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.

PP5M Training: Week 5

Last week’s training was a bit messed up. Here’s the log:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 6.2 mi (trail)
Thursday: 5.5 mi (10×400 intervals)
Friday: 4.4 mi, road
Saturday: 1.6 mi trail + 3.5 road
Sunday: 1.6 mi trail + 7.9 road
Total: 30.7 mi

I started the week with 2 unscheduled rest days in a row. Not the best way to start a week, but necessary. Both Sunday night and Monday night I slept horribly (Sunday because I wasn’t feeling well, Monday I don’t know what the problem was), and I even went home from work early on Tuesday and took a 2 hour nap, which I never do. Generally when I nap I feel really sick and horrible, so I avoid them unless I just can’t function. I did yoga both days (after the nap on Tuesday, which helped me feel better) and I walked a couple of miles on Monday, so I wasn’t a complete deadbeat.

I don’t feel guilty about “unscheduled rest days,” to use the parlance of our time, because if they’re needed, they’re needed. Knowing when to give my body or my mind a break from running is important, and not listening to that impulse is going to be detrimental to my training. I just moved everything up by a day and skipped the rest day, and tried to make up the mileage. I made it to 30!

Wednesday I tried out my handheld on a trail run. Thursday I gave intervals another try and kind of sucked at them. I did that run on Park Point (a stupid idea, because while the flat surface was nice, dodging tourists who don’t look when they cross the street and who ride tandem bikes as if the whole street is theirs was unpleasant, and then I got bridged) and I think I’ll do that for the next set of intervals (fewer tourists). My splits were unknown, 10:50, 10:39, 10:49, unknown, 10:45, 10:46, 10:53, 10:34, 10:20. I forgot to hit the lap button for the two unknowns. While those are fairly consistent (with the last one an outlier), they are too fast. Either that or I’m going to slaughter my race on Friday.

Saturday and Sunday I did “doubles” as I did a short hike each day (a dry run and then the solstice hike) and a run. My long run on Sunday went ok. I brought along my handheld and started at 6 PM, trying to avoid the heat. Instead I got full-on sun in my face for a few miles and ended up salty as hell. I used my fantastic water bottle to douse my head and get the salt off my face. I felt really gross after the run, despite sipping water the whole way and despite feeling strong during the run. It was really stuffy in my house and was making me nauseated. I’m not sure if it was the heat, or if it was because I hadn’t eaten enough before my run. I think it was the latter, because after I laid down for a little while (in the grass outside, because I was feeling a little panicky) and ate a granola bar, I was fine and ate my dinner. I also didn’t show any other signs of dehydration or heat illness. Still, that handheld is coming with on all long runs or runs where I’m exposed to a lot of sun, just to be safe.

This coming week, I’m hoping to get back on the training schedule, with a few minor, but planned tweaks. With the race on Friday/Saturday (it starts at 11:59 PM on Friday) rather than Sunday as the schedule says (why do these stupid plans always have the races on Sundays? Saturday’s probably more common!), I’ll have Sunday as an open day and do a long run, and I probably will still only have one rest day (Thursday) even though the plan calls for two rest days in a row leading up to the race. It’s a 5K, I’ll survive on just one rest day.

Even though the training plan went pear-shaped for the week, I still got the important workouts in (long run and speedwork), got the mileage I wanted, and had some fun along the way. I’ll just be over here self-congratulating for this accomplishment.

Lessons from the Long Run

14 miles in the books today. Well, 13.8. Ugh. It wasn’t good. Although I plugged in my watch and looked at my overall time and splits and apparently it didn’t suck as much as I thought.

Let’s look at the splits:
Park Point out and back
16:02 – warmup/I got bridged right at the beginning and had to wait around a bit.
14:18 – I wanted to finish the first four miles in under an hour and came close, but this is faster than it should have been, if I was running smartly. It felt fine though.
15:16 – I walked a little bit here and had a Starburst.
14:43 – Another Starburst here I think.
16:17 – Walked a bit and had another Starburst, felt nauseated.
22:06 – Stopped at my car right at the beginning of this mile
14:48 pace for the last 0.8 miles
Overall pace: 15:49

I kind of thought the overall pace would be slower but it wasn’t. It’s not great and I was clearly fading at the end. I was fading mentally more than anything else, because if I pulled myself together, I could get my pace back up. So I have to figure that out.

A couple of other things I need to correct before next weekend’s 16 mile run:

1. I need a hand-held water bottle. I was never in danger of getting dehydrated or anything, but a few sips of water would have made a huge difference mentally.

2. Starbursts are tasty but are not a good candy for eating on the run. It might have been better if I had been able to take a few sips of water after eating pieces of candy but probably not. They’re too sticky and the wrappers are annoying to deal with, and they triggered my gag reflex a little as their taste was too intense. I probably need some mints or something instead.

3. I need to try out a different strategy. Maybe a Galloway-style run-walk? I don’t know. I also need to not stop for 6 minutes.

Next weekend is make-or-break time. If I have another crappy and disappointing long run, I’m not ready for a marathon, and I’ll focus on speed for the 5-Miler and then work on training for Mankato. I wish I could trust that I will run faster in the marathon than I am now in training, but I don’t.

Planning Ahead

For week 5 of the marathon training plan I’m following, the prescribed plan is: Monday rest, Tuesday 4 miles, Wednesday 5 miles, Thursday 4 miles, Friday 3 miles, Saturday 5 miles, Sunday 7 miles, total 28 miles. Since I am going out of town tomorrow (Thursday), I have had to shuffle the days around. I do plan on running while I am out of town (I’m just going to visit family and go to the NCHC hockey tournament), but I would rather shift the shorter runs to the days I’m in the Twin Cities and get more sleep and time with friends and family. There’s no way I could do a 7 mile run on Sunday either before or after getting in the car for 2.5 hours. I don’t want to do it before because I want to get home to my cats, and I don’t want to do it after, because who wants to run after a long drive?

I front-loaded my running schedule to accommodate my plans. I decided to move my rest day to… probably Saturday. I took it easy last Sunday with just a hike (note, a short hike is not a rest day. A rest day is a day of rest, not a day off running.), so I feel like I can handle the extra mileage.

Monday I ran 4 miles. I was originally going to take a rest day, as it was raining, but I got home from work and it wasn’t too cold, so I headed out, even though it was 7:00. I finished the run in the dark, which I hate (these sidewalks are treacherous with their various obstacles and I’m afraid I’ll trip), but there was daylight for most of it. I pushed a little more than normal and ran the whole way instead of walking the hills, so my heart rate was up a bit, but I felt good.

Tuesday I ran 7.9 miles. The extra 0.9 was insurance in case I need to shorten one of my later runs. I didn’t push the pace at all, but my heart rate was a little high thanks to an afternoon cup of coffee. I also discovered (or re-discovered) that Rice Lake Road doesn’t have any sidewalks. What is with this city and its lack of sidewalks? Annoying. The speed limit on Rice Lake Road is 40-45 mph, so I felt a little vulnerable. I tried running on the side of the road but it was difficult, as the ground was spongy and covered in matted-down tall grasses. It’s a shame because I liked the route, but I’m not sure I’d run it again. Maybe earlier in the day.

Tuesday night we drove around trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We drove up Highway 61 along the lake and stopped at a few points, but didn’t see anything except stars. I’m not going to complain, the stars were gorgeous and standing on the lakeshore in the middle of the night is so peaceful, but there were some unbelievable photos from around the area of some spectacular displays, and I missed out. As we were driving along I thought about Grandma’s Marathon. I’ll potentially be running along that same road in a few months. And probably wishing I was dead already. Maybe. We also drove out to Park Point and got a bit of a glimpse, but nothing much. The lake was calm and there’s still plenty of ice built up along the shore, so it was oddly quiet on the beach. We didn’t stay long because the park was closed (and it’s a good thing we left because a police car was coming over the bridge as we were leaving the point, probably to kick people out of the park) and I was pretty chilled from the run earlier. Even with gloves my hands had been cold on the run and the chill spread through my whole body.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel today after a long run, but I actually feel amazing today. I thought my back and hips would be sore, but they aren’t. I decided last night I’d run the Lakewalk after work, and I packed workout gear in my backpack and everything, and then I forgot my running shoes. Sigh. I went home at lunch and got them, so the day is salvaged, but it was still a totally unnecessary stop. I wish I was a morning person.

On a completely unrelated note, I read this article, interviews with three people who recently set treadmill records: fastest 50k by a woman, longest distance in 12 hours on the treadmill, and fastest 50k by a man. The guy who ran the 50k missed the record by 47 seconds, so he ran it again 36 hours later and beat it. WHAT IS THE POINT? I would die of boredom.

If The Good Lord’s Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise

So, there was my Sunday.

Saturday I made the somewhat ill-advised choice of doing another long (for me) run. I ran from the entrance of Park Point to the lift bridge and back, which is 7.5 miles. My legs were a bit fatigued from Friday’s run, but I figured a flat route wouldn’t be too hard on them. I made up for that by being stupid and pushing the pace. I couldn’t help it, I was bored. It really was a good thing I pushed the pace at times, because I had misjudged the temperature. I finished the run at about 6:45 and it was only 38 degrees. I was only wearing a tank top, a tissue-weight long-sleeved shirt, and leggings, but the only part of me that was cold was my hands. And they were extremely cold by the end of the run, so much so that I didn’t have full range of motion of my fingers until I’d warmed them in the car for a few minutes. Oops. I really should have known better, since I’d worn gloves on Friday’s run even though I felt like it was warm enough to skip them. Lesson learned.

Sunday my hips didn’t really want to function. I don’t find this concerning because I obviously put a lot of stress on them on Friday and Saturday, and the soreness was symmetric. So, unless I have Joe Mauer’s bi-lateral leg weakness, I’m sure I’m fine. I decided, because I’m not a complete moron, I wouldn’t try to make up the rest of the week’s mileage (21 miles) on Sunday. Originally I had planned a short hike with a friend, and then a run to top things off, but I scrapped the plan for the run.

My friend and I hiked from Chester Park down to 4th St, and then walked back up on the road. That was not the original plan, but the trail along the creek alternated between mud and ice, so we decided not to try to crawl back up it. As the video above shows, the creek was roaring along. Underneath the flowing water, the creek bed was still covered in ice; it was pretty cool to watch. I still can’t do a trail review, I suppose that will take a few more weeks of above-freezing temperatures, no more snow and some evaporation or absorption of the water we slogged through on the path. The walk up wasn’t that pleasant; it was an annoying uphill on a sidestreet, nothing of note. I felt fine afterward and my overall soreness was barely noticeable on Monday, so I haven’t completely derailed my training.

Total mileage for Week 4: 16.1 (5 miles short of prescribed mileage) (I am counting the walking miles in my total mileage, since they were intended as a workout.)
(Total mileage for Week 3 is of course zero, no need to recap that)

Trail Review: Minnesota Point (Winter)

I really, really love this trail, but it does have some drawbacks.

This is not one of the drawbacks.

The Minnesota Point trail is a mix of access road, single-track, and wider trails that extend to the very tip of the spit. It’s somewhere between 4 and 4.6 miles, depending on which route you take. I took a longer way out than I did back, hugging the edge of the Superior Bay side, and then cutting back in at Point Zero Lighthouse. The ruin of the lighthouse actually once stood at the tip of the spit, but sand deposits from the lake changed the location of the harbor entry. I saw it on an episode of Lost Duluth on public television last summer, which was what prompted me to head out there in the first place.

The major drawback to the trail is the terrain. Much of it is sand. Running in sand is annoying. I am sure that it was a good strength workout for my legs, or something, but it is still incredibly annoying. I had hoped since it was winter, the sand would be compacted and covered in a bit of snow, but that was not the case.

All the snow had blown off the trail, I think. That’s the other drawback to the trail in winter. The vicious wind. At the beginning of the run, I was questioning if I was appropriately dressed, and if I had made a horrible mistake. One side of my body was being pummeled. The trail heads into the woods early on into the run, so I was somewhat shielded, but it was whistling and howling above me through the treetops, which made me imagine it was colder than it was.

Those are the only two drawbacks to the trail (in winter). The rest is beautiful. There are a few small “mounds” but no great changes in elevation, the sand was a little bit compacted so it was easier to run in than it is during warmer temperatures, and the scenery is amazing. Some of the trail is in the trees, other parts along the shoreline, and the end of it is…

…even better in person. The only downside is having to look at Wisconsin sometimes.

It’s still better in the summer (despite the sand), because the sound of the waves against the shore is heavenly, but it is a great place for a hike or a run. It is not a great place for speedwork or tempo runs. I don’t know what the trail grooming is like if there is snow, I’ll try to get out there when/if it snows a bit more to see. The trail, other than the sand, is not difficult; there aren’t trees or boulders or other obstacles. In a few spots the trail gets a little overgrown, but it’s not too hard to push a few branches out of the way.

A great long run would be an out-and-back of the entire strip of land, from the lift bridge to the tip and back again. I have run from the entrance to the park to the lift bridge and back (which is about 7.5 mi) but I’ve never put the two together. Sounds like a bucket list item for a time with warmer temps and a better training base.