Where does my heart beat now?

It’s been over a week since I last posted, and I didn’t tell you yet about my recent adventures with a heart rate monitor, so buckle your seat belts, you’re in for a wild ride….

Last Sunday I took my heart rate monitor and Garmin to the gym to use the heart rate monitor for the first time ever. It came with my first Garmin back in 2010, and I could never get it to pair with the watch. To be fair, I didn’t really try very hard because I wasn’t interested in heart rate training at the time. However, the 80/20 running plan uses heart rate training so it seemed like a good time to dust off the heart rate monitor.  (You don’t technically have to use heart rate training for 80/20 running, but it does seem to be the author’s preference, so I figured I’d give it a try since I have the heart rate monitor anyways.)

A couple weeks ago I got it paired up with my current Garmin, and last Sunday I took it for a spin. I tested it out by using it to set up heart rate training zones for two different types of cross training – the arc trainer and uphill treadmill walking. Whether or not I end up using these zones is questionable, but I mostly just wanted to do a dry run of the process. I’ll have to use the same method to set up my heart rate zones for running. And, I wanted to make sure that the heart rate monitor actually worked. It did.

2015-01-25 13.52.05New buddies!

And, here’s what I learned:

  • Wearing a heart rate monitor is annoying. It wasn’t comfortable. While it wasn’t awful, I knew it was there the whole time. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I run in it (specifically, for a long time); I’m hoping I eventually get used to it and forget it’s there. Maybe I had it on too tight? I probably won’t be wearing it ALL the time, but at first I’ll have it on more often than not.
  • The 80/20 running book has you set heart rate zones based on lactate threshold heart rate. There are 5 zones, based on percentage of this heart rate. There are several ways to determine your lactate threshold heart rate, and I went with the perceived effort method. At first I tried to use the talk test method. I’ve been using a talk test for years in training runs, but reciting the pledge of allegiance at the gym wasn’t working out. (I was more or less trying to whisper, and I don’t think that was giving me the same results as speaking out loud.)
  • The perceived effort method basically requires you to record your heart rate at various effort levels. On a scale of 1 to 10, level 6 is your lactate threshold heart rate. Level 1 is “extremely easy” and level 10 is “extremely hard” with 6 being “slightly hard”. Technically, you could stop once you hit level 6, but I kept going all the way to 10. It was easier to figure out what “slightly hard” was when I had a better frame of reference.
  • For the arc trainer, I ended up with a lactate threshold heart rate of 167, and for uphill treadmill walking I ended up with 154. I think the uphill treadmill heart rate was a little off because I had a tough time controlling my effort on the treadmill. When it comes down to it, even though you’re the one who pushes the buttons the treadmill is in charge of your speed.

Heart Rate Graph

I made a graph because I’m a huge dork, and as you can see, the green line (treadmill) seems to dip in the middle. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a straight line, but let’s assume it is. In that case, I have proof to back up my theory about the uphill heart rate being off. (Sorry about the terrible quality of the tiny little graph.)


  • When I set up my heart rates for running, I’m probably going to use the treadmill. I wanted to do it outside after what I experienced with the uphill walking, but it looks like real winter finally showed up and now there’s snow everywhere.  And, I know I won’t be able to do this test in the snow. At least not without falling. We’ll see what it’s like out next weekend when I plan on doing the test, but I’m expecting to need the treadmill.
  • After figuring out the heart rate monitor, I set up an awesome spreadsheet that calculates my heart rate zones from lactate threshold heart rate. All I have to do after the running heart rate test is enter my lactate threshold heart rate, and through the magic of excel, my heart rate zones are all set for my 80/20 plan.  Looks like taking 3 weeks off running is making me super prepared for my next training cycle. (I’m going running tomorrow!!! eeeeeeeeee!!!)

Have you ever used a heart rate monitor?

Do you make graphs based on your running? 

Did I say “heart rate” a million times in this post? 


Saturday stuff…a little list of randomness just for you!

Wearing compression socks all day and spending the evening reading running blogs counts as cross training, right?

If so, I’m totally rocking it!

2014-08-30 07.00.38No one knew I had these puppies on all day at work yesterday!

Juuust kidding…I know it’s not cross training, and I’ve done only slightly better at cross training this week than last, meaning I went to the gym once. Hey, if the bar is set low enough, improvement is easy. On Thursday, I rode the bike for about 30 minutes, and then did uphill walking for about 15 minutes. I did something similar today, and I’m planning on going again tomorrow, which will bring my total up to 3 days for this week. Not bad…it’s just a little weekend heavy.

And, now, here is a list of random stuff:

  • One of my new year’s resolutions is to try a new recipe every month. This month, I picked fancy pizza! It has apples, Gorgonzola, and Mozzarella, and then is drizzled with rosemary and honey. It was good and very easy. I’m making it again this weekend because I liked so much, and also I have leftover Gorgonzola. (Note: Jeff made the dough, which is the hard part of pizza making.)

2015-01-03 18.37.09I’m good at food blogging because of the high quality photos I take.

  • I’ve been trying to steal glances at all the treadmill runners when I’m at the gym. 80/20 running talked about form, and how experienced runners have an ease about them. So, I’ve been trying to pick out who looks new and who looks like they’ve been running for years. All while trying not to stare like a giant creep.
  • I don’t often get a good look at my form while running, but the last race I did posted a video, and I was able to spot myself. (If you’re interested, I come right across the front of the screen at about 1:04, and I’m wearing a long sleeved white shirt). I always picture myself looking awkward and slow, but I didn’t! I looked like a real runner! It was very exciting. And if that wasn’t enough proof, Jeff snapped this one from the finish line. Check out that form. Really? Who is this person?

IMG_20150101_103614909That’s me in the middle, with the fancy socks and beautiful form.

  • Uphill treadmill walking is hard! This is another thing I got from the 80/20 book. Set the treadmill to 15% incline and walk. I can’t go very fast without it being incredibly difficult. It is super boring though. And that’s coming from someone who enjoys treadmill running. You need a book or TV for sure.
  • Speaking of treadmills, do you follow the gluten-free treadmill? If you don’t, you should definitely check it out. Laura is planning to run across the United States this summer. (Seriously, think about that for a minute…. the entire country in 67 days.) She’s doing it to raise awareness and funds to help victims of sexual violence, and she’s also aiming to break the record for a woman running across the US. Pretty cool, huh? Well, her blog is a really great place to find out more, read about her training, and if you’re interested, learn how to help support her in this massive effort. Also, she’s selling these cool tank tops. So head on over and check it out.

2015runacrossamericamapAlso, her logo is pretty freakin’ awesome.

  • I got some good questions on my 80/20 post the other day, so I updated the post to include those in my Q&A. If you’re interested, check that out. And if you have any other questions, keep ’em coming!

That’s all I have for now, I hope you have a nice weekend!

80/20 Running – Book Review

Before we delve into the book review, I wanted to let you know that after I told you on Thursday about how lazy I’ve been, I did finally get my act together and do some exercise. So my first week of the off season wasn’t a total bust. I took a short walk, I foam rolled twice, stretched once, did a 40 min workout on the arc trainer, and tried out some yoga. I think walking might be my favorite cross training. And right now, yoga is my least favorite. It felt awkward and way too hard — I couldn’t even sit up straight the right way.  I’m not giving up on it yet though, because you can’t really judge an exercise on the first try.


Now, moving along to the book review. Just so you know, this is a review is of the book only, not the training plans. That will come later, once I’ve had a chance to try one.

80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower By Matt Fitzgerald

2015-01-11 19.48.59

So, turns out I’m not good at writing book reviews. I’ve been staring at the blinky little cursor for entirely too long. To make it easier on myself (and improve the chances of this ever getting written), I’ve decided to put this in a Q&A format. I’m the one coming up with the Qs and the As, but if you have any additional Qs, let me know, and I’ll give you an A.

Why did you decide you wanted to read this book?

I heard about the book on a couple of running blogs. As someone who enjoys a nice leisurely long run as opposed to a lot of fast speed sessions, the claim that I could “…race faster by training slower” was incredibly appealing. I’ve read/perused a few other books that claim their training strategy will make you faster, but the “how” hasn’t intrigued me quite like this one. Plus, I’m always up for hearing new ideas.

Where did you get it?

Santa brought it! But I know you can find it on Amazon.

What is it about?

The author puts forth a case for running 80% of your runs at low intensity, and 20% at moderate or high intensity. He goes over the evolution of how elites train, and how for the most part they’re all following an 80/20 plan. He talks about the differences in how they train compared to the average recreational runner. And, he points out ways we can adapt our running to more closely follow the 80/20 rule.

Why should we listen to what the author recommends?

He gives us proof by citing multiple studies. Plus he’s a runner recommending something he’s tried. That’s always nice.

Who should read it?

Other runners or endurance athletes interested in learning more about the 80/20 plan. Or anyone interested in running studies. This book has a lot of them, and not just about 80/20 running. I find them all pretty fascinating.

What was your favorite part?

The running studies! I really liked that there was a bunch of proof to back up why this training method works. There were also several other studies/topics the author wrote about that weren’t strictly related to 80/20 running, but I liked that too. It mixed things up a little, and I found them all interesting (stride, brain/body link, 80/20 and weight loss).

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Not really, the book was really good and I’m excited to try 80/20 running. I’ve read other running books that promise you’ll get faster, and you probably would, but this is one of the first (if not the only one) that seems doable and fun. I even had a spark of interest/excitement while reading the cross training section. And that’s really saying something.

What are you going to do with what you learned?

After my 3 week running break, I’m going to do the level 1, 5k training plan. And because I’m so nice, I’ll let you follow along. 😉 And in terms of reading, I think I want to read some of Matt Fitzgerald’s other books – Brain Training for Runners and Racing Weight.

***Update! I got some reader questions in the comment section. Keep ’em comin’!***

Were there a lot of personal anecdotes in the book?  I find that I always need a ton of those to keep me engaged when reading nonfiction books filled with studies.

(sumbmitted by Chris at Pineapple Sage)

Not really. Actually, I don’t really remember any. So at the very least, they don’t make a big impression. And there definitely were a lot of studies. Personally, I felt like they were broken up into manageable chunks; however, I did notice on Goodreads that there was at least one comment saying there were too many studies, so I suppose it really depends on what you like.

What does a training plan look like following the 80/20 rule?

(Submitted by Sara at Sweaty Mess Mama)

I’m so glad this was asked…it’s kind of an important one! I hope to talk more about it when I start the training, but for now here’s some bare bones info-

  • I’ve mostly been looking at the 5k plans, but all of the race distances seem to be similar in set-up, the main difference being how long you run. For a level 1 plan, you’re “active” 6 days a week. You could run all 6 of those days or opt for cross training on up to 3 of them. A level 2 plan has you “active” for 7 days, with cross training as an option for 4 of them. And, the level 3 plans have you active 7 days a week with 3 days a week of doubles (with options for cross training 3 days a week and/or for some of the doubles.)
  • The speed work seems to come in the form of fast finish long runs or speed play in an easy run as well as some interval type workouts. The majority of the running is easy running. (You know…80/20)
  • After reading the book you have all the information you need to create your own 80/20 plan. The reason the ready made plans have so much running is because the author advocates increasing time spent running as the best way to improve.  According to him, you will notice an improvement just by going to the 80/20 ratio, regardless of how many miles you run, but after that change is made, the next step is to run more.*

*There is a whole chapter on cross training as a substitute for some/all of this additional running for hurt/injury prone/older runners or for people who just like to switch it up.

Now, some questions for you –

Do you have any other questions? Have you read this book? Do you think running studies are interesting?

Give me a break. Give me a break. Break me off a piece of that…Fancy Feast?

Well that’s it, folks; Sunday morning I ran a couple of easy treadmill miles, and now it’s break time. Rest. Recovery. Off-season. Whatever you want to call it, I’m not running for 21 days (well, less now). Yipes!

So how did I get here, and why?

Well it all started over the summer. I read an old runner’s world article about taking a break (check it out), and at the time it sounded BRILLIANT! I was in the middle of marathon training and my legs were super tired. I couldn’t get the article out of my head. So I did a little research and found a few more articles (here, here, and here). I did some thinking, and realized I hadn’t taken a break from running (at least not longer than a week after a tough race) in years. And when I had done it last, I was injured. I have never taken a “self-induced” running break since I started running in 2006. The idea of giving my muscles, bones, etc. a chance to “bounce back” was intriguing.

I let the idea sit in the back of my head for months with the intention of starting my off-season after the holiday running streak. And, even though it’s not exactly exciting to think of giving up running for 3 weeks, I was still interested in giving it a try. I wavered a bit as the date of my last run got closer, but after reading about a flurry of injuries on the blogs, I decided to commit to it.  It also didn’t hurt that I just finished up a particularly (mentally) exhausting holiday run streak.

From the first article:

“…well-timed layoffs are needed. Take them without feeling guilty. They can eventually lead to big performance gains. That’s because some very good things happen during downtime. For one, your muscles, tendons and bones get some time to heal. Your body repairs those nicks and dents that have occurred during months of hard training, which safeguards you against major injuries. In addition, layoffs restore your enthusiasm for running and increase your desire to train.”

So, injury prevention and increased motivation…win and win!

Now, the article says you can run during the break. In fact, two of the articles say you can run during your break. Also, they vary by how long the break should be. I decided to go with 3 weeks and no running at all for my first shot at an off season.

2014-12-24 16.44.40These legs deserve a rest.

So, what will I be doing? Well, so far this week…not a darn thing! Ha!

Ideally, I’d be doing the bike 3 times a week, and trying out yoga, and stretching and foam rolling daily. I’ve worn compression socks twice.  That counts, right? What can I say, it’s been a busy week, and also, I’m lazy. And I don’t like any exercises except running.

I probably should work on this attitude.

Another thing I’ll be doing is coming up with an awesome training plan for when I’m back at it! I’ll be doing an 80/20 running plan for the 5k. Maybe I’ll also look into some races. That’s always fun and motivating!

Now, I’m off to go foam roll…or go to bed.

Have you ever taken a break on purpose? 

Not Another Resolution Post!

At January 3rd I feel somewhat late to the resolution party. Even all the resolution haters out there seem to have taken the time to express their dislike by now. I bet you’ve all taken down your Christmas trees, too.

But guys its ONLY the 3rd!

I normally like to give myself the entire month of January to come up with, plan out, and get used to my resolutions, but this year I’m ahead of the game. I hope this isn’t a bad sign. Haha… Honestly I think a big part of my speed this year is that I was able to use my 2014 resolution tracking document as a template, rather than starting from scratch. And trust me, having a way to track this stuff is a key to success.


Like last year, even though I have both running and non-running resolutions, I’m only going to share the running and blogging ones with you guys. Posting the whole list would take too long, and you’d probably think I’m insane. Likely, I’ll share a few of those non-running resolutions throughout the year, whether or not I explicitly tell you about them now.

One more thing before I get to the list. While I do have a somewhat lengthy list, I’m not sure it’s complete yet. I’m considering this a work in progress that I’ll update as the year goes on.


  • Take an off-season. Or more specifically, a self imposed, non-injury related, continuous 3 week break from running. I think it’s a good idea to give my legs a break. I’ve read a few articles about it and have started to sort out a plan. I’ll probably write a post about it. 
  • Do NOT run a marathon. Next time I run a marathon, I want to run it faster. By an hour, at least. Going into training in 2014, I was faster than in 2013, and I did speed work. But my long run pace (at the same effort) wasn’t any better, and my race time was MUCH slower. Even though this year’s race was tougher, I still don’t think I should have been quite as slow as I was. Additionally, every time I check pace calculators using my recent race times, I come out with a marathon time over an hour faster than I just ran. So, something is up with how I’m training, or maybe I’m just much slower at the marathon than other distances? Either way, I want to figure this out before I run another marathon.  
  • Improve at the 5k. This resolution is a little less clear than the previous two, but I’m not sure exactly where to set my goal for this one. I’ll start with trying to PR, but I’ll see where training takes me, and I’ll get a more specific goal out here when I check back in. 
  • Stop whining pre-run. I like running, and I need to quit acting like such a baby before every run. The second I start going, I enjoy myself. I look forward to long runs throughout the week, and shorter ones throughout the day. So, why on earth when I’m finally going to have a chance to run do I whine and moan about HAVING to run. I don’t know, but I need to stop. Any ideas on punishments or rewards for good behavior?
  • Try out an 80/20 running plan. I got the book 80/20 Running for Christmas, and it’s fascinating. I’m really looking forward to giving it a try for 5k training, and then possibly for longer distances if I like it.

And for the blog…


  • Post (at least) twice a week. Or 3 times a week, or every other day. I’m not sure what I’d like my schedule to be. But I would like to have one.
  • Create a backlog of posts. Hey, maybe if I have some posts ready to go at a moments notice, I won’t end up with two weeks of radio silence when I get busy. This could help with the consistancy/schedule I’m talking about in number one.
  • Write some product reviews. I’m not sure if this is going to be fun for me, but since I enjoy reading reviews for new products on others’ blogs I think I should give this a try.
  • Read running books and post about them. I have several books about running, time to read them all! Also, I really want to see Unbroken, but I hear you should read the book first. 🙂
  • Catch up on and write retroactive race recaps. I have notes on almost all of the races I’ve ever run, and I’d like to get this info on the blog. Plus, I have a few 2014 races I haven’t gotten around to recapping, yet. 

That doesn’t sound too bad now does it? I mean, the first two running resolutions are to not do things, so that shouldn’t be too tough, right? I suppose we’ll find out! Last year I checked in on my resolutions monthly, but this year I’m switching to a quarterly schedule. So, I’ll be back in early April with an update.

Have you made resolutions yet? Or have you declared your dislike for them? Do we have any similar ones?


2015 Wicked Frosty Four – Race Recap

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

This morning I ran the 9th annual (I think) Wicked Frosty Four in Salem, MA. It was my first run and first race of 2015 as well as my last race of the “season” and my last run of the 2014 Holiday Running Streak. And, spoiler alert, it was a good one!

After partying hard w/ burritos and buffy the vampire slayer, I hit the hay around 11:50pm last night. (I know, I know, super lame, who goes to bed at 11:50 on New Year’s Eve?) I set my alarm for 8ish, and then read in bed for a while before having breakfast. Eventually, Jeff asked why I wasn’t getting ready for the race, so I hopped up and got my butt ready to go.

2014-12-21 08.27.14Can I wear my bag to the race?

Because I’m a baby who doesn’t like to drive myself places, Jeff offered to come to the race and cheer me on. I told him he didn’t have to, but I think it was pretty clear that I was overjoyed by this suggestion.

I’ve been excited about the race all week, but about halfway there, I started wondering why I had even signed up. I can’t really explain it, I love running except for the 15 to 20 mins before I go running. In that period of time, I hate it and don’t know why I do it. My less than excited mood lasted all the way until we got there. Then I took off my coat and got out of the car.  Guess what…..that didn’t help! On the walk over to the start line and then waiting for the race to begin, I kept thinking that I just had to get it over with.  A+ for attitude over here!

2015-01-01 09.53.32Hey, at least I smiled for the picture.

And then the race started. I fell into a rhythm pretty much immediately upon crossing the start mat, and my love of running returned.

My plan was to run at a relaxed, but brisk pace. One that felt sustainable, but not easy. The first mile went by fairly quickly. I warmed up within the first quarter mile, and I saw a celebrity! (Did you read the runner’s world article about John Young, who ran the Boston Marathon?….He was in my race!) Before I knew, it my watch buzzed for the first mile. It read 8:28/mile, which I assumed was pretty unlikely, but I was pleasantly surprised when I passed the mile marker not long after (at 8:44 by my watch).

Prior to this point, I assumed that there was no way that I was going to PR today, but after hitting mile one so quickly I started to wonder. I kept up my comfortably hard but relaxed pace and continued on with a “we’ll see what happens” attitude. Much like mile 1, the second mile passed fairly quickly. I did start noticing some hills at this point, but I was still feeling good when I hit the second mile marker at 17:28 min (in case you were wondering, this is exactly 8:44 for the second mile, too..sweet!)

Heading into mile 3, I had officially decided to shoot for a personal best. I continued along with my relaxed but brisk running strategy, but “brisk” was becoming increasingly closer to “hard” as this mile ticked by. We tackled a steep hill in mile three that I run fairly often in my usual runs. (Parts of this course overlap some of my regular routes, but not very much.) It was tough, but it helped that I was familiar with it. Shortly after climbing the hill, I passed the mile 3 marker. This mile was a bit slower at 8:52, but at 26:20, if I could run the last mile in less than 9:38, I would make it.

2014-04-03 18.21.41Most of my runs and races have beautiful ocean views…I’m such a lucky duck.

I took a couple deep breaths, and started mile 4 at a pace that I would call “I think I can run one more mile at this pace” pace. We ran along the ocean, with an icy headwind, and up one more slight hill before coming into the finish. It was tough. “I think I can run one more mile at this pace” pace is slightly painful. Eventually, I turned the last corner and the finish line was in sight. I saw Jeff hanging out on the sidelines, but he wasn’t paying much attention. This made me smile because I knew that what happened was that he wasn’t expecting me so soon.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting me so soon either!

And then, I was done! I crossed the finish line with an official time of 34:55! My last mile was 8:35, and I had a shiny new PR of over a minute!

Hip Hip Hooray!

Nothing like a surprise personal best to kick off 2015!

Did you run today? Did you race? Have you ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Don’t tell me what happens, I’m watching it for the first time and I LOVE IT!