May 8, 2014 by scratchtype1
Probably nearly all of us are prone to self-delusion, whether it be about elements of our character and personality, or whether it be about things we intend to do. We may even have learned the lessons earlier about deluding ourselves and then repeat it again later. I was reminded of this on Tuesday when I ran a short and easy run, and figured I should have plenty left in the tank that I would be able to run in Cheslen Preserve that afternoon after work and be able to do some hill repeats. I changed into running gear at work and when I left the building, I punched the button on the Garmin Forerunner 110 so it could find the satellites. During the drive to the preserve, I watched the heart rate.
It was disturbingly high. Not disturbingly high as in 0h-my-god-am-I-going-to-die but disturbingly high as in it was about 10 to 12 bpm higher than what my resting heart rate should be. My reaction — watch it with a sort of disbelief. It doesn’t mean anything, I told myself. I’m going to crush those hill repeats while I’m out there and feel awesome while doing so. By this point, my fitness is so much better it doesn’t matter, I can still blast them out. So I told myself even while I continued to glance at the watch and deep in my heart wish that I would see the number drop into the high 50s where it ought to be.
When I arrived at the preserve, I checked the blood sugar, and popped in a gumdrop to raise it some. It was a warm day, about as warm as we’ve seen so far this year and the sun was strong in a clear blue sky. No problem. I feel good, I’m going to crush this run and crush that hill and be awesome, is what I thought. The first quarter-mile or so from the start near the parking area is pretty much downhill. No problems with that. But it’s just a little after a half-mile that the first long uphill begins and that’s where reality and the signs of what I had been seeing squashed me. I hit that uphill and quickly realized that I had no real spring in the legs. Truthfully, if I’m feeling good, I may have to take it slow up that hill, but I can feel good while doing so. This time it was a struggle just to get to the top of that first steep ascent of about 25 yards. I saw the heart rate climb on the watch.
Slowly I would come to grips with the reality of the situation. When my heart rate hit 145, I slowed to a walk and let it recover downwards. I then bargained with myself that I would simply take it very easy while warming up to the hill where I would run the repeats. It would take another walk break to finish off that long uphill and then again later on another uphill before my turnaround point, I took another walk break. But I was still thinking that I would run the hill repeats.
But after turning around and heading back, I could feel ever more acutely that even if I tried to run hard for around the 45 seconds of the hill I wanted to do, it would take well longer than that and I probably wouldn’t accomplish anything. So finally I passed the marker that would have been used to begin the repeat and I simply ran easy up that hill til again my heart rate climbed to 145, then walked til nearly the top and began running again, eventually finishing a run of 2 miles that took almost 22 minutes.
This event certainly came at a good time and tied in nicely considering how I recently read Heart Rate Lessons, Part 1 at Despite My Pancreas. In there, she talks about the idea of keeping easy runs easy, which helps to lead to the important other side of that — if you keep your easy runs easy, you can run your hard stuff hard or even harder. The truth is lately, and I had been ignoring it some along with the heart rate monitor, my easy runs had crept up a notch above truly easy.
So yesterday morning, I watched things carefully and ran almost 4 miles with a truly easy heart rate for me, even taking a couple of walk breaks on 2 uphills. Then later in the afternoon I put the heart rate monitor on and found that my resting heart rate was down in the upper 50s. This morning I struggled a bit more but still kept myself reined in overall. I felt a bit of frustration because I suspected that the heart rate was elevated some because my blood sugars weren’t good overnight and I felt dehydrated, but rather than ignore that and try to keep a certain speed, I kept myself reined in and walked once when it was appropriate.
So now I’m going to try to recommit myself to the idea of keeping the easy runs easy. I don’t think that means that I have abandon fast running entirely or do something akin to what Phil Maffetone has his runners do, but it just means that I want to be conscientious about making sure most of my running is easy or recovery-pace and that it is truly that. The best way to gauge that? The heart rate. It doesn’t lie. It doesn’t have a brain or ego, it doesn’t think, “I really should be able to run this faster than 10 min/mile pace.” The heart rate, if you monitor it and understand its context, provides a window into what state the body and legs are in.
The plan for this afternoon? Hill repeats, maybe. I’ll watch what the monitor says while I drive home. If the heart rate is where it should be, I’ll likely be able to do a hard workout. If it’s elevated, then I’ll adjust and just run a short recovery run and enjoy my time out running across the preserve.