MAF Training Update (Part II)

I’m feeling rather giddy about yesterday’s MAF test.  (What MAF training is and why I’m doing it, see here.)

The last time I did a MAF test was in February.  It went OK – I didn’t think it was indicative of my progress but you get what you get on testing days.  Then I got sick, didn’t run for 2 weeks, etc., etc.  I spent the last 3 weeks getting back on track.  It was frustrating to say the least.  My HR monitor would beep incessantly.  I was running 10:00-10:30 average pace on most runs.  Then, last Monday, I had a really great run (9:32 average pace).  I waited a week (was it a fluke?!) and decided to do a MAF test yesterday.

MAF testing days always make me nervous.  You can have a good day or a bad day and it is what it is.  No redos (at least I don’t allow redos).  I generally run a 3-mile warm up at well below my MAF HR (~ 130), then run 4 to 5 miles at my MAF HR (143).

Baseline MAF test from November 30th (when I started MAF training).  Shown below are the MAF miles (purple) and their corresponding HR.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 6.21.42 AM

Month 2+ MAF test from February 8th.  This was a blah run.  My stomach was rumbling (note the GI issues!) and I felt that my paces were faster on other runs.  There is definitely progress though.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 6.22.30 AM

Month 4.5(ish) MAF test from April 13th.  I felt amazing yesterday and decided to add a 5th MAF mile.  I got so excited about seeing 8:xx pace that my HR was a smidge high for miles 4 and 5!

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 6.23.21 AM

I do take yesterday’s results with a (slight) grain of salt – it was a good run day.  Just like February 8th was a blah run day.  But you cannot deny the data!  MAF training – it works, folks!

I still have 6 more weeks of MAF training.  Unless I plateau…then I’ll stop MAF and start adding in speed work.  Part of me will be sad to set aside the HR monitor but I’m actually looking forward to moving my legs (fast) again!



Fall Plans

Once you put it out there on Facebook, you’re committed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 5.56.10 AM

Honestly, this makes me very excited.  My last marathon was before I got pregnant (December 2012) so I may as well get back at it.

I chose Lehigh Valley Marathon as a last ditch effort for Boston 2016.  I ran it in 2011 and BQ’d so the race means a lot to me.  It’s also a great course and a not-too-crowded one (although it has grown in popularity since 2011).  I’m not sure yet what time I’ll be going for (PR is 3:41).  With MAF training and missing out on the LOVE Run, I have no clue where my speed is right now.

Then there’s the Monster Mash Marathon in DE…5 weeks later.  This was a deferral from 2014.  If I can snag a PR/BQ at LVM, then maybe this will be a fun run.  If LVM goes bad, then maybe this will be a redemption run.

I’ve never done 2 marathons so closely together but I think this will be my new standard (well…we’ll see).  I love to run 2 marathons per year and generally do Spring and Fall but, after the winter we had and being sick, I don’t think I’d ever do another Spring marathon (outside of Boston, of course).

And then there’s the Philly Half Marathon…because I look forward to running it each year.

I’m taking the next 7 to 8 weeks to build my mileage back up to the 40 and 50s.  Slow, gradual, and strictly adhering to the 10% rule.  I’m still MAF training too.  My intention all along was to continue MAF though May and then add some speed work back in when I began marathon training.  Last week I hit 40 miles for the first time in over a month.  And on Monday, after 2 weeks of thinking I was back to square one with MAF training, I was finally hitting my pre-bronchitis MAF paces.  (And then I thought it was a fluke, but it wasn’t!)

I’m still mulling over how I want to train for these marathons.  I’m tossing around the idea of following Pfitzinger’s 55-70 mpw plan, with some modifications.  I find that I’m very bad at coaching myself after creating plans for clients all day.  It totally falls by the wayside. Pfitzinger’s plan is pretty much where I would want to go with my training this time around.  But we shall see :)







and so it goes…

I’m out for the LOVE Run this coming Sunday.  While this pissed me off last week – mostly because I ran the inaugural race last year and wanted to do it each year – I’m OK with it now.

The past 10 weeks have been rough.  I won’t bore you with details but I’ve been sick.  A lot.  An URI in January, food poisoning/stomach bug (can’t say for sure) a few weeks later, another stomach bug 3 weeks later, and now currently bronchitis.  If I told you I was a person that rarely got sick, would you believe me?!

My running has been up and down.  I would hit 35-40 miles on a good week when I was feeling better, then tank the next week with 20-25 miles when I was sick again.  I’m still amazed at how well MAF training was going through all these up and downs.  I was still making some progress (and very grateful for slow, easy runs when I wasn’t 100%).

But bronchitis was the final straw.  Bronchitis sucks in general.  But bronchitis + asthma really sucks.  It has taken up residence in my lungs for the past 2+ weeks.  Two rounds of antibiotics and 2 rounds of steroids and I’m finally feeling better.  Although the steroids make me feel all Jessie-Spano-I’m-S0-Excited (I’m seriously jumping out of my own skin), today is my last day of them.

So I didn’t run for 2 weeks.  Two weeks!!!  Doesn’t mean that I didn’t try…twice.  I made it a 1/2 mile and coughed my head off.


reunited this past weekend

I did begin running again this past weekend and it feels amazing.  Nothing like 2 weeks off to revive the legs and mind!  But it’s slow going.  I’m still MAF training, but with the Jessie Spano ‘roids, it’s tough to keep my heart rate down.  I know this is temporary though and each day will get a lot easier.

I did contemplate doing the LOVE Run as a MAF training run but I just can’t put myself through that.  It would be such a stupid move.  I need to get healthy and ease back into running – 2 weeks off, 2 weeks (at least) back on.

I hate whiny posts (and I hope this doesn’t come across as whiny…it was meant to be an update) so I’ll end on some positive notes ~

  • I’m not injured.  I’m back running.  I’ll get my fitness back and I’ll be fine for the Fall (at least 1 marathon on tap, if not 2!).
  • With the exception of a low-grade fever and minor cold, Fiona escaped all of these illnesses.  Even the stomach bug.  It was impressive.


my immune system rocks

Good luck to everyone running LOVE this weekend!  It looks like awesome weather (better than last year!).  Enjoy.

MAF Training Update

I’ve started this post a million times in my head and I’m finally sitting down and putting pen to paper.  I’ve been training via the MAF method for the past 11 weeks….meaning all my runs have been at my MAF heart rate (i.e., easy).  I’ve been a diligent student too – no cheating – except for strides.

So how do I really feel about MAF training?  The first 6 weeks?  I hated it.  The past 5 weeks?  Amazing.  I’ll elaborate.

The first 6 weeks
I ran slow.  Very slow.  On some runs my heart rate monitor would beep incessantly (meaning I was above my MAF heart rate and needed to slow down).  This, in turn, would make me pissed and then my heart rate would spike even more…a vicious cycle.  I had (and still have to on occasion) walk up hills.  Sometimes I had to walk up inclines.  Frustrating, to say the least.

I generally run by myself but I do coach a track night on Tuesdays.  It’s awkward to explain a workout and send everyone off while you mosey behind at a comfortable pace and explain how you are doing low heart rate training blah, blah, blah.

I love hill workouts.  I haven’t done any hill workouts since MAF training.  I miss them.  It’s eye-opening to notice how quickly your heart rate skyrockets when running uphill.  I could do hill workouts, I would just have to walk them.

I wasn’t seeing that much progress.  You are supposed to “test” every 4 weeks.  Four weeks into MAF training, I was about 10 seconds faster per mile.  I also take testing days with a grain of salt – it’s a snapshot of your progress on that day.  There are good days and bad days and good weather and bad weather.

The past 5 weeks
Right after I wrote my last post I got a nasty upper respiratory infection requiring antibiotics.  Then the antibiotics caused side effects.  I started to feel better and then got sidelined with food poisoning.  I spent a solid month being sick.  I ran but not a lot.  I was so worried that all my MAF progress would be reversed.

Then it was like a miracle.  I had a week where my average pace on all runs was around 9:30.  (For reference, when I started MAF training, my average pace was 10:20.)  I still wasn’t feeling 100% so I was pretty shocked by the numbers.  I wrote it off as a fluke (maybe I was well rested after a few weeks of low mileage?).

That 9:30 average pace stuck around consistently for the next 3 weeks.  Now I’m seeing 9:15s and the occasional 8:50 pop up.  All at my MAF training heart rate.  It’s pretty unbelievable.  (Side note:  I feel the need to clarify that I’m not obsessing about pace – you can’t when MAF training – or you’ll drive yourself nuts.  Pace isn’t even a field that I can see on my Garmin right now.  But I could not help but notice my average pace drop in my training log…consistently.)

So now I’m really drinking the Maffetone Kool-Aid and plan to do so until I plateau.  I hope I can make it a full 6 months training this way.  The only race I have planned for the Spring is the Philly LOVE Run.  That’ll be with 4 months of MAF training under my belt.  I’m excited to see what I can do!



Drinking the Maffetone Kool-Aid

The last time I posted – ages ago – I mentioned doing something different (for me).  After researching, hearing, and reading about the Maffetone method (MAF training) for the past year, I decided to take the plunge.

So what is MAF training and why am I doing it?

The What
Training via the Maffetone method is running at or below your maximum aerobic heart rate.  Maffetone defines this as 180 minus your age +/- a few factors.  My MAF heart rate is 143.  I wear a heart rate monitor on every run and I keep all runs between 133-143 bpm.  Translation – pretty damn slow.

The Why
So why am I slogging around and walking up hills?  To build a sufficient aerobic base and become a better fat burner (our most abundant fuel).  Obviously both of these are crucial to marathoning, something I haven’t done since December 2012.  In hindsight, I should have started with MAF training right after Fiona was born.  I still think 2014 was a solid running year but I know my aerobic base needs some fine tuning.  Translation – run slow to run fast.

At your maximum aerobic heart rate, Maffetone says, you can efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate puts you in an anaerobic zone, which shifts more to sugar burning rather than fat burning.  Over time, you can (hopefully) run faster at the same heart rate (it’s recommended that you do MAF training for 4-6 months).

I started MAF training the week after the Philly HM, so I’ve been doing it for about 5 weeks.  When you begin you do a MAF test, as a baseline to assess your fitness.  Each month thereafter you test again.  For my MAF tests, I do an 8-mile run:

3 miles very slow, under my MAF heart rate to warm-up
4 miles at my MAF heart rate <– these are the miles I’m recording and concerned with
1 mile “cool down”

My baseline test – those key 4 miles I mentioned above – weren’t awfully slow…about 10:20 pace.  (Sidenote:  when I decided to do MAF I was so worried my MAF heart rate would translate to 13:00 pace, based on what I read.  So I was pleasantly surprised with 10:20 pace.)

Four weeks later (right after Christmas), I tested again.  Those 4 miles were around 10:10 pace.  Not earth-shattering by any means but it was after 4 days of merriment (beer and sugar, sugar and beer).  If you’ve ever done heart rate training, you know what crappy eating, alcohol, and late nights do to your heart rate.  (Another sidenote:  this past week I’ve consistently seen paces around 9:30-9:45.  Progress?)

I’ve only scratched the surface here.  How I feel about MAF training and my plans for it are all for another post!

And…an unrelated picture of Fiona (who is turning 1 on Friday)!


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Philly Half Marathon Recap

Last Sunday I ran the Philly Half Marathon, just like I do every year.  I love Philly Marathon weekend.  Yes, I’m biased but Philly does a damn good job of putting on a spectacular race.  And the spectators aren’t half bad either!  If you’re looking for a Fall half or full, seriously consider Philly (I ran the full in 2008 so I can attest to its greatness too).  Flat, fun, and you can high-five Mayor Nutter at the finish line.

IMG_4487my collection of Philly race Ts, 2007 to 2014 (missing 2011 – donated because of size) 

I spectated the 8K on Saturday and watched my 2 friends run their first 8K.  They worked their asses off for months and were smiling the whole time.

IMG_44678K finish line

IMG_4479so proud

Sunday was perfect race day weather and my goal was to run a solid effort (my standard goal for 2014).  I need to add that if a solid effort didn’t include a 1:4x finish time, I’d be pissed.  I saw Megan in my corral and chatted with her until the race started.

My loose race plan was to keep the first mile at 8:40, drop to 8:20, and then drop to (hopefully) 8:00.  I’ve done speed work since the Philly RnR so I had some idea of what I was capable of.

Splits –
M1 – 8:13
M2 – 8:05
M3 – 8:04
M4 – 8:18
M5 – 8:15
M6 – 8:24
M7 – 7:41 (not sure about the accuracy of this one)
M8 – 8:23 (hill)
M9 – 8:21
M10 – 8:49 (hill)
M11 – 8:04
M12 – 8:08
M13 – 8:25

Finish – 1:49:01 (8:18 average pace)

The positives?  I’m happy with my pacing.  I had a loose plan to follow but, for the most part, I didn’t really pay attention to my watch.  I wanted to hone in on HM effort and I think I did that pretty well.  And miles 11 and 12 were strong (it helped that I went downhill after mile 10 – full disclosure there!).

The negatives?  I can’t stop thinking that my now HM pace (8:18) was once my goal MP.  Sigh.

I’m almost 11 months postpartum and I *should* be faster by now.  It’s definitely not from lack of trying.  I trained smart this year.  It’s frustrating to not see more progress.

I’m sick of whining about 2014 and postpartum blah, blah, blah.  Fiona will be 1 on January 9th (yikes!) and the “I just had a baby” excuse is no longer in play.

So I started something new (for me) yesterday.  But that’s for another post… :)

changing my mind again…

Two weeks ago I ran the Philly RnR Half Marathon for the 12th time.  This was also my 4th postpartum race and I had some high hopes – not PR hopes but I was sure I would finish sub-1:50.  Well, I didn’t.  Not even close:  1:56:41.  It was unexpectedly humid and yes, that counted for something but it wasn’t solely responsible for my utter demise on the course.

Let’s review the past year, shall we?

LOVE Run:  1:53:08 (11 weeks pp)
Broad Street:  1:23:41 (4 months pp)
ODDyssey HM:  1:57:42 (5 months pp) –> can’t count this one in the mix.  There’s a definite reason for my poor performance – sheer exhaustion.  Matt came back from a 2-week work trip the day before the race.
RnR Philly:  1:56:41 (8 months pp)

Notice a trend?  I’m getting slower.  I distinctly remember reading Dr. Clapp’s book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy and being excited about postpartum running and all the potential PRs I envisioned myself running.  It made sense.  Physiologically, all those adaptions that take place when you run during your pregnancy hang around for 6 months to 1 year postpartum.  That’s why some women run their fastest times in that year postpartum.  Right?!  Right?!  Wrong.  At least in my case.

What gives?  I’m working hard and getting slower?  How is this possible?  I have a few theories that came to mind while running the RnR.

#1 – Get some blood work done, maybe something is off.  I have been feeling off lately – some non-specific symptoms that have been hanging around for a few months now.  I’m getting the blood work done this week so hopefully I’ll know soon.

#2 – I need to re-wire my brain to accept discomfort when racing.  You know…head to the pain cave, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, blah, blah, blah.  Turns out my brain has completely forgotten how to do this.

It seems that all my slow running could be to blame for #2.  When I say slow running I’m talking about no speed work and running all runs at a comfortable, conversational pace (think MAF training without the heart rate monitor).  This is the same slow running that is responsible for all my Fall 2012 PRs (5K to marathon), an enjoyable 36 weeks of pregnant running, and my injury-free and endurance-building return to running postpartum.  What?!

I did some hard thinking after the Philly RnR.  While my body craves that slow running, my mind craves finish times that are within 10 minutes of those 2012 PRs.  It’s time to bring back some speed work.  Gulp.  I’m talking 400m, 800m, and mile repeats.  Gulp.

Because of my change in training, I’m not running the Monster Mash Marathon on Oct. 18th.  I was able to defer until 2015.  I want to put 100% of my efforts into training for the Philly Half Marathon in November.  And maybe come within 10 minutes of 1:41 (my current PR)!

If you’re keeping track I’ve been changing my mind a lot about my race plans for 2014.  From a 50M -> 50K -> marathon…to half marathon?  I should have relinquished all decisions about racing this year to Matt.  He isn’t under the influence of hormones.

There is some good news.  I ran 400s yesterday that aren’t too far off from my times while training for Boston in 2012.  And I still get to run easy on most days :)



I can’t end a post without unrelated pictures of Fiona!

Training Update {8 months out}

Fiona will be 8 months old tomorrow.  Eight months?!  I sound so cliche but time really does pass in the blink of an eye.  I wish the same was true for training.


This is definitely my longest training cycle so far.  By the time the marathon rolls around I will have racked up 20 weeks of training.  Totally necessary but daunting at the same time.

Here’s a little look at what I’ve been doing…

The first 10 weeks (when I thought I was doing the 50K) included lots of slow miles, lots of hills, and some trail running.  This is exactly what my body craved (it still does).  I ran my first 50+ mile week when Fiona was 6 months old.  A slow and steady comeback.  Structurally I feel great – I’m still religiously doing pre-hab 3 times a week – but I’m exhausted most of the time.  Which brings me to the topic of “total work”.

Pre-Fiona, when I was training, I would get solid sleep and sit on my ass for 8 hours a day at work.  I recovered as hard as I worked.  Now I get less sleep, run around all day, and carry 20 lbs on my hip (alternating hips, of course, to balance out the inevitable imbalances that will result).  So my “total work” skyrocketed and 50+ mile weeks knock me on my ass.  Too bad I can’t spend some time there and rest.

So this parenting thing is exhausting and coupled with marathon training, it’s really exhausting.  Maybe I’ll adjust (has anyone adjusted?) but for now my weekly mileage will remain around 45 so I don’t fall asleep at dinner.  And I realize that doesn’t sound like much of a decrease but it seems to be my sweet spot these days.


Since I decided to run the marathon instead of the 50K you would think I would begin to do some type of speed work.  Nah, I’m too exhausted for that!  In all seriousness, I just don’t want to do any type of organized speed work.  I have picked up the pace on a few runs and I do coach a track workout on Tuesday nights, where I run with all different pace groups…well, the ones I can keep up with.  My goal for the marathon is a “solid effort”.  I’m not in PR shape – nor should I be at 8 months postpartum – so a PR would be an unrealistic goal.  I just want to get out there, enjoy myself, get used to marathoning again, and see what I can do.

After the marathon I’m running the Philly Half Marathon in November.  I definitely want to race it (and would love to PR) but I need to see how the marathon goes and how recovery goes.

But before all of that I’ll be running the Philly RnR in 2 weeks.  That kinda snuck up on me.  So I guess I’ll see where my speed is (or isn’t) very soon.

I guess what all of this means is that 2014 is my rebuilding year.  Exactly what I intended it to be and exactly how I’m training.  It may be a year without any PRs but my engine will be strong for 2015 – and ready for a PR.

50K out. Marathon in.

Turns out I’m running a marathon on October 18th.  Something I distinctly remember saying that I would not do this year.

Months ago I registered for the Blues Cruise 50K after much research.  I scoured photos of the course and read every race recap I could find.  The course was hilly but not technical (per the race website).  And the terrain didn’t look technical in course photos (the leaves on the ground were hiding something).  I’m a terrible technical runner.  I have issues with uneven sidewalks. The Blues Cruise 50K appealed to my clumsy side…and the hills I could handle.

So for 10 weeks I logged lots of slow miles on trails (some technical), ran up and down hills, and got 2 20-mile runs under my belt.  A few Sundays ago I headed out to do a test run on the course itself.  I wanted to see if my hill work was adequate or if I needed to step it up a notch.


bad omen (and I was wearing blue)

Turns out my hill work was adequate and the course is technical (in my opinion)!  I did email the RD to see which portion of the course was the hilliest.  I didn’t really notice the hills too much since I was too busy dancing around tree roots and rocks.

So this picture does not show how technical the course was.  To add some perspective – I could only manage about 11:00 minutes/mile due to all the “dancing”.  Feel free to mock me and my clumsiness.


I drove home defeated and not one bit excited about the race.  I couldn’t imagine running 31 miles of terrain like that.  I do have access to some technical trails but not 20+ miles of them.  I emailed the RD (who was awesome) and found out they did offer refunds.  Score!  Now I could sign up for something else…

I knew another 50K around the same time and location would be unlikely so I settled for the Monster Mash Marathon in Dover, DE.  Local?  Yes.  Good timing?  Yes.  These were my top requirements.  The race had decent reviews on but it’s the complete opposite of what I have been training for – flat, fast, and on roads.

I am excited though.  This will be my first marathon since December 2012, a few months before I got pregnant (which was oddly also a DE marathon).  Might as well rip off the bandaid and get back at it!  And it will be good prep for a PR/BQ in Spring 2015 (my goal).

I’ll write a whole post devoted to training soon, including the challenges I’m encountering with training post-baby.

Speaking of baby…an unrelated picture of Fiona!