Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When the Numbers go the Wrong Way

Ran my fifth 4-mile evaluation this morning, see the results immediately below followed by the other evaluations by date-

8/05/08: 6:07(153HR), 6:30(151), 6:34(151), 6:39(151), 1:00 to 120HR
7/22/08: 6:13(151HR), 6:22(152), 6:27(152), 6:29(151), 1:00 to 120HR
7/08/08: 6:03(150HR), 6:14(151), 6:13(151), 6:12(150), :42 to 120HR
6/28/08: 6:02(150HR), 6:11(151), 6:15(151), 6:14(151), :45 to 120HR
6/10/08: 6:15(148HR), 6:25(151), 6:28(151), 6:34(150), :51 to 120HR

Apparently I'm running backwards at full speed, as I'm now running slower at a 150 heart rate than I was when I pretty much started my conditioning phase eight weeks ago.

It's really not supposed to be like this. I said this aloud while I stood in the shade of the single tree planted next to the track at the junior high up the road from our house right after completing the evaluation. I was picking the biting ants off my stomach and wiping the sweat from my eyes at the time, soaking in the heat and humidity that seems inescapable this time of year. The evaluation was an exercise in frustration, as I could feel from the start how slowly I was moving in order to keep my heart rate from meandering over 150 beats per minute. I had already cut the warm up from four to three miles in order to keep as much cardiac drift from the temperatures here out of the equation as I could, but that didn't seem to help. After forcibly putting on the brakes midway through the first mile when my heart rate rose to 155, there was simply no way to speed up again to the paces I was running at the same heart rate just a month ago.

So what's changed? The miles have been lower (unintentionally most of the time), and the paces have seemed about the same or slower. The long runs have been a bit more of a challenge, with some going well and others going poorly. The only consistent bright spot has been the up-tempo days, which are generally between 6:15 and 6:30 pace for 10 miles.

I can't use work, the weather, scheduling or sick kids as excuses, as all of these things have been about the same over the past three years. In fact, it was three years ago this week that I finished my first 100 mile week using Arthur Lydiard's training. Finn's and Haiden's recent illnesses have made the past few nights feel much like they did at this time three years ago, when Finn was only four months old. Now we're all three years older, and while they are getting bigger and stronger by the day, it often feels like I'm either moving in the other direction or at best barely clinging to where I was six months or a year ago.

Still, each and every run starts with the clock at 00:00, and tomorrow is no exception. The feeling of gliding two inches above the road still often bubbles to the surface, and sometimes those numbers that seemed so important today aren't really the waypoint we thought they were. When I think back to this past fall, I remember how down and flat I was after Twin Cities in October and how much I was able to improve during the following three months before running the Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon in January. It can happen again. Three years down, three months until NYC.

10 miles, 1h08m, 6:49 pace, 4 mile eval in 6:07(153HR), 6:30(151), 6:34(151), 6:39(151), 1:00 to 120HR
Resting HR: 42
Sleep: 5h 5/10 (woke 4 times)
Legs: 7/10 A little stiff but plenty there
Temperature: 78 degrees, 60% humidity

8/4/08 pm., 5 miles easy on the treadmill around 7:50 pace, a bit tight


running faster with the ALIEN LIZARD said...

hi mike,
emailed you some info on how heat and humid conditions can kick your pulse rate up higher, seeing you just came from cooler conditions i think your pulse could have been up to 10 beats higher for the same effort, so you should not feel to bad about your test.Unless you have the same conditions each time for your test the results are meaningless, ie if its a cool day you would have to run faster to get your pulse to say 150 than on a hot day.
problem with a pulse monitor is its great in the lab but can give confusing results out on the road, i think its better to run by feel!

Love2Run said...

I'm with the alien on this one. Maybe try a couple of these evaluations on a treadmill in controlled (even a/c) conditions? But I for one am impressed at your speed and low hr in any event.

Mike said...

8/05: 78 degrees, 60% humidity
7/22: 78 degrees, 70% humidity
7/08: 78 degrees, 52% humidity
6/28: 80 degrees

Wish I could blame the heat for the drop-off, but as you can see the it's been pretty consistent. Alien, thanks for the documents, some good info there.

I think adding a rate of perceived exertion might help, but none of these have felt difficult. Thanks for the comments as always.

Greg said...

For what it's worth this post is a set of four evaluation-type runs I did a few years ago. If you used relative humidity, the middle two temp/rel humidities wouldn't look that different (66/81% versus 70/90%), but the 60 versus 66 dewpoint is the killer. I find the exponential drop in pace happens when you cross the 60 degree dew point mark.

52% at 78 degrees is a dew point of 59 and 70% at 78 degrees is 67 degrees.

I know you don't want excuses and you *know* if you're getting slower or faster, but with the variation of weather (cloud cover, breeze, humidity count too) and good days versus bad days, don't get too excited over four data points. What you believe and how you feel is more important.

Kirk said...

Hmmm--might be time time re-read Noakes' Lore of Running's chapter on overtraining. I went through the same thing last week and I ended up taking some time off--and it helped something spectacular. I'm lucky and recognized it early, as it sounds like you are doing right now.

Mike said...

Greg, the more I look into it the more it seems like dewpoint makes a better indicator than humidity alone. Thanks for pointing it out and thanks for reading.

Kirk, I love that chapter! In fact, I started with the over-training section when I dug into the book during the beginning of my conditioning phase. Aside from the problems I've had on my long runs, it doesn't seem like I'm getting slower while working harder (which would really worry me). Today's evaluation felt too easy, like I was barely jogging, but the heart rate told a different story. Still, I am making an effort to really make any doubles true recovery runs while trying to slow down on the easy days. It's also possible that rest (or lack of it) is just more important at age 37 than it was at 34.

...Remind me, which of the seven stages of over-training are "bargaining" and "denial"? =)

Eric said...

You should definitely start recording the dewpoint instead of the percentage of humidity. And probably don't do anything that's dependent on HR at a time when the dewpoint is higher than 65.

I wouldn't spend too much energy worrying about the eval. I have experienced the frustration of 'slow' evaluation runs, and whenever I feel that way, I remind myself that if these runs were designed to make me feel good, they would be called 'validation runs'. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm--might be time time re-read Noakes' Lore of Running's chapter on overtraining. I went through the same thing last week and I ended up taking some time off--and it helped something spectacular. I'm lucky and recognized it early, as it sounds like you are doing right now.

I ardently disagree with this. Mike might be overreached somewhat (and I'm not even sure I'd say that, but overtrained, I don't really think so. This would require consistent HRs 10> above avg. RHR, consistant deadness in one's legs, an inability to reach max HR, modiness, etc.

W/ that said, Mike I said it once and I say it again, you seriously might want to consider the occassional cutback week. I don't remember Lydiard's position on this, but I know Vigil's guys, Asics Aggies, I believe even the dudes over at HB project take the cutback...

And look, even if they don't, you and I aren't 25 anymore. Our bodies can't rebound as quickly and during the rest week (well, 80-85% volume) you give your body a chance to rest up and adapt to the demands hard training puts on it.

Of course, I realize you have me beat in the running and kiddos department, but it seems to me parenthood and basic life places external and internal stress on our bodies. To look at one workout and say you're backsliding doesn't factor in the whole picture: in other words, sick kids, interupted sleep, travel for work--the numbers don't account for these things.

This my long-winded way of saying don't sweat it. The training is solid thusfar. Now if this continued for 3-4 weeks I'd concerned, but for now, you're fine. If you're feeling a tad wiped, take a down week. If not, then keep going...training is a balance btw will and honest discourse with your body.

Larry said...

*Four marathons in a little over a year (Dec 06-Jan 08)....Yeah, one was a sub-max effort, but I don't think Lydiard had the Tucson Marathon course in mind for his 42.2k time trials!

*Eight races from September to May at 10k or longer, including three marathons....

Scheduled recovery weeks really aren't necessary, as Mike as shown repeatedly in the past that he gets faster and stronger as the mileage goes up. With bad weather, travel, young kids, etc. the recovery weeks have a way of scheduling themselves.

However, Mike probably needs to recognize that being able to run triple digit mileage week after week, month after month, year after year, at a good pace doesn't make you invincible to the point where you can send in race entries at will, particularly if your chosen events are at 10k and beyond. Mike cashed in a lot of chips during that last twenty months of racing it may take more time than expected to replenish the reserves and restore some equilibrium to Mike's system.

The disappointing result of the evaluation run only means that Mike might have to delay the start of more intense phase of his training, or at least proceed more carefully than he otherwise would. But cutting back on the miles is the last thing that he needs.

Mike said...

Eric, you're probably right about the heart rate going awry past a dew point of 65, and point taken on these not being "validation runs".

Joseph and Larry, I appreciate the comments. As far as recovery weeks go, I'm still more of a fan of trying to integrate recovery into the day to day training, mostly because of the inevitable "down" weeks thrown my way because of other commitments. I think the recovery runs will be slower and more prevalent once the volume starts turning up on more marathon-pace specific work as well as speed-work, and the challenge will be getting my diet and rest schedule to follow suit.

I'll comment more in the next post.