Sunday, 10 May 2015

February HM & HR, not as Meh as I first thought.

February, I must apologise.

When I thought about February I couldn't remember anything happening and was expecting the whole month to be a bit, well, 'Meh..'.

But, when i actually looked, I found I'd discovered a potential new HM (Half Marathon) route, ran a 10 mile race, lost Max briefly on the Heath (bit heart stopping!), did a 16 mile ish / 25km run, and tried out HR (Heart Rate) training. So, sorry Feb, I misjudged you.

So, the month started straight away with a little bit of unknown territory. Basing my run on the Black Hill 10k route I had decided to see how much else was out there, and if I could eke out a potential new HM route for next years event. Of course I wasn't daft (well not completely) contrary to popular belief, as I had already carefully studied the map and worked out where all the potential trails were, and planned a rough route out on a GPS mapper first. But, even so, what fun, me and Max were going to explore!
(unfortunately this run was too long for Daisy so she had to have a walk with Kev instead, so he gave me a half hour head start before set off to walk some of the 10k route) 

So, we started by following the Black Hill 10k route from Bere Regis scout hut, up and over the hill and down the other side into Turner's Puddle, but then soon turned off the route onto new paths, over the ford and eventually following the jubilee trail into Briantspuddle which is a lovely little chocolate box village in the next valley over from Bere Regis

Nice, huh?
part of Culpeppers Dish
A few hundred yards along a road later we turned off onto a bridle way, which twisted and turned up through the woods, then crossed a small road and dived into Culpeppers Dish, a forestry commission area in the next valley over again.
After a few out and backs exploring some of the trails, encountering dead ends and nearly getting stuck in bogs we turned back over the hill again, retracing our steps in places but this time emerging at the top of Bladen Valley, an equally little chocolate box-y little hamlet on the edge of Briantspuddle.

Running past the war memorial, we turned back to the crossroads, ran along the road to pick up the trail once more and then completed the run with the remainder of the 10k race route.
Unfortunately my route calculations had been less than perfect and I found myself with a few km to go to make it up to 13 miles (or the minimum of 22km I was aiming for) so had to do a few little loops around Brian Mays new trees in order to make up the distance.
Final report was, this run was lovely and scenic, a good mix of trail and road, quite testing in the hill department, but would need a bit of work route wise to make it a good HM. Watch this space!

The following week turned freezing cold and it was hard work getting out especially given that we were still doing most evening runs on tarmac. Its OK doing heath runs in the dark with company, but I'm not up for doing them on my own,  so I was eagerly awaiting what must be the high spot in every trail runners calendar, when the clocks go forward into British Summer Time and All Evening Runs Are Off Road! 
Unfortunately there was still just over a month to go till the sun was still over the horizon after 7pm. Still I had my usual Thursday eve heath run with Nic and on Sunday I took it slightly 'easier' hill wise with a nice 16 mile loop which starts at my house, takes in the local Canford Heath, Broadstone trailway, Upton Heath, Upton Park, Holes Bay and finishes at, er, my house (pretty obvious i guess as that's the definition of a 'loop') 
Not bad split times either, well for me anyway!

The next week, fed up with not including Daisy on all evening runs, I thought I'd do a run home from work to get it done, thus clearing me for evening dog walking, but the logistics of that makes it not easy to do on a whim, so i only did that once!

My ultra running friend Chris was getting back into running in 2015 after being off for months with a tendon injury, so he came out on the Heath that week. Max is madly in love with his dog Abby and normally wont leave her side, but despite this, a short while into the run, Max had just disappeared. Cue 10 mins of calling, whistling, and searching and we couldn't find him. Then Cue panic! bear in mind this was in the dark with only headtorches. Eventually i decided to retrace our steps to see if he had returned to the car, and when i got there he was waiting, what relief! He ran up to me saying sorry as best he could. I still have no idea whether something spooked him or whether he was tracking something but the really scary bit was that he had to cross a main road to get back to the car! Needless to say i put the lead on him to get back to the trail and then kept a VERY close eye on him for the rest of the evening....

The weekend brought Daisy's longest run so far at just under 8km, and equally as important a local 10 Mile road race for me in the guise of the Lytchett 10, one I had done the year before as part of an 18 mile training run, but not this year! This year i was just going to see what i could do.
It starts at Lytchett Minster School and after a quick loop round the village takes a long straight hill up to the next village Lytchett Matravers where you do another couple of loops out, one taking in the notorious Dolman's Hill which is a bit of a killer (still I got a lot further up it than last year before I needed to walk, nearly to the top!), before you take the nice long hill back down again and can pick up a bit of speed. A definite high spot was getting a high 5 from a commonwealth games athlete on the way round, as Steve Way had turned up to spectate and support his BAC chums!
Unfortunately not a 10 mile PB this time but a course PB instead (probably because it wasnt the meat in an 18 mile sandwich!)

That lovely downhill! lucky I was wearing the DBS shirt. . .

After this its possible I was ill again, although I cant actually remember, because the following week shows only one run midweek, and then nothing at all until the weekend, when I joined friends Nic and Jaquie on what I call a 'half-castleman' run.
The Castleman trailway runs from Ringwood to Upton mostly off road following where possible the route of the old Castleman railway line, and is 16 miles in total. Its possible to pick it up at various points, but we joined it just after West Moors which makes a good 10 miler (OK not exactly half but you get the picture!)

In the final week of Feb I was just starting to get to grips with a new concept (well to me anyway), that of Heart Rate training, which i was assured was very effective at eventually increasing both speed and endurance.
I don't know if you are familiar with it but I wasn't and it was explained to me thus:
Basically there should be a relationship between the times of all your runs, whatever distance. If you find performance drops drastically out of that relationship after a certain distance as mine does then your base fitness needs work. My times relate quite well up to 10 miles, start to drop off slightly thru Half Marathon, then my marathon time is way slower than it should be.
Turns out a lot of us (including me!) are guilty of running too many of our training runs too fast (closer to tempo) and not enough of them at a very easy pace which will help build base fitness.
Your heart delivers oxygen to your muscles, your muscles then use it combined with glycogen or fat to create energy. If your muscles are not efficient enough, you wont get as much energy per unit of oxygen as you could. The muscles say 'we need more oxygen' and your HR increases, or they say 'we have enough' and your HR stays low.
If you can break down one unit of glucose into energy aerobically (with oxygen) rather than anaerobically (without oxygen) you get more energy and are a much more efficient runner and can keep the pace up for longer. Even better if you can break down one unit of fat into energy you would get even further and your HR would stay real low too.(i think i have quoted all that right. . )

There are a couple of links here which can explain it better than me as although I can understand it in my head, once I start trying to explain it to others I don't do it very well! They are quite complicated reading but stick it out, its worth it!  thanks to Mark Smith for this link and thanks to Holly Rush for this link which quotes the better known Maffetone Formula.

Now, everyone I have spoken to that has tried this approach has experienced a marked improvement in times and endurance. Once you have done the initial calculations it takes very little brain power to keep up. However, it can take from 6 weeks right up to 9 months ish to make a difference, so the main skill you need apparently is patience!

Anyway, once you have read the back story and the science behind it, what it boils down to is this:
You need to work out your easy aerobic pace HR which is around 70% of your Maximum.
You can do this the easy way with the Maffetone Formula which is mentioned in the link above or the more accurate and personal way is to first measure your upper and lower HR's as follows.
1. work out your resting heart rate (i put my HR monitor and garmin on and went for a nap! the lowest average HR during the nap I took as my resting rate - this turned out to be 64 bpm)
2. work out your Maximum HR (this can be done 2 ways, with complicated intervals on a track, or by doing hill repeats until you cant do any more! you should record your maximum HR, mine appears to be about 180bpm)

put these 2 figures into a HR zone calculator, i used the one on Garmin but there is a reasonable one here the Aerobic training zone is the one you need to look at. You need to do pretty much all your runs at this rate. Mine works out at 138-152 bpm but I have found through trial and error 138 is too low and so try to stay between 140 and 150. What should happen if you keep at it long enough is that while you keep your HR at that rate, you gradually get more efficient and your pace at that rate should go up. You can use a flat measured course at roughly monthly intervals to measure your progress (i planned to use parkrun)

At the time I only dabbled with the HR zones as I was approaching the Larmer Tree Half the next month and wanted to do well,  but found it was very difficult to keep to the lower heart rate.
it involved a lot of walking which was quite demoralising!

My last run of February noted 'HR 138-145 - sooooooo slow!' however if you try it i urge you to stick to it and have patience as since February I've gone back to it again and am just seeing a smidgen of improvement especially on the longer runs! 

See you in March, with a mild cow incident, Daisy's longest run, the long awaited BST, more low HR training and a report on the Larmer Tree Half (complete with Kev's underwear!) ;-)

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