When I started running – way back in 2010 – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I had seen the Couch to 5K training program on the internet and decided to start there. I found that after a few weeks “life” would happen and I’d give up. Even when I tried to stick with it, the amount of continuous running time kept increasing faster than my ability. The plan said to repeat a week as needed but it just seemed hard to me. Around this time I somehow thought it was a good idea to sign up for the Disney World Half Marathon which would take place in January, 2011. No matter that I couldn’t run a mile and didn’t have a plan. I’d somehow make it happen.
During that training cycle I did a lot of “winging it.” A virtual running friend (another newbie like me) was using a run 5 minutes/walk 2 minutes plan in her training so I decided that must be a great idea. I didn’t really have a concept of run/walk nor did I know who Jeff Galloway – the founder of the run/walk/run method – was…yet. As luck would have it, Jeff Galloway would be named the official training consultant to runDisney right around the time that I started to run Disney. The runDisney website made his free training plans available for their races and it was easy to adjust the calendar to any race. As a new runner I loved the concept of run/walk. It allowed me to transition from the couch to a half marathon and then to a full marathon and even race challenge weekends with minimal injury. By adjusting how often I took a walk break, I could finish even a difficult training run or race and still feel pretty good.
When I made the leap from full marathon to the Goofy Challenge (half marathon on Saturday/full marathon on Sunday), I decided that I should sign up for e-coaching with Jeff Galloway. He created a training plan for me – based on my training goals, my race schedule, etc. – and I had weekly emails with him to discuss my progress. It definitely helped to keep me accountable and, even with a stress fracture in my foot about 6 weeks before the race, I was able to finish 39.3 miles in the weekend.
I continued to use e-coaching in training for both the NYC Marathon in November, 2013 and then the Hartford Marathon in October, 2014. I took about 45 minutes off my full marathon finish time from my first Disney Marathon until the Hartford Marathon, which was the last full marathon I ran with a time goal in mind. But I was still frustrated with my speed and I often felt that Jeff Galloway’s goal was more for me to finish strong than for me to finish fast. At Hartford I definitely went out much faster than he recommended and was still able to maintain my pace. And although Galloway’s plan of two 30 minute runs during the week and one long run every weekend (and he sends you very long – I ran 27 miles 3 weeks before the NYC Marathon) will get you across the finish line, I wondered if more training miles wouldn’t get me across the finish line faster.
My training took a bit of a dive after Hartford. Lots of life changes made running lower on my priority list. My fitness level and finish times were both worse than they had been since I started this journey. I was ready to look for a new way of training and Rich had never been a huge Galloway fan as he found the starting and stopping led to injuries. So we started looking for another path. I think we were both attracted to the science behind heart rate-based training so we decided to give it a go.
The theory of the heart rate training plan that we use is to spend most of your training (80%) in lower heart rate zones and then build speed and cardiovascular efficiency by spending 20% of training doing intervals at higher heart rates. At lower heart rates our bodies use oxygen and burn fat. At higher heart rates not enough oxygen is being delivered to muscle so they use glycogen for fuel (the body “burns muscle”). Over time your pace at any given heart rate will get faster. The process can be frustrating. A lot of base miles are done in heart rate Zone 2. When I started this training, I did A LOT of walking to stay in Zone 2. In many ways it mimicked my Galloway training and was similar to run/walk. Now I find that a Zone 2 run has more running and less walking. Similarly to Galloway the amount you run or walk on a run will depend on how you’re feeling that day and what the weather is like. At warmer temperature your baseline heart rate will increase which means you have to run slower to maintain the desired heart rate.
When I was running Galloway, my target pace for long runs was around 13 to 13:30 min/miles or 2 min/mile faster than race pace. Currently my long run pace for heart rate training is around 12:30 min/mile. I’m curious if my faster long run pace will translate to a faster race pace. I’m running more days per week than with Galloway and logging more miles. My longest long run with heart rate training has been 12 miles. I’ll be curious to see if I can sustain my pace when the long runs start to get longer. Otherwise I can always return to run/walk…