Shiner Half & BCS Training Update

Training for Shiner & BCS is coming along nicely. If you remember, back in September, I wrote this awesome training plan for myself and though I’m using it as something of a guideline, it’s not getting followed, exactly. Or at all, really.

About two weeks after I wrote my training plan I left on a 16 mile run and came home 20 miles later. It had been a long week and I needed the alone time. It was more for therapy than training but after that I decided to up my long run volume this training cycle. My body is fully capable of handling the higher mileage and it seemed like a good chance to experiment. I’ve run 6, 20+ milers in the last 8 weeks. Including a 26.2 mile monster that featured 1,500 feet of climbing/decent at the Hockley Community Center. That was fun. Right?

The goal became making the dreaded 20 mile run “no big deal” and I can easily say that I was successful. Running 20 miles is no longer a big deal. BUT I’m tired. Very tired. More so than in past training cycles. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that I shouldn’t do more than two consecutive weeks of 20+ mile runs. Every three weeks I need a recovery week. Duly noted.

Speed work has been going pretty well. I skipped my last scheduled tempo run due to some emerging achiness in my knees and shins but a couple days of hot baths, targeted massage and cross training did the trick. Other than that the speed sessions have gone according to plan, with one exception…

…since I lost the Y to Harvey, I moved to a new gym. The temperature inside the new gym isn’t nearly as cold as the Y was, and sometimes it’s downright hot in there. As a result my heart rate has been higher and my tempo run paces have been slightly slower than normal by about 10 seconds per mile.

What was a 7:08/mile tempo run at a heart rate of 171 at the Y, is now a 7:19/mile tempo run at the same heart rate…which is slightly frustrating.

At first I thought it was me, as I hadn’t done any tempo runs since training for Boston and I took the summer almost entirely off from structured running. Instead I spent all summer playing with my friends and running a ton of trails.

When picking up speed work up after a layoff, you never really know how those first few speed sessions will go. They’re kinda like sticking your hand into one of those mystery feeling boxes. You never really know what is inside.

It feeeels like an eyeball…but maybe it’s a grape? 

It feels like a tempo run, kinda. From 2 years ago? It left me wondering, what happened?

Maybe my age is finally catching up with me? Maybe I’m paying the price for goofing off all summer? Maybe I’m just not as fast as I was back in April?

Thankfully there have been a couple of times when it’s gotten cooler outside and the temperature inside the gym has followed suit. I’ve had a few runs that resembled my old YMCA-pre-Harvey pace so I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Which is good. I was getting paranoid.

Because the tempo runs have been slower, I’m slightly concerned that although my heart/lungs are in good enough shape to handle a seven minute mile, my legs may not be.

To supplement the tempo runs and work on my leg turnover I’ve been doing strides at the end of easy runs and have done a series of 2 mile intervals at 10k pace (6:45)  but if it worked remains to be seen.

I was hoping to find out on Saturday because it’s FINALLY time for Shiner! I’ve been looking forward to the Shiner Half Marathon since I finished Boston back in April. After the race I sat at the post-race party in Fenway Park, drank my special Samuel Adams 26.2 Celebration brew, and I switched the countdown timer on my watch. That seems like forever ago but it’s finally here!

Unfortunately, yesterday around 2:30 pm I was moving some firewood and dropped a piece right on my foot. It landed squarely on my big toe. I screamed and yelled a bunch of four letter words and cried a little BECAUSE IT HURT and watched my toenail turn purple – then the rest of my toe decided purple was an awesome color so it decided it wanted to be purple too. Moral of the story, don’t move firewood wearing flip flops.

I’m feeling pretty lucky that I didn’t break my toe.

I was planning on using Shiner as my last tempo run prior to BCS but right now I can barely walk, let alone race. I’m confident that I can complete Shiner on Saturday…it just may not be very fast because this HURTS. Like a lot. Badly enough that, last night, I briefly considered a trip to urgent care for something stronger than ibuprofen.

I’m disappointed. I wanted another stein. Hope isn’t lost entirely but I’m not exactly optimistic.

What is it with me and injuries right before a race? Last night when I was laying in bed with ice on my foot I realized it was the second time in six months that I had been elevating and icing an acute injury. Last time it was the mountain bike incident prior to Boston. At least this time I was doing something productive and not something incredibly stupid.

Next week is supposed to be peak week for BCS training. Peak week may or may not happen depending on how quickly my toe heals. According to the plan (that I wrote but haven’t been following), I’ve got a longer run scheduled for next Tuesday of 13 miles with 7 miles at marathon pace, one last 24 mile run on Saturday and if my body feels good I’ll do a marathon pace run on the following Sunday. Peak week mileage should be in the mid-70s. After that all I have left is a two week taper.

Regardless of what happens with my toe, I’m ready for the taper. I need the taper. I’m both physically and emotionally exhausted. Training for a race does that.

Yes, I can run fast but I don’t like it. The process of getting my body from summer-of-trail-running-fun shape to marathon race shape is uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. Constantly pushing myself drains me emotionally. By the time I make it to peak week I’m ready to give up running altogether.

But then race day comes. Racing is awesome. It hurts but I’m rewarded emotionally and shortly thereafter I forget about the pain of training and start making plans to do it again. Because that’s what I do.

And because of marathon legs. Marathon legs are my favorite.

15,000 Steps

My watch has a pedometer on it. I like it. It’s not the reason I bought my watch but it was kind of a bonus.

Do I really need a pedometer? No. Running keeps me from being too lazy but it’s kinda fun seeing how many steps I take.

Like other fitness watches mine gives me a step goal to meet. But the goal isn’t static. It changes every day based on how many steps I took the day before. It goes up if I meet/surpass my goal, and down if I don’t.

When I first got my watch I turned the steps goal into a game. How high can I get it? Run, it goes up. Take a day off, it goes down.

Over time I noticed a pattern emerge. When I’m not training for a race the goal is usually around 13,000 steps. When training for a race, the goal creeps up and when it goes over 15,000 I’m almost always forced to take a day off. Either I get sick or I notice an emerging injury.

It happens every time.

It seems 15,000 steps is magic level of stress my body can handle effectively. And it can’t handle much more for long.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I came down with a MASSIVE cold.

At first it wasn’t bad. A slight cold usually doesn’t slow me down much and I did some easy runs without an issue. After a few days of coughing and sniffling, I started to get better. My symptoms were going away so I did a tempo run, as it was on my plan. The tempo run went fine. Great actually. No problem.

I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

I relapsed and spent 3 days laying in bed. After the relapse I just happened to glance down at the steps goal on my watch. 15,981. Oh. And that was after laying in bed for two days.

My body makes me take a break. It doesn’t ask politely, “Joni, will you please take a day off?  You’re pushing me a little too hard.”

Today my steps goal is 15,059. It’s been over 15,000 for two days now. My rest day isn’t until Friday.


Yesterday I had some mild tightness in my shins and some pain below and to the outside of my left knee leftover from a very hard weekend. Heating pad. Stretch. Foam Roll. Massage the shins. Repeat. All day yesterday. They felt okay yesterday afternoon so I went on my normal Monday run.

During my run they didn’t hurt at all, not even a little, but afterward everything was worse. Today they feel better but not great.

My last and longest tempo run of the training cycle is scheduled for this afternoon, 10 miles at half marathon pace. If things in my body feel okay later this afternoon, I will go out and get it done. But most likely I’ll be skipping the tempo and doing something else. Maybe I’ll go for a walk…

It happens every time.

That silly steps goal is a reminder that as much as I’d like to think so, I’m not invincible. I’m a ordinary person, albeit a somewhat crazy one, with ordinary limits trying to push myself to do extraordinary things. Apparently my limit is 15,000 steps. What’s yours?

Mind Games & The 40 Percent Rule

We run with our legs, right? Well, technically, yes.

But there’s something else that isn’t talked about much and I argue is the single most important factor in running and racing and that’s training a strong mind.

How many times have you found yourself there? In that place where you have given up. You’re umpteen miles from home, your body is exhausted, your brain is telling you to quit.

You’re so miserable that you’d give anything to have the run finished, you’ve thought about calling someone to come get you but that would be admitting defeat. So you don’t. Instead you slog through what seems like the longest miles of your life. Grumpy, miserable, on the verge of tears. Suddenly, every little discomfort in your body becomes a tiny pebble, turned boulder, in your shoe.

Tired. Hungry. Thirsty. Sweaty. Legs trembling. Armpits chaffed. Make it stop already.

Those are the runs when you do the real training. The real work. It’s not on the easy runs, it’s the hard ones. The ones where you want to quit, but you don’t. That’s when you become an endurance athlete.

There’s science to the mind games. Your brain wants to maintain a state of homeostasis, the happy place where the body can maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in external conditions. In the case of endurance running, our brain wants us to actually finish what we started and not kill ourselves in the process, so it self regulates.

Because it’s awesome, our brains can monitor all of body’s systems to know exactly how far and how fast we can push ourselves while still maintaining that happy, comfortable state. All this is done without our knowledge. It says, “Joni, slow down. You can’t hold this pace for another 7 miles…”

…and it says it with side stitches. Muscle cramps. Fatigue. The list goes on.

Your brain is wanting everything to be a-okay, it’s protecting you. But there’s more in there. There’s more to give.

I recently read an article in Hustle about a millionaire, a navy SEAL and the 40% rule. It’s about how your brain will hold you back from your body’s true potential.

It says, “…when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done.”

It’s mentioned again by Steve Magness in the book The Science of Running. I believe it. It’s the reason I can run mile 25, faster than mile 24. The reason I can only do 15 pushups when I’m working alone but can somehow manage 60 when my trainer is watching.

Your brain wants so badly for everything to be comfortable, it will do everything it can to keep you from being uncomfortable. Including telling you to quit. It’s a powerful thing, the mind.

Much like we train our legs and our hearts we have to train our mind, as well.

How do you train your mind? You force your body to recreate the pain of a race during training. We force ourselves into being uncomfortable under controlled conditions so that when we’re uncomfortable during the uncontrolled conditions of a race we know what we can safely push ourselves through.

It’s knowing the difference between challenge pain and warning pain, choosing to listen to the warning pain, and telling the challenge pain to go fly a kite.

We need to know exactly when we can tell our brains to shut up.

That’s the difference between running and racing. It’s also the difference between finishing and winning.

The only way to do that is to purposefully put ourselves in a place where our brains are telling us to quit…and then running 5 more miles. You never make progress while being comfortable, it’s not until we truly push ourselves out of our comfort zones, both mental and physical, that we find growth – this is true in life as it is running.

So, the next time you’re up late with a sick kid and all you want is sleep, do the long run anyway. The next time you’re tempted to cut that tempo run short, don’t. Unless you’re on the verge of injury, by quitting you’re robbing yourself of valuable training, not of your legs but of your mind.

And training your mind might be the most important part.

Almost-But-Not-Quite Paleo Bacon & Spinach Quiche

I’m going out on a limb here, y’all. It’s a recipe!

If you know me, at all, you know I love to cook. And right up there next to cooking, is feeding people. It brings me joy.

But one of the biggest challenges of balancing family and this ridiculous running habit has been dinner. Though I often workout twice a day, my main workout is always in the late afternoon/early evening, right about the time I should be making dinner.

Prepping everything ahead of time is helpful but can still lead to some very late meals and that’s not cool. I struggled with this for a long time but then one day, I discovered my oven had a delayed start feature.

I can put things together and toss them in the oven before I leave. I then tell the oven how long it needs to cook, what temperature to cook it and what time I want it done. When I get home from my run there’s a piping hot something-or-other waiting for me.

Modern technology for the win! It’s a miracle!…

…except not really. I would have figured this out a lot sooner if I’d ever bothered to read an owners manual. Apparently every oven does this. Oh well.

The hunt was on for dinner recipes that qualify for the toss-it-in-the-oven-and-go-running method.

This quiche, a Frankenstein’s monster of about three different recipes, is one of my favorites.

In the case of today, I prepped the egg mixture and the crust at 10 AM, assembled it at 3 PM and put it all in the oven on a timer to be ready when I got home from my workout at 6 PM.

Work smarter, not harder. Right?

Even better, I almost always have all these ingredients on hand and it’s easy to throw together when I’m staring blankly in the fridge wondering WTF I’m going to make for dinner AND my kids eat it. Bonus!

If you’re not into paleo, the quiche can still be made as is, and the crust substituted for a traditional flour based model or one of the ready made crusts from the grocery store.

(Please note, this is not a food blog with fancy food porn pictures. I took these with my cell phone while I was making dinner. Be nice.)

To make the crust, toss 1 cup almond flour, 3/4 cup tapioca flour, 1 tbsp xantham gum, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp baking powder in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Then add in the egg and let it run until the egg is well integrated.

Remove the lid and add 4 tbsp cubed, very cold butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Then, with the processor running, slowly drizzle in water until the mixture comes together in to a ball.

Like this.

Dump the whole thing out, shape it into a disc, cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill out.

Then forget you’re not wearing an apron and wipe your hands on your legs…

While the crust is chillin’ in the fridge assemble the egg mixture. Mix together 12 eggs, 12-ounces of bacon cut into 1/2 inch slices and cooked, 1/2 cup of sour cream, and 10 ounces of frozen spinach which you have thawed and wrung out in a clean kitchen towel (this is important, just say no to soggy quiche!). Throw in 3/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.

When assembly time comes, grease a spring form pan with butter/tapioca flour or coconut oil.

Roll out the crust between two layers of plastic wrap, making the crust slightly larger than the diameter of the spring form pan.

(Warning: despite the tapioca starch and xantham gum, this crust lacks the elasticity of a flour based crust. If you attempt to roll it without the plastic wrap, it will fall apart. Even with the plastic wrap it’s a tricky situation. The plastic wrap helps things significantly. Don’t skip it.)

Slowly remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then gently wrap the crust and the bottom layer of plastic wrap around a rolling pin. Remember, the plastic wrap is holding it all together.

Pick up the rolling pin and move the whole thing to the greased spring form pan. Slowly unroll the crust into the pan so that the plastic wrap is on top. Then peel it off.

Fill with the egg mixture and put it in the oven!

Let it bake for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Ta Da! Serve with cut up fruit or Strawberry Salad (sliced strawberries, honey goat cheese, toasted almonds and poppy seed dressing). Yum!

Print Recipe
Bacon & Spinach Quiche
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Paleo Crust
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Paleo Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the almond flour, tapioca starch, xantham gum, kosher salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined.
  3. Add the egg to the dry ingredients. Let the food processor run until fully integrated.
  4. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  5. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in enough ice water so that the mixture forms a ball. You may need all the ice water, you may not.
  6. Form into a disk and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  7. Grease a spring form pan and roll out the crust between two sheets of plastic wrap so that it's about 1.5" wider than the pan
  8. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and gently roll the crust, along with the bottom later around a rolling pin and gently move to the pan.
  9. Press the crust into the pan and fill with the egg mixture.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until the center is firm. Let cool and remove from the pan.
  11. Cut into wedges and serve with fruit or a salad.
Share this Recipe

Not A Morning Runner

I have a confession. I am not a morning runner.

Every productivity and success article I’ve ever read says that to be successful you have to get your exercise done in the morning…to which I say, “Pshaw! Whatever.”

I’ve tried, trust me.

I am a morning person, most days I’m up by 5:30 and in a relatively good mood by 5:45 but for some reason that doesn’t translate to running. I would much rather have my quiet time in the morning on the couch with a cup of coffee than spend it sweating, panting and questioning why I choose to participate in this particular variety of torture.

I spend the hour leading up to most morning runs reminding myself that to be a runner I actually have to go running.

To which I respond, “Ugh. Really? Right now? Can’t it wait ’til later?”

Anytime I’m forced to run in the morning, the workouts are always hard. Just going for an “easy” run is a chore. Forget doing speedwork. Notgonnahappen.

In the evenings, however, it’s a different story. In the evenings my running clothes practically jump onto my body. I leave the house with a level of exuberance that can only be rivaled by a dog who finally escaped the confinement of her backyard – tail wagging, ears flopping, bounding down the street with her mouth open and tongue flapping in the breeze.

Yes, I just likened myself to a dog.

That’s how I feel during my evening runs. I’M FREE! Free from the stress of the day, free from the dirty dishes, free from the washed but not folded laundry, free from the never ending cries for Mom.

My evening runs are so ingrained in my body’s rhythm that on rest days or the days when I’m forced to exercise early due to scheduling conflicts I find myself unsettled, pacing and fidgeting almost uncontrollably from 4-6 PM. I can’t help myself.

I’ve tried to love the morning run but I can’t. I want to love it; it would be so convenient, so easy. I don’t love it, it doesn’t love me. At least we’re both in agreement.

For me, I get my best work done in the morning. If I need to concentrate on something like writing training plans, answering emails, blogging, or doing my volunteer job it needs to be done before lunch.

After lunch I have a hard time sitting still and focusing, so instead I do things like pick up the house, do schoolwork with my daughter, fold laundry, and prep dinner. By 4:00, I’m tired of being at home, and my the kids are tired of me so a trip to the gym is exactly what the doctor ordered. That’s my ideal workout time. My golden two hours of time to myself.

It wasn’t until I figured this out that I began exercising consistently.

Like anything else there are exceptions. I have no problem getting up early on Saturday mornings for a 5 AM trail date with my friends…mainly because they always end like this:

I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to eat donuts and drink beer before 8 AM?

You too have your own body clock – your own perfect timing and unique schedule.

Maybe a 5 AM run wakes you up and energizes you, or you may be like me and find yourself getting fidgety around 4 PM. Maybe you need a mid-day break and your prime exercise time is lunch.

Once you find that golden hour (or two), don’t schedule anything else! Protect it. Reserve it especially as your exercise time. That is YOUR TIME to take care of YOU.

You’ll find that the more consistent you are with your timing, the easier exercising consistently will become. Your body will get used to the activity and crave it. Not only will your body adjust to the pattern, your family will as well and if you’re like me with little kids in tow getting everyone out of the house will be easier.

Everyone in my house knows what happens at 4 PM.

The kids don’t fight it, my husband doesn’t ask what time I’ll be home. It’s amazing. It’s freeing. It’s something I look forward to all day.

It is finally my time to be me. So I run, tongue flapping in the breeze…

BCS, Big Bend & Ironman Plans

A couple of weeks ago, I sat and watched everyone else with my qualifying time register for the Boston Marathon.

I didn’t and it sucked.

I had the chance to do that incredible race again. I didn’t take it.

That day was THE day the decision to do Ironman was final. Up until that day, I always had the chance to chicken out of Ironman Texas with the world’s most awesome back up plan – the Boston Marathon. Up until then, I still had a choice.

That day came and went. Ironman Texas it is.

I want to run Boston again. But now, for the first time in nearly two years, I find myself without a qualifying time. I had been tossing around the idea of running the BCS Marathon for a couple of months as a 2019 potential BQ but I hadn’t committed. Well, after Boston registration day came and went that decision became quite a bit easier.

Don’t think I’m without strategy here. I’m not making racing decisions willy-nilly because if there’s anything I can do, and do well, it’s plan.

This fall, it’s all about running and re-qualifying for Boston in 2019. If I want to do it, I need to do it now. If I wait until after Ironman it will be too hot and there won’t be any local races. It’s now or never.

From everything I’ve heard, BCS is a great race and I’m excited to give it my best. I felt like I missed a chance to really see what my body could do in Boston back in April because of the heat, hopefully with a December race I’ll have a shot at that 3:20 that I think I’ve got in me.

After BCS, it’s about another bucket list item, running an ultra.

Five years ago when I was pregnant with Alvy, we went camping in Big Bend Ranch State Park. When we were planning the trip we did all the research we could about the terrain and what to bring, as it’s a very primitive location. It was hard to find anything though, even online, as Big Bend Ranch isn’t on the beaten path and not exactly frequented. When we got home, I uploaded a video (watch it here) to YouTube of us off-roading in the truck on a short trail called Oso Loop, hoping it would help someone else who was making similar plans. About a year later, someone contacted me via YouTube in regards to planning a future foot race in the park. To which I responded, “FOOT RACE?!”

Running Big Bend 50 has been on my list since then.

Qualifying for and running Boston for the first time was my primary goal so Big Bend had to wait but now that I’ve got that taken care of it’s finally time!

Here’s the plan.

Once Big Bend is over it’s onto training for Ironman Texas. I should have the run portion pretty well covered at that point so I should only have to focus on training my body for the swim and the bike. I will continue to swim and cycle as cross training while I train for BCS so I won’t exactly be starting from scratch.

Since I’m only in it to finish, I should be in good enough shape to dive head first into Ironman training starting in mid-January. At least that’s the plan. Because plans always work out, right?

VO2 Max Test

I’ve been wanting to have a VO2 Max test done for a while. The cost of the test, plus having to find childcare always kept it in the “maybe one day” category. The heart rate training has been working, and I though I could certainly benefit from a VO2 Max test, it wasn’t a priority.

Thanks to Harvey who flooded my beloved Y, I joined Lifetime Fitness a couple of weeks ago. I went to the facility for a tour and after I’d decided to join the uber slick guy selling me the membership started asking me a number of questions, the last of which was, “Do you want to purchase LT Bucks?”

Me: Uhhh, what are LT Bucks?
Him: They’re electronic currency you can buy stuff with. When you join you can buy them for $.50 per $1 LT Buck.
Me: Ah, okay. Like what kind of stuff can I buy?
Him: Massages in the spa.  Hair and nail services. Group classes. Food from the cafe.
Me: Eh, food maybe but I won’t really use the other stuff. I’ll pass.
Him: Metabolic testing.
Me: Wait. What?
(He started grinning. He knew he’d won.)
Me: Like VO2 testing?
Him: Yes.

10 days later, I was standing on a treadmill with a mask strapped to my face.

The test itself was pretty rough, obviously. It’s a twisted version of torture, if you think about it. It’s the only word to describe something that involves increasing difficulty in small intervals, the last of which includes the description, “I am going to die!”

That’s actually what the paper said.

It really did.

Before I go any further, let’s talk about what VO2 Max actually is. It’s the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume in one minute (in milliliters), per kilogram of body weight. If you want to increase your VO2 Max you can either increase your lung capacity or loose weight.

The keyword here is maximum. This is a maximal test, meaning you push your body as hard as it can be pushed, hence the description, “I am going to die.”

You know you’ve reached that maximum point if you see a plateau in oxygen consumption at the end of the test.

My test went like this, first we did a warm up, a mini version of the test. We started at a 10:10/mile at 1% incline and increased the speed by 1/2 mph every two minutes, before every increase in speed I was asked how I felt on a pain scale of 1-10. 1=Sitting on the couch, eating bon bons; 10= I am going to die. The warm up ended at a 7:30/mile pace at a pain level of 7.

We then took a 5 minute break.

After the break was over, we did the real test. Just like before we started at a 10:10/mile, pain scale of 1 and this time ending at a 6:25/mile, pain scale of 10.

During the warm up and test I ran about 4 miles combined (slightly less, but close to it) and the whole process took an hour. (Please note: this test was personalized for me. If you choose to get your own test done, the process should be similar but the starting/ending paces and inclines will be different, depending on your own individual needs.)

Now, the results.

As of September 14, 2017, my VO2 Max is 57.2.

What does that mean? This means my body can consume up to 57.2 milliliters of oxygen in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Oddly enough since this is a ratio of consumption to body weight, decreasing your body weight increases your VO2 max number. If I had taken this test a month ago, prior to the 9 pounds I gained during our camping trip and Hurricane Harvey, the VO2 Max reading would have been a 60, simply based on the math.

Okay, but what does that mean? Yeah, it really doesn’t really mean anything. The VO2 number itself, is a way of measuring how much oxygen your body can process during exercise and is an indicator of fitness.  Though fun to know, it is simply one of many tools that can help you determine ways to improve. Other factors, such as lactate threshold and running efficiency, also play a major role in developing speed and determining performance.

So why go through the trouble? Because I wanted to know my training zones. I’ve been heart rate training now for about a year and a half and have seen significant progress but as fitness improves zones change and progress slows.

Ironically enough, with all my preaching about slowing down, according to the test I’m doing my easy runs at too low of a heart rate. According to the test I should be training at a heart rate of 160, not 147 if I want to continue to see improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness. Good to know.

The test also gave me some different information other than VO2 Max and my zones. It gave me my max HR (191) and an estimated lactate threshold of 171 bpm. (True lactate threshold can only be determined by a blood test.) Interestingly enough, when I do tempo runs, I run by heart rate not by pace and I always try to maintain a heart rate of 171. This is also the heart rate at which I race a half marathon. I find it no coincidence that this is my estimated lactate threshold since most of my speed training takes place at this heart rate.

It’s an amazing illustration of how the body adapts to the stress placed on it.

I also learned what percentage of fat versus carbs my body is burning in each zone. In my zone 2, I am burning 91% fat and only 9% carbs! I guess all that fat adaption I’ve been doing is paying off.

Furthermore, I am burning 73% fat and 27% carbs at the top of zone 3, which is where I race a marathon. This means I can race a marathon without hitting the wall and explains why I threw away 6 packs of gummies at mile 20 during Boston. My body wasn’t depleting its glycogen reserves. According to the math, I could in theory run 185 miles at an easy pace (the top of zone 2, heart rate 160), or 61 miles at marathon race pace (top of zone 3, 170 heart rate) before I run out of glycogen. I think my legs would give out long before then but it sounds really cool!

This where the wheels fall off. When I hit my threshold of 171, the fat burning stops entirely. I have done such a good job training my body at half marathon race pace that I suck at everything faster than that. At a heart rate of 172, I am burning 100% carbs and could only go 16 miles before hitting the wall.  Important lessons to be learned here, folks.

You can read the full report here.

A Few Technicalities

For the record, the test at lifetime gives you 5 zones but they were broken down slightly differently than other tests I have seen. According to the test my zone 1 doesn’t even start until 140 bpm (and they explained after the test that most of my training should be at the top of zone 1), and zones 2-3 are only a total of 9 bpm combined I am assuming a non-indicated zone prior to their given zone 1 and that zones 2-3 combined are equivalent to zone 3.  Given that information, I re-programmed the zones in my Garmin to the following numbers.

Zone 1 is < 140.
Zone 2 is 140-160.
Zone 3 is 161-170.
Zone 4 is 171-180.
Zone 5 is 181-191.

In addition, after looking at the numbers after the tests, it was noted that my oxygen consumption never plateaued. Remember, I noted earlier that a plateau of consumption at the end of the test indicates that you’ve reached your maximum? My highest level of oxygen consumption was my last breath, meaning I quit too soon. I could have pushed myself through another interval had I not been truly terrified of falling off the treadmill…which was a valid concern.

The Harvey weight and lack of a plateau leads me to believe that 57.2 is, most likely, slightly low.

The moral of the story: I am scheduling a re-test in January when Ironman training really gets started. Between now and then I’m going to get back down to my normal weight (2 pounds to go!) and practice running sprints on the treadmill so I’m have some confidence in my ability to actually stay on it!