Thursday, April 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 5

Last month I postulated a correlation between training volume (hours per week) and pace improvement (or regression). After a 101-mile February (almost 26 hours), I did see some improvement. This past month, I ran 133 miles (31 hours), so you'd expect for me to see even more improvement, yes? YES.

Oct 31 Nov 30 Jan 5 Jan 31 Mar 3 Apr 3
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28 8:42 7:44
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01 8:33 7:43
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05 8:38 7:44
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12 8:53 7:56
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18 9:04 8:08
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03 43:51 39:15
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31 14:08 12:38

One more month to the Borneo International Marathon. I have no time goals, and don't plan to track my pace. I'm not even sure if I'll wear my HR monitor. I just want to have fun, run at a comfortable but purposeful pace, and if I feel I can give more in the last third, I'll go for it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 4

The past month has been one of experimentation as I tried to figure out why I wasn't seeing great results with Maffetone, despite my belief in the system itself. As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to focus more on my diet and also try to get in at least 6 hours of running per week, as there seemed to be a correlation between hours logged and progress (or regress). I also toyed with a low-carb diet (after reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance) but gave it up after a week; it just seemed counter-intuitive.

Anyway, after a 101-mile month (almost 26 hours of running), I saw some improvement. Here are my stats from the beginning until today:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5 January 31 March 3
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28 8:42
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01 8:33
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05 8:38
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12 8:53
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18 9:04
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03 43:51
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31 14:08

So I'm gonna stick with Maffetone for most or all of this month to see if I see more improvement next month. I have a trail race in mid-April so I may be a little bit undertrained for it in terms of hills. But I should be okay for endurance!

Monday, February 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 3

I didn't do a great job eating right this month, but I still hoped for a better MAF Test. It was not to be! Here are my splits:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5 January 31
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31

I was really puzzled about this. I could have expected to have stayed the same, but to regress? I really don't know.

But I have just stumbled upon the concept of Metabolic Efficiency Training (MET), which more or less uses the same aerobic training principles as Maffetone but with a greater emphasis on eating right in order to maximize burning fat as fuel. This is one area I have completely ignored. So this month I am going to be mostly free of grains (bread, rice, and noodles) and sugars, and we'll see if that has any effect. The MET people also recommend at least 6 hours a week of MET training, whereas I rarely get over 5 hours a week. In fact as I look at my training, I see a correlation. In November, I ran 22.5 hours and saw much improvement. In December I ran 19 hours and regressed. And then in January I ran just under 16 hours and regressed further. Could that be it?

All in all, I am not all that discouraged with my results (although I'd gladly take a faster pace!), because I'm running more than I ever have, with no injury or soreness. Not a bad way to spend the off-season, regardless of my improvement or lack thereof.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

MAF Test - Month 2

This was not a great month health-wise so I did not expect a great MAF test. I was not disappointed! It was about the same as last month, but a tad bit slower. But that's what I get. I took a complete week off, and it was December so I indulged in many Christmas specialties and treats. So I couldn't expect my body to reward me with increased performance after that. Anyway, here are my splits (with the first two months' data as well):

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20
45:26 43:38 43:54
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08

So yeah, that's what Maffetone would call a 'plateau' and according to him all plateaus have a cause. I've got mine nailed so lemme work on eating better this month and see how next month looks. I didn't do a trail (hill) MAF test this month because I have less time for running now that school has started for the kids, and I want to focus on MAF fitness above all else.

Monday, December 2, 2013

MAF Test - Month 1

A month ago I posted the data from my baseline Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Test, both on a flat 5km surface and a hilly less-than-5km route. In the past month, I ran a total of 22 hours and 32 minutes at an average heart rate of around 127, I'd say. My target HR range is 121-131.

[A reminder for those who are just joining us: Here is the overview of the Maffetone Method and here is the info on the MAF test.]

Without further ado, here are the latest results:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00
45:26 43:38
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03

Quite pleased to see my pace over 30 seconds/mile faster, with zero real effort or exertion on my part. I just hit the roads and kept my HR down, and my body did the rest. Now for the trails to see how I did there:

Bukit Padang Trails (2.83 miles) at 121-131bpm:

November 1 December 1
1:03:00 54:37
22:16 min/mi 19:17 min/mi

Okay now that is just insane. An improvement of 3 minutes/mile on hill running? I'll have to wait until next month's MAF test to know if this is a fluke or not. It's possible that at the time of my first MAF test my body was still a bit mountain weary after TMBT and the Climbathon, and that after a month of low-exertion (and mostly flat) MAF training, my legs were much fresher.

Regardless, to this point I'm quite pleased with Maffetone training and look forward to another month of aerobic improvements!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Maffetone: Baseline

Now that my racing season is over (makes me sound like such a pro, haha!), and with nothing on the calendar for me until April 2014, I can take the time to do whatever I want (or don't want) to do in my training. Normally that is a recipe for disaster, since if I don't have a race, I don't run. Sad but true. I need a goal.

So hey, good timing, here comes a goal: improve my aerobic fitness so I can run faster with less effort. I already mentioned this briefly, that I'll be following the Maffetone Method to work towards my goal. And it starts now. I probably won't be posting much here as there won't be much to say, but I'll check in each month with the results of my latest Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test. The idea is that you run a set distance once a month, and see how long it takes you to do it. If you're doing it right, you should see your times go down each month, while still working at the same heart rate as before. So for my MAF test I'll be doing a 5km (5 laps) course at the local sports complex, and then a day or two later I'll do a slightly-less-than-5km hilly trail course. I'll post both results here monthly. So without further ado, here is my baseline MAF test:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31
Kilometer 1 8:19
Kilometer 2 8:45
Kilometer 3 9:26
Kilometer 4 9:23
Kilometer 5 9:34


My normal pace for this 5km (regular jogging) is probably a 9:30- to 10-minute mile. At MAF I was expecting to run about a 13-minute pace, maybe a bit slower. As it turned out I ran a 14:37 pace! Wow. But on the positive side, it can only get better from here. Way better I hope. The hardest part was probably passing walkers as it felt like it took me about a minute to actually complete the maneuver! Okay, so let's see how MAF looks on the trails.

Bukit Padang Trails (2.83 miles) at 121-131bpm:

November 1

This route normally takes me around 40-45 minutes, walking up most of the hills and running everything else. So this was about as slow as I would have guessed. But it was much more enjoyable than the sports complex. I could see myself doing this more often. I also felt a bit more in tune with my heart rate and could (usually) alter my pace before my HR monitor started beeping that I was too low or high.

So now I will spend my days running for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, maybe an occasional long run, entirely at or below my training heart rate of 131bpm. I won't be keeping track of my mileage, only time. If I tracked my mileage, I would then know my day-to-day pace and might get a bit obsessive over any minor improvements or setbacks in my training. Once a month is good enough for keeping track. Blogging will therefore also be light, so arm your feed reader if you want to follow my progress!

At the same time, I have a second goal. I'll be working on increasing my barefoot running mileage, following the 12-week training plan in the excellent book Barefoot Running by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee. It'll involve running 2 or 3 times a week barefoot, increasing my mileage (and types of terrain) slowly over the course of the 12 weeks. I'm looking forward to improving my foot strength which will help ward off the typical running injuries that are caused by wearing shoes. You know the ones. More on my barefoot training later.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Race Report: Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon

When I signed up for the Climbathon I thought the same thing as Mariela, who said, "it couldn't be any more difficult than TMBT." I figured since I would have completed a 50km trail run just 5 weeks before the Climbathon, I wouldn't need a whole lot more training in order to be fully fit and ready for this short (23.1km) little jaunt up and down Mt. Kinabalu. Boy, was I wrong.

I already blogged about my trial run on the race course just two weeks ago. I can't express just how helpful it was to have had an advance look at the route. Remember I mentioned how demoralizing it was to find that the uphill "blip" on the descent was actually a brutal 30-minute (or so) nasty ascent? Well on race day it really did feel more like a blip because I was ready for it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning...

I didn't notice when this picture was taken but I'm sure I was looking at Mt. Kinabalu (photo by Paula Blake)

The day started bright and sunny, with occasional clouds racing across the mountain. I feared a bright sunny day since I run much better in cooler weather. I was hoping for solid cloud cover, or rain, or wind. One of those would make for a good day. As it turned out, the race started out sunny but by the time we reached Timpohon gate, the clouds were in control and remained that way the rest of the day. In fact, through most of the race we were enveloped in a very light fog. Beautiful.

I had recorded my splits from the dress rehearsal and finished in 5 hours and 48 minutes on that day, so I knew that if I stuck to those splits this time, I'd meet the 6-hour cutoff time imposed upon veteran men (age 40 and up). The open class (younger than 40) had a 5-hour cutoff time for the men.

The journey from the start to Timpohon Gate, 4.5km, took place entirely on the road, and featured an ascent of about 600m, pretty steep at times! Predictably, most of the crowd rushed off down the road. I stuck to my pace, and hoped to get to Timpohon Gate before the 50 minutes it took me the first time. And I did it, arriving at Timpohon at 43 minutes.

The next leg was Timpohon Gate to Layang-Layang hut. Last time, it took me 1 hour and 21 minutes. I really couldn't see myself going that much faster than that, and this time I knew I would have to deal with race traffic - all those slow people who hadn't done any proper hill training. Sure enough, I found myself saying, "Excuse me" constantly as I swept past tens and tens of people. Thanks TMBT for the legs to tackle that ascent with no problems! I reached Layang-Layang hut in 1 hour and 17 minutes, almost exactly at the 2-hour mark. The crowd which had gathered at the intersections of the Timpohon and Mesilau trails was huge and energetic; I loved it!

Next came the descent: Mesilau Trail to the Mesilau Nature Resort. Last time it took me 2 hours and 11 minutes. And as I descended, I didn't feel like I was going particularly fast or slow as compared with the last time. But I was feeling great, and kept a good pace down. When I got to the river and the bridge crossing (where the "blip" began), I took off my shoes to clear the mud, and to rest a few more minutes before starting to ascend. And up I went. No problems. No pain. Tired, sure, but happy and feeling like I could go forever. It's just a hill. And before I knew it, I was over the blip and back down the hill. When I hit Mesilau Nature Resort it had only taken me 1 hour and 43 minutes. I was now a full 40 minutes ahead of my previous attempt!

After doing the math, I realized that if I pushed myself in this last leg, I would have a chance at a sub-5-hour finish. The last leg is all road, from Mesilau Nature Resort to Kundasang town. Most of it is a good semi-steep downhill, but there are a few uphills thrown in to keep you humble. So I picked up the pace and kept throwing one foot down in front of the other.

Flying down the road from Mesilau Nature Resort (photo by Erwan Kassim)

With every kilometer I adjusted my calculations but it always looked like it was going to be close, so I couldn't relax. And with 1.5km to go, while still being pretty tight time-wise, there came the nasty steep hill leading up to Kundasang. I power-hiked with all my might but saw myself slipping behind. At last I was only 200-300 meters away and could see the town, and I started to run. The official finish line photographer was pointing his camera the opposite direction, but never mind, I made it!

Just trying to get to the finish (photo by AShe Ek)
Hey cameraman, over here!!! Look, I'm sprinting, really, I am! (photo from Art Sebangkit)

Joyful exhaustion (photo from Art Sebangkit)

So I crossed the line with an official chip time of 4:58:39, which put me at 59th among veteran men, and 194th out of 374 overall. And I did it, I beat the under-40 cutoff time of 5 hours! The total elevation gain for the 23.1km course was 5700' (and 6700' down). Average slope was 15.9% up (15.1% down), and the max slope was  46% up (49.6% down). Quite the punishing course. Here are my times from my first two attempts, as a point of reference for those looking to meet or beat a 6-hour or a 5-hour cutoff time in the future:

October 7 (Test Run) October 20 (Climbathon)
Start to Timpohon 0:50 0:43
Timpohon to Layang-Layang Hut 1:21 1:17
Layang-Layang to Mesilau Nature Resort 2:11 1:43
Mesilau to Finish 1:36 1:16
Total 5:48 4:59

Personally, I loved the race. I went up and down the mountain trails with a perpetual half- to full-smile on my face, and even on the steep uphills I said (out loud, if I was alone), "This is easy!" Sure, I am a mere mid-pack runner, but I truly felt I could go all day. This bodes well for me as I seek to build my endurance and aerobic base (while increasing my speed, I hope) in the upcoming off-season. More on that next month.