Second time’s a charm.

So I headed over to my local track yesterday morning to get in my MAF test and I notice a sign for something called the Unionville Invitational.  There are a couple buses with kids disembarking and several pavilions set up.  I start my warm-up and it didn’t take too long to realize that there’s a track meet scheduled right where I’m trying to run.  I didn’t know how long I had till they booted my off the track so I cut my warm-up down 11 minutes to 4 minutes and started running.  Right away I couldn’t seem to get my heart rate under control.  You see, the whole point of the test is to run 5 miles at the same heart rate (142 bpm) to gauge where my fitness is.  You can always trick yourself into thinking you’re running easy, but your heart rate never lies.  If I run above my target, then I don’t have a good comparison to prior efforts.  After a mile, my heart rate finally got back under control, but more and more buses were pulling up and it seemed likely that I wouldn’t be able to finish the full 5 miles so I pulled the plug.

Back I went this morning wondering what the test was going to tell me.  Considering how poor my results started out yesterday I was fearing the worse, however right out of the gate I was blazing away and dropped a 9:11 mile.  A 9:20 average pace was the best I had ever done, however I didn’t want to think too far ahead.  I kept a steady effort and just knocked off the remaining miles.  Each one ended up being a little faster than the one before, however my watch wasn’t measuring 100% accurate so they all probably ended up being about the same when adjusting for this.  At the end of the run, I had improved my MAF test PR by 37 seconds (46:06).

I’m always a little surprised when I set one of these PRs.  It’s one thing to get faster in ultras.  There’s so much that goes into running long distances outside the purely fitness aspect: pacing, nutrition, hydration, mental strategies.  I believe I have years of improvement left in all those areas, but it’s difficult for me to envision physical improvements continuing as I’m not getting any younger.  And I’m not ramping up my mileage.  I don’t know.  The body is an amazing thing and I’ll probably never figure out exactly what causes what.

Or maybe it’s just as simple as I’m running faster this year than I have the last several.  2014 was all about running by heart rate for me, which meant lots of run/walk runs given the amount of hills where I live.  Last year was all about hill training (walked, of course) since ES100 and Cloudsplitter both had ridiculous amounts of vertical.  This year I’ve focused on running all of my long runs since Umstead and Old Dominion are both on the more runnable scale of 100s.  So I guess the moral of the story is running makes you faster and not walking.  Obviously, I’m not the brightest bulb in the box.

I’ve cut my supplemental exercises back a bit so far this year, especially in April.  Part of this was recovery after my last 100, however more recently it’s just lack of motivation.  I was a little shocked to see I didn’t do a single plank all month.  I have to go all the way back to the middle of 2013 for the last time that has happened.  I always equated planks with core strength, which helps with running economy.  Well, that didn’t seem to hurt my MAF test.  Now there’s a big difference between 5 miles on the track and a semi-hilly 100 miler so I’ll definitely want to add this back into my daily routine here this month.  Maybe just not as much as I had been doing.

Hope your spring training is going well.

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