Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heart Rate Approach Summary

ORN:  6 miles total; 4x1 mile intervals @ 8:18/mile average

Boy, the fall weather sure helps the enjoyment of running.   It's been a long, hot summer and I'm grateful for the cool down!

I mentioned in last week's race report I was fleshing out a new-to-me method of incorporating heart rate training to my running, using the Labor Day 30K as a shakedown for the method ahead of the Chicago Marathon on October 10.  As promised, here's my method as it has evolved over the past 6 weeks.

The Background:  The whole concept of HR training has had appeal to me for some time now.  Yet, to read about it, it seems so very complex and many who write about is seem combative.  Battles over this method and that method of zone calculation.  How to plan training.  Expensive devices.  All of this was off-putting to me, even though the concept of using one's own heart rate as a simple and reliable method of bio-feedback made abundant sense.  My effort here, therefore, has been to simplify the thing enough to the point I could use it.  

Further, I've been so pleased in using Galloway's run/walk approach ever since my injury in the 2006 Portland Marathon I was not going to reject that.  It has saved a number of injuries for me and all I really want to do is to continue to run long distances pleasantly.  

Yet, in the two marathons I did this spring, they were less than pleasant at the end.  Thus, I was open to change. But how?  Here's what I did.  

The Actions:  First , I bought a simple HR Monitor.  For $60, I had myself a simple Polar FS2c monitor.  All it does is measure HR and tell you, at the end, what your average and peak HR was.  Simple.  

Second, I had to calculate my Zone 2 (Z2), the seemingly magical zone where one burns mostly fat, not glycogen and keeps you going for a long time.  This was more annoying than I anticipated; but using 5 different methods of calculation, I found none of them differed by more than 3 beats per minute.  Shoot, I won't be fine tuning it that much.  So, by fiat,  I declared the reasonable Z2 for me of 113-128 beats per minute (bpm).  (Yes, Wes, a larger range than I first published here). 

Third, I set a plan combining Run/Walk and HR training that is simple.  I plan to run a 4/1 run/walk ratio (run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute) at Chicago.  And, when I run, I will not use a Garmin to check the pace; rather I will simply hold my pace to stay in Z2.  

Fourth, I changed my mind about finishing time.  I chose to accept whatever time this plan gives me for the marathon.  Finishing well now trumps hitting a particular time goal.  

The Implications:   It means I no longer try to predict what time I will run on a particular day or course.  Instead, I simply take whatever the weather and the course and my conditioning allow.  It means my pace per mile might change.  If the HR gets over 128, I slow down.  If I can't get it up into Z2, I speed up.  If I tire towards the end of the race, my HR will tell me and I will slow down.  I will record the times at each mile but will not be a slave to it.  It means my HR should come back to Z1 during each one minute walk break.  If it stays up, I need to back off more.  It also means I'll probably run longer (no more 1/1 or 2/1 ratios) and probably run slower.  I hope it means I'll be stronger at the end and enjoy it all more.  Indeed, if it works, it will better allow me to achieve my general goal to "Run the Best Race Conditions Allow." 

The Prototyping Test:  So, I took this plan and executed it at the Labor Day 30K last Saturday.  I did not run the race to see how quick I could run 18.6 miles.  I ran it to test the method for Chicago.  Success would mean feeling strong at mile 18, feeling like another 6.2 would be no big deal. 

And it worked.  The course for the 30K was a set of rolling hills.  I could see the HR go up on the uphills and be unchallenged on the downhills.  I saw the HR drop off during the walk breaks.  I felt it stay low through the first five miles, then go level for the next ten or so.  Around mile 15, it felt a big odd, staying up during the walk breaks.  I walked a little longer once, ran a little slower the next run segment, focused on breathing; and it all came back to normal by mile 16.  I passed a lot of folks the last three miles and at the mile 18 marker, said "this is good" and opened it up the last partial mile.  And, according to my new and improved laminated pace chart (that's another blog post sometime), this effort would have netted me a 4:42-4:45 marathon.  And I'd be thrilled with that.  

So, that's the plan.  Yeah, I'm a systems geek, so such efforts fascinate me.  It worked well in the race last week.  It worked wonderfully in my 22 mile training run on Aug 21.  I'm set for another 22 miler next Saturday...we'll test it again.  

Hope this makes's the first time I've tried to explain it all in one place.  Feel free to comment or make further suggestions.




Wes said...

well, the algorithmic methods for calculating zones are almost never correct, especially with physically active people. I think you will be short changing yourself. With that said, learning to corroborate perceived exertion with HR is a great tool. Good luck with your continued learning!

Wes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Sounds like you've hit on a great method that's working for you! I've been put off HR training for some of the same reasons as you. Someone gave me a monitor they weren't using any longer. Maybe I'll pull it out of the drawer one of these days and give it a try. Hope you continue to have good results!