The Young Bull and the Old Bull

I'm now sixty days into my heart rate based training and just starting to get a glimpse into what can do for me.

The whole thing seems counterintuitive; I want to run faster, so I run slower? Sixty days ago, I had just completed my first Boston Marathon which I felt "kicked my ass." Bizarre? How is it that I felt I had my best training session ever in preparation for a marathon, but completely hit the wall and came short of my stretch goal in the race.

One of the things that I've got in the habit of is not just mapping out a training plan sixteen weeks prior to a race, but logging everything. I've lately been getting my plans from my running club coach Dave from Runner's Edge of the Rockies. I've built my own template in excel where I lay out each week's plan and chart actual vs. plan. I will also input comments in each actual cell about where I ran, how I felt, how fast, and now I'm charting heart rate.

When I build a new plan, I'll leave the previous plans comments in there so I can compare the current week against the same week during my last training. Going back over my Boston actuals, you can begin to see why I had a bit of a false sense of "wow, I feel great!"

February 15th scheduled to do a recovery run; "7:36 pace on Presidents Day, Felt good."
March 8th recovery run; "7:28 pace. FAST, but felt like I was trying to run at a slower pace."

Looks good when you post to DailyMile that you ran fast, but not "what the Dr. ordered" for the day. Mondays and long runs tended to be my demise as testosterone got the better of me and ran them way too fast. Recovery days are meant to be recovery days for a reason. It's no wonder that I felt a bit sluggish up to and during my Boston race.

Upon completion of my VO2Max study at CU's Sport's Medicine center, I was equipped with my heart rates zones and Dr. Millan mapped my zones to my planned workouts;

Recovery: Zone 1 (less than 135HR)
Long Workout: Zone 2 (135-140)
Hill Workout: Zone 2-3 (135-152)
Semi-long/Goal Workout: Zone 2-3 (135-152)
Fast Workout: Zone 4-5 (153-161)

For Steamboat in June, and now the Portland Marathon (in October,) I'm logging miles vs. planned, but also logging my heart rate. A bit "too early to tell" what benefits I will realize, but I am definitely getting more in tune with my body and heart rate. I have the older Garmin GPS watch which I'm sporting on my left wrist and a Polar Heart Rate Monitor watch on my right along with the chest strap. (TIP: Apply a bit of Body Glide to the Plastic sensor itself. This will give a quicker read since a moist connection seems to work better. You will also avoid the nasty bra chafing.)

It's most apparent when you hit hills. I have a tendency to want to "charge the hill" and if I'm supposed to be in Zone 2-3 which is below 152. During two hilly runs this week, I would teeter on 154 and "back off" to a shorter stride. The other interesting aspect is the impact of a walk break. My heart rate can drop as much as 20 points by taking a quick walk and water break and I've spoke to many accomplished runners who have even incorporated walk breaks in a race. Again...seems I losing precious seconds in a race?!? At a recent long run with my running group, I was explaining my heart rate training and zones to the Polar rep who'd set up a tent at our run. He explained that he had a Polar convert who'd switched to a heart rate approach and unfortunately, got sick right before her big race. Playing it conservative, she dialed down her heart rate to a lower zone than she intended to run in the race. She PR'ed that day.

Reminds me of the story of the old bull and the young bull. The old bull and young bull are standing on a hill and the young bull tells the elder, "See all those cows down there, I'm going to run down and have my way with one of them." The old bull smirks and says, "go ahead, I'm going to walk down and have my way with all of them." Pick that analogy or the Tortoise and the Hare for the more family appropriate moral of the story--fast is not always better.

I'll keep you posted here on my blog or you can catch my daily updates on twitter and


  1. Interesting post. I have a heart monitor that came with my Garmin, but I haven't used it very much yet. Was it hard to find a place that would do a VO2Max study? I have no idea where I could get that done around here.

  2. Brian:

    I was lucky as I got hooked up with Dr. Iñigo San Millán, PhD at CU Sports Medicine in Denver. I found him through my running group. I'd suggest you ping your local running group, or there's always Google. :) Good luck. I am glad I have taken the next step.

  3. Tyron, Can I say WOW, such detail, great system makes me want to ask you what do you do for a living (engineer?, giggle).

    This post has got such detail I wonder how many other runners would love connecting with you here. Do you tweet out to them to compare notes?

    Love your use of story and it frankly had me thinking of what I see in the business world with folks rushing into networking events with no plan.

    Analogies and stories are wonderful things, they allow us to bridge and connect where it might seem a stretch for some. (I find that key for connecting)

  4. Can't wait to see the results. Definitely makes me rethink my approach to training.


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