Sunday, December 14, 2014


The good news is that I have been feeling pretty good over the last few days. After hitting rock bottom on Friday I have been feeling a bit better every day and by about Wednesday I felt completely recovered. The bad news is that I find running with a HR alarm at Maffetone effort very frustrating.

Obviously I realise that after a heart scare the good news is far more important and everything else pales into insignificance. It doesn't, however, mean that I am entirely happy about the situation. I should be grateful that I am still able to run at all, so this is probably me being greedy, but I'd much prefer running a bit faster than that.

I have been reading enough reports from people using the Maffetone method to know that this can test the patience of a saint, and in fact compared to a lot of other runners I'm still doing pretty well. I don't have to walk up every incline and my pace is reasonably close to 8-minute miles, but still, this just isn't all that much fun.

Ok, ok, I'll stop whining.

So, I've been running with the alarm programmed into the watch and the little **** keeps beeping at me every time the effort goes above anything faster than a gentle jog. Actually, that's not quite right. When running up a very steep incline, like I did today (Sunday morning), even crawling pace has the thing beeping and there's not much I can do about it. On the other hand, running down a steep incline means I can hammer out the pace until my quads turn to jelly and the HR is still beneath the alarm threshold. HR alone is definitely not the sole measurement for effort but it's all I have.

I have increased the distance of my runs every day; tentatively at first as I did not want to stress my heart but it all went well and I felt good so I got more confident. The other factor was that the slow pace and exceptionally easy effort meant I would not get tired at all, not even after running further than usual. The downside, obviously, was the slow pace; I sure had hoped my pace would be closer to 8-minute miles.

Saturday was the one run that went reasonably well. Conditions were good, no wind, clear skies and temperatures around the freezing point but without icy roads, perfect. That day I came reasonably close to averaging 8-minute miles, which was a lot nicer than crawling around at 8:30-ish.

On Sunday I went back on the loop around the lake for the first time since my hamstring started hurting, which seems like a very long time ago. I quickly realised that it is basically impossible to run slowly enough on the steep slope to satisfy the watch, but I was not going to walk, beep or no beep. However, the low effort meant I reached the top not even out of breath when usually I struggle towards the end if I'm not in climbing shape. Running up the steep road is usually a very good indicator of my fitness, so I was surprised to find it so easy. On the downhill I could run as fast as my legs would spin and the alarm still would not go off, but I found it hard to settle back into the slow effort once I reached the flat.

Despite this being my longest training run in a while I couldn't feel any fatigue at the end. In fact, I was slightly tempted to add a second loop, despite the wind and rain, but decided against it (for a start, Niamh would go apeshit if I disappeared for 4+ hours without telling her first). This leaves me with a rather modest weekly mileage total, but, as said, I should probably be grateful for being able to run at all.

11 Dec
8 miles, 1:06:20, 8:17 pace, HR 135
12 Dec
10 miles, 1:23:52, 8:23 pace, HR 134
13 Dec
12 miles, 1:36:53, 8:04 pace, HR 136
14 Dec
15 miles, 2:06:09, 8:24 pace, HR 139

Weekly Mileage: 57


  1. Good to hear you are back running and feeling better.

    I know you hate running "slow" but I believe it will really help your final 24hr performance. Running economy at low effort takes a while to develop - the fact that you disklike it so much is indicator that you can't yet fully relax at that pace/intensity.

    A few years back I started running regular recovery runs at 9 to 10min/mile pace and initially found them unbearable, constantly fighting to stay slow enough, especially when heading uphill - my running economy used to be really poor at this pace as well.

    Then after a few months my gait became more and more relaxed at that intensity, and the pace much more naturally ebbed and flowed as I went up and downhill. My running economy also improved until now running at 8:30 to 9min/mile pace is the speed at which I'm most efficient. As my ultras are run at around this pace this is great news, making it much easier to dial into race pace come the big days.

    With your target race being a 24hr one, if you managed 9min/mile pace for the whole way you'd be up at 160 miles and up there with a chance to medal. While I'd love to hear that you achieve this next year it's a big ask. I can therefore say that any pace you run faster than 9min/mile pace is faster than race pace. All you runs this week were faster. So they felt unpleasantly slow but they were still too fast, but encouragingly much closer to race pace than you normally train.

    I don't think you'll maximize you potential by running all your runs close to 9min/mile pace I believe they should be part of the weekly mix, specifically to develop running economy and relaxation at that effort. Faster runs and hills can develop your aerobic fitness and resilience that you'll need as well. Previous years you have concentrated on the later benefits but missed out on the race pace running economy development.

    This enforced MAF period might just what you need to fully balance your training and bring out your best performance.

  2. Great that your back running long runs again. I'm very jealous of your maffetone pace. Mine varied as I live in a valley & all roads point upwards. So I feel your frustration on the hills. My 15 mile run took me 2:35...that's fairly hard to swallow considering I used to race that distance about an hour quicker. I'm sure you'll benifit from including this type of training into your weekly milage. Best of luck with the return to form in the coming weeks.

  3. Yes Thomas happy to hear you're feeling better and if nothing else a period of maffetone pace running should give your body a chance to get stronger and hopefully next year, propel you to the next level! Hang in there, I know it's hard to run slow when you're not injured.

  4. Thanks for this blog, Thomas! After reading it, I borrowed Maffetone's book from the library and realized what a mess I had been for quite some time. I started adopting his advice and it's working for me too. Although I will not be ready to compete or train for a long time, I enjoy running again and dietary changes give me more energy in all aspects of my life. Even my chronic insomnia is gone!