Maffetone Training: MAF test and heart rate monitors

I have started training using the Maffetone method, which basically means that all runs are done within my aerobic heart rate range. Per the Maffetone calculation, my max aerobic pace is 147 bpm, and my ideal training range is anything at or below that, within 10 bpm. In other words, about 137-147 bpm. Pace doesn’t matter.

This heart rate has caused my runs to slow down significantly. Below are the results for my “MAF test”, which is basically 5 miles run at the track at about max aerobic heart rate.

The Maffetone method calculates your max aerobic heart rate based on an equation of 180-age, plus an adjustment up or down based on recent training and fitness. I originally adjusted my heart rate down 5 beats (142) due to my lack of serious training, but upon further research, bumped it back up to 147. So, my MAF test is about 142 bpm. I’ll do the next test in 3-4 weeks at this same HR to see if I’ve progressed.

I have done about 5 runs using the Maffetone method, and I am hooked! It is too soon to see results, but what I love initially is the mental break from the GPS watch and constant stress over my pace. Pace is dependent on so many factors: Temperature, sleep, past training, stress. Heart rate is heart rate. The effort is always manageable. If I am tired, my pace is slower, but that’s okay because it’s all about heart rate. Every run is a success.

In order to truly embrace this mind set, I’ve had to retire my Garmin. Instead, I am running with a Polar FT4.

The only thing this bad boy tells me is my heart rate and exercise duration. According to Maffetone, that is all that matters. Since adopting this mindset, my runs have been so much more enjoyable! The pace is a little on the slow side, but I am hopeful that my pace at that easy effort will improve. Time will tell. Right now, I love it. And I love my new pink watch.

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Rocky Raccoon 2015

This race didn’t go well. As a result, I have put off writing about it. I am going to keep this short and sweet so that I can get it done and move on.

The race was 3 – 16.7 mile loops. My goal going into the race was just to finish. I had a well thought out nutrition plan that would have me stopping to eat solid food each time I finished a loop, plus eating gels and salt out on the course. It all sounded good in theory. But, classic Sarah, I got caught up in the moment, went out too fast, didn’t stick to my nutrition plan, and found myself very nauseous and depleted with 20 miles to go. I spent a good 30 minutes in the medic tent before my last loop sipping on pedialyte, trying to get back ahead of my hydration. I ended up walking the entire last loop. It took me nearly as long as the first 2 loops combined. The only plus side was that my husband walked it with me and it was priceless to have his company. Note to self: If I ever do a 100, pacers are awesome.

I could go into more detail about what I felt, and ate, and drank, but quite frankly I just want to move on. I started the race with a hurt foot, then turned my ankle pretty badly around 20-miles and it is still pretty sore 6 weeks later. Aside from that, I have just been in a funk. I have gained weight and I feel blah. There hasn’t been much running, but there has been a lot if wine and junk food.

I made a training plan to help me get back into shape with the usual tempo runs, and fartleks and such, but I am just not excited about it.  I think it is time for a change.  I have held pretty much the same training philosophy since graduating from college, with an emphasis on lactate threshold.  Recently I have been reading about the Maffetone method and I think that I might give it a go. I will write a more detailed post on it at some point, but basically it is 100% heart rate training with all mileage completed at or below “max aerobic pace”. The pace is based on a heart rate of 180-age, and then modified based on your recent training history. My MAF heart rate is 142 (180 minus 33 minus another 5 since I am coming off of a break). So, all training should be done at a heart rate range of 132-142. The idea is that I will become more aerobically efficient and my aerobic pace will drop without increasing my heart beat. I’m intrigued and ready for something new, so I am planning to dedicate my summer base building months to the MAF method and see what happens. What have I got to lose?

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Product Review: Nathan Firecatcher Vest

I had a chance to really put my new Nathan Firecatcher Vest through its paces at the Bandera 50k a couple weeks ago.  The Firecatcher is a fairly new vest in the Nathan lineup.  It comes with 2 upfront 10-ounce flasks, and an elastic pocket in the back that can fit a 1.5 liter bladder (not included).  I picked the Firecatcher for my race because I didn’t want the hassle of taking off the vest at aid stations to fill up a bladder, but I also didn’t want to carry a hand held.


Overall, it performed well in terms of comfort and organization.  I quickly learned, however, that I didn’t like the up front water bottles.  For one, they seem to slosh around, and two, they were difficult to take in and out of the pockets with my gloved hands.  For these reasons, I ended up not even using them and carrying a handheld water bottle.   I do think it would be handy to keep one empty flask in a front pocket to put alternate fluids in at aid stations, such as soup or coke, but plan on it remaining empty for most of the run.

Without a bladder, the pack provided just enough storage in the back pocket for an extra shirt and a light jacket.  The back is not water proof (I don’t know of any that are), so I put my clothes in a plastic bag.  They felt completely comfortable on my back.  The elasticity of the pocket material kept everything securely on place.

Without the bottles, the up front pockets provided easy access to my nutrition. I really appreciated this several hours in with freezing temps and numb fingers.  No zipper to mess with. There is an expandable zipper pocket on the front as well which was large enough to fit several gels and a cliff bar without any trouble.


Lastly, there is a small waterproof Velcro pocket on the should strap designed to carry pills.  I loaded mine with salt and a couple Tylenol.  About 2 hours in, I reached for a salt tab, only to find the pocket empty!  They must have fallen off when I took the pack off to take off clothing layers.  Next time I use the pack, I will put them in a baggy inside the pocket so they are less likely to spill out.


Overall, the Firecatcher is a solid pack for the minimalist runner who appreciates the convenience of bottles without wanting to carry a handheld.  I know the up front bottle packs are gaining popularity, and this one is an excellent option for a race with aid stations located fairly close together.

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Race Report: Bandera 50k

This past weekend I completed my first ultra marathon, the Bandera 50k located in south-central Texas.  Typically, weather in Texas is pretty mild, but this past weekend we had our first “ice storm”, meaning a slow steady drizzle with temperatures that hover right around freezing so the precipitation comes down as a liquid, but freezes on surfaces such as roads, windshields, and big rocky hills on ultra marathon courses.  I stressed about the weather pretty much constantly leading up to the race, checking the ever changing forecast every couple of hours.  In the end, the weather wasn’t much of an issue.  Yes, it was cold and a bit rainy, but I had good solid gear, so I fared okay.

The race was 3 hours from our home, so my husband and I opted to stay in a cheap motel in the closest semi-large town near the race which happened to be a 45 minute drive.  I was a little worried about ice on the morning drive, but the roads were fine.  It did rain on us a bit which caused a problem because the rain froze upon contact with the windshield making a it a little difficult to see, but we took it slow and made it without incident.

When we got the race, it continued to rain as we picked up our packets and I dropped off my drop bag.  I had just enough time to make it through the bathroom line and get to the start before the gun went off.  It was still raining a bit, and the trail was already muddy, but I felt good.  I settled into a nice little pace, and then about 2 minutes in, I passed a sign that said “50k start line”.  Wait. What?  I gave what must have been a very bewildered look to a volunteer standing near the sign and he kindly said “Don’t worry, you’ll catch them.  Just take your time.  It’s a long race”.  Apparently, I started with the 25k runners a little ways behind the 50k runners.  This turned out to be a blessing though, because by the time I started catching the 50k pack, they were already spread out and passing was a breeze.  I am telling myself that I wasted less energy by not being in the giant pack of runners muscling for position on a single track trail.

The first 10-miles of this race were HILLY.  The hills all had names like Ice Cream (or I Scream), and Boyles Bump and the Three Sisters.  I don’t know about you, but hills that warrant their own names kind of freak me out.   To make things a little more difficult, the hills were made of large rocks covered in a smooth sheen of ice.  It was exciting to say the least.  I didn’t fall, but I had several out of control slides.

If you remember my hydration pack saga, what I finally ended up doing was running with my Nathan Firecatcher without any water in it, and carrying a small 12-ounce handheld.  I run 20 milers on the road with just a couple water fountain stops, surely a 12-ounce bottle should be sufficient with aid stations 5 miles apart, right?  Thing again.  5 miles on trails, this trail in particular, is NOT the same as 5 miles on roads.  I ran out of well in advance of each aid station.   Lesson learned.  I will wear a hydration pack with a bladder for my 50-miler because I don’t want to carry 2 water bottles, or a larger bottle.

Once I made it through the hilly first few miles, I settled into a nice little pace.  The course was very sloppy, and my shoes felt like they weighed 10-lbs, so it was a slow pace, but I was content to try to enjoy the day.  At some point, I reached in my pouch for a salt tablet only to realize that they had all fallen out along with the Tylenol I had planned on taking to alleviate any foot pain.  Luckily, the aid stations were stocked with salt, so it wasn’t an issue.  I was even able to procure some Tylenol at the aid station at mile 21.  This was also the location of my drop bag, so I changed into a dry shirt and abandoned my vest.  It felt great to run with just the handheld.  I think miles 21-24 or 25 felt the best out of the entire race!  I passed several people, and I just felt happy despite the somber mood of the cold, wet runners around me.  I tried to talk to a few people, but everyone seemed understandably a bit grumpy.

Then it hit me.  Around mile 25 I started to get nauseous.   I couldn’t drink any water or swallow without feeling like I might throw up.  There was another station at around mile 26.5, and I ended up just sitting down on an ice chest waiting for the tummy trouble to pass, only it didn’t.  I felt kind of empty, but too sick to eat.  An aid station volunteer handed me a cup of soup and a cup of coke.  I drank the coke slowly, and then started walking down the trail sipping on the soup.  About 10-minutes later, I tucked the empty cup into my pocket and started to jog.  I made it about 5 minutes before having to walk again.  I continued this walk/jog routine for the rest of the race.  With a half mile to go, there is another aid station geared toward the 100k runners, but I ended up taking a cup of coke to sip with the hopes that it would settle my stomach enough to be able to jog the last bit across the finish line.  I am not sure if it was the coke, or just knowing that the end was near, but I felt a bit better and was able to run the remaining bit into the finish.  My time was 7:09.  I ran 4:29 for my 30 miler a few weeks ago, so that should give some indication of the difficulty of the course.  I ended up 13th in the results, but that isn’t exactly true because there were sever 100k women who were faster than me on their first 50k loop.

Despite the nausea, this was an excellent first experience with ultra running.  My husband did the 25k, so we were able to experience it together which made it 1000 times better.  Even during the moments of my worst suffering, I was surprised to find myself still feeling very excited to have the opportunity to do this and to get to run 50-miles in a few weeks.  I think that I just may have found my way back into enjoying running.  There is something about running for hours and hours on end that makes all the troubles of the world just drain away from you.  It’s like the world doesn’t even exist.   I can’t wait to get out there again!

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Finished my first ultra, the Bandera 50k!

Finished my first ultra, the Bandera 50k!

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It’s happening

Tomorrow is the big day! My first ultra marathon! The weather is expected to be 28 degrees with a 60% chance of freezing rain. Yikes! The stream crossings will be interesting – like a mid run ice bath.

I have been nursing my sore foot, so I haven’t run much this week. 5 on Wednesday, 3 yesterday, and 7 today. Everything is feeling good, so it looks like this is going to happen!

My husband and I bought each other nice, lined, waterproof running jackets for our birthdays (Asics Storm Shelter). They are awesome. And mine is pink.

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Who I Run For

As you may or may not have read, I posted my New Year’s resolutions a few days ago, and one of them was to find a way to make my running serve a greater good.

Months and months ago, I signed up for IRun4 (, a program that pairs special needs children with buddies to run for them. After not hearing back for so long, I finally received an email introducing my new buddy! Her name is Grace, she will be 10 at the end of January, and she wants to be a mermaid. I am so excited! I now have a new motivation to finish the 50k this weekend, no matter what the weather brings. I want to send Grace my medal! I’m also hoping they will let me exchange my shirt for an extra small for her. Who could say no to that?

So bring it mother nature! You can’t stop me!

Oh, today was a rest day. Foot feels much better! I’ve been rolling it on a frozen water bottle which is like some sort torture device. If I knew where the missle silos were, I would tell you after about 2 minutes of rolling. But, I think it’s helping. After much reading, I think it’s plantar fasciitis.

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Bandera Dress Rehearsal

I decided to use today’s long run as a sort of dress rehearsal for Bandera next weekend. The weather is in the mid 40s and there is a cool breeze (Bandera calls for similar temps with a chance of showers). I was relatively comfortable with a lightweight short sleeve beneath a wicking 1/4 zip top. I made it about 16 miles in 3-hours. The trails I run on are pretty rugged, so I don’t worry much about pace, just getting time on my feet. My new Nathan Firecatcher worked well. I still need to do a review for it. I wanted to get some miles on it first.

Everything was going great until I got to the turn around point and my left arch started hurting. With no choice but to keep running, I pushed on for a few more miles before it really started throbbing. I tried stretching it, massaging it, shortening my stride – but nothing helped and things just continued to go downhill. Finally, with about 4 miles to go, I took an emergency dose of Tylenol I had stashed in my pack hoping it would take the edge off, and limped the last 40-minutes back to my car.

I am sitting here by the fire now, with my foot in a pot of ice water and a cup of steaming coffee in my hand. I’m really hoping that it turns itself around by Saturday for the race. There’s no point in worrying about it. I’ll roll it, ice it, and rest it this week and hope for the best come Saturday.

I am very excited because the boy has asked to go running again today! I am determined not to force my hobbies onto him, but I am definitely encouraging this newfound interest in running! 

Okay, time to thaw out my foot and start the whole laundry-house cleaning-shopping Sunday to-do list.

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9 more miles and a weather obsession

Today I ran 8 miles by my lonesome, and one with my 4-year old! Okay, we started and stopped a lot, but the Garmin said we made it a mile in the 30-minutes we played “line leader”, so I am counting it. It did end up being a little like speedwork, so there’s that.

I have a confession. I have not been sticking exactly to my training plan. I make sure to get the mileage, but I swap days sometimes, or do an 8 and a 12 instead of a 10 and a 10. I’m calling it good. There will be a gold star sticker in my training log for the week, despite the shuffling of mileage.

Speaking of things (how’s that for a segue?), the weather at Bandera is anyone’s guess. The one thing that seems constant in the ever changing forecast, is RAIN. I received a $150 amazon gift card for Christmas, which I have mostly spent on the great Hydration Pack Saga of 2014, but I might just have enough left for a cheap, light fleece to wear under my “shell” (i.e. garbage bag). I read fleece is good because it doesn’t get cold when wet. I am really clueless about all of this and, being a family of fair weather runners, we are a bit lacking in winter/rain gear. Garbage bags are cool though, right?

Lastly, I am going “vegan-ish” until Rocky Raccoon. I may have mentioned before, I need strict rules. I have done periods of veganism before, and it forced me to be very mindful of what I put in my mouth. I say “vegan-ish” because we eat fish once a week, and I plan on partaking in this ritual. I like fish. It seems healthy. It doesn’t have the same environmental impact as beef, etc. I’m okay with it. Also, I plan to eat a giant hamburger after Bandera. It is tradition to get a burger after long races. So, there you have it, “vegan-ish”.

Well, the boy is requesting a quick game of monopoly before bed, so I am signing off.

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Treadmill Miles

Today it was cold and rainy, so I opted to do my 10-miler on the treadmill in the garage. I can’t say that I found much joy in today’s run, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of heading out into the elements. I am having a lot of trouble staying warm lately. Even in my 60 degree garage, with no wind, I got chilled and had to put on a long sleeve shirt around 7 miles in. I am fine until about an hour of running, and then I just start getting cold. Does anyone else struggle with that? How do you handle it?

I am a little worried about the Bandera 50k because it looks like a cold (30s) wet day might be in the forecast – and based on the difficulty of the course, I will likely be out there a long time. What do you wear for cold/wet ultras? I need to figure something out. Maybe a tight, wicking base layer under another layer (fleece?) with a water resistant jacket packed in my hydration vest in case it rains? I would love any suggestions.

Run: 10 miles

Pushups: 20

Core: 3 x 1 min plank + 100 crunches

Calories: 2700

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