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.

Zumbro 17 Training: Week 1

Not the best training week, probably not worth even logging, but here it is.

Monday: 5 mi, treadmill, 131 bpm
Tuesday: 4.5 mi, treadmill, UMTR hill challenge, 132 bpm
Wednesday: rest (traveling, hotel treadmill out of commission)
Thursday: rest (sick)
Friday: rest (sick)
Saturday: rest (sick)
Sunday: 6.8 mi, trails (Hartley), 137 bpm
Total: 16.3 mi

Not at all where I wanted to be. Wednesday I had a bad headache off and on throughout the day, which I attributed to a lack of coffee. Thursday I had plenty of time to work out, since I was traveling and then worked from home, but I hadn’t slept well at the hotel, so I thought I’d take another rest day. Friday I was still feeling run down, with a slightly stuffy head and chills, so I rested and skipped the hockey game I was planning to attend. Saturday I probably could have gone for a run, but decided to be lazy and also play it safe.

I realize that this is contrary to how most runners behave when not feeling well. Most runners seem to suck it up and get out there unless they physically collapse and cannot run. I’m not very good at sucking it up. However, I also know that Friday afternoon I was sitting in my office, cold, unable to concentrate, and that’s a sign I should be resting. I wasn’t 100% back to normal on Sunday, and had some trouble keeping my heart rate down, which was another sign that I had done the right thing.

I am a bit bummed I didn’t have a nice 30-mile week to start off the training cycle, but I also feel better physically and mentally. A few days off my feet allowed some of the tiny little aches to go away, and overall I feel a lot stronger, and ready to tackle what should probably end up being more than 30 miles for week 2. Knock on wood.

Zumbro Kick-Off

Yesterday was the beginning of my 12-week training cycle for Zumbro 17. I am pretty excited! It feels nice to be training for something again. I put in a decent base-building month or so, averaging 29 miles/week over 5 weeks.

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of 17 mile racing plans out there! It’s unfathomable that this uber-popular distance would get such little attention. I created my own plan, starting with the Hal Higdon intermediate half marathon plan, but making some minor alterations.

I’m still moving ahead with MAF training. My hope is that I will see some real improvement with this training once the weather is milder. I need to be patient. The only speedwork I’ll be doing is hill work, and I’ll be sticking to the same max heart rate goal.

For strength training, I am trying to do the Myrtl routine at least a few times a week. It has really helped the funny little twinge I get in my hip from time to time. I’m going to try to mix in yoga, push-ups, and planks when I can, but make the Myrtl exercises my priority.

I need to make some dietary changes, but I haven’t quite decided what to do yet. I need to muster up the energy to plan and pre-make lunches, to start. Since I am working full-time now, rather than juggling school and work, I have more of a routine, but I’m also a lazy eater, I just eat what’s convenient. I don’t see that changing too much all at once.

I have two vacations planned during the training cycle: a five-day trip to Florida at the end of February, and a four-day trip down to the Twin Cities for the NCHC hockey tournament mid-March. I plan to make those both cutback weeks and go with the flow. My family doesn’t need to wait around while I run for 4 hours. I also don’t want to run for 4 hours in Florida; I won’t be acclimated.

Speaking of the weather, today is the last really awful cold day in the forecast, so I’m looking forward to getting outside to do some runs later in the week. I’ll be back to double-digit runs in a few weeks, so I need the nicer weather to continue!

Snow Falling Sideways

Wednesday I took a rest day, as it was as good a day as any, plus I was tired. I felt a bit like I was coming down with a cold. I felt pretty crummy yesterday morning, too, and was thinking of taking a second rest day. I perked up as the day went on, but I thought I’d play it safe and slog it on the treadmill. It was warmer but it was snowing and windy and I thought I might get too chilled.

I got home, farted around on Facebook for awhile, and a friend of mine posted this article about running outside in winter. It’s nothing ground-breaking, just a woman writing about why she likes it, but it was enough to get me out the door. I’ve been grousing about the cold, complaining about the treadmill, and wishing to get outside, I couldn’t squander the opportunity.

Even when it was snowing sideways on the Lakewalk. The wind was pretty rough at first, and snow had blown over the trail for the first half mile. I wasn’t sure if I had made a very good decision, especially when I was facing the wind head-on in the second mile.

Once I turned around and headed back, I was glad I’d done it. Ice floated on the water, bobbing on the waves as they crashed into the shore. The clouds over the city gave way to black sky over the open water. I had the path mostly to myself, although there were a few other intrepid runners and walkers enjoying the warm-up while it lasts.

My actual running plans are fairly boring. I run 4-6 miles or so most days, at my max heart rate. That’s it. Nothing notable.

The lottery for the Superior 25K ended last night, so fingers crossed I get in! Training plan starts Monday either way.

Molasses in January

I’ve completed one whole week of MAF training. Go me!

My first observation is that while I am running slowly, I’m not running that much slower than I was without the heart rate monitor. It seems I was doing a pretty decent job of staying close to aerobic. It is difficult to tell, of course, because I run such different courses.

I downloaded a user-created app for my watch that beeps when I go over 144 bpm, which is 2 bpm over what the 180-age-5 formula says. That works nicely, as it doesn’t start beeping if I’m briefly at 143, or if I’m holding steady at 142. It has helped me keep in check, although the first time I used it, I ended up well below the threshold, so I have been paying more attention to the heart rate display on my watch as I’m running.

Now that it’s very cold, I’m struggling. It’s still hard to keep it under control for the first mile or so, but earlier last week, when it was still in the 20s or even low 30s, it leveled off.

Saturday it was in the single digits, and I was miserable. My thighs and my butt were cold for most of the run, and I couldn’t find a way to protect my face without fogging up my glasses, so I alternated between blindness and frozen cheeks.

I gave up on keeping my heart rate below 142, and instead tried to keep my heart rate steady. I ended up completely unsuccessful. Spikes all over the place, as you can see in the picture. (Heart rate is shown with the orange line, pace with the white line.)

HRvsPace

Some of the spikes coincide with hills (corresponding to big drop-offs in pace), but not all of them. It needs to warm up so I can enjoy running outside. Today is treadmill city, again (so was yesterday), since it’s the middle of the day and it’s only 1 F. I suppose I should be glad it’s been mild up til now, but there’s still a lot of winter to go.

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.

Review: The Big Book of Endurance Racing and Training

Over the past week, I read Dr. Phil Maffetone’s book, The Big Book of Endurance Racing and Training. I’ve kind of tried doing MAF/heart rate training in the past, but in a half-cocked manner. After finishing the book (well, most of it), I can’t say that I’m going to change too much about my approach, but I have some new things to consider.

TL;DR review: Training section good, nutrition section iffy.

There were whole sections of the book that I skipped for now, but will refer to when they become more relevant. I skipped the racing part because I won’t be racing until April. I skipped the injury part because I’m not currently injured, knock on wood. I looked askance at some of the pain and injury suggestions. I can’t just take it on faith that cleaning up my diet will reduce injury. You better believe when I have menstrual cramps, I’ll be reaching for the NSAIDs, Dr. Maffetone.

I had to laugh when he shared some anecdotes from runners who couldn’t believe they had to run so slow under his guidance. OMG an 8 min pace! So slow! Like crawling on hands and knees! How horrible for these poor people. I suppose part of the reason this training appeals to me is because I’m already slow.

I definitely wanted to run right out and do the MAF test to get started! The MAF test involves a very specific warm-up, followed by a 5 mile run at max aerobic heart rate (mine is 142), and then a specific cool-down. The paces for each mile should slow with each progressive mile, and over time, the overall paces should increase as aerobic fitness improves. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work for me, since Duluth is so hilly, but I can do the test on Park Point. Then I remembered I don’t have a heart rate monitor at the moment (Suunto is sending me a replacement since the first one went kaput about 6 months into use) so the test is on hold.

I’m a little concerned about putting the training into practice in the winter. Dr. Maffetone mentions that weather can impact the heart rate significantly, especially a combination of cold and wind. I live in Duluth, and it’s winter. It’s cold and windy. I know last winter I tried and kind of gave up, because I was having a tough time staying warm. I’m going to give it another shot, but I might also have to give it a rest until spring.

I found the training aspects of the book very helpful. The gist of it is online and available for free, but I appreciate the depth of the book, as well as the readiness of the information. I don’t want to click around a bunch of articles and blog posts to find the information piecemeal.

While I’m sold on the training aspects of the book, I’m on the fence about the nutritional aspects. I know I need to make changes to my diet to improve my overall health. I am not sure I am willing to make the changes suggested in the book.

The book clearly was not written for someone like me, i.e. someone who is overweight and actively trying to lose weight. It’s more addressed to someone who is already at a decent weight. Or, at least, that’s what it seemed. I really can’t stand when people say counting calories doesn’t work. I believe counting calories is a necessary step for most people who are trying to lose weight. Counting calories without making any other changes in lifestyle, diet, or attitude is what does not work, at least in my opinion. Counting calories was an eye-opener to me, as far as how much I was actually eating. It’s a useful tool, but I am not slavish to it, I’m not trying to eat as few calories as possible, and it’s not the only thing I’m doing to try to lose weight.

I’m just not interested in giving up carbohydrates entirely. I’m not even ready to give them up for the duration of the “Two Week Test,” which determines carbohydrate intolerance. Which is… ugh, that term. It just seems so silly. If I’m eating too much sugar or too many refined carbs, I’m eating too much junk. That doesn’t mean I should never eat rice or beans again because I’m “intolerant” of carbohydrates. I probably experience more “symptoms” from leafy greens, which Dr. Maffetone sings the praises of, than I do from a baguette.

Part of me is tempted to do the two-week test because apparently weight just drops off people magically despite not counting calories (and possibly increasing caloric intake) because of the awesome powers of fat burning. Apparently he’s seen people drop 20 pounds in 2 weeks! Which isn’t unhealthy at all!

I will probably have to do some additional reviews of certain sections of the book as they become applicable. I was planning to transition to a more minimal shoe with my next shoe purchase, and I will use the racing, MAF test, and nutrition sections as they become relevant or as I make changes to training and nutrition. I am glad to have read the book, but some aspects seem a bit extreme for me, especially since I’m not an elite, overly-dedicated runner, and because I like to eat dessert sometimes.