Monday, March 7, 2016

You must unlearn what you have learned.

It was a good weekend for dramatic developments in my half marathon training.

Breakthrough the first: Realizing that I was much worse off than originally thought when I started training back in September. Understanding this has lead me to achieve a state of peace with myself after suffering a week of despairing with the knowledge that I will not hit my sub 2:00 half marathon goal next month. Now I know that I'm on the right track to get me to my goal for the next one.

Breakthrough the second: I can run at a lower heart rate - and improve my cadence and stride length. Previously, I thought these things were mutually exclusive. 

I'll back up a second - one of the key challenges I've had with the Maffetone Method is finding a consistent pace during my training runs. Whenever I felt like I'd have a good pace going, I'd inevitably hit the upper limits of my target HR and have to slow down to a walk. Walking would then quickly drive my HR too low in the other direction, leading to training using a run/walk method that was highly inefficient. Here's a good visual from earlier in February

See all those peaks and valleys in the blue and red charts? Not good.

When I tested my speed two weeks ago with miserable results, I initially thought the failure might be due to still training at an HR that was too high - that frequently drifting above 140bpm (like you can see in the graph above) might have messed me up, and that perhaps my MAF range isn't 130-140, but should be 125-135. But, from my own words, you can see how well I thought that would work out: 

I can try scaling back to 125-135bpm in future training runs, but my challenge here is that I can't actually run in this range. My slowest jog sends me upwards of 140, and walking drops me down to 120.

Given what I understand about myself now from breakthrough #1 above, I know I need to slow down even more. So the question is: how can I do this and still do something that resembles running consistently? 

The answer: Work on cadence and stride length. Take shorter, quicker steps. The ideal run cadence is 180 steps per minute, and I've been averaging about 160. To work on this yesterday, I popped in my headphones and swapped out my usual "Eye of the Tiger" playlist for an iPhone metronome app set to 170 bpm (I figured the best approach is to gradually work my way up from 160 instead of going at 180 right out of the gate). 

The result? I was able to run slowly the entire time. While I'm sure I looked ridiculous, I rarely hit the upper limit of my HR range. 

Compare this to above. Fewer peaks and valleys, except maybe where I needed to stop and cross a few streets.


So now that I know I can do this - and do it right, even if I'm really slow - I'm interested to see if I will start to make notable improvements in my pace much more quickly going forward.

Today's exercise: Rest. But I can't wait to see what I can do tomorrow (as long as I don't go insane from two hours of listening to a metronome).

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