Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Heart rate, hills, and other stuff

I'm officially done with my 5K racing season and have moved into base building for my fall marathon. I ran four 5Ks this spring/summer and their purpose was mainly to get my running heart rate back to "normal" after Covid had made it abnormally high for months.

Heart Rate
My resting heart rate was elevated for about 2-3 months post Covid, and my running heart rate was elevated for about 5 months. I got sick in the middle of January and recovered at the end of January. From January-May, my running heart rate was consistently 10-15 BPM higher than it was before the illness. 

I started to notice it come down in early May and by the first week of June it was completely back to normal. All of the track workouts and 5Ks had served their purpose of reminding my autonomic nervous system that it didn't need to beat so quickly.

By early June, I was able to run further, faster, and in warmer weather with a lower heart rate than I had in April. It's unfortunate that my Boston Marathon time was a casualty of this lingering symptom, but at least I eventually overcame it. And interestingly, I think my heart rate is even lower than it typically is for summer runs in the heat.

5K Reflections
Here is what I took away from my four 5Ks:

  • Run The Greenway, May 7: My fastest 5K of all four (20:43) due to the cool weather, flat course, and lack of tangents (3.12 on the Garmin). I raced this at only 90% effort per my doctor's guidance and I felt really strong, despite hypothermia afterwards. It was nice to walk away with the win!
  • Feed Fairfax, May 14: The first warm/humid race of the season in a time of 21:06. I was happy with my execution and my mental strength during the final mile.
  • Lawyers Have Heart, June 11: I was disappointed with my performance here. I felt crappy the entire time, the humidity felt extra suffocating, and I don't think my head was really in it. 21:09.
  • Firecracker 5K, July 4: The most satisfying race of the four, even more satisfying than winning the Greenway race. Running a time of 20:57 on a difficult course in the heat and setting a course PR in a race I do every year felt amazing. According to my Garmin, my pace was faster than the 20:43 Greenway due to lack of tangent running (3.16 miles). 

Overall, I think it was a strong 5K season for me and I had a lot of fun with this distance. I think by the 4th one I really got the hang of having a good mental strategy. I probably won't run another one until the Turkey Trot in November. 

Hills & Mileage
I've been running weekly hill workouts for the past 4 weeks, and those will continue for another 2 weeks. This will be my longest string of hill workouts ever and I think it will really pay off. I like running hills in the summer because I don't care about my pace. The track can be brutal in the summer: un-shaded, slower times, endless laps. But hills are more forgiving. They work on both speed and strength and are a nice compliment to my weekly strength training sessions. 

The hill workout is my only significant workout each week. My long runs have been around 11-12 miles at an easy pace, and one of my other easy runs is a fast finish (ex: last 5 minutes at 10K effort). 

In the summer I typically run about 50 miles per week, but this summer my coach has kept me in the low to mid 40s. I was worried I would lose fitness because of it, but now I realize it has enabled me to run really strong workouts because I'm not as exhausted from high miles in the humidity. 

Heat and Humidity
This summer I've learned that I was probably dehydrated almost every previous summer! I am drinking twice that water that I normally do in the summer with added electrolytes as well. I drink one UCAN Hydrate or Liquid IV every day and it's made a big difference in my daily energy levels. 

I also think we've had a relatively mild summer, with "relatively" being the key word. It's July 20 and there have only been a few mornings when the dew point has been higher than 70 at 7:00am. If the dew point is above 70, that's when I use my treadmill. One of the high dew point days was a hill workout day, so I did my warm up on the treadmill and used the hill next to my house. I did the minimum number of reps per the plan but I ended up feeling decent afterwards. 

Looking Ahead
My goal races are the Hartford Half marathon in October and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. . . followed by the Houston marathon in January. There are only 10 weeks between Indianapolis and Houston which is atypical for me, but I want to give it a shot, so I can spend the spring focused on the half marathon distance. 

I having been working directly with coach Greg McMillan since May which has been amazing. He's a strategic thinker and we had a long conversation about the "big picture" before he gave me any specific guidance. We have a general roadmap that we are following, and he fills in the specifics as we go along based on my feedback. I'm on the cover of his latest book, Run Faster Marathons, which contains really useful advice for marathoners of all levels. 

For the next few weeks, I am trying to be very consistent with my running with a slight bump as I prepare for marathon training. That way, when I take time off running to go to Africa, it will be easy for me to jump right back in when I get home. Based on where we are going and treadmill availability, I think I will be able to run about 20 miles a week for the two weeks I am there. I don't think it will impact me too much. . . I took 3.5 weeks off completely for Covid and hardly lost any fitness at all. I'll take the opportunity to do more strength training because body weight exercises can be done anywhere!

My immediate goal is to stay healthy for this Africa trip, which will involve a self-imposed quarantine before we leave. When I return, I plan to blog about it and share many zebra photos!


  1. Interesting case history on the elevated HR post illness, but not so sure it simply a matter of "reminding the autonomic nervous system" but rather simply training that "re-sets" internal physiology back to its most efficient mode?

    Hill workouts are good for both building leg strength in muscles as well as aerobic power. I don't fare well with hills anymore, but then again I am 68 and knocking on the door of 69, so I don't expect to have or rebuild that kind of strength and aerobic capacity.

    Count your blessings and you are "chosen one" if Greg McMillan personally coaching you and uses your picture in one of his publications. But then again your "Zebra" and your a superb blogger and McMillan makes a good living nurturing/training higher-end runners like you, so Zebra is a perfect choice to put on cover of new publication. Congratulations and be proud of that accomplishment.

  2. That is so cool that you and Greg have a great working relationship and decided to put you on the cover of his book. Like you, July 4th looks like the end of my short races although my plans for a hakf and full are before yours and waiting to see what BAA does about vax mandates for 2023.

    Looking forward to hearing all about your Africa trip and I'm sure you'll be seeking out the zebra's. Haha, maybe purchase yourself one and bring it back lmao.

    I learned last year after that awful tendon injury that less is more sometimes, although this year has been a bigger struggle to get miles in than ever before in my life because we are worked to death and last year I was too new for them to bombard me like they do now. Still trying to get it in, particularly the longer runs on Sunday that I do. I feel like I should be ok so long as that gets done, but time will tell these next 10 weeks or so. Keep up the great work, I see a great attitude here that can lead to something great over the next 4-8 months running wise for you