The Reason My 10K Was Crappy...

>> Tuesday, May 10, 2022

... which also explains most of my crappy long runs and poor races.

The more I thought about this, the more it made sense.

I've never trained with heart rate. I've never had that info available to me. And after I got my new Garmin at Christmas, I noticed a FEW runs here-and-there that showed my heart rate randomly spiking. NORMALLY, it would slowly climb throughout the run (and I paid the most attention to this during my long runs, which also slowly speed up, so my heart rate would follow suit). But I've shared at least a few heart rate charts over the last few months that suddenly jump up and stay up there, and those runs have NOT felt good (OBVIOUSLY):

Feb 21st: a run where I didn't feel great and cut the faster miles a bit short.

A different long run, with a smaller spike near the end.

Notice that top graph. Of COURSE I felt like cutting the "pace" miles a bit short because my heart was going nuts for the previous 1.5 miles! And this is the feeling I've had for YEARS at "bad races" or "rough workouts." I've known for at least 12 or 13 years that I do better when I go out a bit easier and "ease" into the race. At a 10 mile in 2009, I tried to change my race strategy to try to PR, so went out harder. I ended up feeling HORRIBLE posting my slowest mile at mile 8. (I DID PR, but I questioned if it was worth it!) At my worst 5K in 10 years (back in 2018), I had the slowest mile as the final mile, and I noted "That hurt. ESPECIALLY for being that slow." I bet I had spiked my heart rate and just could not find another gear. Looking back, I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that my heart rate was doing this thing at those 2 races! I sincerely believe that this is the reason for a majority of my races where I'm just not able to find another gear that I KNEW should be there.

And that's what happened at the Get in Gear 10K 10 days ago:

Similar spike. Could not pick up the pace even though I'm
used to running a LOT faster than the last half of that race.

So what should I take away from this? I truly don't know if it's a "training" issue or not - can I train my heart not to do that? I really don't know! If I don't do anything different in my training, I think I just need to "be careful" in the first 3/4 of a race. I need to keep from shooting around someone too fast that might cause my heart rate to spike. (That's what happened at the most recent race - I picked it up to pass a small pack, and that's when my heart jumped up and STAYED up.) Once I'm far enough into the race, THEN I can shift gears, but I need to be cautious for a while!


Anonymous,  8:12 AM, May 11, 2022  

Look up information on heart rate decoupling - it might be a contributing factor. Interested to hear what you think about that and your HR observations.

Kris Gerber,  3:59 PM, May 11, 2022  

I am not sure how accurate your heart rate is using a wrist measurement. I've had success using the 80/20 running (book) training plans and chest heart rate measurement. But I also have had issues going out too hard when racing.

Steve Stenzel 4:22 PM, May 11, 2022  

Anon, there could be some good info there! Thanks!

And yeah Kris, I've questioned the wrist measurement too - when I first saw my heart rate spiking once, I thought it was picking up my footstrikes or something (but then I learned it wasn't as those are 2 very different numbers). It might not be spot on, but it's showing a peak that shouldn't be there!

Anonymous,  6:41 AM, May 23, 2022  

That is the strangest thing I’ve seen! Even though it’s likely not your foot strikes, I’d consider trying a chest strap anyway. They’re more reliable overall… there might be something else that’s happening with the wrist. If you tried something like a Polar you could run HRV logger, which may be able to give you some more detailed and helpful insight. I’d also ask in some advanced running/tri forums to see if anyone has had a similar experience. Last, I wouldn’t rule out checking with a cardiologist. It’s likely overkill, but I don’t know… that’s just odd enough where that might be worth asking the question. Like for example, if that were a cardio stress test for a normal (non-athlete) person, this is exactly what they’d be looking for, just at a much lower speed. Good luck!

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