Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I know the last few blog posts have been a little bit on the technical (ok, ok, geeky) side. Niamh usually tells me how she always skips these - she just wants to read the bits where she finds out what her husband is up to, generally. She won't like this one either, I'm afraid, but it won't go on like that forever. It's just that I'm basically trying to figure out what I'm doing at the moment.

My former coach always had me do some "Evaluation Workouts" to get feedback on the training and/or my conditioning. It consisted of running 4 miles at a constant heart rate, in my case 161, about 30 bpm below my max, recording the time for each mile and then coming to a full stop and measuring how long it took for the HR to recover down to 130. I tend to look at the overall pace first but in actual fact that's the least important bit of information. How well you can keep your pace constant at that steady HR level is more important, as well as the recovery time.

So I did one on Tuesday. It wasn't ideal because of the blustery wind, but the forecast was basically the same for the entire week, which meant postponing it by a day or two would have been pointless. The windy conditions mean I can’t read too much into the figures, especially the pace numbers, but it does provide a base line. The number in brackets is adjusted pace, 7 seconds for every 2 heart beats off the 161 target, though it looks like a slight overcompensation to me.
        Mile 1    6:51   HR 162    (6:54)
        Mile 2    7:01   HR 162    (7:04)
        Mile 3    6:57   HR 163    (7:03)
        Mile 4    7:02   HR 161    (7:02)
        Recovery to HR 130: 50 seconds

The pace is actually very stable, especially after the initial first mile. I have certainly seen me drop off significantly more than that. But the 50 seconds recovery time is quite shocking, my highest reading ever. I definitely need to keep an eye on that. I hope it's because I have done very little running at that effort level during my year of ultra-running and my legs simply have to get used to it again, rather than a sign of overtraining.

I certainly do not feel overtrained. I have none of the typical symptoms, I sleep soundly (except when our 4-year old sleeps in our bed), am no more irritable than usual (no smart comments!!), and my appetite is sound (hell, yeah!).

This morning (Wednesday) I could finally tell for sure that the training is going ok so far. The legs felt very well, I got that elusive effortlessly-gliding-over-the-road feeling and the miles just flew by. To add to the positivity, I somehow managed to time the run right between two major downpours. It is a very nice day at the moment, if you manage to look out of the window at the right time, right between those heavy shower that keep on coming.

1 Oct
10 miles, 1:15:48, 7:35 pace, HR 146
2 Oct
12 miles, 1:27:53, 7:19 pace, HR 155
   4 mile eval: 6:54, 7:04, 7:03, 7:02 (adjusted figures)
   50 seconds recovery to 130
3 Oct
10 miles, 1:14:04, 7:24 pace, HR 152


  1. I have 10 days to go until Liverpool ... my first marathon since Brighton 2010 - a silly injury (which I badly mismanaged) kept me off-track for almost a year but I'm feeling relatively fit - the time will be rubbish but I have been keeping up with you all the while. Occasionally making a comment - the technical stuff does baffle me a lot too but suddenly it's starting to make sense ... which is worrying.

  2. Niamh, if you're reading this, does he really get that irritable? Have you tried telling him not to run so much?

    The stable pace is a sign of excellent aerobic fitness. Not sure about the long time to recovery HR. I'd normally say it's because you're stressed/not recovering well day to day. The h/beats per km of the 10 miler on 1 October is 687 which is a little higher than your 'normal' isn't it? That could be a sign of over-reaching and the need for a number of easy days.

  3. I have been thinking about doing a similar 4 mile evaluation test myself but have never had the discipline to just pick a 1 mile loop and do with such precise HR management. I am curious about the aspect of fitness that the evaluation brings out. I'm guessing the time to recover to 30 HR below you evaluation HR is looking at the amount of oxygen debt and efficiency of your heart and lungs at bringing back your blood back to equilibrium.

    I also presume that having a more even pace through the evaluation would indicate that your body is well balanced and not going into oxygen debt and using a similar fuel carb/fat mix through the run so oxygen requirements aren't change too much.

    From this evaluation it would seem that they two would contradict each other, or perhaps they don't. I'm really just guessing so would like to know a bit more about what each part means. Did Mystery Coach go into meaning of the evaluation?

    Rather than do specific evaluations I have been trying to develop a method of continuous by looking normalizing the calories consumed per mile by computing effective efficiency based on the calories per mile reported by my HR monitor, the duration of the run and amount of elevation/descent on the run. It's still early days for the development of this method but it does seem to track my fitness quite well, and when I run the Kielder Marathon tomorrow I'll find out just how well it used to extrapolate race performance.

  4. I presume you do a substantial warm up, including either some stride-outs or a gradual increase to around 7 min pace, before you start the 4 miles. Otherwise it is surprising (at least to me) to see such small variation between the first and second miles. If I remember correctly, Hadd used to say that it took several Km for a runner with good aerobic fitness to reach equilibrium at marathon pace. It takes me 2 Km with pace gradually increasing to the target pace to reach approximate equilibrium at a roughly equivalent pace (though the equivalent pace for me is somewhat slower). But setting aside the question of the effect of warm up on the first mile, your stability thereafter is impressive.
    I doubt whether the overall picture indicates over-training. I wonder if it is possible that your lactate threshold has decreased a little as a result of a lesser amount of high aerobic work during the past year. If the threshold is lower, at HR 161 you will be nearer to threshold and therefore will accumulate a bigger oxygen debt. This might result in a longer time for HR to settle to 130. However 161 clearly is not very near to threshold or you would not exhibit such stability over miles 2, 3 and 4.