Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guinea Pig - Maffetone Method

Following my conquest of running my first 50 Miler this past November I have been here, there, and everywhere with my thoughts about what to do next.  50 didn't exactly put me in the frame of mind where I was chomping at the bit to do 100, in fact, it gave me slightly more perspective - pushed along with the sage words of friends who have run 100s - to consider spending more time focusing on 50 milers and 100k trail races this year.

So when the calendar rolled over to 2012 I decided to sign up for the TARC Thaw Six-Hour trail race coming up this March.  The Race Director and Creator of this event is my trail running buddy, Trail Pixie.  I wanted to definitely be a part of this event, because it is a TARC event on some sweet trails, and will be among lots of really great people.  Who could ask for more?  Beyond this, though, I have been at a loss for events that I truly want to tackle.

Sure, there is Pineland Farms, and I am thinking about running another timed ultra in the summer, but nothing is really jumping out as something I need to do.

So with no immediate racing plans or desires, plus the sheer fact that since Stone Cat I have put on 15 pounds, I have turned my attention to training.  Specifically, I am looking at doing a complete system re-boot for my body and am giving Dr. Phil Maffetone's method of building endurance a shot.

Maffetone utilizes an athlete's heart rate to determine one's 'Maximum Aerobic Function' or MAF.  Once this MAF is determined, the athlete can utilize a Heart Rate Monitor to track his or her progress when it comes to building one's aerobic system.

For instance, instead of using 220 beats per minute minus one's age to determine a max heart rate, and then subsequently 'training zones' determined by percentages of the Max HR, Maffetone uses a 180 bpm minus one's age (with some slight adjustments) to determine the Max Aerobic Function Heart Rate.  Think of this as the border between two different states.  Above this heart rate is the anaerobic state, where the systems of the body utilize sugars primarily to fuel the muscles during exercise.  At and below this MAF heart rate, the systems utilize fat primarily for energy.  From this MAF heart rate, one can go down 10 bpm to create an aerobic training zone.  If efforts are kept within this zone, the aerobic system can be developed and improved.

The problem with this training method is that at first you realize how under-developed your aerobic system is, and running slower is necessary to keep the heart rate in range.

I was very excited because I had finally got my pace per mile for 10k below 7:00 per mile for the first time in years, but after seeing my heart rate for this pace, I was well above my aerobic zone, and deep into my anaerobic zone.  I am a little uneasy with the idea of not doing any anaerobic work during my experiment with Maffetone's method, but supposedly I'll be trained enough within my aerobic zone to be running faster than I am now.

As a matter of perspective, tonight I did a road 12.5 at my aerobic zone and it took almost 122 minutes (9:45 pace), meanwhile, I brought my half marathon PR down to 1:42 just a few weeks ago, and even with the extra weight I ran a 16 miler in about 2:10 (8:20 pace) about three weeks ago.  I did wear my HR monitor on that run, and my average HR was 159, and I was maxing out in the low 170's over the last five miles.  Also from 7 miles on my average HR per mile split was in the low to mid 160's.  Comparatively, my MAF zone is 142 to 152, and tonight I kept all splits in that zone, averaging 149 bpm.

I plan on sticking with the program for at least six months and will see where it takes me.  I am frustrated with the slower pace, but allegedly Maffetone has a history of elite clients using his program and finding success.  I also have heard good things from other trail running folks that used Maffetone in their training for 100s, so there is a bit of a track record.

Here's hoping all have a fabulous 2012, dream big my friends!

Happy Trails!