Sunday, April 3, 2011

In a Heartbeat

I've now been running for five weeks since my four-week layoff due to stress fractures. My focus has been on easing back into running, monitoring my symptoms and staying healthy. My weeks have been:

March 7: 10.5 miles
March 14: 9 miles
March 21: 11.8 miles
March 28: 18 miles

As for pace, I've been running what has felt like a natural, easy pace. But this natural, easy pace is slightly faster than what is was pre-injury. Before the stress fractures, my average training pace in January was 9:03-- and that includes over 10 miles of speedwork. In March, my average training pace was 8:53, and that includes only 3 miles of anything that could be considered "speed". Given that, my perceived "easy" pace seems to have dropped by about 15 seconds per mile. I attributed this to having fresh legs. You're obviously going to feel better when you are only running 10 miles a week as opposed to 50.

Even though I almost always wear a heart rate monitor, I decided not to wear one when coming back from injury. I also don't wear one in the few weeks following a marathon. The reason is that I don't want to get upset by how high my heart rate is for paces that used to be easy for me. I want to be in denial about my suspected loss of fitness! I thought that wearing a HR monitor would be highly discouraging so I avoided it for a month.

But on Friday evening, I decided to use it. I was really hoping that my heart rate wasn't going to be ridiculously high, causing me to be in a bad mood the rest of the evening and probably the entire weekend. But I was prepared for the worst. I was prepared for my "easy" pace to have a heart rate in zone 3 (marathon pace zone) and I would just have to deal.

My husband and I went out for an easy five miles. Much to my surprise, my heart rate was actually lower than it had been pre-injury. We ran 5 miles at an average pace of 8:45 and my average heart rate was in my "recovery" zone.  As I was running, I kept looking down at my Garmin in disbelief. At first maybe I thought it wasn't getting a correct reading, but it was rising with the uphills and lowering with the downhills. And based on effort level, it did feel easy.

On January 7, I ran 5 miles at a pace of 9:22 and my average HR was 149. in Friday, I ran 5 miles at a pace of 8:45 and my average HR was 149. Whoa. The elevations for these runs were roughly equal. I'm skeptical. Very skeptical. Yes, I have been doing a good amount of cross training but if this data is to be believed then that's a significant increase in fitness!

Last weekend I decided I was ready for my first tempo run. I ran 2 miles at a 7:16 pace. 7:16 has never been my tempo pace, but it just felt tempo-ish. Of course, I didn't have my HR monitor to know for sure.

Today, I ran a 2.5-mile tempo, with the HR monitor. Once again, the average pace was 7:16. My avg. HR was right in the middle of my tempo zone. It got higher towards the end, but my max HR was still well within my tempo zone (zone 4).  Don't get me wrong-- this was a very challenging workout. Especially because of the wind. It was a huge mental struggle as I wanted to stop after just one mile. But I kept reminding myself how important these workouts are.

So I'm thinking I should trust the HR data and be elated that I have actually gained fitness during my layoff. Of course, I haven't raced yet. But all signs point to a strong return!!!!


  1. I'm glad you're feeling better! If you're still up for the 5K on the 22nd, I'll probably be running it too.

  2. Yay!! You will definitely be back, better and STRONGER!!!

  3. Go Elizabeth!! All your intense pool running has paid off!! Great job!!!

  4. That is awesome! I totally believe that you have gained fitness through lots of cross training. Nice work!

  5. Yay! And all of this has been my experience -- your speed goes up slightly, but stamina goes down. It definitely takes an adjustment, and until you get used to it you do crazy stuff like go out at 3K pace for an 8K race :)

    Yay for coming back!

  6. This is great! I agree with the other comments that it's not surprising. You were really focused in your cross-training and that has a huge impact on your fitness. I'm excited for you!

  7. Thanks for all the encouragement! I hope I am not just fooling myself here. I am still very cautiously optimistic.

  8. awesome. so glad to see you coming back so strong!!

  9. This is a great post! It's amazing how great you are coming back, but I agree with everyone else, you were very focused on keeping your fitness intact! :)

  10. Yay, how awesome for you!

    PS if you want, when you comment on my blog you can log in using OpenID and give your blogger identity, just like I log in here with my Dreamwidth identity. Easy peasy!

  11. With all the running I've done, I've never used any technology, heart rate monitors, etc. I have felt my pulse for 30 seconds after a run but that doesn't tell you much because it rapidly drops when you finish a run and really doesn't do you any service as compared to when you are running. It just doesn't phase me that much.

    Another way to measure fitness and while not something I do, I could do it... That would be resting heart rate. I can sit on the couch and feel my pulse and get an idea. I haven;t done it because I don't care enough right now. Can't race due to the rona... and can't race due to my foot so why worry about fitness!! But these are different ideas you can measure. My resting heart rate isn't as low as I'd like it to be when I'm in tip top shape.. I know people who mare around 40 and I only get down to 52/53.

    Maybe I'll check it tomorrow in he afternoon if it's another dead day and I'll report to you what it is as I've done some harder runs of late but very infrequently!!

    Maybe it's that all males in my family tree have had heart conditions (all were smokers and none were runners) outside of my uncle who committed suicide in 2009 and my uncle in Canada who fled the nation as a draft dodger and had nothing good to say about the USA today.