Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Heart Rate Training Update - Proof in the Numbers

I had a pretty crappy run this morning.  I'm at the phase of taper where my body is saying "wtf" and trying to revolt.  My legs were stiff, all my muscles felt achy, my left hip felt wonky and I just couldn't get right.  It happens.  On thing I'm trying to do during this taper is stay positive.  And instead of sitting here dwelling on a bad run, I'm going to focus on good things.

I am planning on writing a post sometime after race day reviewing my training plan that I used.  A lot went into it, and there are so many things to talk about regarding it.  I want to wait until after the race because I won't truly know for myself how well it "worked" until miles 20-22-26.2 and afterward.

However, I do think this is an appropriate time to give you an update on the progress I've made in my fitness since going hardcore heart rate training.  I only have 2 more runs I think before race day where I will run at a steady state.  All my other runs will involve some type of interval, stride, goal pace miles, etc.  So, the base numbers that I have are pretty much my "final result" at this point... although I don't want to say final because I'm really hooked on this method and don't see myself not training via heart rate any time soon.

You can read my last post that detailed my history with heart rate training as well as the method I've used for this training cycle here.

I'm going to break this down by Mesocycle.  First, I want to note that I've done every single one of my runs since I started this training plan at the end of December with my heart rate monitor.  In my mileage buildup during November before starting the plan I did most of my runs with my heart rate monitor.  I did have a few runs where I did not use it.  So, this is 5-ish months worth of progress.

Before starting Mesocycle #1 I had been doing my runs at a "general aerobic" heart rate range that I had calculated utilizing the site http://www.runningforfitness.org   This ended up being different than the range I used during my marathon training plan once I started it (which, again you can read in my previous heart rate training post).  All of these runs were around 10:00-10:20/minute mile.

When calculating my paces, I threw out data from runs where I ran with a group and didn't pace myself, and runs that had extreme adverse conditions (like the time I ran 10 miles when it was -10 degrees outside and I was tromping through shin deep snow in places, and the time my heart rate monitor was just going crazy before it died and got replaced).

In Mesocycle #1, my average paces for each heart rate range were:
Recovery: 11:14
Easy:  10:11
Long:  9:11

Mesocycle #2:
Recovery:  10:48
Easy:  9:22
Long:  8:53

Mesocycle #3:
Recovery:  10:01
Easy:  9:10
Long:  8:35

That brings us to now - Mesocycle #4 - taper.  This cycle isn't over yet, and ultimately ends with the race, but like I said I hardly have any steady state runs.  But I have done recovery runs at sub-10 paces and my last long run I paced myself was 8:29 average.

So, at least for me, the evidence of improvement is there.  It's been a long road, for sure, but I have to think there is something right when I have been able to build up the miles I have while simultaneously bringing my pace down.  I haven't done long runs in the 8:30s since I was training for the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon in 2013 and I'm doing runs twice as long and on a heck of a lot more weekly mileage - and I feel better!  I guess one could argue that just running a lot of miles or simply doing any marathon training at all would have shown improvement.  I wouldn't argue that but I don't believe that I would feel this strong or have completed all the runs that I have if I had trusted myself to pace myself - especially "easy" or "recovery".  I missed one run this whole training cycle (knock on wood for this last week and a half) - and that was a 5 mile recovery run scheduled after my kid was in the hospital all night and everyone was just sick and tired.

This method of training is fabulous and I'm so glad I've stuck with it.  After much going back and forth on it, I'm planning on wearing my monitor during the marathon too!  I don't think I'm going to run the race strictly via heart rate, but I may use it as a general guide, especially in the very early (don't go out too fast) and later miles (can I push harder now or should I wait?).  I'm excited to see what happens - it's the nerd in me.

I fully expect my paces to get slower again after the race as I recover and probably during hot summer running, but I'm really intrigued by all this and I want to see what progress I can make in another 5 or 6 months (MCM is in 6 months and 4 days)!


  1. I'm so excited to read this. I love seeing the data behind training, and WOW--what great proof for you! That's really amazing that your fitness has gotten so much better in such a short time. Thanks to you, I'm also a convert to HR training. I need to do a similar analysis, but I believe my paces have improved too. I'm also planning on wearing my HR monitor during the race. It helped me at JASR, and I think it will keep me from burning out/going too quickly at the beginning. Anyway, you should be really proud of an awesome training cycle and these results. Your training has really been an inspiration to me!

    1. Yes, these hrm are helpful little devils. Some days it makes me mad (but I wanna go fast today! whaaa!), other days I sing it's praises. It is wonderful, though.

  2. These numbers are awesome! Your training cycle has practically been a case study in the success of HR training and that is great!
    I dabbled with using my HR for easy runs after reading your initial post and really enjoyed it! I'm excited to give it a shot after the marathon - I know that it will be easier for me to focus on that number, rather than watch my pace tank in the heat and humidity of Pittsburgh in the summer, lol! :-)

    1. Humidity makes my hr skyrocket. I do believe it's because when it's really bad I have trouble breathing. It all ties in. :)