Monday, May 20, 2013

The Speed Keeps Coming All Due to Heart Rate Zone Training - Bluenose Half Marathon 2013

So here we are at phase 2 of my journey through Heart Rate Zone training. You all read my last post about this right? If not it is here. So as you know I was tested in the winter and my heart rate training zones were established. This work was done by Jeff Zahavich through Kinesic Sport Lab. So after the 5K Lung Run this Spring, I was retested to establish my new training zones, as I had plateaued with the current ones. As I mentioned in the previous post, my speed increased quite drastically in my zones, and I was happy.

So my next big event was going to be the Bluenose Half Marathon. I was quite excited the weekend before as I went for a final long run. My runs this year have mostly been built around time and heart rate (of course) and I really only look at pace as a data point when I am analyzing my training after the fact. for this run I had set out to run for 1 hour 45 minutes at Zone 2. This would likely be far more time on my feet than I was expecting during my race, but it fit in well with my goal of 25% of my weekly running being the long run. This 1:45 run ended up being 23 km long with an average pace of 4:34 km/min. 3 years ago I wasn't racing my first half anywhere near that pace. And last year I managed to eek out a race pace of 4:22 min/km while killing myself enroute. So to do this as an easy run in training? Well awesome.

I was looking forward to the race at this point, injury free, well rested. Ahh life was grand. Then I thought, well what sort of pace am I actually looking for to achieve my goal. I had not been thinking pace for ever at this point.

I wanted to beat 1 hour 30 minutes for this run. Last year was 1:32. So some quick calculations showed I was going to need a 4:16 pace. And to get to 1:25 a 4:01 pace. All of a sudden I was freaked out. Ahh, that seemed way too fast. Sure I was running sub 4 min pace in short races and in interval sessions, but to hold that for 21.1 kms?

As is usually the case I play it quite conservative with anything over 10 kms. So the plan was to head out and try to hit the pace needed for 1:30 and re-evaluate as need be over the course of the race.

So Bluenose morning arrived. It was sunny but really cold. When we left the house it may have been 4C, a far cry from last years event that was in the low to mid 20'sC. This presented a dilemma about what to wear? In the end I decided to tough out the start of the race and dress for the hopefully warmer weather part way through the run. So as I lined up I was shivering in shorts and a light top, but at least that took my mind off the speed I was going to try and muster up.

Bang and we were off. So as soon as this settled down about 500 meters in I finally picked my pace. Now here my heart rate monitor was failing me as the air was so dry I lacked a good connection. But thanks to training, I was able to match my heart rate to my perceived exertion, so I went with that until I got sweaty enough to have a true heart rate reading. I settled into a pace of 4:16 min/km for the first few kilometers and felt great. A few people passed by, some people dropped off and things were feeling good.

My fueling strategy was easy, grab a water and Gatorade from each water stop and take a mouthful of each as best I could while not slowing down. As in the past this strategy didn't fail me.

My pace picked up a bit and I tried to keep my pace and heart rate happy. I was running high Zone 3 most of the way, peaking occasionally into low Zone 4.  And as I ran by the 10 km sign at 41 minutes I was smiling. Four years ago I did the Bluenose 10km race in 48 minutes and killed myself doing so. Here I was running easy.

I kept this pace / heart rate up for the next 8 kilometers without issue (I went slightly slower up some of the steep uphills), then after what would be my last water stop at the 18 km sign, I picked up the pace. I also stopped really looking at my computer and ran a lot by feel. I started to pick off a few other runners that were starting to fail. In this race until the last 800 meters or so, it is all a version of uphill now. But I was strong, thanks to the great running and strength training I had done.

From here to the end it all seemed so easy, there was a huge downhill, a crowd of runners from the 10km race to contend with, but I was feeling good and happy. I didn't have my standard angry horror face on and cruised over the finish line standing tall and in 1:26. That was a six minute PB in a half marathon and I must say that I was conservative for much of this race. So was I happy? Oh yeah.

Again I can't say enough about this new system of heart rate training I have begun. I will be sticking to it for sure as I head on to my next big adventure of a full marathon in August.

A quick look at last year versus this year:

Last year approaching finish line, core collapsing shoulders dipping to one side (and though hard to see) grimace on face.

This year approaching finish line, standing tall, core strong, shoulders straight across, hips even, calm look on face, relaxed hand. 

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