I walk on a treadmill under the heat lamps, all this technology transmits data about me to an Android tablet that “There is the , and there is the tells the researchers how close I am to collapse. , and he is trying to I feel good, I think. I could do this forever, or and closer together.” maybe for another 10 minutes—only the man with the tablet knows for sure. As the photographer snaps pictures, Hailes notes that my heart rate goes up appears to be a gramophone horn. He every time she points the camera at me. keeps saying “oh, brother” in a completely It’s the kind of observation Ruby likes: non-ironic way. Ruby is either a shameless my vain anxiety translated to quantitative huckster or the real deal: one of those physiological data. He is a man of science, people who is fascinated by everything, but fundamentally he is an experience guy, excited about everything, determined to seeking out grueling physical extremes in do everything in a way that makes you his own athletic life and in the work of want to come along with him on the off firefighters, soldiers and endurance runchance that you might finally do someners. There is the lab, and there is the thing, too. I thought we were friends, until world, and he is trying to pull them closer he put me in the heat chamber. and closer together. Sometimes that means From the outside, the heat chamber writing papers and chasing grants, and looks like a walk-in freezer with a dozen sometimes it means putting a man with a extra dials and an observation window in late 50s, with a shaved head and a soul patch, he seems professionally amazed. For example, he expresses surprise whenever I let slip some fact about my exercise habits or personal experience, widening his eyes and saying “Wow,” as if he were utterly astonished that I was once in a bicycle race. He appears to think everything is cool. His lab is stocked with treadmills and high-end bicycles, but also mid-century modern furniture and an iPhone amplifier he made out of a wooden box and what

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