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".



Brandon Fuller said...

So when I say slow day, you should be in the low 150s. When I say easy day, 140s. Your marathon pace should be around 170.

Where you are at on the curve, just running more will make you faster. Getting to specific with HR right now might not be worth the effort. But it does give you a guide as to how hard your hard days should be, and how easy your easy days should be.

The first few times I did Slow and Easy days -- I was like...I can't run this slow. However, in only 2 weeks I have adapted. The pace has dropped and I have a totally different form. Very stiff and rigid ala the greats.

glenn said...

MHR workouts, then you can do your calculations based on HR reserve (c.f. Pfitzinger)

MHR 1 15 min w/u, run 800 fast, jog 1 min, 800 full speed

MHR Treadmill 15 min w/u, run marathon pace, up incine 2% every 45 s until no HR increase

MHR Treadmill-2 same but (speed) walk instead of run

Me said...

Glenn: Will try out some of those and see what I get. My guess is 202.