Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Experimenting with my Heart

A little background. Way back in the day, Albert and I were working for Latitude and we both said something like "we should do a marathon." I remember starting to train before I fell off a bicycle and sprained my ankle.

Fast forward to 2004 and Albert ran a marathon. He told me to sign up for the Big Sur Marathon so I did. I trained. I finished the 2005 Big Sur Marathon. I got a serious case of ITBS less than a month before the Marathon date but whatever. I paid my $130 and I was going to get my money's worth, damn it! So I finished the Marathon but it was kind of a pyrrhic victory, physically, since my knee was busted for like the next 6 months. Mentally though, I was Haile Gebrselassie. With jet boosters.

So while I was busy being lazy and injured, Brandon (who managed me and Albert at Latitude) started training pretty seriously and eventually did a great marathon in 2007. Then he kind of lost it and started running up mountains, doing 50-mile races, and progressing irritatingly quickly into a running stud. After a couple of aborted training seasons for me (more injuries), I'm finally back on track and trying to ketchup to Brandon.

Recently, Brandon started talking about how he's going to switch to pacing his workouts by heart rate rather than speed. It's what the studs do. It happens that although we're not that many years apart in age, we have wildly different heart rates. He thinks his HR max is around the canoncial 220 - age, so around186, and my Garmin 305 heart sensor has measured 206 before for me, way past my theoretical max of 192. So after a slow 10 miler recently, Brandon wondered what my pace would be at 142bpm, his average for that run. Hence the following experiment.

Training schedule said 6 miles. I planned 2 miles at 140bpm at the beginning and 1 mile at 140bpm at the end, to see how the speed would change. The 3 in the middle I would run at whatever felt good, usually 160+. The short version is this: I can't run at 140bpm. It's PAINFUL. It's so slow, I felt kind of pointless, like I could have been getting the same exercise value by eating a Big Mac. On one hand, it's kind of nice since the pace was beyond conversational (oratorical pace?) but on the other hand, I went out to get exercise and have fun, not to get nowhere very slowly.

So the stats:
Mile 1: 10:23, 140bpm
Mile 2: 11:08, 147bpm (great, too fast already)
Mile 3: 9:38, 158bpm (this is more like a slow pace for me)
Mile 4: 9:36, 159bpm
Mile 5: 8:51, 169bpm (this is what felt fun but not too fast)
Mile 5.5: 11:55 pace, 152bpm (I couldn't run slow enough to get my heart down)
Overall: 5.5 miles at 10:06 / mile, 153bpm (got back to my house at 5.5. Too bored to do another 1/2 mile.)

So what's my pace around 142bpm? It'll probably stabilize out to around an 11:30, which, as I implied earlier, is unrunnable. It's like the no-man's land between a really slow jog and a fast walk. Pace purgatory.

But on the other hand, it kind of makes sense. 143bpm is about 77% HR Max (186) for Brandon. Taking my 206 HR Max at face value, 77% is 158bpm, which is just where I settled into for the middle 2 miles. Nevermind that I find that pace kind of annoying and almost always try to run faster. Point is that "slow" for Brandon is "slow" for me in terms of %HR. It also means that my HR Max is weirdly high. It also means that Brandon's "slow" is a good 40 seconds per mile faster than my "slow".


Monday, July 13, 2009

My Perfect Point and Shoot

My current P&S is a Casio Exilim Z-750. Lurve it. Great features, manual control, does video, long battery life, never lets me down. Except on picture quality but it's a dummycam so I can't expect something in such a small form factor to have good pictures right?

Enter the Leica D-Lux 4!

24-60mm 35mm equivalent focal length. F2.0-2.8 (fast!). Purty design. Snooty red Leica dot. Perfect.

Of course, I could also just get the Panasonic LX3 for a bit cheaper but it's not as pretty. So, my birthday is coming up...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


It's a mild form of silliness, I suppose, but this blog has at various points in the past been turned into "geeky statistics about my slow-ass running" (don't you shift that hyphen). That association must have wormed itself into my brain because the lack of posts over the last year or so has corresponded to a lack of any significant progress in running. Now, I finally have something I think deserves a post, geeky statistics notwithstanding.

So what's happened? A bunch of things, most of which I won't describe right now both because it's too mundane and I want this post to be just as running-focused and geeky as my earlier posts. I'm nothing if not boring. No, consistent. No actually, boring.

Around October last year (at a Halloween party actually), I got pwned by a single solitary step. Walked off a porch in the dark and next thing I know my left ankle was all bent out of shape. Next morning it did a very good impression of a sprained ankle, swelling up like one of those dinosaur-in-a-capsule toys and displaying all sorts of dark and interesting colors.

I seem to run into an injury every time I try to train for a marathon. A decade back it was falling off a bicycle. Then it was ITBS from over-training. Then it was ITBSv2 (socially networked!). Then the aforementioned sprain. I keep on thinking some punk deity or spirit somewhere is getting its kicks off giving me obvious signs. Puck, perhaps, not punk. Bastard.

Because I keep injuring myself, I try to learn. Slowly. Regretfully.

The biggest lesson has been in experimenting with changing my stride/gait to adjust to and compensate for my natural biomechanical dispositions. What I'm increasingly settling on is a slightly smaller stride so that I'm not banging down on my heel, destroying any chances my calves might have of cushioning the repetitie pavement pounding. I also "sit" a little bit lower depending on my legs and my energy level, allowing for additional cushioning by using more quads. This can require more effort over all but it gets me away from just planting my foot down and letting something other than my muscles stabilize myself (read: too much strain on the ITB). Still learning, but getting better.

I'm starting to have more successful bargaining with my body. I used to love the last 5% of effort, speeding up at the end of a long run, going an extra mile or 2, throwing lots of hills without changing the speed, etc. Problem was, that last 5% often ended up being 100-105% of what my body was willing to tolerate without injury. No more! Now I keep things at 90% so the 5% doesn't kill me. And another 5% for safety margin. In return, my body is willing to stay at 90% for a lot longer. It' s a fair deal.

The current goal is to just finish another damn marathon. But since I'm giving myself quite a bit of lead time this time around (for both base building and the specific training schedule), I'm shooting for sub 4:00. 3:59:59 will do. I'll also take all the help I can get and so to that end am aiming for the Cal Int'l Marathon in December. Very fast course. Bonus: if I do hit asub 4:00, I can tell people I improved more than 40 minutes between my first and second marathon.

Mini Milestone
After another minor ankle twist and about a 2 week rest period, I'm back! The fabled and momentous events that precipitated the revival of this blog were:
  • First double digit run again (Had been doing 9s up until now)
  • First consistent 30 mile week
  • 4 months of training already, which is longer than what used to be my entire Marathon training schedule
That's it. I told you I wanted to keep this blog fairly boring right?