Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Maffetone Test #2 (2014)

It's been pretty close to a month since my last Maffetone test.  At that point, I was just coming off of a strained calf muscle and so my running miles were at a minimum.  Fast forward four weeks and things have changed a bit.  My running mileage is up, my swimming volume is about the same, and my biking, well . . . it's down from a month ago (due to more running).  I expect to pick that back up a bit this next week as I get back into a training rhythm.

The addition of the weekly long run has been the most dramatic change in my training to date.  Earlier this week, I took advantage of a day off to do my longest run so far this year.  While I originally planned to do a 13 mile run, my daughter met me at the door after my last lap, and she wanted to do a bit of running too.  We wound up adding another few miles and so when all was said and done, it turned into a 16 mile run.  I survived but I was quite thankful that the rest of the week was lower volume.  In fact, by the time I managed to crawl out of the pool on Tuesday morning, I was more than ready for a day off.
Saturday was planned to be my second Maffetone test of the year.  I'd watched the weather all week and it seemed like the conditions were as close to what they'd been a month before when I'd done my first test.  There was a bit more wind, but nothing that would drastically impact the test.
Before heading out the door, I reviewed the data from my previous test so that I'd have some basis of comparison while I was out.
It was a beautiful afternoon to be running and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace.  The first portion of this test is a 10 minute warm-up.  I had tried to adjust the workout to make it just one mile, but for some reason, the 310xt didn't pick up the change before I headed out the door.  So I set off at an easy pace.  Before long however, I was already pretty close to my Maffetone range which made me a bit nervous.  At ten minutes, I was bumping the bottom end of 130bpm where I had an alarm set, and the unit was buzzing and beeping at me non-stop as I moved between 129-130bpm.  Finally, I heard the countdown and the test was underway.  For the test my goal is to run as close to my Aerobic threshold of 138bpm for as much of the time as possible.  The pace varies accordingly.
I still have a long ways to go in terms of aerobic efficiency, but what a difference a month makes. The chart below compares the two runs:
Two Tests: Jan and Feb 2014
As you can see, my average pace per mile was somewhat lower across each of the miles.  In fact the average difference was about 43 seconds faster per mile, with the real difference coming in the last three miles where it was nearly a minute faster than before. There was also a range of about 37 seconds between my fastest and slowest times, compared to a 48 second range last time.
I think it's also interesting to see the difference in pace between miles two and three.  In this portion of the run there's a fairly long hill that tends to require a significant drop in pace.  On this second run today, my pace did slow, but not to the same extent as it had a month ago.  Once past this hill, the course has more descent, and it's easy to compare the difference between the two tests.  This also explains why the overall pace drops as the run progresses.  In a traditional Maffetone test situation on a track, you would see the opposite effect (the pace would slow, not speed up) as the body became more fatigued.  On the surface, it looks like the increased efficiency helps with tackling those hills.  That may be true to some extent, but a closer look at that portion of the run still shows a fair amount of slowing.  What it may do however, is allow for a faster return to a higher pace at the same HR.  It will be interesting to see how this looks after a third test in another month.
An inverse chart, the "dip" reflects a slowed pace when climbing the "hill."  It's a pretty significant change before returning to a faster pace.
In terms of heart rate, there was a bit more variability this time, but only by a beat or two.  One of the interesting things about this type of training is that you start to develop a sense of when your heart rate is exceeding the aerobic threshold.  Throughout the run, I could tell the moment I crossed that threshold, and sure enough, the 310xt would start beeping a moment later.  It was a little harder to sense a decrease in HR, but I think that this will become more perceptible over time.  The chart below compares my average HR across each of the miles.

Putting it all together, I'm very pleased with the progress I've seen over the last four weeks.  Enough so, that I'm going to keep at it for another month.  By the end of March, I hope to see a further increase, and I would absolutely love to knock another minute or so off of my average mile. Having three data points will be helpful in confirming that this is a viable method of training over the long term.  I will admit that if I continue to see significant improvements, I'm inclined to continue training this way.  I expect at some point however, I will hit some efficiency threshold which will result in some diminished returns.  In the meantime, I'll continue to Swim, Bike, Run at my aerobic threshold.
Ahem . . .except for one brief exception.  On Sunday morning, I'm going to head over to PAC for an indoor triathlon.  It's part of a local fundraising activity.  While I don't plan on going all out, I may push the pace a bit more.  The last time I was actually able to combine all three sports was back on the last day of August (nearly 7 months ago).   While an Indoor triathlon doesn't really compare to the real thing, it's something.  I'll recap later with a brief race report.

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