Inside Job

I’m not pleased about it, but I completed yesterday’s workout on my treadmill.

It’s kind of wimping out and kind of not, because the treadmill makes me miserable. My plan for yesterday was: meet up with my friends at Chester Bowl, take radiation measurements with a Geiger counter for our nuclear engineering class, then do my planned 4 mile workout from there. The measurements didn’t go as planned (we couldn’t get the Geiger counter to work), I thought I lost my phone (it was just in a weird spot in my backpack), and it was horribly windy out. That was enough to drive me indoors.

While I was running on the treadmill, I tried to justify its benefits to myself. I came up with some good ideas.

1. I was able to run at a steady pace. I am always varying my pace while I’m running on the road or on trails, sometimes intentionally because I’m running up or down a hill or through difficult terrain, sometimes semi-intentionally because I’m tired or because I’m trying to get done quickly, and sometimes unintentionally because I am a robot. Running on the treadmill occasionally will help me with consistency.

2. I could use it as a way to gauge how I’ve improved since I started training for the marathon, and since I started heart rate training. I ran 0.5 miles at 3.8 mph and 3.5 miles at 3.7 mph, without stopping to walk. 2 miles were at level 1 incline, and 2 miles at 0 incline. My average heart rate was 139 bpm. Contrast that with the last time I ran 4 miles on the treadmill (Feb 22), when I ran at about the same speed, but my average heart rate was 147 bpm, at 0 incline. So, that’s not that impressive, but it is still an improvement.

3. It was good mental training. One hour on the treadmill with a hockey game on and a fan blowing on me is more mind-numbing than any outdoor run I’ve had. But I powered through, as I’ll probably have to do on some long runs coming up. Maybe not for the same reason (I doubt I’ll be bored, more like tired or aching), but any exercise in mental toughness is going to help.

I think those are some valid, creative justifications for running on the treadmill. Too bad I only did it because I was lazy and crabby.

Third Thoughts

I went for my first run in thirteen days today. A lot of things happened. It started off with some poor nutritional decisions that led to a dearth of sleep that led to dehydration that led to getting behind at work and in school. I’m sure someone could comb back through how I spent my time over the last couple weeks and point out times where I could have squeezed in a few miles here and there, but I don’t regret taking the time off from running.

I am on spring break as of 3 PM today (when I finished the second of two midterms on the docket for the day) and it is unseasonably warm here so I am thrilled to get back in my running shoes. Between the warm weather, the time change, and the overall longer days, I hope I can arrange my running schedule so I don’t have to run on the treadmill at all (unless it is raining or it gets cold again, which I am sure it will).

I previously said I had second thoughts about my heart rate training plan. It was getting too frustrating; I was tired of being out in the cold so long and struggling to keep my heart rate down because I was cold, which slowed me down and kept me out in the cold longer, and so on. Well, it’s warm now.

I ran 6.4 miles today, which was not the smartest training decision ever. I mean, it was fine, I felt good, but I am sure ramping my mileage back up is a stupid decision and could lead to injury. Since I’m not pushing the pace and I’m using a run-walk method to keep my heart rate down when going uphill, I am not too worried about it.

For the first five miles, I ran the same route I did on my last run. On that run, it was 25 degrees but the wind was awful and cold. Today, it was around 46 but the wind was mild. Comparing the two:

Mile 1
2/28: 15:24, 160 bpm
3/1: 15:00, 151 bpm

Mile 2
2/28: 18:24, 148 bpm
3/1: 17:36, 147 bpm

Mile 3
2/28: 17:55, 146 bpm
3/1: 17:16, 142 bpm

Mile 4
2/28: 19:14, 148 bpm
3/1: 18:08, 143 bpm

Mile 5
2/28: 15:55, 145 bpm
3/1: 15:09, 143 bpm

So after 13 days off, I’m able to run the same course 45 seconds faster (on average) than I did the previous time. This tells me I haven’t lost much fitness (or didn’t have much to lose), and it also tells me that the weather had a significant effect on my heart rate and pace. I should be back on track with marathon training starting next week, and I’m going to try to get some decent mileage this weekend so my weekly mileage isn’t too far off where it should be. The dream of Grandma’s Marathon isn’t dead!

Week Two Update

Oh man, last week was a big fat failure, and it’s the lowest mileage week of the program. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, as far as the time commitment is concerned.

First, the mileage recap for the week:
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 2 miles, treadmill
Wednesday: 3 miles, treadmill
Thursday: 3 miles*, treadmill (*I think. About 20 minutes into the run, I touched the treadmill screen and a static charge zapped it and it stopped the belt and reset the display to the time, as if it had just turned on. I wasn’t looking at the time or the distance when it shut off, though I remembered to stop my watch eventually. The watch does distance indoors, but it does it incorrectly [either that or my treadmill is poorly calibrated], so I had to guess at the total distance I did. I guess there’s something to be said for staring at the treadmill display the whole time after all!)
Friday: rest (GI issues)
Saturday: 5.58 miles, road
Sunday: rest (studied)

Whoops. 3 rest days. 13.8 miles. I had planned to recoup the lost miles between Saturday and Sunday, running 6 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday, instead of 5 and 3. Saturday’s run ended up being unpleasant. I wore my chains and for the first bit of the run, I thought it was silly, because the sidewalk was relatively clear, but eventually I ran through slush, snow, ice, and all manner of combinations of the three, so I was glad for the traction as well as the feet protection. I was all excited for the downhill on the 5th of 6 miles after trudging miserably up Arrowhead Road, but the wind was so brutal I was running at about the same pace I had been going uphill. I mean, not quite, but I was running 16:xx and 15:xx paces during a downhill, and my heart rate wasn’t even that low. I am slow, but not usually that slow. I cut the run short by about half a mile due to the cold, and also due to overall anxiety about the rest of the stuff I had to do that day.

Sunday I got up, planned on sandwiching my run between homework sessions, and even put on some of my running gear early so I could jump right up when I was done with my homework. The homework took so long that I realized I couldn’t justify running 4.5 miles, which would take over an hour not including transit time (I was going to go to the Lakewalk since I know it’s 4.5 miles), when I had additional work to do on my take-home test, due the next day. (I finished with plenty of time left, the panic was unwarranted.)

I have to re-think something here. Either I have to reconsider running the marathon in June, or I have to reconsider how I’m approaching my training. I am running slowly, but I also haven’t hit my target heart rate in two weeks, so I’m not really accomplishing anything. I am not dedicated enough to meeting that target heart rate, and it is too cold out to make that heart rate easy to accomplish, even at a slow pace. In short, I am running slowly for no reason. My runs are taking too much time, time that I don’t have this semester. I still think this training is extremely valuable, but I think I’m going to have to abandon it or modify it for this training cycle.

Here’s my plan, which is basically arbitrary:
I am going to continue training for Grandma’s Marathon in June.
I’m still going to monitor my heart rate and my rate of perceived exertion in order to make sure I am running easy on easy days, hard on hard days, and medium on medium days. I just can’t commit to 142 bpm as a maximum heart rate.
Whether or not I run Grandma’s, when this training cycle is over, I will give this training another shot, as the weather will be warm enough that I’m not struggling to balance heart rate and homeostasis.
I’ll use metabolic efficiency training to train for the Mankato Marathon in October, assuming I don’t have an injury or a miserable and traumatic experience if I run Grandma’s.

I don’t plan on ramping up speed like crazy, I don’t have anything other than an “easy” run until the end of March, so I will still be running conservatively. We’ll see how things go after my first run this evening! Enthusiasm!


Ah, I love this song. I wish Axl wasn’t old and fat with a ruined voice. I saw him perform Welcome to the Jungle a few months ago on some show and he was out of breath and horrible.

Out of breath and horrible? Sounds like me.

I took both Monday and Tuesday as rest days this week. It was unplanned, but probably for the best. I hadn’t taken a rest day since the Friday I fell down the stairs, in an effort to turn Mondays into my scheduled rest day for the rest of the semester. I don’t plan on taking 9 days between rest days in the future. Tuesday I had too much homework to take an hour or so to work out. That was unfortunate because I like to work out the day after a rest day.

I like to work out the day after the rest day because I have more energy and I always expect to be about a minute faster than the dragging workout I suffer through right before the rest day. I don’t know why I expect it because it’s never true, but hope springs eternal.

Until recently, when I ran, I expected to get better every time I ran. I expected to “PR” each route every time I ran it. My logic was: I’m so slow and out of shape, every workout should come with fitness gains because my body isn’t used to it. This was obviously based on nothing. It also led to an ineffective way of training. My “easy” days were shorter distances and flatter routes. My “hard” days were longer distances and hillier routes. The effort level was the same: try to be faster than the last time out on the course. This doesn’t mean I was giving 100% effort on every run. I don’t think I’ve ever given 100% effort ever during an athletic activity, except when I was on a swim team. I gave 100% effort at meets, or at least 90%. That was long ago and far away.

Since I’m training based on my heart rate, I’m giving a similar effort (from a cardiovascular perspective) each run, so that hasn’t changed. However, the pace I can maintain at that heart rate varies from day to day, so some days are faster than others, but all days are slower than what I am capable of achieving.

At first, I made peace with this. Now I’m creeping back into that same old mindset again. I expect to be faster at the same heart rate. I expect that I should be starting to see some 15:xx times at the same heart rate. I did, finally, on Thursday (15:44 average pace for 45 minutes on the treadmill), but I was expecting it on Wednesday (which is stupid because I had a 16:02 average pace for an hour, so that’s still an improvement) and was bummed when I couldn’t get it.

I did have a mini-mental breakthrough when I reminded myself that on the treadmill, I can only adjust my pace in discrete intervals. When I bump up the pace one increment, from say 3.7 mph to 3.8 mph, that is an increase in pace of 26 seconds. A bump from 5 mph to 5.1 mph is only 14 seconds, and from 6 mph to 6.1 is only 10 seconds. A 26-second increase in pace is significant. Maybe I’m capable of maintaining 142 bpm at 3.85 mph; I can’t do that on the treadmill. What I can do is run a longer period at 3.9 before bumping it down to 3.8, but every time I hit the decrease pace button, it feels like a defeat.

That was a lot of feelings and frustration for one post, but translating those feelings and frustrations into words makes things more clear and more logical to me, and can help me move beyond them. I should probably bookmark this post for myself and revisit it from time to time when I’m getting impatient with my training plans. Alternatively, I can revisit GNR when I’m getting impatient and get the same message as this post. Woman, take it slow and it’ll work itself out fine.

On The Tundra

It was a little bit colder yesterday than I realized, until I was out on the street for a run.

First of all, the cold weather makes it nearly impossible to keep my heart rate down. If it’s in the 30s, or even the 20s with no wind (a rarity around here), it’s only a problem at the beginning, but it was down in the teens yesterday and felt a lot worse than that, and at 19:xx paces I was still hovering above 142 bpm for the first half a mile or more. This training is really not ideal for cold weather. A blog I read, Miss Zippy, had the same trouble keeping her heart rate down in the cold and has had to give up on MAF training for this training cycle. I laughed because she lives in Baltimore and blamed the “very cold temperatures” for her heart rate issues. I find it funny when the 20s or 30s are called “extremely cold,” unless we’re talking about 20 or 30 Kelvin, in which case, yes.

A couple miles in, I was up near the UMD campus, crawling along the gradual but interminable incline along College Ave between Woodland and Junction, trudging pathetically along at a 17:xx pace, my path was crossed by a pack of actual fast runners. There were probably 6 or 7 of them, all tall, leggy, and graceful, all at the same pace, all making that pace look effortless even though it’s probably a pace I could only dream of. I felt like a walrus watching a pack of caribou prance by.

I was under-dressed for the weather and for the pace I was forced to take, but it took me awhile to realize that. I didn’t realize that running so slowly, keeping my heart rate low, would keep my body from warming itself up as I went along. I was 2 or so miles into the run when I realized I wasn’t warming up. The skin on my face, forearms and thighs was stiffening up, which indicated I’d already gotten a bit of frostbite. It’s fine to start out cold, I usually do, but by that point I should have been warmer. I was still just under 2 miles from home, and I realized I was facing another 25-30 minutes outside if I kept following the heart rate restriction.

With 1.5 miles to go, I cheated. I turned on the jets and let my heart rate skyrocket into the 170s or 180s and zoomed (for me) the rest of the way home.


Oops. Also, FYI, I’m not really that fast, it was all downhill. It did feel amazing to run “fast” for me again, and I did start to warm up a bit as I charged along. I still ended up having to take a shower to warm up, which was probably not very good for the affected skin. It all turned bright red and started to itch. I need to be more careful.

I think kicking it into high gear at the end of a run when I’m cold and haven’t run fast in a long time as a sign that this slow aerobic training I’m doing is working, or at least is not detrimental. I also think I need to check the weather report before I go out, and I need to cover my legs better to block the wind. (I usually cover my arms better, with 2 layers of long sleeves.) I also need to stop writing this post and get dressed for today’s run.


As I suspected in my post on Wednesday, caffeine was affecting my heart rate. I cut down to one cup a day (12 oz) the rest of the work week, and noticed I could run a bit faster on the treadmill at the same heart rate. It’s not an amazing leap forward, but I’m not doing myself any favors by artificially inflating my heart rate even a few beats.

Cutting down my coffee intake has made me feel pretty crappy the past few days. I suppose that’s a sign that I’ve made the right decision to cut back. I held fast even though Friday I was feeling really gross, with a headache and sort of general malaise, and it was a rest day, so it wouldn’t have mattered, and I went to a hockey game after work, so the energy would have been welcomed. Yesterday I let myself sleep as long as I needed to, which helped, and I didn’t have my usual glorious post-run latte, so I’m hoping I’ll level off soon. Just in time to go back to school, where I will have three lattes a day sometimes just to survive. Hooray.

Yesterday I also took advantage of the warmer weather to run outside. I went down to the Lakewalk, my old standby. I wanted to try running on more even terrain so I didn’t have to plod up a hill at a 40 min/mile pace with my heart rate still spiking at 160.

I didn’t wear my shoe chains since it has been warm enough to melt any built-up ice that might have been on the path. There was a bit of snow cover in places but I didn’t slip. Unfortunately, when I started off, I wasn’t able to get my heart rate under control. I really don’t know why, but it was spiking and then dropping and then spiking again for the first few minutes of the run, so I had to go pretty slowly to start off with. My first mile was the slowest.

15:39 (0.46 mi)

See? That makes no sense. After the first mile I had no trouble keeping my heart rate down, other than the little inclines. I don’t know if there was a problem with the monitor at first, or if breathing in cold air was affecting me, or what, but I’m glad everything evened out. I got a little bit of a headache after my ears got cold, which ended up lingering awhile even after I was out of the cold. I also took a shower too soon after coming in from the cold, so my skin got all itchy and blotchy and it still felt cold to the touch in places after the shower.

A latte sounds amazing right now. Ugh, this sucks. But it’s for the best, right?

Be Still, My Heart

Here is a partial list of things that increase my heart rate while running:

  • Caffeine (even hours later) (duh)
  • How full my stomach is (Because running on an empty-but-not-hungry stomach isn’t always possible)
  • Needing to use the restroom
  • Taking a drink of water
  • Blowing my nose
  • Coughing once
  • A bad turnover in the Wild’s defensive zone
  • Talking to my cat
  • Thinking about something annoying for a second
  • Fixing my hair
  • Shouting at the television
  • A very slight change in incline (I usually run at a 2, knocked it down to a 1 in order to get a little speed back during this training period)
  • The Wild scoring a goal (fortunately doesn’t happen very often)
  • Changing the channel

In these first few weeks of training I’m being hyper-vigilant about checking my heart rate, since I really don’t have a good sense of how I feel when I am running at 142 bpm vs 150 bpm, or at least I don’t until I’ve been running for a little bit too long at that higher heart rate. I am trying to be a little more patient with the 146-147s that flash across my watch display, since they do tend to settle down after a few seconds. I know from day to day I will feel differently and some days it will be harder to run the same pace than other days; I know that patience is key to success with this kind of training. I’m trying to cut down the caffeine (only one cup of coffee today instead of two! Let’s see if that works!), and most of the other things on the list are blips on the radar that can’t be helped. Not watching hockey during a run would also help, as would avoiding emotional investment in a sporting competition meant for entertainment purposes only, but I assure you that ship has sailed.

The good news is running slowly on the treadmill has made me hate it less, so I am able to run on it longer. I spent an hour and a half on the treadmill last night, the longest I have ever spent working out on a piece of equipment. Of course, I also covered a bit over 5 miles, a distance I used to be able to cover in an hour, so there’s still that trade-off.