May 23, 2015 by scratchtype1
It had been a while since I had last worn the heart rate monitor that came with the Garmin. I had used it a lot last year. So much so that over time I developed a bad chafing and skin irritation problem on the sides of the ribs. I began running less and less with it, got down to around maybe 1 or 2 times per week and then this year even less. The last time I had worn it was on a short recovery run back in February.
Anyhow, the skin has long since healed and I will admit that one idea I’ve been concerned about some is whether the runs that I have thought to be easy have been truly easy. That is at least one way in which a heart rate monitor can be very useful for runners — once you know your numbers and heart rate zones, you can use the HRM to make sure that your easy runs aren’t creeping up above that and possibly putting too much stress on the body, plus wearing you down enough that you can’t hit hard running workouts as hard as you might be able.
So this morning I put it on again to take a look. What would happen when I went out with that easy-feeling in the first mile? Would I run a similar time as to what I’ve been doing, only to see my heart rate some half-dozen beats or more higher than it should be? Would I see the right heart rate but a big slowdown in pace?
The answer was encouraging. What felt like easy effort corresponded to what the heart rate measured. What felt like easy was also the pace that I’ve come to expect for when I run what feels like easy. So good. Maybe that shows that the time I spent with the HRM not only helped me run easy a lot, it helped to teach and ingrain the feeling of easy into me, enough so that I don’t so much need a HRM to keep my easy pace in check. It’ll probably always be a good idea to every now and then use the HRM, maybe a few times a month, just to make sure.
My mileage has dipped a bit the last couple of weeks, it’s been harder to find time and energy, and I suspect some there is still a slight lingering effect from the likely mono reflare from back in late March and April. But it looks like I will probably end up with 140 to 150 miles this month. I’m already over 100 miles for the month, making it a string of 8 months in a row now with at least 100 miles. 14.3 more miles and I can say 8 months in a row of 125 miles or more.
I’m not a fast runner, but I am a faster runner now. I’ve been averaging almost 34 miles a week for 35 weeks now (35 weeks of at least 20+ miles). It has made me faster. Lots of practice will help to make a runner more efficient and the muscles better and the cardiovascular system better. I need to start doing some hill sprints again though. My top end speed is terrible. The only somewhat fast running I’ve been doing lately is some faster miles where I’ll run somewhere under 9 minute per mile pace and a few sprints between a certain telephone pole and a mailbox which last right around a minute.
Still, I feel somewhat proud at how much progress I’ve made. It’s been interesting to watch my running totals add up on my runningahead log. Pretty soon I should see the overall pace for all the miles I’ve run and logged in life drop to 10:25 minutes per mile. That pace would match the pace I ran at my first half-marathon in 2007. The last time I ran a pace on a run slower than that was back in late January, when body was still shaking off the last vestiges of a bad cold. Now nearly all the miles recorded by the Garmin are under 10 minutes per mile pace. Or think of how this morning that when I ran a truly easy run as confirmed by the Garmin and its first 10K was about 59 minutes when I looked at the watch. In late 2007 I ran what stands my race 10K PR, 1:00:35. I ran that sucker hard. I had wanted a sub 1-hour 10K badly that day. But I came up short obviously.
Now I’ve run sub 1-hour for the 10K distance many times, and some of those have been without any real strain other than getting out the door and running.
I’m not a fast runner, but I’m a runner. I’m a faster runner. A better runner. I try to run as often as I can within the limits of my schedule and the vagaries and challenges of type 1 diabetes. I will never be a great runner. I will never be a heroic runner or epic runner. But I’m a runner. The muscles in my legs have turned into ropy and corded muscle. The hips are working better than ever. Almost 2500 miles in almost 22 months since I began to run again, barefoot or in thin sandals. I’ve gone up and down some of the same hills many many times now. I’ve had some runs that were horrible slogs and were only done to say I did them. But I’ve also had runs where I ran among the swallows swooping over the fields and I felt like a bolt of lightning greasing my way down the road. I’ve gone to Philadelphia and revised the memories of anguish in 2010 into a measured triumph of 2014, when I ran the 13.1 miles that day barefoot and in a kilt.
Yeah, I’m a freak. Yeah, my heart often trembles in ways that others never have to worry about. So what? I woke up today and ran. That’s a good way to be.