Flashes of what’s to come

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July 5, 2014 by scratchtype1

I run easy next to a corn field. The stalks have grown tall enough and the early morning sun is positioned just high enough that the combination creates a strobe-light effect in the corner of my left eye. The weather is comfortable, low 60s and low humidity, it’s been a while since I’ve had conditions like this and that’s why I’ve already run over 6 miles and will likely end up near 9 total on this run even during this cutback and recovery week.

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It was just about 2 months ago that I made a commitment to use the heart rate monitor with the Garmin Forerunner 110 and use it to try to keep the easy runs truly easy. Since then my weekly plan has mostly followed the idea of doing one hard run on Tuesdays (tempo, hill repeats, or intervals), a long run on Saturdays, and the rest of the days run easy, although on Thursdays I’ll allow myself tiny amounts of fartlek if the legs are feeling good. The other little bit of fast running I do sometimes is what I call 15 Mississippis. Sometimes on my easy runs I’ll accelerate and hold a fast run run for approximately 15 seconds, about how long it takes to count up to fifteen by way of “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi,…” Although I’m beginning to notice that I seem to be adapting to those some and this last week I threw in my first 20 Mississippi on a run. The other rule regarding the 15 Mississippis is to take full recoveries between them and I like it when I can time them after a stretch of slightly downhill running gets the heart rate about 4 to 6 bpm below the 136 bpm. I’ll let the heart rate climb up over 136 during a 15 Mississippi and then I just go back to easy running until I come around a good spot again for doing another one of those short bursts of fast running.

This morning’s run seems to show that my fitness is improving greatly now. This morning I ran 9:45 pace for 8.8 miles and an average heart rate of 133. As something of a comparison, back in January I ran that Icicle 10-Miler race (although I didn’t run it racing hard) at 9:49 pace and the average heart rate was 143 on it. Temperature today was about 63 and low humidity. January’s race was 38 degrees and low humidity.

Or more recently a month ago I ran 8.6 miles at 10:34 pace and an average heart rate of 133. Temperature was about the same both times, but it was much more humid a month ago, so that makes it a bit tougher. Still, it seems rather certain that I ran much faster today at about the same heart rate as a month ago and I don’t think the humidity of a month ago is responsible for all those 49 seconds per mile difference.

The heart rate training is working for me. The running streak has now reached 85 days and this kind of training has helped me to run more miles than I ever thought possible for me. All those miles, all this running, so much of it done comfortably and without great amount of stress have done a lot to improve cardiovascular fitness. It seems awfully weird almost that I could go out like I did this morning and quite easily run 8.8 miles. If I had been really crazy today I probably could have gone ahead and pushed it out to half-marathon distance and set a new PR for 13.1 miles, all while the heart rate is kept nice and low. But it’s supposed to be a cutback week, so I kept it down to 8.8. Then there’s the crazy fact that this cutback week will see me end up with around 39 miles. Before this year, I had never had a week with more than 35 miles of running.

The next crazy thing is that I’ve now run about 731 miles so far this year. 2008 was my mileage record for a year when I ran about 724 miles. So yeah, just a little over halfway through 2014 and I’ve already surpassed my yearly mileage record.

One strange aspect to doing a lot of easy running is it takes time to warmup and get running sometimes. At least that’s what it feels like. It seems like it takes a mile or two before the legs start to feel loose and good along with my head. That’s often the toughest part of the runs now, the first mile or two. Once I get through that it gets stupid-easy to keep running for the most part, even when it’s hot and humid and I drip sweat and flies buzz my head.

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Other interesting bits gleaned from the running log. July 21st, 2007, I run a 5K race under 30 minutes for the first time. 29:35 and the HRM I used that day showed an average heart of 163. This morning I looked down at the Garmin after it showed 3.1 miles and it showed a time of 30:20. My heart rate was in the low 130s at that time. But that was my first year of running, so it’s not like even really looking at the same runner. But somewhat more interesting is that I did a low heartrate run on August 7, 2010 and the average heart was 135 and the minutes per mile pace 12:00. Then eventually that year I ran the half-marathon in Philly in November and basically stopped running until I began again early August last year.

Now I wasn’t an inert lump during those years 2011 to 2013. But I certainly wasn’t doing all that much either. Yet when I began running last August, my base fitness was mostly based off a lot of hiking during the first half of 2013. The other big change was that I had ditched shoes and began to run barefoot or in Xeros. Too bad I didn’t have a working HRM to collect data during the running I did in 2013.

Still, I think it tells me something — barefoot running helped to make a big improvement in my running form and its efficiency. Barefoot running provides a self-correcting feedback loop, for the most part. Which makes sense if the persistence hunting theory of our evolutionary development is correct, it seems almost inevitable that our bodies would have developed wiring and feedback mechanisms to help us learn to run as efficiently as possible. Wearing shoes interferes with that feedback loop.

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Anyhow, I think it’s a real good idea to keep a running log. If you don’t, I suggest RunningAHEAD.

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