My Thoughts on Heart Rate Training So Far

I just posted the training log for my fifth week of the Train Like a Mother Heart Rate Training “Excellent” program.  Because the program is 20 weeks, this means I am now a quarter of the way through it.

So far, I both love and hate this program, usually at the same time.  Here’s why.

Why I love it:

  • I am much more in tune with my body.  I’m running alone, which means I’m running the pace my body dictates instead of chasing other people.   I can really concentrate on my breathing and my form.
  • I’m running a LOT, but I feel more energized than worn out.
  • It’s relaxing.  Although I do still think about pace (see below), I don’t focus as much on it as I used to.
  • I believe in it.  I learned the hard way that my body can’t handle the wear and tear of lots of hard miles.  This approach gives me the time on my feet and aerobic training without breaking things down too much.  And the free runs I’ve done have shown me that I can still run faster when I choose to.

Why I hate it:

  • To keep my heart rate down, I’ve given up my pre-run coffee on weekdays.  This takes some of the joy out of my mornings, and it’s harder to get out of bed knowing that I won’t get to have my coffee until after I run.  If you don’t understand this, you probably don’t love coffee as much as I do.
  • I miss my running group.  I do like running alone sometimes, but running alone almost all of the time, especially in the dead of winter, is rough.  I’ve been told that eventually, with lots of hard work, I’ll get to the point where my “easy” pace is fast enough to keep up with my group.  But I’m not there yet.
  • It’s hard on the ego.  Even when a run goes really well, my pace is still substantially slower than what I was running before I started training this way.
  • Heart rate can be so unpredictable, and it is affected by so many seemingly minor things.  The pace that I can run at a given heart rate can vary by several minutes per mile from one day to the next.  The slower days are extremely frustrating.  I’ve had a few stretches of runs where I think, “I’ve finally got the hang of this, this is awesome!” only to have the next run be a disaster.

There is certainly enough good that I’m going to stay the course.  I’m going to try not to make any decisions about training for subsequent races until I see how Shamrock goes in March.


Training Log, Week of 11/27/2017

Monday: This was supposed to be a 60 minute easy effort (HR under 140) run with pickups at the end of every mile.  The run went well, so well that I completely forgot to do the pickups until the end of mile 4.  But I felt great throughout the run and my heart rate didn’t spike during the first mile the way it has been.  5.3 miles, average pace 11:33, average heart rate 132.

Tuesday: So much for my honeymoon with heart rate training.  After I run, even a bad run, I rarely think, “I should have just stayed in bed.”  This day I did.  I got a later start than I wanted and was feeling rushed.  I had a 60 minute recovery run on the schedule, it was 31 degrees, which is awfully cold for keeping my HR under 120.  And my light died halfway through.  I never got my HR to calm down to recovery territory, and I cut the run more than 20 minutes short.  I felt okay about doing this because I only “have” to do one recovery run per week, and I knew I would have another opportunity on Thursday.  2.1 miles, average pace 17:56, average heart rate 134.

Wednesday: Another 60 minute easy effort with pickups.  This didn’t go quite as smoothly as Monday’s run, but not too badly either.  4.8 miles, average pace 12:27, average heart rate 138.

Thursday: 60 minute recovery run.  Blech.  This was pretty much a repeat of Tuesday’s experience, although my light worked and I toughed it out for the full 60 minutes.  3.4 miles, average pace 17:40, average HR 137.

When I finished my shuffle, I felt a little better to see that I ended the month with more than 125 miles, which is one of the highest mileage months I’ve ever had.  And I know that my mileage will only go up over the months between now and the Shamrock Half.


Friday:  I had a 60 minute free run on the plan, so I made plans to do a 5 mile route with my running group.  I tried to keep up with the front of our pack for that first five miles, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that I was actually able to do it.  Miles 1-5 were between 9:15-9:38, and then I slowed way down for the last 1.2 miles to finish out the hour.  6.2 miles, average pace 9:38, average HR 151.   This run was a nice reminder that although I’m choosing to run slower for training purposes, it’s not a reflection on my fitness.

Saturday: I had a 105 minute long run on the plan, but for some reason I had in my head that it was 110 minutes, so that’s what I did.  I also did 20 second pickups at the end of every mile.  This run was fine.  I definitely felt some after-effects of pushing the pace the day before, but for the most part I felt steady and solid.  9.2 miles, average pace 11:54, average HR 139.

Total mileage 31.2, plus I did all six of my short strength workouts.  I was a day late in doing a few of them, but I did get them all done eventually.

With this week on the books, I am now a quarter of the way through this training plan.  Separate post to come with my reflections on the first five weeks.

Weight Loss Update

Since I last posted about my weight loss efforts, I’ve been more or less holding steady around the low weight I reached this summer.   I feel pretty good here.  Sure, I’d like to lose a little more.  But not enough to make more and major changes, at least not right now.

side by side
Picture on the left is from a 5K in January 2016.  Picture on the right is from the Norfolk Harbor Half this month.  The first pic is particularly unflattering and the second is particularly flattering, but I did lose nearly 20 lbs between the two.


My main goal through January is maintenance.  The last three years, I have gained 5-8 pounds over the holidays, and then spent the first several months of the following year trying to lose it again.  Some of it is all the holiday food.  Some of it is decreased activity because it’s cold and dark and sitting on my couch is just so much more appealing.  Last year, I ran the marathon right before the holidays, which meant a significant drop in mileage without a corresponding drop in appetite.

Looking past the holidays, I’d like to continue to work on my nutrition.  Using the Daily Quality Score Tracker from Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight, I made a lot of positive changes to my diet.  More fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, fewer sweets and sodas (even diet sodas).

The vegetables are the biggest challenge for me.  I have the palate of an 8-year-old.  Actually, my almost 8-year-old might have a wider palate than I do.  I like green smoothies and salads, so I can always start with incorporating more of those.  But I also need to find new ways to get myself to like or even just tolerate more vegetables.  I would also like to increase my protein intake.

But for now, just trying to stay the course with daily (or almost daily) tracking and low calorie days on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Training Log, Week of 11/20/2017

This week was also a bit off-plan.  I ran the Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon on Sunday, which is typically my rest day, so I needed to rest on Monday.  Also, I had signed up for the Turkey Trot, a 10K, on Thursday, and I wanted to use my 60 minute free run for that.  And because of commitments on Saturday morning, I decided to move my long run to Friday, when I was already off on Thanksgiving.  It bugs me to not follow the plan exactly as written, so I’m hoping that next week I’ll get back on the regular schedule.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 60 minute easy effort run.  The plan called for pickups at the end of each mile, but Coach MK had told me not to do any speed work for the week following my half.  My legs felt tired and lifeless but I got through it.  4.5 miles, average pace 13:19, average heart rate 141.  Plus 5 minutes on the Bosu.

Wednesday: 60 minute recovery shuffle.  This was the best recovery run I’ve had yet; my average pace was 3 minutes per mile faster than the last one I did.  Some of that is dumb luck I’m sure, but I did feel encouraged and like I’m getting the hang of it.  4 miles, average pace 14:44, average heart rate 122.

Thursday/Thanksgiving: For the second year in a row I did the local Turkey Trot 10K.  I used my 60 minute “free run” for the week to do this race, but I knew I wouldn’t really race it for two reasons: 1) my legs were still kind of dead from my race challenge not even a week before; and 2) the course is notoriously hilly.  I started out running with some friends and taking it very easy.  About 3.5 miles in my friends had to make a stop and I decided to pick things up a bit.  So although my first mile was 11:26, I got a little faster each mile and my last mile was 9:42.  I finished feeling very good and strong, which was a good reminder of the importance of starting slow, especially in longer distance races.  6.2 miles, average pace 10:29, average heart rate 153.

turkey trot
Without a pre-race selfie, did I really even run? 


Friday: 90 minute long run.  The plan called for pickups at the end of every mile, but I left those out per Coach MK’s instructions.  This was a great run.  My heart rate didn’t spike nearly as much during the first mile as it had been doing, and I was able to keep a very steady pace throughout the entire run.  7.7 miles, average pace 11:41, average heart rate 136.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: 60 minute recovery run.  4 miles, average pace 15:04, average heart rate 122.

Totals: 26.4 miles.  I didn’t keep good track of my strength workouts but I definitely wasn’t very good about keeping up with them.  I probably did 3 of the 6 workouts, so I get an F.  I need a better system for getting them done.  Ideally I’d do them immediately after running, but my mornings feel so rushed they’re just not happening.

Norfolk Harbor 5K and Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend, I ran the Norfolk Harbor 5K and Half Marathon.  The two races together formed the “Get Nauti” challenge, and we got a third and really pretty medal for completing both races.  I had signed up for these races back in March, when I thought I would be in amazing shape coming off of the Marine Corps Marathon and would go for a big PR.  But life had other plans.

Given that I had to take eight weeks off and start again from square one, I knew a PR wasn’t going to happen.  And about a month before the races, I decided to do the Train Like a Mother Heart Rate training program, which started three weeks before these races, in order to get ready for the Shamrock Half Marathon in 2018.  When I committed to that program, I knew I would have to treat these races like training runs.  And given where my fitness was at the time, I was good with that.

Norfolk Harbor 5K

Going into this race, I decided my goal should be to start easy, finish strong and to have my last mile be my fastest.  I was seeded in Corral 1 (it wasn’t a very fast field at all) but I dropped back to start in Corral 3 to keep me in check.

Norfolk 5K tree
We knew the race gave free photos so we posed for pictures at every opportunity 🙂

I started running and felt awesome.  It was cold standing around weather (40ish degrees) but PERFECT running weather.  I had taken the two days before the race off so I felt fresh.  I reined myself in a lot and was surprised to see the first mile beep at 9:23.

My head started churning at this point.  During my first two years of running I tried desperately to run a sub-30 5K and never quite got there.  The closest I got was 30:06.  I had finally done it twice during the year before this race, so I knew I could, but, in my mind, running a 5K under 30 minutes is still a big deal.  And after that first mile I knew I could do it.

Keeping in mind my goal to run my last mile as my fastest, I eased off a little during the second mile and ran 9:36.  Then I turned  it up a bit for the last mile, which was 9:02.  I knew coming in under 30 minutes was going to be close so I cranked it up a bit more for the last 0.2 and ran it at a 7:52 pace.

Norfolk 5K 1
Looking for that finish line

Official finish time 29:45.   More than a minute slower than my PR, but only my third time finishing under 30 minutes.  Especially since I wasn’t racing balls to the wall, I was very happy.  Per Strava, it was 3.2 miles, average pace 9:14, average heart rate 146.

Norfolk 5K norfolk sign
Just happy to get to race again!

Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon

Going into this race, my main goals were to have fun and learn something.  Because I was looking at this as a training run, I never committed to trying to run a particular time.  I had the general idea that I wanted to run somewhere under 2:30, but I’m not even sure where that came from.  Probably because my two slowest halves to date were right around that mark, so I knew I could run that time even in less-than-ideal conditions.  I also wanted to start slowly and finish strong.

corral with Lisa
Freezing in the corral, but after a few minutes of running I was happy to be in shorts and short sleeves.

I tried to start around an 11 minute pace but my first two miles were closer to 10 minutes.  Oops.  I do wonder if I would have felt better in the later miles if I’d started a bit slower.


Most of the race felt like a slog.  I didn’t feel particularly bad, but I didn’t feel particularly good either.   The miles seemed to go by very slowly.  There were lots of people around me doing Galloway, so I leapfrogged with the same people over and over again.

The course was truly beautiful, but had almost zero crowd support.  I had hoped to have the energy to pick things up at the 10 or 11 mile marker, but it just didn’t happen.  I noticed early on that the distance on my watch was well past where the mile markers said I should be, and that frustrated me.

Somehow I managed to keep my pace VERY steady.  After the first two, too fast miles, my pace ranged from 10:45-11:24 until mile 13.  Most of my miles were right at 11 minutes.

I also got very nauseated toward the end of the race, which was frustrating.   A local restaurant was handing out mini-pies about 10 miles in, and there was no way in hell that I was going to take one.

According to my watch, I hit 13.1 miles around 2:23.  But somewhere along the way I managed to run an extra half mile.  My official finish time was 2:28:54 over 13.6 miles.  Strava gave me a pace of 10:54 and average heart rate of 148.

Although I wasn’t super excited about the race itself, I was thrilled that I was healthy enough to do it just three months after being cleared to run again.

And I learned a lot!  Such as:

  • Stage races are not for me.  I feel like I used up a lot of the spring in my legs for the 5K.  Granted, I wasn’t fully trained and I didn’t have a real taper for these races, which I’m sure made a difference.  But I think on fully tapered legs, it would have been even harder not to race the 5K.  I need to save everything I’ve got for my goal race.  Pretty medals aside (and they are super pretty), I’m really glad that I didn’t sign up for the Dolphin Challenge (8K and Half) at Shamrock this spring.
  • Even when I think I’m starting slow, it’s probably not slow enough.  At both races my first mile was about a minute  faster than I intended.  I need a hard limit early on to rein me in.
  • Run the tangents.   There were a TON of turns in this course, and I certainly didn’t do myself any favors by adding half a mile to the distance I had to run.
  • Learn exactly where the water stops were.  Before this race, I saw that they had the stops at every two miles, and I assumed that meant 2, 4, 6, 8, etc., so I planned to take fuel at miles 4 and 8.  It didn’t quite work that way, so I ended up taking them at more like 3.5 and 9.  We never had to go more than two miles without water, but the stops weren’t quite so evenly spaced which messed up my plan a bit.
  • Pack food for race morning.  Given that this race was only a two-hour drive away, it would have been very easy for me to pack quite a bit of food.  I didn’t, for no good reason.  I was able to get provisions there that were good enough, but not ideal and not exactly what I was used to.
  • Enough with the Gu and high sugar fuel already.  It makes me sick.  I thought the nausea at the end of Shamrock was because I was working so hard, but I really think it was the Gu.  Need to experiment with alternate fuels.
  • I need a better, quick access way to get my fuel.  My Gus were shoved in my Spibelt with my phone, and getting in there and getting them out at the water stops was more time-consuming and stressful than was ideal.  I’m not sure what that is yet, but I think I need to have a separate pocket that’s just for fuel so I don’t have to worry about dropping my phone.

On to the next!

Training Log, Week of 11/13/2017

This week was a bit off-plan because I ran the Norfolk Harbor 5K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday.   But here’s what I did.

Monday 11/13: Easy effort 60 minutes with pickups.  It was 40 degrees and raining when I headed out, so I wore tights, a long sleeve, and a water-resistant jacket.  Too many clothes!  I had a really hard time bringing my heart rate down during the first two miles, and I think being overdressed is why.  I had to walk for a few minutes to lose the jacket, and after that I felt a million times better.  4.5 miles, average pace 13:08, average HR 141 bpm.

In the evening I did a strength circuit that required a lot of triceps work.  My triceps haven’t done anything since I broke my collarbone, so those exercises were not pretty.  But did some approximation of them anyway.

Tuesday 11/14: Recovery run 60 minutes.  Right now I dread these runs.  Keeping my HR under 120 might not take a lot of physical work, but it requires a hell of a lot of mental work.  And it’s demoralizing to see a 17+ minute mile pace in my Strava feed.  Also, it was 30 degrees when I headed out for this run, and because I couldn’t move very fast, I was COLD the entire time.  But I got it done.  3.5 miles, average pace 17:09, average HR 129.  5 minutes with the resistance loops.

Wednesday 11/15: Easy effort 60 minutes with pickups.  Went much more smoothly than Monday’s run.  5 miles, average pace 12:21, average HR 140.  5 minute strength circuit.

Thursday 11/16: Rest day, although I went for a 2.7 mile walk at lunch.

Friday 11/17: Another rest day.  Left work early to drive out to Norfolk, Virginia for the Norfolk Harbor 5K and half.

Saturday 11/18: Norfolk Harbor 5K.  Recap of both races to come, but the TL; DR is 3.2 miles, average pace 9:14, average HR 146.  Official time 29:45.

Saturday 11/19: Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon.  Started my watch late, but my official time was 2:28:54.  My watch had the course as half a mile long (I think it might have been a tad long, but it’s also a very turny course and I didn’t even try to run the tangents properly), so Strava actually shows 13.6 miles, average pace 10:54, average HR 147.   Since it was just a training run I’m going with the Strava numbers.  😉

Harbor Half

29.9 miles for the week.  On Sunday when I saw this total I was tempted to go run 0.1 miles, but I told myself it was good practice for focusing on running by time rather than distance.  Plus one walk, two strength sessions and one loops session.  And week three of the Train Like a Mother Heart Rate program is complete!


Training Log, Weeks of 10/30 and 11/6, 2017

Now that I’m back on an official training program, I’m going to try to get back to weekly recaps of what I’m doing.

Week of October 30, 2017

Monday 10/30: My husband was out of town so I had to run in the afternoon when the kids were at Girl Scouts.  The plan called for a 60 minute easy effort run, so HR under 140, with 20 second pickups at 10K pace at the end of every mile.  This run was super frustrating from the beginning.  Even standing still, my HR would not settle down.  I’m sure it was a combination of the strange time, lots of coffee earlier in the day and the stress of trying to squeeze in my run while the kids were occupied.  3.9 miles, average pace 15:14, average HR 143.  Ouch.  I questioned many times during this run why on earth I had chosen to follow this plan.  Also did my 5 minute strength circuit.

Tuesday 10/31: The plan called for a 60 minute Recovery Run, which meant I had to try to keep my HR under 60 minutes.  Given the fiasco of the night before, I knew that I would have to give up my beloved pre-run coffee to have even a chance of keeping my HR that low.  And it went better than I expected.  3.7 miles, average pace 16:03, average HR 125.  Plus 5 minutes with the resistance loops to strengthen my hips.

Wednesday 11/1: Another 60 minute easy effort run with pickups.  This one went a million times better.  My first mile was still rather slow for me at 13:50.  But I was able to pick it up to an almost normal pace after that.  5 miles, average pace 11:54, average HR 136.  Another 5 minute strength circuit.

Thursday 11/2: The plan gave me the option of a recovery run or rest, and I chose rest.  I did get in my 5 minutes with the resistance loops.

Friday 11/3: 60 minute free run.  I took the opportunity to do the first four miles with some friends.  This was the first run in close to a year where I didn’t have a heart rate alarm set, and I definitely stretched out the reins at the very beginning of my run.  My first four miles were 9:34, 9:24, 9:14 and 9:29.  After that I slowed WAY down to finish out my hour.  5.8 miles, average pace 10:13, average HR 146.  I did think it was bizarre that I was able to run significantly faster without a corresponding big increase in my HR.  Later did my 5 minute strength circuit.

Saturday 11/4: The plan called for a 90 minute easy effort run (under 140) with pickups every mile.  Because it was two weeks out from the Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon, I decided to do a 2.5 hour easy effort run with pickups every mile.  I figured that my race probably won’t take me much longer than that, so it would be good to be on my feet for about as long as I will be racing.  But this run was not the confidence boost that I hoped.  I had trouble controlling my HR throughout the whole thing and all but one of my miles was over 13 minutes.  I know I’m not supposed to be paying such close attention to that but I still did.  I ended with 11.2 miles, average pace 13:22, average HR  144.  I did wonder if pushing harder the day before had an effect on my HR for this run.  And the resistance loops work I did afterward felt pretty rough.

Sunday 11/5: Rest.

Totals: 29.6 miles, completed all 6 of my mini-strength workouts

Week of November 6, 2017

Monday 11/6: easy effort 60 minutes with pickups.  4.9 miles, average pace 12:12, average HR 136.  Felt like I’m getting the hang of things.  Plus 5 minute strength circuit.

Tuesday 11/7: Recovery “run,” or really Recovery shuffle.  This attempt did not go nearly as well as my last.  3.2 miles, average page 18:27, average HR 133 (oops).  Once again wondered what the hell I’m doing with my training.  Put in 5 minutes on the Bosu anyway.

Wednesday 11/8: Easy effort 60 minutes with pickups.  5 miles, average pace 12:06, average HR 139.  Plus 5 minute strength circuit.

Thursday 11/9: Had an optional rest day today, but decided I needed more practice with the recovery runs so did that instead, even though it was cold and rainy and it would have been very easy to stay inside.  Went a little better?  3.4 miles, average pace 17:08, average HR 129.   Plus 5 minutes with resistance loops.

Friday 11/10: 60 minute free run.  Most of my friends were doing shakeout runs for the Richmond Marathon and Half Marathon the next day, so I made plans to meet up with two different groups, one after the other, for 3 miles each.  6.2 miles, average pace 10:25, average HR 147.  Did the 5 minute strength circuit later in the day.

Saturday 11/11: 90 minute easy effort run with pickups.  It was COLD, about 20 degrees when I started.  But I dressed right and as long as I was moving I felt pretty good!   7.7 miles, average pace 11:42, average HR 141.  Plus 5 minutes on the bosu.

After my run, I went to mile 24 of the Richmond Marathon course to cheer on some friends.  It was fun to see everybody at that tough part of the race.  And kind of surprisingly, it made me really, really want to run Richmond again.  I might have to rethink my marathon plans for next year.

Sunday 11/12: Total rest day.

Totals: 30+ miles, 6 mini-strength sessions.  Overall this was a MUCH better week than my first week, and helped me to feel like this training might actually work for me.   Onward!!