Trail running in the Captain Forster Hammock Preserve near Vero Beach Florida. I found the trailhead by accident and decided to follow it. I’m glad I did, although the run was longer than I had planned. It was sure is nice to running in the shade though!
I guess this is technically the first normal spring training season I have had since I started running in 2010. Spring of 2011 I was finishing up my Boston Marathon training and was running 40 miles a week and getting ready to taper, hardly a normal situation to be in on ordinary year. Spring of 2012 I was recovering from my Achilles heel injury and was basically starting over from scratch, also not (hopefully) a normal spring training season.
So here we are, spring of 2013. I had a successful fall spate of half marathons and then a very pleasant late fall early winter running schedule. But as the winter progressed and the weather worsened I was forced to spend more of my running time on the treadmill then I’d like. Although my monthly running log looks reasonable, there is no doubt to me that I did not maintain my fitness from the fall. Perhaps it is the fact that I run in the Chi running style, but a treadmill run for me just isn’t the same as a run outside. I don’t find it is interesting, and that results me being less motivated to run. Maybe I’ll run a little less one day or skip a day, or cut my long run short. So in the end, I have to admit that going into spring I have some catch-up to do. I don’t think this is at all unusual, in fact if anything I am guessing this is very usual. One of my running buddies doesn’t even run it all during the winter time and I hear that story quite a bit.
Winter is waning and I can feel Spring in the air. Notwithstanding there is a snow storm predicted for tomorrow which is threatening to drop another 6-8 inches of white anti-running material all over the roads. I was waxing a bit contemplative about running when I read an post on the Daily Mile from a fellow runner that has “lost her fire” for running recently. It got me thinking about why I run, why you run and why anyone runs.
I wasn’t planning to run any races this spring, instead focusing on my fitness and heart rate training. But a friend asked me if I would be interested in running with her at Boston’s run to remember, and I said that I would. I quickly checked to see if it would be possible to fit in a 12 week training plan for this half, and I saw that it was. This will be my friend’s first half, and she is planning on “Gallowalking” is (run/walk intervals). So I am not overly concerned about my ability to stick with her or complete it, but I still want to make sure that I am as fit as possible for this endeavor. Since I already committed to myself to do all my spring training as low heart rate running, I have decided to combine both the training plan and heart rate training into one program. This means that I will be deviating a bit from the standard training plan to accommodate my low heart rate training.
As I discussed in a prior article, low heart rate training requires that I do the vast majority of my running slow enough to keep my heart rate within a specifically calculated zone. Normally, half marathon training would incorporate both pace runs and tempo runs as a way to build the cardio necessary to compete at higher levels. I usually use Hal Higdon’s training plans as a base and then modify them as necessary to meet my needs.
So I went over to his site, and took a look at the various offerings available for half marathon training. I decided to go with novice level II, although it is possible that it’s time for me to move up into the intermediate training plans. Since I am not training for any kind of personal record for this spring, and I am still recovering from some lost conditioning this winter, I decided to take it easy and go with the novice level II.
As you can see in this chart, Hal’s plan recommends one day of pace runs per week, plus a 5K and 10K race in the plan. I’ve decided to drop the two races from the plan, and do the pace run only every other week. This lets me focus on my heart rate training to build my conditioning, while still building my stamina with the overall mileage increase each week. I am leaving everything else exactly the same, including rest and cross training recommendations in the plan.
I think this approach is very solid from a training point of view, especially if you buy into the benefits of low heart rate training. One of the downsides of this approach, however, is that there is very little running done at your race pace, which could potentially undermine your confidence that you could sustain a race pace when you need it. It is sort of a leap of blind faith that your conditioning will be there when you ask for it during race conditions.
I have long suspected that I train at higher heart rates than I should. When I go out for a run I generally start out with a short walk, then a jog and by the time I am at a half mile I am running at a fair clip. I have learned how to listen to my body and know when I am running too fast to sustain my distance goals for the day. When I reach that point I pull back and run just below that line, which nowadays is about a 9:30 pace. I usually end my run with the last half mile at my 5K pace (around 8:00 pace or so). I stop at my driveway completely spent and hope that I am recovered enough to do it all again tomorrow. Little did I know that all that running wasn’t doing my fitness as much good as I thought.
I decided to try to get a run in just before the blizzard hit in force. It had started snowing and there was about 2 inches on the ground. The roads were pretty clear though, so there wasn’t much issue with traction at all. So many people had stayed home and off the roads and were huddled in their houses that I really didn’t see anyone out and about. I ran one of my favorite 5 mile loops which takes me past a frozen lake and 2 smaller ponds. I snapped this picture with the snow covered frozen lake behind me.