Sunday, January 12, 2014

You gotta have a heart (rate)!

Note:  Updated below!

I've been running since I was a teenager.  It started out as me walking to the good ol' "Magic Cavern" arcade in Myrtle Beach, SC.  It was an escape from the general torment that was slathered on me as a shy New Yorker who'd moved to SC.  It was, also almost to the foot, exactly 1 mile from my house.

Summer day after summer day, I'd run there.  Same in the fall.  Let's just say I was "a nerd for all seasons."

Anyway, off I went to college, where I got involved with weight training, and eventually mixed in some martial arts work.  But, I still ran.  Not as far, but I ran.  Then, I went back to distance running in 2005, this time on a much more serious basis.  When I restarted, the idea of anyone running 10 miles was mind-boggling.  In a couple of years, that distance became a routine weekend training run.

NOTE:  All that above is meant as a foundation, not a brag.  You'll see what I mean.

One thing I didn't do, that a lot of typical hardcore runners did, was wear a heart rate monitor.  I just didn't bother.  Finally, in 2012, I strapped up, and started to review my numbers.

I was ASTONISHED at the numbers.  VERY high.  Meanwhile, as I was running, my breath was NOT labored at all.

By way of background, Garmin separates heartrates into 5 "zones."  I haven't seen any definitive layout of what they are, but from culling posts from other users, it seems to roughly default to this:
  • Warmup Zone: 50-60% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for warmup and cooldown
  • Recover Zone: 60-70% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for long, slow runs or cycling, or for recovery rides and runs
  • Aerobic Zone: 70-80% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Anaerobic Zone: 80-90% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for for training to increase your lactate threshold
  • Redline Zone: 90-100% of Heart Rate Reserve, used only by the very fit for short periods, usually for interval training.

So, I am very often told by Garmin that I had a "training effect" of 5.0 (meaning, I overdid it).  It will tell me that my heartrate was in the zone where I was basically pushing and pushing and pushing.  Essentially, Garmin was telling me that I trying too hard.

The problem is, it rarely felt like it.  Sure, if I was on a track, and was pounding out the last 100m of a run, I'm sure I'd haul booty, but it's not the same thing.  So I devised a plan.

The plan was (and still is):  As I'm running, I will say, out loud,

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

Yup.  That.  Out loud.  If I'm able to say the sentence, and not heave out word-by-word, I know I'm not in maximum zone.  But, if the sentence is labored, I know I'm working (I usually do know that). 

I mostly do this sentence when I'm trotting along, ostensibly hoping for a aerobic workout, such as a long run where I should be keeping my speed slower.  I've been chagrined sometimes if/when someone passes me as I say it out loud.  But the trouble is, I don't know what else to do?

Here's how heart rate percentages are calculated:

220 - age = max heart rate.

That's it.

So, that means some dude who played in an arcade his whole life --getting there via a "rascal" scooter, smoking packs of cigarettes to/from the arcade has the same max heart rate as me, assuming we're the same age.  But, recall my foundational life of running (see?  I wasn't bragging before!).  Surely, that has to count for something?

I suspect it does, but I don't know whether (or how much) to adjust my HR numbers on my Garmin.  I can't really afford a VO2 test, at least I don't think I can.  And I don't know how much to change it if I were to guess, just based on breathing.  I do realize that I can probably readjust these numbers within Garmin Connect, but I haven't done it.  Maybe I'll have to take the next step in my training.

So, what do I do in the meantime?

The answer is, as always, "Keep training."  Sure, my Garmin will squawk at me for having a "training effect" of 5.0 (overreaching), but on the other hand, I'm still self-evaluating while I run, all the while reciting the most famous line from "My Fair Lady."

I bet THAT gets your heart racing.


Update #1 of 2:

I heard from Jennifer who has the same issue, but she's paid for 2 VO2 tests.

And then I got a great suggestion from Adam, at Lesser is More with a great suggestion:

This strikes me as a good idea -- at a track. No interruptions, no stoplights, no detours. Hell, not even any hills. Just 12 circles (I'll do 3 miles even), and see what the numbers give me.

Thanks for the input, folks!


Update #2 of 2:

Here is a link to the new formula for getting a max HR.  It's made a huge difference already for me.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2014 Word of the Year

I've been seeing numerous running/fitness bloggers take up this question, and so I thought I'd add my own to the list, in the form of a quick post.

Looking back, the year for 2013 would have been, "Redemption."  The reasons aren't surprising, if you know anything about me from blogging or Twitter.  I came back from injury after injury to make 2013 the fastest and fittest of my adult life.

But, what about 2014?  What word will I think to myself?

Here's a clue:

I have a handy-dandy notebook, but you know it as an iPhone.

No, not the CLUES themselves -- I mean the answer lies with the guy himself:

I hate to burst your bubble.  Well, it's kinda fun.
No, really.  That guy right up there:

Yes, that's "Steve Burns," of "Blue's Clues" fame.  Although it's not watched (much) anymore in my home, I was a big fan of Blue's Clues (as a parent!).  When Steve left the show and released a solo album, "Songs for Dustmites" in 2003, I was struck by how good it was.  It was produced by Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips, and had a fun, sweet, and science-y feel to it.

This is one of my favorite songs on the Album, although I have many:

The song is called, "Maintain."

I guess this word runs counter to what a lot of people might think. Most people want to improve, right?

My main goal simply to not let up.

Don't quit.

Don't flare out early, like a sparkler.

Show that 2013 was not a fluke, and those PRs were not an aberration.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

DC Soup Run 5 miler and 5K Race Report

The old adage about, "If you can't say anything nice," was clearly never said by a blogger.

Let me first state, however, that I'm glad there is a DC Running Club.  They're new(ish), they're trying, and they're obviously not in control of the weather.  But, there were some screwups on their part for this race.  I'm out nearly $50, and am kicking myself for even signing up for this thing, when EVERY instinct I possess told me it was a bad idea to sign up for it.  I'd previously stated that I'm feeling very flat as a runner.  But, I'd hoped a New Year's kickoff race would get me jump started.

Here's why I my instincts were alerting:

First, there was virtually no race communication, and even less explanation about the race itself on their website.  Some brave soul actually asked about what the details were on their FB page, and in response, there they were -- actual race instructions!  Nothing in e-mail, nothing on their Twitter feed, but, if you checked the correct post on FB, and read the replies, you'd find out details.


Next, I had some concerns about the course.  With the recent snow/ice we'd had, I wasn't sure what kind of terrain we'd have:

Beware of snow, ice, and Bumbles.
Because I am, you know, aware of what life is like in DC, last night I actually drove out to Hains Point, the site of the race.  I found very sketchy conditions.  Untreated roads, and black ice as of 7:30pm the night before the race:

This is JUST past the starting gate.
Close up of the terrain.

So, based on some earlier advice on Twitter (from some very kind Tweeps), I ran out to REI and bought some YakTrax.

Saturday morning (today, as I write this) came, and it was 18F (11F w/wind), and I bundled up, putting on basically everything I own:

And I drove off to the race . . .

So how'd the race go, Tai??

I had one of these moments when I drove up. Before I could even park, someone stopped me, and basically said this:



Yes, he explained that the Park Service told them the roads were clear as of last night, but that this morning, they cancelled the race due to icy conditions.  You know, the conditions I DROVE OUT TO PERSONALLY INSPECT THE NIGHT BEFORE?! 

Nobody thought to come take a look at the course??

I parked, and sat in my car.

I checked their Twitter feed. Nothing.

I checked their FB page. Nothing.

I checked my e-mail. Nothing.

So their notification system was (almost literally!) at the last possible moment they could announce it.

I asked about a refund, or applying the race fees to another race.  Instead, they asked us to come together and contact the Park Police to complain on Monday.  Why?

It suddenly clicked with me -- THEY had likely paid the Park Service.  They likely don't HAVE our race fees anymore:

The conclusion for all of this is that I just bought myself a $48 t-shirt, then went on a training run.



Courtesy of DCShowGirl, on Instagram, who went out running at Hains Point around the 11:00 hour, here's a daylight shot of the course:

Photo used with permission of DCShowGirl!  Thanks much!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

RW RunStreak post-mortem

One of the things about running is coming to grips with failure.  You're not going to PR every race you run, sometimes you're not going to have good workouts, and you're going to face occasional injury.  These are simple facts about the sport.

I'm an unabashed fan of the Runner's World Holiday RunStreak, and was really looking forward to this serving as a platform to jump back into a groove.  It appears not to have taken hold this year, but I just cannot identify a reason. 

Let's review:

This year's RunStreak days:  35.
Last year's Run Streak days:  41.

Number of 2013 Streak days missed:  0.
Number of 2012 Streak days missed:  0.

Number of 2013 Streak miles covered:  97.46.
Number of 2012 Streak miles covered:  131.59 (but it was 6 extra days).

Number of days for 2013 Streak on treadmill vs outside:  18 to 17.
Number of days for 2012 Streak on treadmill vs outside:  20 to 21.

So for each of the Streak years, roughly HALF my runs were on a treadmill.  I had mused making the Streak HARDER, by running 2 miles on "rest days," but that QUICKLY got thrown out.  Ever since Richmond I've been flat.  And fat(ter).  I've been eating poorly, running slower, and generally "blah" about running.

So, basically, the two years of streaking are very much alike.  But the effect on me is quite different.  I'm TIRED.  I'm asking my body to go faster, and it's not.  I'm a little lost after having done this year's Streak.

Additionally, unlike last year, the Streak didn't serve to motivate me.  Unlike last year, the Streak actually saw me GAIN weight over the holidays (not much, but I lost weight last year).  Unlike last year, the Streak was more a chore than a communal thing to be enjoyed.

I think part of the answer for this year was poor weather.  We got rough weather here in early December.  Some snow.  Because this is DC, it shut the government down (white death from the sky, you know), and I don't run super well if I'm unsure on my feet.  So that meant I had a HUGE stretch on the 'Mill.  In 2012, I had a few days here and there, but they were more spread out.

But the end result is that I ran this year's streak far more flat.  Perhaps, just maybe, it's because I trained for 2 marathons 20 days apart, and basically ran the most intense year of my life.  Hell, my obsessive self ran Yasso 800 repeats once a week for six months straight.  I focused so hard that I gave up biking, and barely swam.  I wonder, just a little bit, if I'm a little burned-out.

It doesn't make sense, though.  I still eat and sleep running.  I think about it, I joke about it, and I am still looking forward to whatever I decide 2014 will hold for me.

I'll shake this off.  I know I will.  But it feels good to put this post out there.

You want the good with run training, you have to deal with the bad as well.

Keep running, folks.