Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Heart Rate Evolution

When I first started running (casually) in college.. I just ran. I had no idea how far I went, or any idea what kind of pace I just ran. After spending a summer in Seattle doing an internship for the Starbuck's corporate office I took to it a little bit more seriously. I ran on a treadmill back then so I could actually track my pace. Which, was somewhere between 3-6 miles and around a 9min mile (or sometimes a little faster) pace.

I just ran. I ran HARD. I would get sore, but to me.. that is what it was about, feeling the burn. Sometimes I would soak through my cloths so badly, I would actually put on 2 sport bras at a time (I'm thinking maybe I had a bit more to support in that area back then?).

When I trained for my first marathon a few years later I did the same thing. I wore a watch and I clocked each mile at or very close to a 9min mile pace. I'd run until I was blue in the face, and often times spend the rest of the afternoon nauseous and sore. The things I did not know then...

Yes, I had a coach, but I'm pretty sure they just though I could run fast.

I ran some 10K's with Shane and he pushed me HARD. My times would start at a 56min 10k and PR at a 50min 10K. Funny thing though.. for a 5K, I could not run any faster than that pace. I think my 5K PR is like 26mins.. And I puked at the end. I kid you not.

I liked that feeling of pushing it so hard. Of crossing the finish line knowing I could not have given ANY more on that given day.

Then a couple of years later... I think after my second marathon and in the midst of the IT band saga that would consume my life over the next 500, I mean several years I got a Heart Rate Monitor.

My coaches gave me some HR zones based on some calculations they had. I would pretend that I would follow them. Like on my long runs, I think they wanted me to stay under 160. If I was at 165 I considered that well, FANTASTIC!

I did the same when I would cycle. I used to ride with some crazy fast people that worked in the same corporate office as me. They were amazing. I would give everything I had to just hang on. It was so fun! I would climb hills all out hitting HR tops in the 180s. I would end the 60-80min ride with my HR monitor saying I burned like 900calories. When you are 23-24 years old and drinking a lot of stupid calories.. this is like, uh... THE BEST THING EVER.

When I decided to train for my first half ironman(Soma 05) I knew that to Go the Distance I would really need to actually follow that whole HR thing. I signed up for MAO, and after a bunch of history and questions my new HR zones were provided. Funny enough, they were similar to what I was given a couple years ago by my other coaches.

I tell ya. I REALLY REALLY tried to stay within these zones, but it is very humbling to slow down to close to a walk pace. And don't' even get me started on what would happen if I were to try to hold a conversation, or god forbid take a drink of water. Not to mention get overheated, or dehydrated. Blah blah...

But, I did the best I could. Some times I would let the HR creep up to 170ish.. but for the most part, I would let Shane drop me on the bike... or walk up the damn hill.

And, sure enough I survived the half Ironman. In a pretty respectable time (6:05).

Then comes the Ironman training... LONG, LONG, LONG... and SLOW, SLOW SLOW pretty much summed up all of last year's training. I followed my HR plan to a T! I got my VO2 Max numbers and I followed them.

Slowly, but surely I could pick up a little bit of speed in the same HR zones.... but I was almost always at the top of Zone 2.

This year things have really started to change for me. I'm giving credit to 2 solid years of focusing on the damn numbers. The ZONE 2 numbers. Letting pride go out the window. Walking when needed. Falling back or drafting when needed on the bike.

I have found a new comfort in going slow, and easy. Maybe too comfortable (based on my performance, or lack there of last weekend). Each and every workout over the past 10 weeks (IT band issues aside) seem to be picking up speed (even if only a second or 2 per mile) and the HR averages are dropping.

For instance. Wednesday I did 16 miles under a 10min/mile pace with a 144 avg HR. 144 people?! Several years ago that would have been like a 164 or a 174. I do still have some poor effects with heat though. The first lap with the dogs, about 7 miles my HR AVG was 140 and my pace was a 9:45. Of course I started late, so by 9am I was HOT and slowed down quite a bit....

So, the whole point of this post has kinda been lost in my ramblings.. but ANYWAY. THIS WEEK SPEED WORK STARTED!!!!

Do you know what Mark Allen's speed works are all about? GETTING THE HR HIGH!

Do you know what getting the HR high when you are used to going slow and easy feels like?

Like you want to vomit. And scream. And pass out. AND KILL THE SPIN INSTRUCTOR!!!!

That is what I felt like today. And people, when I was feeling this 45mins into the class and I totally thought I was going to DIE I looked down at my HR monitor and my watch said 177.

I mean, 277. Or, at least that is what it felt like.... 177 used to be a walk in the park for me. I would tap out at track workouts seeing 190-197 off and on on every interval.

So, tomorrow is my first speed run of this training cycle. So after 11 weeks of zone 2 (below 160), I now have to push my HR up into the 170's and 180s.

10min warmup
4x:15 "pickups" :10 recovery
2:00 easy
4x3:00 on 1:00 recovery
2x6:00 on 2:00 recovery
6x1:00 on :30 recovery
10min cool down.

I am really hoping I get that "feeling" back. that feeling like I used to love. The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, of pushing it hard. Of surprising myself at how far I can go.

Well, that might be a little over-ambitious for speed run #1, but we'll see :-)


SWTrigal said...

Good job! And words of encouragement.. I love MAO online-new to it. Just think of your MAHR being 135! I haven't seen the speed improvements yet but I know I recover WAY faster and "at my age" that is golden..

Molly said...

I have not worried about my HR again, yet. I figured I would get the to 5Ks down and then go down that road again.
Thanks for the reminder of how meaningful it is!
Have fun this weekend!
"Push it real good!"
Take Care

P.O.M. said...

I definately do not have a grasp on the heart rate thing. I agree that I would have to humble myself and slow down and then I would feel like .... I guess disappinted. But I know I need to refocus on that. Maybe after my next marathon.