Its the end of January and I’m in third week of a four week build phase after having completely 3 cycles (12 weeks of base). When in base all of my running and 99% of my cycling is in QT2 Z1, which is my aerobic endurance pace. For me this means maintaining a heart rate between 138 and 150 beats per minute while running. Normally my average heart rate for Z1 runs is about 146 or 147. For the last three weeks, I been able to do a little Z2 running (a “tempo” pace), which means maintaining a heart rate between 151 and 160 beats per minute. After this week, its back to another 12 weeks of base, so lots and lots of Z1 running (again). The hardest thing about base training and maintaining a Z1 heart rate isn’t the miles, or the January cold, the snow (all 72 inches of it so far) or even having to run on the treadmill, the hardest part is keeping my ego in check.
Let me explain, right now when I run a half marathon, my heart rate averages about 160 beats per minute and my pace is right about a 8 minute mile. When I run a 5K my heart is just under 170 beats per minute and I run about a 7:20 minute per mile pace. When I run in Z1 my pace is a low 9 minute or very, very high 8 minute per mile pace — much slower than I am capable of running. Now, I keep getting faster at Z1 and at some point in the not too distant future I should be running mid-8 minute miles comfortably at Z1 (at that point my 5K pace should be in the high 6s) but its still tough to watch other people pass me while training, when I know I am “faster” than they are, I’m just running at a controlled heart rate. I understand the benefits of training at Z1, I’m building a big engine, I’m working on peripheral system durability and most importantly, I’m not getting injured (which is so very common for people who train at higher heart rates even if they’re running fewer miles — they end up putting too much stress on their bodies before their bodies have the durability to handle the stress. I just need to think about my favorite nugget of wisdom from Coach Doug:
If you have doubts, then ask yourself what your goal is. Are you trying to post “fast-looking numbers” on some random Thursday training run in the middle of July? Or do you want to be on top of the podium on race day? I know what my goal is. The only speed numbers that matter are the ones on race day.
For me, the only time speed matters is when I’m racing, so no ego in training.