Back in August I wrote about my frustrations with running performance. At that time I thought I could improve my pace by pushing my heart rate beyond my typical 75% of Max. After seeing some very weird numbers coming from my FR35, I figured I was either experiencing a medically concerning pulse or there was something wrong with the device that captured my heart rate. To get the details, see below.
|Dare to believe|
Some things are so obvious that we ignore what’s right in front of us. I think I may have figured out something that could get me out of the performance stasis that I have struggled with for a very long time.
I’ve worked hard over the past 3.5 months to get back to my old running self. Since May, I’ve been consistently running six days a week. This has resulted in a 4X increase in mileage per month compared to what I was doing prior to May. My runs are peaceful, almost meditative. Compared to where I was, this all seems great. But it’s not all great.
According to Garmin Connect, almost every one of my performance metrics are at their lowest points in over a year. Speed, cadence and stride length are down compared to last summer and way down from where they were when I last competed (2014). I know I’m five years older, but I don’t accept this level of decline. Some of it may relate to the medication I take, but I’m now rethinking that theory.
Back to the obvious. Most runners who focus on performance understand the basics. The harder the effort, the higher your heart rate. The higher your heart rate, the faster you go. Higher effort yields more steps per minute. A longer stride gets you there faster. So if your average heart rate on a run is 60% of max, your runs will be peaceful and meditative. But your cadence will be low and your pace will be awful.
I’ve always been a little suspicious of HR monitors because they occasionally give readings that would trigger a trip to the ER if they were real. It’s a known issue across all brands, Garmin, Polar, Suunto, etc. I noticed that my heart rate on most runs was pretty low but I chose to believe the monitor wasn’t accurate. If I thought about it more, I would have realized that I had fallen into cruise control running and I had no one but myself to blame for my poor pacing.
I decided to run 10 x 160 meter intervals to see if I could match my performance from years ago. I couldn’t hit those numbers, but the times were faster than anything I’ve recorded since 2015. More importantly, my heart rate, cadence and stride length for those ten repeats were strongly correlated to the fast paces. One might say that was an obvious result, but I still didn’t connect it to my daily runs.
It wasn’t until I started tracking my all-day heart rate that I concluded that the HR monitor was fairly consistent from day to day. I realized that I should believe the readings I was seeing on my run. And if those readings were barely cracking 60% of max HR, I needed to ramp up my effort.
|I look good in blue|
So I did. Starting Monday, I focused solely on my HR on my runs with a goal of 70-85% max. The results have not been dramatic, but I’m running almost 2 mins per mile faster than I was a week ago. It’s no piece of cake and I can feel the effort, but it’s tolerable. Per Garmin Connect, my V0₂ max has moved from good to excellent for my age.
My challenge going forward will be to continue pushing on every run in hopes of making a higher HR my new normal. I don’t think I’ll be getting back to 9:00 paces too soon, but at least I know what I need to do to get there.