MAF Test (Check-In)

Obviously I am not doing MAF training at the moment, but I wanted to see how things were going. I left off here, with paces in between 15:33-16:02. I was pretty frustrated with those test results.

This check-in won’t be truly comparable to the previous tests because it wasn’t cold when I ran, and because I didn’t have the heart rate alarm app on my watch. I did do this test on heavy legs, since I’d done a lot of climbing the day before, but I don’t consider that off-setting of the weather.

Here’s my heart rate graph for the duration of the run.
I really suck at keeping a consistent heart rate. Why? I see other people with the same tools I have with much more consistent heart rates. This is so jumpy.

Here are my paces and HRs
Warm up: 17:55 (120)
Mile 1: 13:48 (137)
Mile 2: 12:50 (143)
Mile 3: 13:05 (146)
Mile 4: 12:54 (143)
Mile 5: 13:02 (142)
Cool down (1.25 mi):  16:18 (123)

Without the HR monitor beeping at me, I had to keep glancing at my watch to see where my HR was. For the first mile I was obviously going too slowly, and for the 3rd mile I went too fast. My paces are much faster than they were before… or were they?

Since I was constantly looking at watch, I was able to notice something. My more relaxed, laid-back stride had me running a slower pace (duh) but not at a lower heart rate. I was able to run faster at the same heart rate when I “leaned in” to the run and turned my legs over faster with shorter strides. So I learned a little bit about how my mechanics and posture affect my running, and now I wonder if I could have also run faster in the trials I ran in the winter/spring if I’d run with a different stride/mechanics? I kept reminding myself to lean in, as I’d naturally “settle in” if I zoned out and would go back to the longer stride and lazier mechanics. I have some habits to break, it seems.

The jumpiness of my heart rate during the warm-up underscores the importance of warming up before a race. I was trying to get a nice smooth curve there and failed, sorry Dr. Maffetone. My last spike in HR was at about 1.4 miles, so it appears that I need to warm up a little longer for MAF tests, perhaps. I did do a 2-mile warmup for one of my MAF tests, the one that gave results closest to what an ideal MAF test should look like, so I guess that’s the way to go from here on out. It also indicates I would benefit from longer warm-ups before races. Something I say all the time and repeatedly fail to do. I have a 5K in a couple weeks so I will see if I can learn from my mistakes and all this data I’m gathering, and do a proper warmup, it looks like 1.5 miles might be the minimum I need.


Alternative puns included MAFtermath and MAFterthoughts. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to use them later.

After I did my final MAF test Saturday, I went home and downloaded the information from the run, and then deleted the MAF heart rate alarm app from my watch. I am done, done, done with this method for awhile.

Here’s the data from my final MAF test of this training cycle. For reference: MAF Test #1, MAF Test #2, MAF Test #3.

Warmup: 1 mile, walking and easy running, 17:29, 123 bpm

It was cool and windy as heck during the run. The gales of November came very, very early, I guess. I had one HUGE spike to 158 bpm during the warm-up, for absolutely no reason. I think it was equipment error.

Mile 1: 16:00, 142 bpm
Mile 2: 15:44, 143 bpm
Mile 3: 16:02, 142 bpm
Mile 4: 15:42, 142 bpm
Mile 5: 15:33, 142 bpm

What the fffffffffff.

Cooldown: 1.1 mi, 17:09 pace, 135 bpm

Ok, I get that it was windy, so that might have been throwing things of. And I had some heartburn and hadn’t slept perfectly the night before due to some minor stomach pains, but what is this? The fastest mile is the last one? That’s the opposite of what a MAF test is supposed to show.

Let’s compare my average pace and HR for my previous MAF tests (ignoring test #3, which had GPS issues).

Test 1: 16:02, 135 bpm
Test 2: 15:05, 141 bpm
Test 4: 15:49, 142 bpm

I have made no progress. I suspected this during my run, when I couldn’t hit the paces I thought I could without my watch beeping like crazy. I know the wind was a factor, but still. I feel like I should have been a little closer to the Test 2 numbers.

I find this frustrating. It feels like a huge waste of my time. I’ve done no speed work over the last 4 months, and I’ve slowed way, way down to try to stay aerobic climbing hills, and it feels like I’ve done it all for no reason. I know this training works, so I’ll give it another shot, but I guess I was expecting magical results.

As with any experiment, repeatability is essential to obtaining reliable results. Did the weather slow me down 44 seconds? Probably not. I wasn’t feeling the best either, but I also can’t remember how I was feeling on the other days I did the test. If I did it a week from now, would I get better results? Maybe.

I made two major errors during this training. I didn’t do enough to change my diet, and I didn’t change my target HR after I got sick. I made some changes to my diet, trying to get more fat into my diet as well as more fruits and vegetables, but I didn’t really make wholesale changes to how I ate. My cold was significant enough that I should have knocked another 5 beats off my target heart rate, according to Dr. Maffetone. I plan to re-read his book before I go back to MAF training.

I also don’t think I did a fantastic job of warming up and cooling down. It was hard to achieve the slow ramp-up recommended by Dr. Maffetone; I usually had to walk my warm-ups, and with the cold weather and the inevitable hills on most of my routes, I would even sometimes find my heart rate spiking up while walking.

This is the ideal time to take a break from the training, since I will need to do some speedwork once I start training for the Park Point 5 miler. I will also be able to get in a few major hill workouts before Superior, which will be a huge boon.

There were good and bad aspects of doing this training. I’ll never do it in winter again, at least not until I’m considerably faster or living somewhere milder. The weather has too much of an impact on my heart rate, and I have many times had trouble getting in a proper warm-up (as discussed above), or have had to run much more slowly than planned due to the cold or wind. It was also difficult to stay warm while running; a faster pace would have generated more heat.

I found my patience tried many, many times as my heart rate monitor beeped away. It drove me nuts, which I’m sure didn’t help lower my heart rate any. It was also kind of embarrassing  to beep as I ran by people. Even writing about it, I’m kind of annoyed.

I did find that I was less tired after workouts, which should be an obvious benefit, since they were all done at an “easy” pace. I wasn’t red-faced and huffing and puffing after my runs. I am much more in tune to my body now that I am paying attention to my heart rate, and I’m more conscious of what an “easy” run actually feels like.

It helped my ego a bit to have a reason for slowing down. I could tell myself I was really faster than I was going (which is true, but how much faster, I don’t know). I also felt better about how I looked to others; since I was going slowly, but I wasn’t gasping for air, I felt less embarrassed about my pace. I felt running slowly, but at a smooth and controlled pace, looked better than running a little less slowly, but beet-red and struggling. This training method also kept me from “racing my training.” I just wish I’d made some demonstrable aerobic progress.

I’m looking forward to some more unstructured runs! I will still be monitoring my heart rate on each run, and I don’t plan on doing more than one “quality” workout (hills, tempo, intervals, etc) per week, so there will not be significant changes to the structure or intensity of my workouts through the end of my Superior training. Just a heck of a lot less beeping.

MAF Test #3

I decided to do one last MAF test in this training cycle, despite missing all that training and despite still being sick. I kind of just wanted to see how bad the damage was. Plus the weather today was probably the most pleasant it’ll be in Duluth from now until the race. The extended forecast makes me a sad panda.

It was probably a bad idea to do the MAF test and also to run 7 miles outdoors, because I kinda feel crummy tonight, but I’m hoping a good night’s sleep will correct that. My sinuses are clearing, and I’m hoping my lungs will follow.

For reference: MAF #1, MAF #2.

Warm-up: 1 mile, walking and easy running, 17:45, 123 bpm avg.

My heart rate wasn’t jumping all over the place, which was really nice. I was able to transition to my target heart rate much more smoothly than I have in the past, which is no doubt due to the nicer weather. It was windy and I was walking into the wind at the beginning, so my heart rate was in the 120s to start, but once I turned away from the wind it settled down.

Mile 1: 15:35, 141 bpm
Mile 2: 15:27, 141 bpm
Mile 3: 15:36, 142 bpm
Mile 4: 13:44, 141 bpm
Mile 5: 13:45, 141 bpm

Ok the last 2 miles are crap data. Something was up with my GPS as I was hitting like 8:XX paces while staying aerobic. Nope. I don’t know what happened, it seemed to either give me extra distance during those last few miles, or shorted me miles in the beginning. I know one or both of these things happened because I ran an out-and-back and ended up measuring about 0.3 miles more than expected. Annoying. I know there was some kind of problem because Strava has the difference between my moving time and my elapsed time at 10 minutes, and I didn’t stop at all on the run.

Cooldown: 1.47 miles, easy running and then walking, 16:53, 135 bpm avg.

I didn’t really learn very much from this run, other than that I’m about 30 seconds below my average pace from test #2, which can 100% be blamed on this illness and the accompanying training gaps. I’m really, really hoping I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling better, and not more miserable. I mean, I have to, right? I can’t stay sick forever. It’s getting annoying, and it’s making me annoying.


25% of the way there! Holy crap.

Monday: 5.3 mi, road, 136 bpm
Tuesday: 4.5 mi, treadmill, UMTR hill challenge, 136 bpm
Wednesday: 6 mi, treadmill, 137 bpm
Thursday: 3 mi, treadmill, 134 bpm
Friday: rest
Saturday: 9.4 mi, road, MAF test, 135 bpm
Sunday: 3.4 mi, paved trail (lower Lakewalk), 134 bpm
Total: 31.5 mi

Another great week. I literally cannot remember anything about Monday’s run, so it must have been boring.

Tuesday I ran the UMTR hill challenge, which I’m not officially registered for, but I’ve already run twice now (first time in week 1). There are two separate treadmill challenges: the first is 15 minutes at 15% incline, which official participants are doing 3 times, so I will also. The second is a “Leadville Hill” challenge, which is 3 miles at 15% incline. That’ll be the final one, I guess. The first time, I did 0.71 miles in 15 minutes, and this past week, I did 0.65 miles in 15 minutes, both while doing my best to stay under my goal heart rate of 142 bpm. I was disappointed to cover a shorter “distance” in my second challenge, but it’s not that big of a deal.

Wednesday and Thursday were general treadmill runs of no consequence. Friday I enjoyed my rest day and went to a men’s hockey game. Saturday was the MAF test as previously discussed.

Sunday was not good. I was planning on doing 4.6 miles, but I felt off the whole time I was running. My heart rate was kinda funky, and I felt strange. I thought I was dizzy or light-headed, but then wasn’t having and vision or equilibrium problems. I also thought maybe I was nauseated, but I wasn’t. I maybe had a little bit of heartburn, I guess, but my stomach wasn’t upset. I felt so strange that I ended up abruptly turning around at 1.71 miles (I was looking down at my watch so I know this for certain) and walking most of the way back. It was cold and windy, and I felt a bit under-dressed even though I was wearing the same stuff I normally wear.

This upcoming week is going to be COLD, so I guess I’ll be hitting the treadmill for most of my workouts. That is so depressing.

MAF Test #2

I decided to do my second MAF test as part of the 9 mile run I had planned for the weekend. I’m really glad I chose to do that run on Saturday, when it was warm and sunny, instead of today, when it’s warm but there’s a wintry mix coming down.

My last test is documented in full here. It went badly.

I did the test on Minnesota Point again, although since I was running a longer distance, the “course” was a little different.

Warmup: 1 mile walking, 17:46, 125 bpm; 1 mile “jogging,” 16:48, 130 bpm

I think the longer warm-up helped. It was definitely warmer outside than the last time I did the test, but it was windy, which affected my heart rate. I had a spike up to 147 bpm when walking at an 18 minute pace, which I can only imagine was due to a gust of wind or something external.

Mile 1: 14:53, 141 bpm
Mile 2: 15:15, 141 bpm
Mile 3: 15:17, 140 bpm
Mile 4: 15:03, 141 bpm
Mile 5: 14:54, 141 bpm

Okay, that’s not exactly how the test is supposed to go, but the results are all kind of clustered together. I ended up averaging a pace of 15:06 and a heart rate of 141 bpm, right on the edge of where I’m supposed to be. It’s better than the last test, which had each mile getting faster and my heart rate nowhere near the max. My last results were:

Mile 1: 16:52, 137 bpm
Mile 2: 16:03, 134 bpm
Mile 3: 16:00, 133 bpm
Mile 4: 15:27, 134 bpm
Mile 5: 15:43, 135 bpm
Avg: 16:02, 135 bpm

I can’t say for certain that I’ve improved, because while the results are faster for the second test, so is my heart rate. It was also colder, I think, when I did the first test. I think I can safely say there’s been a slight improvement, but if I was asked to prove it, I couldn’t. I think it’s logical that running a minute per mile faster in the second test over the first test cannot only be explained by weather and the 6 bpm higher HR average. I definitely think the longer warm-up helped, but I think I still need to tweak the warm-up a bit. There’s too much walking, but that’s the only way to gradually increase my HR right now. My slowest running paces still keep me in the low 130s range; once I’m better conditioned, I’ll be able to run at HRs in the low 120s, and won’t need to walk to warm up. So while my heart and lungs were warmed up, my legs weren’t as warmed up as I’d have liked.

Cooldown: 1 mile walk/run & snack, 16:31, 133 bpm; 1 mile walk/run, 17:23, 128 bpm; 0.4 mi walk, 18:43, 125 bpm.

I would have liked to have had a snack sooner, but that would have affected the results of the test. I didn’t mean for the cooldown to be so long, but I ended up going a little past the 4.5 mile mark on the way out. I crossed the lift bridge and ended up going a block down to the corner of the Paulucci building in order to put some space between a group of people crossing the bridge and myself.

I feel confident that my second attempt is good enough data to use for comparison. I should be doing my next MAF test on March 5th, right before I go on a short business trip, and right after I return from my Florida vacation. We’ll see how much my vacation throws off the results.

I feel kind of crappy today. I had some general hip soreness during the run and felt a bit creaky the rest of the day, and a little into today. I still need to get out for a medium-length run today, so we’ll see how I feel. I can always take Monday as a rest day if need be.

Some Small Things

I’m in my 3rd week of training for Zumbro and my 5th week of doing MAF-based training. I have some general thoughts about both of these facts.

First of all, I was supposed to have done another MAF test already. This puts me in a bit of a tricky spot. This upcoming weekend, I have planned to run 5 miles on Saturday and 9 miles on Sunday. I’m currently at 16 miles for the week, so that would put me at 30, and I’m going to run a short run today to put me at around 33 miles for the week. Last week I ran 30, the week prior 16, and the 2 weeks previous, averaged 30. I don’t think a 3 mile increase is that bad, but I can’t run a MAF test on Saturday without extending the mileage, since the test itself is 5 miles long, and I am probably going to need at least a 1.5 mile warm-up, and then a short cooldown. I suppose I could split up the mileage differently on the weekend, but I need to extend my longest runs. I could also skip running today, but I don’t want to. The most likely solution is to do the MAF test during the 9 mile run. I also might switch up the days. I try not to do long runs after rest days, but it doesn’t really matter.

I’m nervous about what the MAF test will show. First of all, the first test was so wonky that I don’t know if it’s even worth making a comparison. But what if I do get to my max heart rate and I am still running those same paces? Sometimes I feel like I’m not making any progress, especially since I’ve been struggling at times to manage my heart rate on hills. I know there are a lot of factors in play, including weather, fatigue, illness, stress levels, route choice, etc., but I also worry I’m not making any progress.

I do know that I feel mostly fantastic after almost every run. I rarely feel sore, even after hill work. I feel at the end of most runs that I could keep going, with the exception of those runs where I’m frozen solid. While I may not be progressing at the rate I’d like to see, I know I’m not wearing myself down with my training.

I am struggling with how cold I feel after running, though. Sometimes it seems like it’s really tough for me to warm back up, especially if I have to go back outside after I’ve settled back in. I generally feel colder after a run that starts from my house than I do after a trail I have to drive to, probably because I don’t keep my house very warm (67 degrees) compared to what my heater’s blasting out in my car (who knows what that temp is, my car is a 99 model so it doesn’t have fancy temperature settings). The cold is really fatiguing, both mentally and physically. It’s not even super cold, relative to other winters, but I am looking forward to the days when there are highs in the 50s.

My shoe chains are broken. One is still functional, but the other has a broken link that causes the toe to slip off. This could have been avoided if I’d just taken better care of them. I rarely dried them off, so there was corrosion on the links and the fasteners that attached them to the rubber slip-on part, so I’m not surprised that a link broke. I’ve now used them for 1.5 winters, and they cost like $25, so that’s not too bad. I’ll prb pick up a new pair tomorrow. The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw pattern we’ve been seeing lately thanks to the warmer weather and sunny days has resulted in a lot of ice, and not the nice scuffed-up ice either, the glassy, zero-friction, stealth ice. I’ve nearly biffed it even with the chains on.

I just received a work email regarding safe work practices and winter footwear, which is timely. It even uses the chains as an example! I’m currently wearing no shoes in my office, which doesn’t seem to be approved.

That was a lot of mostly whiny nonsense. I do have another tentative race on the calendar, as the Be the Match 5K is NOT the same weekend as the Superior 25K. It’s the weekend before, which means I shouldn’t be trying to PR or anything crazy like that, but I can’t guarantee I won’t stupidly try to test my mettle. It will still be a nice way to spend time with family and raise money for a great cause, so I can’t wait.

MAF Test Attempt #1

My replacement heart rate monitor came on Saturday, and after I remembered I needed to sync it before it would connect with my watch, I was able to take it out for a test on Sunday.

I was attempting to set a baseline for measuring my aerobic progress using the MAF Test recommended by Dr. Maffetone. I was supposed to run a warm-up, followed by 5 miles at my maximum aerobic heart rate (mine is 142), and then a cool-down. The warm-up is 15-20 minutes long (or longer) and I was supposed to gradually increase my heart rate to 142. The 5 miles at 142 bpm should have gotten progressively slower, and then I had to cool down for 15-20 mins, bringing my heart rate gradually back down.

That’s not how it worked.

I chose to do the test along Minnesota Ave. on Minnesota Point, because it’s flat, so I wouldn’t have hills messing up my results. It didn’t seem that cold and the trees didn’t seem to be moving so I didn’t think there was any wind. Wind and cold can affect the heart rate. It turned out it was windy, so that was annoying.

I was having trouble with my heart rate from the get-go. I was walking and it was spiking even though I was barely exerting myself, and then the monitor slipped down and I lost contact. It wasn’t tight enough, since I was afraid of stretching out the strap too much, as happened with my first heart rate monitor. Apparently stretching out the strap affects its ability to function. Argh.

Warmup: 1 mile, 18:39, 115 bpm avg

I was micro-managing my heart rate during the first mile, but it was either too high or too low, jumping all over the place. The road was snowy and/or icy in spots, and the sidewalks weren’t consistently cleared. I was running on the road and at times had to pause and wait for cars to go by before I could safely get around parked vehicles. I ended up with almost exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen in the test.

Mile 1: 16:52, 137 bpm
Mile 2: 16:03, 134 bpm
Mile 3: 16:00, 133 bpm
Mile 4: 15:27, 134 bpm
Mile 5: 15:43, 135 bpm

Whoops. I’m not sure what this means. Maybe I need a longer warm-up. Maybe I need to use a lower max heart rate. Maybe this is not going to work in winter. I don’t know.

Cooldown: 0.74 mi, 19:06 pace, 122 bpm avg

I’m going to give the test another try in a month or so and see if I can get a better result. The workout itself was good, I felt great afterward, and the warm-up and cool-down felt nice. So it wasn’t a total loss, although it was frustrating trying to make the test work.

I looked at the extended forecast and it looks like there’s only a week or so of the somewhat unusually warm weather left, so that was a bit depressing. I also signed up for the lottery for the Superior 25K in May, so with a little luck, I’ll get in.