5 miles with a heart rate monitor

Just ran my longest run in over a year! 5.2 miles.

Not nearly as quickly as I could have once, but it felt wonderful to slow down and run at a more maintainable pace so that I didn’t feel like cutting the run short a few miles in. I’ve done several 2 mile runs recently, in part because I was pairing them with another activity like yoga or strength training, and the way I felt towards the end of the two miles had me a little worried about ramping up my mileage for the Maine Coast Half Marathon in May.

So… I went for a run on a day when I didn’t do any serious training or yoga, and I slowed WAY down.

The way I got myself to slow down was by using a heart rate monitor and forcing myself to pause or reduce my pace when my heart rate got outside my target zone.

You can see that my heartrate was in the 160s just running 12 minute miles… a clear metric that I’m not in fantastic running shape. (No surprise there.)

What I love about using the heart rate monitor is that I’ll be able to track my improvement based on heart rate. Right now, staying in the high 150s to low 160s produces about a 12 minute mile. In a month, I’m sure that number will change. I look forward to it!

What I don’t love about using the heart rate monitor is that there’s no real consensus on what my target heart rate should be. Active.com calculates it as 102-158 based on my age.

A Runner’s World article suggested that one updated formula would put my target heart rate around 162-169 for tempo workouts and 120-129 for recovery runs. (Looks like my recovery runs would have to be recovery walks if I’m hitting tempo heart rate at 12 minutes per mile. (Remember when I ran that half marathon at 10:01 pace? 13.1 whole miles? I like reminding myself of that when I feel insecure about my running.)

The most accurate way to get your target heart rate is to go to a lab and hook yourself up to an oxygen machine and go all-out on a treadmill with increasing pace and incline.


Until then, I have a rough idea of where my heart rate should be, and targeting around 160 helped me run a full 5.2 miles instead of these 2 and 3 mile runs that were making me nervous about half marathon training.

Now I know to really slow down for my longer runs, and to keep going to Precision Running or doing my .25 mile intervals at a faster speed to help me drop these times down. This is better than my strategy of making every run .25 miles at a challenging pace and trying to get all the way up to 4 miles but quitting around 2 or 3 because it was simply too fast to run extended mileage.

It all goes back to the basics; include a tempo run, an interval run, and a longer run in your week if you’re training for something. I was doing every run like it was an interval workout because I thought I could run my tempo run at the same pace I used to when I was in half marathon shape… and I didn’t mentally connect that my tempo pace was now my interval pace, so my long run pace was now 12 minute miles.

Thanks to a session with the heart rate monitor, I’ve got that sorted out… which means I can get back to running.

Looking forward to reporting back in a month or so and seeing what 162 beats per minute gets me then!

Running Update – Base Building

I’m getting back into running!

It’s not easy.

Running has a tough entry curve. It takes a while to go from not running regularly to being able to run 3 miles without stopping, and the process of working up to that isn’t incredibly pleasant. I think that’s one reason so many non-runners have trouble understanding why people love running. When you first start, there’s not much to love about it. Legs burning, lungs feeling like they’re on fire, and that’s after only a couple minutes if you weren’t in good aerobic shape to start.

So here I am, with a memory of being able to run 13.1 miles at 10-minute pace, struggling to run half a mile at that speed without stopping.

Luckily for me, I have the memory of building up my running, too. I know that with patience and repeated efforts it’ll get easier and easier to breathe and I’ll run further and further comfortably.

I’m tackling the ascent with a run/rest strategy. I’ve been using the treadmill since, well, it’s January in New England. (Props to all of you out on the road.)

It helps me to decide going into the run what my rest intervals will be, to keep me from hitting “pause” too frequently and getting frustrated when the run takes forever. I’ve done .25 mile intervals with 45 seconds of rest, and .5 mile intervals with 60 seconds of rest, and then given myself speed as the variable I can change if needed (but keeping it until 11-minute pace).

Controlling too many variables in this early running stage could lead to failure, and once you’ve failed early in a workout, you’re stuck figuring out a new plan. By giving myself at least one variable that will be flexible, I can modify rather than fail if needed.

There are three variables I choose from going into a run. 

  1. Speed
  2. Distance
  3. Interval length

Sometimes my goal will be 1 and 2, so I’ll go in and do 3 miles at 10-minute pace with as many and as frequent breaks as I need.

Or I’ll pair 2 and 3 and say I’m going to do 3 miles of .5 mile increments and the speed is adjustable.

1 and 3 don’t really go together because then the variable would be the duration of the workout which conflicts with my goal to up my overall mileage and endurance.

At some point in my running I’ll get to the point where I can accurately pinpoint a reasonable goal that involves all three variables; for example I’ll know I should be able to run 3 miles at x pace without stopping and that’ll be my tempo run goal. But as I’m getting back in and building a base, it helps to give myself a built-in option for making the run easier. Giving myself one option means denying myself the other… so by saying I can rest whenever I want, I’m really saying “I’m going to put in 3 total miles at this speed, and that’s not negotiable”.

I do really well when I find my goals challenging but doable.

If you look at my screenshot of my goal progress from Garmin connect, you’ll see that I’m behind on my goal for the year, but I expected that as I work up to running 10 miles a week and then keep adding on for the half marathon training in May.

Hope your winter running is going well, and that you have a strategy you love for building your base back up after a break!


Needham New Year’s 5k Race Recap!

Greg and the boys showed up to surprise me and cheer me on! (I told them to stay home where it was warm, but the kids held signs up from the car while Greg got out and took this photo 🙂

Started out the year with the Needham New Year’s 5k! I ran it in 2013, 2014, and 2015 too and it’s such a great race. It’s put on by the Needham Running Club and they do a wonderful job.

Registration is at the Needham Y, so there are bathrooms and warm areas available to hang out in before the race, and the starting line is close to the building. The race is chip-timed by racewire with free finish-line photos uploaded the same day of the race.

There’s always plenty of street parking available, and they shut some of the roads down for safety. There’s a great police presence at intersections, and there are volunteers all over the place – they have someone at every turn and plenty of people answering questions, handing out water, and registering people same day. (Same day registration: $25. Advance: $20.)

So impressed by the people outside singing in the freezing temps!

They handed out hand-warmers, Needham New Year’s 5k race socks, and reusable water bottles for race swag, customized with your name if you registered by December 5th. I put the hand-warmers in the toebox of my shoes on top of my feet. It was amazing.

Despite freezing cold temperatures, 296 runners participated. It was a relatively flat course through residential areas and one main street with wide breakdown lanes and mostly stopped traffic.

I didn’t stay afterward, lured home by the promise of a hot shower and lunch. But they had free coffee and hot chocolate inside both before and after the race.

The Needham Running club has the most modest membership dues of any running club I’ve seen in the area ($15 per year) just enough to cover their race expenses, USATF fee, cones and orange vests for safety, etc. They have weekly runs on Saturday mornings with mileage options ranging from 4 all the way up to 20, and seem very welcoming of any pace or distance (they even have Couch to 5k info on their site.) Needham area runners should scroll to the bottom of their homepage to see their running routes around Needham for ideas.

This is my fourth time running the Needham New Year’s 5k, and my slowest, but I was impressed that I had a nice, steady run despite spending most of 2017 swimming and taking classes at the Equinox instead of running. I put in very few miles this year. In 2016, when I was also biking a lot and swimming a lot in preparation for Tri For a Cure, my mileage was down but I still completed the Chilly Half Marathon in November. In 2017 I dropped out of Tri For a Cure because of plantar fascia issues, and did very little running.

So I’m thrilled that I’ve resolved to run 500 miles this year, and that I was able to start out with a 5k. It might have been my slowest Needham New Year’s 5k yet, but I got up and braved a “feels like -6 degrees” temperature and ran the whole thing without having to walk.

That’s a win as far as I’m concerned!

Past Needham New Year’s 5k Times:

Needham New Year’s 5k – January 1st, 2018 – 33:20 (10:43 pace)

PR: Needham New Year’s 5k – January 1st, 2015 – 27:49 (8:58 pace)

Needham New Year’s Day 5k- January 1st, 2014 – 28:39 (9:13 pace)

Needham New Years Day 5k – January 2013 – 30:37 (9:51 pace)

I remember running that sub 28 minute 5k in 2015. That was the year I did the Run Less, Run Faster half marathon training plan. It definitely provided results. And so did taking a year off from running. 😉

Happy New Year, and HAPPY RUNNING!

(Or vinyasa-ing, or cycling, or swimming, or tabata-ing, or walking, or hiking, or tennis playing, or aqua-sporting, or whatever helps you happily live an active life!)


Dread This: An Open Letter To Runners From Your Treadmill


This little gem from 2015 seems worth revisiting given the winter weather we’re experiencing in New England!



Dear Runner,

I know what you say about me.  I know you smirk when your twitter “friends” use the #dreadmill hashtag.  I know you’d rather be outside, in all that gorgeous fresh air, “actually going somewhere”.

You’d just love to be out there spraining your ankle on the ice while your eyes burn and your cheeks get frostbitten and cars swerve around you hoping their tires don’t lose traction.  That does sound like more fun than “going nowhere” staring at a black screen.

Why don’t you pay a baby-sitter for that honor, and go in the afternoon for the added adrenaline of hoping rush hour traffic sees your reflective gear in the dark.

Here’s the thing.

It’s not my fault you’re staring at a black screen.  You’re the one who knows how to turn it on.  TURN IT ON.  Or listen to music, or pod-casts, or audio books.  You could be staring at a travel documentary showing you the Caribbean for all I care, it’s not my problem you’re bored.

It’s one degree out, with a wind-chill below zero, and you’re cranky and cooped up and haven’t run in days, and you’re referring to ME as the “dread mill”?  Really?  REALLY?

Me, who has your back right now, who lets you run in warmth and safety less than 100 feet from your children who are cuddled up in cozy harmony watching Curious George?

Me, who helps you keep pace with a revolving belt that doesn’t slow down when you lose focus?

Me, who has a giant pause button and no “elapsed time” feature like Garmin that calls you out for cheating?

Me, who lets you avoid hills with a zero percent incline, or work your calves at more of an angle, all with the push of a button?

Me, who makes sure you can run safely, any time of day, any degree of weather, keeping YOU in enough running shape so that come April you can prance around giddily on your five mile loop past the windy river and the budding trees, conveniently forgetting who kept you in shape all freaking winter so you didn’t have to start over again at ground zero?

I am not the dreadmill.  I am the treadmill, and you ought to tread more lightly when you talk about the piece of machinery that has your back when it’s dark, icy and below zero in the winter, and when it’s 90 degrees and sunny in the summer.  I get you high on exercise endorphins and keep you ready to get outside when the weather’s better.

Until then, put a freaking television show on and stop complaining.

-Your Treadmill




Plant Powered 5k Recap & My Next Half Marathon!

I had a great time at the Plant-Powered 5k on Saturday! It was a fundraiser for Farm Sanctuary, and the vegan social group I’m part of had the largest team and raised the most money.

It was great to be with the group for a good cause, and the Sofritas burritos, Munk packs, and Hippeas snacks at the end didn’t hurt!

I was not exactly prepared. Check out how much I ran all summer!

Ahh. Less than 20 miles in 3 months.

I used to run that in a week. I’m lucky I finished that 5k without walking, even at a cautious pace of 11 minutes per mile!

The more responsible thing would have been to do the 2.5k walk (which is what I’d tell you to do, and probably what I should have done), but I took it slow and it was fun, and it reminded me how much I enjoyed being a stronger runner.

So I gave myself a little incentive to ramp up for this spring.


Maine Coast Half Marathon here I come!

There won’t be a pig cheering me on and the founder of Purple Carrot won’t be there… but there is beer at the end so I think I’ll be motivated to go the distance anyway.

PS – Thanks for the birthday wishes!

I had a wonderful day on Friday, and a wonderful weekend. Time with Greg, time with friends, and *yikes*! We’re now a soccer family.