Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Take On Running At MAF

I am such a dork. You'll totally agree by the time you finish reading this post I am sure. :)

So I've been running a fair amount lately (and by lately I mean that last 10 days or so). And I have confirmed a couple of things that I think I knew before but am 100% positive I know now. Call it reconfirmation?

~Having a MAF base is super important for Ironman athletes. If you're not planning an Ironman maybe not such a big deal... but the ability to feel strong at the end of a very long day (ie Ironman) requires a huge aerobic base.

~Building that MAF base is an absolute tedious nightmare pain in the ass. I have walked more in the last week on my 'runs' than I have since the last time I tried to build a MAF base (early 2011 courtesy of Lucho). Pretty much every time the road tilted even slightly uphill, my HR would shoot up and I would have to walk to bring it back down. Every.single.time. It is not surprising that very few athletes take the time to go through this MAF process b/c honestly when you're out there jogging/walking it's really easy to get super down on yourself and think things like I suck I am so slow I'm way too fat and out of shape for this I'm never going to get better this walking is a waste of time...

~The trick to making MAF runs actually work for you is that you actually have to be diligent and not fudge it. Meaning- if your MAF HR range is 140-150, then don't look down and see 152 and keep running. Be the boss. MAKE your HR stay <150 by traveling at whatever pace necessary to make that happen. IF that means walking, then walk. Eventually your heart will get the message and beat at 148 bpm but you have to dictate that.

~The other trick to building MAF base is that it actually requires quite a bit of volume. The more miles you put in at MAF range, the more adaptation you'll get. But here's the thing- the runs are so slow/easy that they don't really take much out of you, so it's really not that hard to put in a lot of miles (assuming you have the time). The big picture goal is not to run slow- the goal is to become metabolically fit and durable. To do that you need to run a lot. BUT if you run a lot and you run hard, you'll be trashed. Run truly easy and you can run a lot. I ran 10 miles today. Twice. So 20 miles on the day and the bulk of both runs were done at MAF HR and I will tell you- I am not that tired right now. I do not have the fitness to run 20 miles hard, but I can travel 20 miles at MAF. It just takes time.

~It doesn't work to just go out and run slow. Because done right, your MAF pace will change. It's not about going out and running 10' miles. Maybe that was MAF pace last week but if you've run a lot now your MAF pace is 9:40... and at 10' pace your HR could actually be too low? Need to watch HR to get this right.

~Remember how I said I was a dork? Here's proof! I've been plotting my avg pace on my runs over the last 10 days or so. On a graph. I did this mostly b/c I needed some sort of confirmation that I was indeed on the right path (because just going out and walk/jogging super slow might have had me shooting myself in the head otherwise). Check it out though! It's working.
On both my runs today I was able to run the whole time while keeping HR exactly where I wanted it. No walking at all-even up the hills! Oh glorious day! I can tell when I'm getting fit b/c my HR won't bounce and jump all over the place. It stays super steady and only changes a beat at a time. Earlier in the week it was jumping 3-4 beats at a time- very reactive which is a sign of low fitness (OR could be freshness from taper- so IMAZ athletes DON'T freak out- but clearly that is not the case for me at the moment!). Anyway, it felt freaking awesome to actually just run. And even though it's still slow, it's MAF pace, so I am not concerned.

So in good news, I may still be 'in' for the Honolulu Marathon. It's in 4 weeks and I was pretty sure that my bout with shingles was going to take me out of that event... But I set a little goal for myself that I wanted to put in ~250 miles at MAF and in that time hopefully watch my MAF pace come down to ~9' miles... And if I could do that, then theoretically I could run the marathon in ~4 hours at MAF... thinking that then it wouldn't kill me and therefore require a month of recovery... BUT I'm ~60 miles in and already at ~9:20 so it may not take 250 miles to get there? Which would be super b/c then I can actually start training earlier. You see, in my head I have classified this current MAF base period not as "training" but as "training to train"... because once my base is developed I'll actually be able to go out and run hard and it won't kill me. Like I said before, the big picture goal is not to run slow- it's to be durable enough to handle the harder training you want to be able to do prior to Ironman. This period, for me, is part of attaining durability. I walk in the beginning so I can try to rip my own legs off at the end. :)

18 weeks til Cabo.

I do feel like I want to thank Lucho for teaching me all this last year. I have not forgotten how good it feels to actually be fit which is what is motivating me to go through this process again. It is coming along way faster this time which is super encouraging... though I swear there's no way I would do this to myself if it wasn't for my experience in 2011 having Lucho hold me accountable and guiding me along the way.


12 comments:

Damie said...

You know I am a huge believer in MAF. There is no other way, honestly. And yes, you have to hold yourself extremely accountable...11 minute miles or not.

Scott Britton said...

From your lips to Gods ears! :) I can truly appreciate what you're experiencing having just traveled that path! Glad to see that you follow your own words of wisdom! LOL Keep up the good work!

Scott Britton said...

From your lips to Gods ears! I can truly appreciate where you are coming from having just traveled this path. I glad to see that you follow the words of wisdom you impart on your athletes! LOL :) Keep up the good work!

Shevaun said...

I knew you were a dork, before reading this;-) Keep at it and I am glad to hear your bout with the shingles is ending.

rr said...

I don't even know what MAF stands for (I'll google it next, I promise) but I do know that my huge miles this summer were all at a really, really easy, nose-breathing pace. And in the end, I got a 5 min marathon PR for all the time I put in. I hope you get the same at HNL! I'll be out there cheering.

Katie said...

LOVE this. sharing around because I completely believe in the MAF system....dedication to the plan pays off.

However, you said one thing which made me think....when I was in high volume training for IM, I did all my long runs "under X HR" and many of them didn't even approach MAF because of how fatigued I was. I've been thinking lately that I should probably be running in a window that is 5 under MAF up to MAF, instead of just easy (which is sometimes as far as 10-15 under MAF) all the time. Thanks for answering my question I didn't know I had. :)

mtanner said...

and Yes I am a believer/follower too. Even though the paces make me cry in the dark.Love your chart :)

Becca said...

So happy to read this today. I'm about to start MAF training next month. And while I know if my mind what to expect, I've been afraid of how my emotions are going to react. This was a much needed reaffirmation that I'll be doing the right and best thing while beginning my first Half IM training!

Ririnette said...

My coach is a huge believer in MAF training. I hate him for that. I even resented him for having totally blew up my last marathon time, even though I know it wasn't his fault, but all mine. It's hard to be patient, it all comes down to believing that eventually, you will get faster. It's hard to believe that you'll ever PR a marathon when you're almost walking all your long runs. It's hard, I know, but thanks to posts like these I am ready to give it another try and hopefully, I will see the difference in the (much) longer run/bike/swim, aka the Ironman.

Twin Heart said...

Since I started doing MAF runs about two weeks ago at 180-age (128), every run has been slower than the previous. My first 6mi run 17 days ago was a 9:11 pace, the next comparable run (in the same place) last Friday was a 9:50 pace. Today, 9:58. I seem to be MAFfing my self into worse shape.

Rakback Action said...

Someone introduced me to MAF, after seeing his stats of 10 miles in 1hr at 138bpm (we are the same age too) recently and while recovering from an operation i read up on it and decided that MAF was for me. Coming from a swim background where every race lasted 30 seconds to a minute i knew i didn't have a great aerobic base.

Despite a brief interruption i have doing MAF for around 6-7 weeks solid and my 10km time for maf have come down from 6km/min to 5:35km/min. So from 1hr to 56 mins. this is roughly a 7% improvement, looking forward to seeing how this reflects in race times but think i need a bit longer.

Also it has helped me achieve some great mileage too hitting 50km the other week.

Rakback Action said...

Someone introduced me to MAF, after seeing his stats of 10 miles in 1hr at 138bpm (we are the same age too) recently and while recovering from an operation i read up on it and decided that MAF was for me. Coming from a swim background where every race lasted 30 seconds to a minute i knew i didn't have a great aerobic base.

Despite a brief interruption i have doing MAF for around 6-7 weeks solid and my 10km time for maf have come down from 6km/min to 5:35km/min. So from 1hr to 56 mins. this is roughly a 7% improvement, looking forward to seeing how this reflects in race times but think i need a bit longer.

Also it has helped me achieve some great mileage too hitting 50km the other week.