Weekly Recap: Turkey Trot, MAF Test #5-ish & Holy Hills!

That title is quite a mouthful, eh?  Or maybe I should say it’s an eyeful.  In keeping with the random theme from my last post, this past week’s running has also been quite out of the ordinary.  On Tuesday, I had another “I’d rather sleep in but I know I should go run, so let’s compromise and do a little of each” run — 3.1 miles at 10:44/mileThursday was Thanksgiving, and like hundreds of thousands of runners across America, I yearned to do a Turkey Trot before stuffing my face later that day.  However, I was too lazy and too cheap to register for an actual race.  Instead, I convinced JT to join me for a leisurely (read: chatty) 2 laps around Lake Merritt.  It seemed like lots of other people had the same idea, as the pedestrian traffic was very heavy.  In all, we ran 6.3 miles at 11:01/mile.  I was thankful for good health and good running buddies like JT!

I was scheduled for MAF Test #5 on Saturday, but the weather forecast called for heavy rain, so I decided to do the test on Friday instead.  I knew the results might be iffy, given that I ate a ton of food on Thursday.  More importantly, I didn’t take a rest day before the test, which is what I’ve done for all previous iterations.  However, my gut feeling was that I had plateaued and that the test wasn’t going to give me that much new information anyway.  So I figured, what the hell? Let’s go for it.

It was very cool, about 50 degrees at the start.  I noticed it was a bit windy during my 2 mile warm-up, but I hoped that it wouldn’t interfere with the test.  The first 2 (out of 4) test miles went smoothly, with splits of 10:12 and 10:16.  These were about 5 seconds/mile faster than Test #4.  Then, I turned around at my usual spot near San Leandro Marina and BAM.  I was hit with a merciless headwind.  At first my pace didn’t falter much; I was running 10:19/mile, but then my heart rate (HR) started creeping up steadily.  Dangit.  I slowed down to accommodate my max HR of 138, which led to a 3rd mile split of 10:50.  Ugh.  I decided to finish out the test, but not worry so much about the time given the headwind.  My last MAF mile clocked in at 10:36.  I cooled down for about 0.5 miles for a total of 6.5 miles at 11:05/mile.  Yes, I was bummed about the headwind, but as I mentioned, I was pretty sure that I had already plateaued with the MAF training.  It’s not surprising, given that I’ve been at it for 16 weeks now.  I’m excited to start introducing some half marathon-specific speedwork in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my HRM, but I won’t be following MAF training so religiously.

Before I move on, here’s a quick summary of my thoughts on my MAF Experiment and also what I’ve learned:

  • Like everyone says, MAF training (aka low HR training, aerobic training) takes patience and humility.  I’m surprised I stuck with it for so long.  Which leads me to the next point…
  • MAF training is great for when you’re coming back from injury.  It’s a non-plan plan, if that makes sense.  The overall goal is to get fitter, and there are benchmarks, but it’s not in speed workouts or in races.  The goal is to seek day-to-day, week-to-week improvements.  It kept me motivated to get out and run 3-5 hours each week.
  • I feel like my form has gotten better — I became more mindful of my movements when I started running at a slower pace.  I feel like I move with more purpose now, but then again, it could all be in my head.
  • It’s a lot easier to run alone than with a group while MAF training.  I was never able to keep my HR below 138 during group runs.
  • Adding to the monotony of MAF training is running the same routes repeatedly, so as to have fair comparisons between runs.  This got a bit tiresome, as you might imagine.
  • This may sound totally obvious, but I could lower my HR by a couple of beats per minute simply by relaxing.  I’d take a deep breath, make sure my shoulders and upper body were relaxed, and focus on calm thoughts or images.
  • A lesson I keep learning over and over again is that a slow warm-up is extremely beneficial.  During MAF training, I found that the longer my warm-up, the more stable my HR was throughout the run.  On the flipside, whenever I started off too fast, I had a harder time keeping my HR from spiking, despite slowing down tremendously.  This has significant implications to long distance racing, as I should remember to start slowly and build up to race pace gradually.
  • Data-wise, my MAF Test paces fell from 11:41/mile (MAF Test #1) to 10:20/mile (MAF Test #4).  That’s a significant improvement over 12 weeks.  I also noticed less cardiac drift, to the point that my cool-down was normally only 10 seconds/mile slower than my MAF miles.

In conclusion, I’m glad I experimented with MAF training.  I’m not sure how often I’ll abide by its rules in the future, but it’s definitely a good way to base train and I’ll certainly keep incorporating some of its elements in my training.

And last but not least, I ran today (Sunday) at Lake Chabot.  I went out to tackle the hellish hill that is Live Oak-Towhee trail — about 600′ elevation gain over 1.2 miles — in preparation for the hilly Summit Rock Half Marathon in 2 weeks.  The Lake was gorgeous after the rain, though the trail was as torturous as I had remembered.  I ended up running 6.3 miles at 13:17/mile (elevation gain: 715′).  Altogether, I ran 22.2 miles this week.  My goal for this upcoming week is to run 4 times, with one long run on the trails.

The hills pay the bills...and for the views!  Gorgeous day at Lake Chabot.

The hills pay the bills…and for the views! Gorgeous day at Lake Chabot.

Oh, one piece of exciting news, hot off the presses: KT, JP, Cathryn, and I are signed up for the Oakland Marathon Relay!  Our team name is (appropriately) the Crazy Cat Ladies.  I’m quite excited about this, though I’m curious: who will draw the short straw and have to run the 3rd leg of the race?

Speaking of races, it might be too late by the time you read this, but don’t forget that prices for the Foster City 10-miler and 5K go up tonight at midnight!  Use code JENLEE to save $10 off the 10-miler and $5 off the 5K.  I’m running it, and I know of at least 2 others that are signed up.  Join us, wontcha?


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in MAF training
10 comments on “Weekly Recap: Turkey Trot, MAF Test #5-ish & Holy Hills!
  1. Cathryn says:

    It’s funny how excited you get about speed work after so long running slowly 🙂 I think you’ve been amazing, sticking at MAF for so long. The starting-slow thing is interesting, and a good reminder as I always start too fast!

    Talking of good reminders, I just realized I’ve not run hills for AGES, it’s super-flat here. So next weekend could be…tough 🙂

    • Jen says:

      Next weekend will definitely be interesting! I think we’re all less fit than we were earlier this year, except for KP. She’s going to crush us!

  2. Mike says:

    MAF training does sound well-suited (and perhaps best-suited) for runners coming back from injury, since most of us probably wouldn’t have the patience to stick with it as diligently as you have. Very glad to hear you’re running healthy again, and just in time for one last test in 2014. Looking forward to your Summit Rock recap… that’s one of the few Brazen trail races (along with Trailquake) I’ve not yet run, and I’m curious to know more. But no doubt it will be well worth the struggle!

    • Jen says:

      My friend Jane said that Summit Rock is her favorite Brazen race, so I’m excited about it. I think she ran the 10K though, which, as you know, is significantly less painful than a hilly half marathon. So it’s definitely going to be interesting, especially with the recent rain.

  3. alicias2013 says:

    I’m glad you had so much improvement with MAF! Your patience is incredible! I did not last so long, but most of my frustration came from my HR Monitor, which I believe was very unreliable. Enjoy training for your relay!

  4. Good Job sticking with the base building phase of MAF. I’m trying to go for a longer base period. Here is a chart you might be interested in, using your first mile of your MAF test as a predictor for race times.


    Also, look up Larisa Dannis. She has had great success using the maffetone method. Good luck on your Half Marathon!!!

  5. Jan says:

    I’d say you definitely learned a lot about your body through the MAF training. I would love to try it some time…I just run w/ others so much I think it would be hard, as you said. I’ll be interested to see how you feel about your training now that MAF is over…you think some of the new habits will stick? Some sound really beneficial especially things like lowering it a few beats by relaxing!

    • Jen says:

      Good question, Jan. I think I’ll continue to monitor my easy runs to make sure they’re truly easy. I think it will also be interesting to see HR trends as another form of feedback. For example, this past Thursday, I felt really tired, but my HR was fine/low, so I concluded that my heavy legs were the culprit, not my general health (like not getting enough sleep) or overtraining.

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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