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 marathonguide.com 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!


lately and lesson learned

It’s been awhile…almost 2 months to be exact.

The past 2 months have been a whirlwind.  I’m going to do a seperate post on 50K training but first an update on life in general is needed.

I quit my job in early July to become a SAHM, running coach, and (former) barre instructor.  More on that last part later.  I was lucky to have 6 months of child care leave but I knew I wasn’t going back.  I started RTLR Coaching 4 years ago with the goal of devoting more time to it once I had kids.  And I loved staying home with Fiona more than I ever imagined.


In anticipation of leaving my job I decided to pursue any and every opportunity.  Because adjusting to motherhood, coaching runners through a busy Fall racing season, and train for a 50K isn’t enough (this was an actual thought of mine).  One of the opportunities that came up was a barre instructor position at a new studio.  This was perfect – I loved barre and wanted to start teaching classes anyway.  Win-win.

I started training back in April and teaching in June.  What an eye-opening experience…and kudos to all you fitness instructors out there.  A lot of work goes into an hour class (and a lot of work to make it look so seamless and easy).  Between taking barre classes, prepping for classes, making playlists, and getting up to speed in general, I was in way over my head.  WAY over my head.

The pressure to give 100% to everything was physically and mentally draining.  There was so much I wanted to do with coaching but didn’t have the time.  When I was with Fiona, I couldn’t turn off the to-do list in my head and just be present with her.


I finally admitted to Matt last week at dinner that I bit off more than I could chew and something needed to come off my plate.  He agreed (to say I was an anxious basketcase at times is an understatement) and wondered when I was finally going to wave the white flag.  The problem was that I truly enjoyed everything on my plate and, obviously, coaching and Fiona were non-negotiable.

Matt, always the voice of reason, reminded me of why I left my job in the first place:  to stay at home with Fiona and grow my coaching business.  Barre was taking time away from coaching and, to a much lesser extent, Fiona.  It had to go.  It killed me to give up such a wonderful opportunity that I loved.  Had this opportunity popped up before Fiona was born or even when she was a bit older, the timing may have been better.  So I slept on it, ran 20 miles on it, and then resigned.  I do feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off of me but part of me is still sad about it.

IMG_3535unrelated but makes me laugh

Lesson learned?  You can have it all but not at the same time.

ODDyssey Half Marathon Recap

I ran the ODDyssey Half Marathon for the second time on Sunday.  Last year I was 10 weeks pregnant.  This year I’m 5 months postpartum.  Same race but 2 very different experiences.

ODDysseyI love Fiona’s arm rolls

I’ll cut right to the chase – it sucked.  I ran a 1:57:42 – a far cry from my 1:53:08 in March.  And I try not to think too much about how far off it is from my PR.

I have only 1 excuse for my poor performance – utter exhaustion.  In hindsight I should have never attempted to “race” this race.  I should have kept the pace nice and slow – inline with my 50K training.  Matt was away for 2 weeks and came home the day before the race.  I had some babysitting help from my parents and niece but I was still exhausted.  Fiona is a good sleeper but likes an early start to her day (between 4:00 and 5:00AM in the days leading up to the race).  By the time Matt got home I was hurting.

My goal, as with the LOVE Run and Broad Street, was to hide the pace field on my Garmin and run HM effort.  I was struggling right from the start.  I thought it was the heat so I plugged forward.  By mile 5 I wanted to DNF or take a nap under a tree (preferably both).  I couldn’t get over how tired and worn out I felt.  I knew I had to slow my pace in order to finish.  I’d like to say I consciously slowed my pace down but, let’s not kid ourselves, my body shut down at mile 5 and my pace came to a halt.

Splits:  8:18 / 8:12 / 8:09 / 8:13 / 8:52 / 9:23 / 9:00 / 9:05 / 9:18 / 9:18 / 9:16 / 9:01 / 9:23 (hill climb to the finish)

Lesson learned?  I’ll never make it through 50K training (or the 50K) if I don’t make sleep a priority.  I felt like 5 months of not-so-sound sleep finally caught up to me.  Totally caught me off guard too.  If Fiona gets up at 5AM (her wake-up time this week), I need to be in bed (asleep) no later than 9PM.  (And if you’re wondering, that’s her wake-up time regardless of when she goes to bed…6PM or 8PM.)

On the plus side:  my pacing was pretty consistent, I kicked off 50K training, and was able to run a fun race which included a tasty beer at the finish (missed out on that one last year!).






Broad Street Run (Race Recap)

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the Broad Street Run and I’m glad I wasn’t able to recap this race sooner.  A little perspective changes everything.

This race is a clusterfuck each year.  A nightmare of crowds and congestion to get there and get home.  Forty thousand runners packed into a small space.  But the course is flat and straight and perfect for a PR.  And the crowds are pretty amazing too.  That’s why I keep running it each year.

Last year I was 5 weeks pregnant and in PR shape.  Common sense prevailed (or rather Matt prevailed) and I ended up not running the race.  Of course I could have run it for fun but I’m too stubborn and race results live on the internet forever.

So this year I was excited to get back to Broad despite being nowhere near PR shape.  I feel like I’m in this frustrating transition space.  I’m no longer pregnant and running races for fun but I’m not 100% yet so PRing is not likely.  Lining up for a race is a total guessing game with regard to pace.  Hence the reason why I hide the pace field on my Garmin during races and just run based on effort.  Effort is the only thing I do know right now.

CollageSo many runners.  A view of the front and back of my corral.

I can’t say Broad didn’t go as planned because there was no plan.  I definitely wasn’t anticipating feeling crappy at mile 1.  I tried to turn it around – maybe I needed to warm up – but it still felt hard at mile 5.  My lungs burned a bit (I just got over a cold the week before…apparently it was still lingering) and it just wasn’t my day.  It sucks when bad runs happen to fall on race day.

I tried to keep my effort consistent and have fun.  I wouldn’t say it was a death march but it definitely felt like that at times.  I finished in 1:23:41 (8:22 average pace).  Splits:  7:52 / 7:57 / 8:16 / 8:21 / 8:21 / 8:27 / 8:33 / 8:42 / 8:39 / 8:24.  Maybe I should unhide the pace field…I’m clearly all over the place.

I was initially disappointed with myself until the next day.  I woke up with no soreness.  This is a far cry from how I felt after the LOVE Run in March.  I was sore for 3 days.  Like post-marathon sore.  The day after Broad I was able to run.  Hooray for progress with structural fitness!  And I checked out what my “predicted” finish time for a 10-miler would have been based on my 1:53 finish at the LOVE Run – a 1:25.  So despite not feeling it at Broad, I still did pretty well.  (I do take race predictor charts with a grain of salt…unless I’m faster than the predicted time.  Don’t we all?!)

I’m getting there.  I just need to keep plugging along.

Unrelated but what’s with the new mamalete hashtag?  #motherrunner isn’t enough (or obnoxious enough)?!


Big Plans {revised}

In February I posted about my Big Plans for 2014 and then, 6 weeks later, posted about how running kinda sucks.  I have updates on both fronts…as I’m sure you are on the edge of your seat in anticiptation!

First let’s talk about running.  This is the good news.  It’s getting better…dare I say running seems to be clicking again?  Maybe it’s the weather and more outdoor running?  Maybe I needed to get that first race under my belt?  Maybe, structurally, I’m finally adapting to my new normal?  Whatever it is, I hope it sticks around.  My weekly mileage is still low – 25 to 30 mpw – and I intend to keep it there for at least  another month.  Lower mileage is giving me ample time for pre-hab (hips and glutes) and core work which is vital right now.

My big plan for this Fall was to run a 50 miler – specifically the JFK 50 miler – in November.  Training for an ultra, as opposed to training for a marathon PR, just made sense postpartum.  My body cannot handle the rigors of speed work and fast finish long runs this year.  Instead I crave long, slow miles…the building blocks for a strong 2015.  (Goals for 2015 include a marathon PR and Boston in 2016.)

Registration for JFK opened April 1st and I went back and forth about it.  I so wanted to do it but my gut kept telling me to run a 50K instead.  Since your gut is always right (always), I registered for the Blues Cruise 50K in October.  My primary reason for dropping to the 50K distance?  Motherhood is physically exhausting!  And I don’t mean in a sleep deprived way…I’m talking about hauling around almost 15 lbs (Fiona’s a good eater!) all day while bending, twisting, and kneeling.  By the end of the day, I’m beat up.

The back-to-back long runs needed for a 50 mile race would surely do me in on the weekends and it would require a lot of time away from Fiona (and family time).  I just don’t want that right now.  A 50K is much more manageable in terms of long runs and overall mileage and I already have experience with the distance and training for it.  And the race is an hour from my house and is supposed to be pretty good – a 31 mile loop around a lake that isn’t too technical (but hilly).

I’m excited.  And relieved.  There are lots of new “firsts” right now and I just don’t want training to be one of them.  I also have 3 half marathons scheduled for this year and my goal is to PR at the Philly Half in November.

First things first though – Broad Street on May 4th…


RTLR Coaching is having a SALE on online coaching services now through April 21st!  Now is the time to start planning for your Fall race.  More details here.