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.

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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.

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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 :)







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)!


And…I’m having an ONLINE coaching sale (1 month FREE!) now through January 14th!

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.

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.  


The LOVE Run Philly {Race Recap}

Last Sunday I ran Philly’s first ever LOVE Half Marathon.  CGI Racing put together a fantastic half – super organized with wonderful volunteers (who stood outside for hours in a freezing downpour).  If you like the Philly Half in November (my favorite race), then you’ll like the LOVE Run.  I’m so happy that Philly has another distance race in the Spring…something other than Broad Street.

This race was a lot of firsts for me:  first race postpartum, first race in a total downpour, and first race where I didn’t look at my Garmin (not one single time).  The weather was awful – freezing, windy, and nonstop rain.

My original plan was to make this a fun run, especially since postpartum running has been very blah lately.  Standing at the start, freezing and wet, all I kept thinking was the faster you run, the faster you get done.  Screw the fun run, I didn’t want to spend another minute in these conditions if I didn’t have to.

That’s when the strategy changed to let’s run HM effort and not look at the Garmin.  I love running by effort (although I rarely do it) – there’s no magic pace to hit, no pace charts to follow, just you and your breath.  And not looking at my Garmin was WAY easier than I thought…partially because it was under my windbreaker and I couldn’t see it anyway.

M1 – 8:51
M2 – 8:19
M3 – 8:51
M4 – 8:14
M5 – 8:20
M6 – 8:43
M7 – 8:19
M8 – 8:08
M9 – 8:52
M10 – 8:48
M11 – 8:41
M12 – 8:45
M13 – 8:36

Official time:  1:53:07 (8:38 pace)

Not the most consistent pacing and the wheels came off a bit towards the end but that’s to be expected after a year plus of not racing.  I was in total shock when I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch.  I was hoping for a (barely) sub-2:00 finish time.  If I were eyeing my Garmin I would have freaked out about my pace during the middle miles (what are you doing?  You have no business running that fast!).  Not looking at my Garmin was the best thing I did that day.  And also having absolutely no expectations helps tremendously.

Thanks to Oiselle teammate Danielle for keeping me company for a few miles.  It definitely took my mind off the misery of the weather.

Race photos: me, my sister, and sister-in-law pre-race (and rain) and post-race awkward selfie.

love run




2nd trimester running recap

Farewell, 2nd trimester!  On Wednesday I’ll be 27 weeks and beginning my 3rd trimester, according to my Sprout app.  Whether this happens at week 27 or 28 – I don’t know – but I like the sound of it so I’m sticking to it.

I know I sound like a broken record but I still feel pretty damn good.  Aside from having a gut that won’t go away and grows after each meal, I still feel like “me”.  Although I must admit, over the past 2 weeks, I get pretty cranky from 3-5PM.  I’m exhausted from carrying around the excess weight and just want to lay down.  After dinner I generally feel better so maybe I just need a snack?  Why do I feel like a toddler?!

Running during the 2nd trimester was pretty consistent, with the exception of a few days of extreme humidity, where I just bagged the run all together.  I decreased my overall mileage to 30-35 miles per week, compared to 35-40 miles per week in the 1st trimester.  My long runs stayed in the 10-13 mile range.  And I completed (pregnant) half marathon #2!

The 2nd trimester also brought some so-called “shin tension” while running.  I really can’t describe it any other way.  My compression sleeves helped a bit but my legs have to continually adapt to the increased weight.  Even more so now that my weight gain will be more rapid (awesome!).  I’m super vigilant about recognizing any shin tension, taking extra rest days, using the Tiger Tail, and icing.

Now that it’s cooler out my running wardrobe is limited.  All my tanks and shorts fit fine but my race Ts are a bit snug.  My weeks of wearing them (decently) are numbered.


Instead of buying new ones, I decided to take advantage of Matt’s Ts (some of which were originally mine but too big).  Since Matt is “retired” from running, he shouldn’t miss them.


This morning I ran an impromptu 5K!  Might as well leave the 2nd trimester on a high note.  My goal was to give it a solid effort and beat my PW of 28:22 way (way) back when I was 25.  That was my first 5K ever – on University of Maryland’s hilly campus.  That race is probably why I still hate 5Ks to this day.

Anyway, I didn’t think it would be that hard to beat – it would be close – but feasible.  What I didn’t expect was for my legs to feel like bricks after mile 1.  I felt like I was at mile 24 of a marathon…where your brain and lungs are saying “go, go, go” and your legs are uncooperative.  My breathing was fine, my stomach wasn’t “in the way” or bothering me but I just couldn’t move my legs any faster.  I did run 6 miles on Friday and 8 on Saturday but I really think it was just all the added weight and increased “speed”.

I finished in 28:44 – 9:16 average pace.  And now my legs are sore.  Who knew 17 lbs (and counting) could cause such havoc?


Looking ahead to the 3rd trimester, I think my motto is going to be “grateful for each day that I can run”.  I will cut myself some slack on my miles per week mandate and just be happy running 25(ish) miles per week.

I decided (after MUCH debating back and forth) to drop out of the Philly Half Marathon and instead do the Rothman 8K in November.  I’ll be 8 1/2 months by then and I need to be realistic.  Even with using a run/walk approach, 13 miles is too far with all this added weight.  Today’s race confirmed that!






a good year

Happy New Year, folks!

I am thoroughly enjoying my time off and perfecting my “lady who lunches” routine.  Next Wednesday is going to be cruel and painful.

First things first – RTLR turned 2 this week!  For those of you who have been reading from the beginning – (1) kudos, (2) thank you, and (3) you deserve a tall cup of coffee or a stiff drink (your choice).

I wouldn’t be a proper blogger if I didn’t reflect back on 2012 (in terms of running, of course).  If I could sum it up in one word?  WOW.

What could be better than kicking off the year with the Boston Marathon?!   90 degrees or not, it was an amazing ‘experience’ (due to the heat, the B.A.A. refused to call it a race but instead an ‘experience’).

finish_race photo
this picture says it all…

My Christmas ornament from Matt this year…


After Boston, I ran my first “ultra” (50K) and discovered that running on grass isn’t as fun as it was when you were a kid.  But…ultras ARE fun!


After that came a 5K, 2 HMs, and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon – all PRs (thank you, ultra training).  Some were surprise PRs and others (err, RBM) were I-could-have-done-better-PRs.

I also learned some things along the way:  (1) when in a rut, run an ultra and (2) drop waaay back on mileage during drop back weeks.  In the past I don’t think I was cutting my mileage back enough to really absorb the benefits of my training.

Your turn to brag!  Tell me about your best (or favorite) 2012 race or maybe something you learned about running in 2012?

Philly Half Recap

There’s no half (in my biased opinion) that can top Philly. I love this race. Philly does a fine job of putting on a fun and organized race, all the while maintaining a mom-and-pop-like feel (similar to the old Philly Distance Run days – oh, how I miss you). And the 4-deep spectators along Chestnut Street don’t hurt either.

Based on my 12K finish last week I figured I could maintain a 7:40-7:45 pace. But I also wanted to feel things out a bit too. Settle into whatever pace felt comfortable on that day and go from there.

It was freezing at the start. As soon as I checked my jacket and pants my whole body was trembling. I totally forgot to bring a trash bag (it really does keep you warm!).

my sister showing mile 26 some love pre-race

The first mile was a little rough since my feet were numb and my muscles were tight from being so cold. Soon enough I settled into a pace that felt like HM pace. When I glanced at my Garmin I was around 7:45 pace. Perfect.

The middle miles were pretty uneventful. I enjoyed the crowds and kept my mind occupied by reading the signs. There’s an incline (can’t really call it a hill) around mile 7-8 and a legitimate hill right past the mile 9 marker. That’s it though. Contrary to what people say the Philly Half (and full – I ran it in 2008) is a flat course!

Around mile 10 I started doing the math. 3 more miles at x pace and maybe you can snag a 1:41. Holy shit! Could I really? I started repeating my favorite mantra. You can do anything for 3 miles. Repeat again at mile 11. You can do anything for 2 miles.

The finish line at the Philly Half is deceptive.  You must go all the way around Eakins Oval and then down the Parkway a bit to even see the finish line. I forget this each year.

I headed down the Parkway – I still couldn’t see the finish line yet – and my Garmin said 1:41. I had no idea how close to 1:42 I was (after the 1-hour mark I don’t see seconds on my Garmin). I started sprinting – there was no way I was going to let 1:41 turn into 1:42.


A 4-minute PR from September.

A 6-minute PR from last year’s Philly Half.

almost all 7s…that’s a first

After the race I did a quick wardrobe change and coffee run and headed back down to spectate. I got to see strong finishes by Megan and Kelly (nice job ladies!) and watch my sister kill her marathon time from March by 20 minutes. Congrats Karyn!!

Completely unrelated but check out this great interview with Kara Goucher.  Ultramarathoner?!