It took me more than a 1 year of running to finally listen to one of the most important advices given by experienced runners in all the books, videos and personal conversations related to running long distances: watch your HR (and/or effort) while running and try to keep it stable/even.
First, I have stumbled upon a Maffetone training method article in Trail Runner magazine, which once again argued, that running slow in training is a good thing and many beginner runners do not run slow enough. I have finally decided to try it this week on short and easy 7k road run and just keep my body in Zone 2 for the whole run. I should say, that it was the best run I have ever done. I was feeling like I could run forever. Even after an hour of running I still felt relaxed, barely sweating and couldn’t hear my breathing.
So, following the revelation on my training run, I have decided to treat my today’s half-marathon at 5 Peaks Kortright centre as a supported long trail run. So, for the first time in my running races I had only one goal for the race: check the hypothesis, that if I’d only care about by effort/HR and keep it as even as possible, the resulting feeling after the race and my ability to run for a long time would be much better than when I do my usual “push as hard as you can until you reach the finish line” routine.
And, as decided, for the whole 3 laps the only thing I did was to watch my heart rate and make sure it never got out of a pretty narrow window (145-165 bmp) for any noticeable period of time. It was very easy on the flats, on downhills I needed to force myself to breathe evenly and on uphills I either power-walked or ran slowly focusing on limiting the spike in my HR caused by the hill.
Long story short, on average I ran slower than usual (8:00 min/km VS my usual 7:30 min/km) but, damn! I felt relaxed and easy for the whole 3 hours of running! I usually start melting down at ~1:30 and then just keep pushing myself until I reach the finish line completely exhausted and unable to walk. Today, after three perfect splits (almost never happens on a hilly trail race), I strolled through the finish line and felt like I could just go and run the course a few more times.
Lesson learned: I’m going to watch my HR very closely on my slow training runs (always keeping it at or below the maximum aerobic HR) and in my upcoming Run For The Toad 50K (my first!) I will try to make HR one of the main factors determining my pace.