Weekend Runs

I decided to keep an open mind as to how hard to push my runs over this weekend as the Hardmoors 55 is only a week away and the Inverness Half Marathon less than a week ago!

So the plan was to run an easy 6 mile road run on Saturday and 11 miles on the Braes on Sunday.

Saturday – road run

I set off at 7.15am for my regular 6.46 mile loop around Paisley. I deliberately didn’t look at my watch at all deciding to run comfortably and see what my pace was at the end. I felt a lot better than I expected to and ran fairly comfortably holding myself back a few times to keep my breathing steady.

When I finished I was pleased to see that my average pace was 7:29 for the run. It is encouraging to feel that my cruising pace is getting lower and I’m hoping that this is going to have a knock on effect for Saturday’s first ultra of the year.

Sunday – off road run on the Gleniffer Braes

This morning I was out for my loop on the Gleniffer Braes at 7.30am. I was keen to use the run as a dress rehearsal for next Saturday’s Hardmoors 55. So I carried my full kit to get used to carrying the pack.

03-15 braesThe other thing I was keen to do to practice running to heart rate. According to the spread sheet Robert Osfield kindly gave me I should be able to maintain a HR of 137 for a race lasting around 10hrs so that is my aim.

I kept a close watch on my HR and whenever it went over 137 and towards 140 I eased off until it came down again.  Using this system I’m not worried too much about pace as it is all about effort and not expending too much too soon.

I do have a question for Robert (and anyone else who wants to chip in!!) ….. I find that on the flat I can keep a HR of 137 alright. On any uphill if I run it goes over 137 I need to walk to keep it on target but downhill running I find it hard to get my HR to 130 never mind 137.

So my question is …. is it okay to let my HR go above 140 for the uphills knowing that it will be lower than 130 for the downhills. So the average will end up around 137.  On today’s runs the average was actually 129 because every time it got close to 140 I eased off.

hr 03-15So I’m all ready for next Saturday.  I’m going to carry my splits from last year’s race as a guide but I plan to be very disciplined with my HR and hopefully be able to run strongly right from the start to the finish!

My yearly mileage is on track. I’m keeping ahead of the red line!

2015 miles 03-15

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3 Responses to Weekend Runs

  1. Question from John: “I do have a question for Robert (and anyone else who wants to chip in!!) ….. I find that on the flat I can keep a HR of 137 alright. On any uphill if I run it goes over 137 I need to walk to keep it on target but downhill running I find it hard to get my HR to 130 never mind 137.

    So my question is …. is it okay to let my HR go above 140 for the uphills knowing that it will be lower than 130 for the downhills. So the average will end up around 137. On today’s runs the average was actually 129 because every time it got close to 140 I eased off.

    It’s very hard to run very close to a target HR when going up and downhills, so practically you have to give yourself a HR range to target. The more experience you get with pacing to HR the smaller the range you’ll be able to manage. Personally I get within a -5 to +5 range from the target HR pretty comfortably. If I’m nearer the upper end or lower end of the range I know that I need to back off and to avoid spending too long away from a few bpm away from the target.

    So a steep incline you get the pacing wrong and I suddenly find myself heading towards and beyond the upper end of my target range I just back off immediately – typically this means walking till the HR starts dropping. As there is a time lag in effort vs HR one can ease off and once the HR starts dropping you can sometimes ease back on the gas quite quickly – basically you want to get the HR down but importantly get back to the average intensity that is associated with the target HR. This is were experience helps alot as you can start getting used to the lag in HR going up or dropping and anticipate a little.

    It’s even better to anticipate based on the terrain rather HR monitor, so as soon as you hit a hill that is steep enough that you’ll need to walk at some point to keep the HR value down, start walking right away. If you get this right you HR won’t shoot up, instead the intensity will be steady, the HR steady and you won’t need to go chasing a target and loose focus on the actual process of running efficiently. Bascially use the HR monitor to guide you how to pace ups and downs so that you can get pretty close just be feel and anticipation and just occassionally reference the HR monitor to know that you are “in the zone”.

    With running downhills, from a metabolic point of view ideally you’ll want to run these at the same intensity as the uphills, which will be at roughly the same target HR. The steep and more technical the descent the more difficult this can be. If you do find yourself consistently unable to keep the HR up on descents similar to what you’ll encounter on race day then in the short term don’t worry, just run relaxed and efficiently as you can and not worry about the HR.

    Longer term this is a cue for you to develop your descending skills during training so that when you next race you’ll be better able to maintain the speed on the descents. Basially practice makes perfect. I used to be crap at descents, but liviing in the Trossachs with lots of hills to practice on it has become second nature.

    Now the question on whether it’s OK to go over on the uphill because you know you’ll be under on the downhill, I would broaden the topic to look at what is actually happening to your body when you push harder than you target range. The key thing to consider is how much glycogen you use up as you increase intensity. It’s not a linear relationship, pushing 10% harder doesn’t increase glycogen utilization by 10%, it’ll actually go up by a higher amount, I don’t have the graphs to hand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 20% more glycogen. When you are on the descent 10% less hard doesn’t reduce glycogen utlization by 10%, it’ll just reduce it by 5%. The net difference in total energy usage might be the same but the utilization of glycogen goes up significantly, and it’s not something you get magically get back. Going too hard on the ups has a real penalty that you’ll feel more and more as the race goes on.

    So I feel it’s important to rein yourself in on the uphills. It’s times when you get to the upper end of your target range when you are red-linning it and burning glycogen stores at a much faster rate. The more your HR deviates away from the target HR the higher the glycogen you’ll use per mile.

    Now if you are in the last quater of the race and feeling great, with plenty of fuel left in the legs and liver then by all means let the target HR range going up and push on harder. You should let the whole range go up, not just allow yourself a wider range so you can gut the uphills – as the wider the range you make the less efficient you’ll be overall for those miles. In effect if you feel you can up the effort level by 5% in the last few miles then you should be pushing 5% harder on the flats, the uphills and the downhills all evenly.

    Another thing to bare in mind is that when we race adrenalin, HR drift, heat, digestion etc. pushes our HR for a given pace higher. I often see a HR of 5 to 10bpm higher in a race than in training for a given pace. This means that you might find you have to walk more uphills to keep in your target zone, but find the descents actually more in your target zone than in training. So your 129 average in a trainign run could easily equate to a 137 average for the same pace and terrain in a race.

  2. Thanks Robert ….. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. That’s really helpful.

    My friend Rick has also emailed with this link to Marc Laithwiate’s blog ….

    Hi John

    Just read your post about running by heart rate. Marc Laithwaite of The Endurance Store has been posting some articles about that and I’ve copied and pasted some comments he made which hopefully you’ll find helpful.

    Hope you have a great run on Saturday

    Best regards


    Ps. Here’s the link http://www.theendurancestore.com/blog/blog/2015/02/ – you’ll need to scroll down past the stroke rate blog

    Maintain a constant intensity and avoiding spikes is also critical. If you push hard on uphills and recover on the downhills, your intensity will vary greatly throughout the race. Remember, when you pick your intensity for any event, average figures (average heart rate or average power) or pretty useless as a guide. You need to hold the intensity constant, with little change in intensity. If you aim to ride or run at a heart rate figure of 130 beats per minute, then set yourself a tight range of 125-135 for the duration of the event. Slow on the uphills and hold pace on the flat and downhills

    You can use heart rate to monitor your training intensity and cyclists can also use power devices to do the same job. Let’s take heart rate as an example and consider the following scenario as an example:

    Tom has a zone 1 cycling heart rate of 118-128 and uses his heart rate monitor when completing all his ironman cycle training. We know that Tom will maximise both his fat usage and can maximise his training distance by holding his heart rate steady within Zone 1.

    Avoiding the spikes

    One key thing to take into account when riding in Zone 1 is avoiding spikes. If Tom completed his long Sunday ride and reported an average heart rate of 124, it first appears that he has ridden to plan. Unfortunately upon closer inspection, he spent half his time at a heart rate of 148 climbing hills and the other half of his time at 100 rolling down the other side, thereby generating an average of 124. Whilst the AVERAGE looks correct, the TIME IN ZONE was very poor.

    Every time you push hard on hills and allow your heart rate to rise out of Zone 1, your metabolism switches from high fat usage to high carbohydrate usage. Not only is there a switch to carbohydrate, you guzzle the fuel as if there’s no marathon to come. I would liken this to driving your car and every time you reach a hill, changing into first gear and flooring the accelerator, for those old enough to remember you can also pull the choke out for good measure.

    OBJECTIVE 1: Tom is not practicing fat burning during his ride. Every time he pushes on the hills, fat usage ‘drops out’ and only returns when the body has stabilised a few miles later.

    OBJECTIVE 2: Tom is guzzling fuel at such a high rate, he completes 60 miles of his planned 100 mile ride and is pretty knackered so calls it a day. Tom feels that despite the event being 112 miles (plus the marathon to follow), 60 will suffice. Good luck with that one Tom.

    Q: Surely if I’m riding harder that’s more beneficial as my fitness will improve?

    A: Not really, you’ve failed on both key objectives. If your training is planned correctly, you should be doing other sessions which will include ‘harder riding or running’ to cover that aspect of fitness.

  3. Pingback: Splits for Hardmoors 55 | John Kynaston's ultra running diary

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