Changing it up

on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 10:46 PM

Did 15 miles yesterday for a long run. Averaged a little slower than 9 min/miles. Course was sort of hilly. Much hillier than my normal route. I've decided to do a bit of exploring as of late. I was looking at a google earth satellite view of my area and I noticed that there are a lot of little parks in the area. In the past, I've done various loops that end up taking me back to my place so I can refill my water bottle. I wanted to try and find out how many of these parks had water fountains so I set off to search. I've found two parks with them and I'm hoping there are more. My hope is to find a 20 mile route that doesn't overlap, is not an out and back and has enough water fountains along the way to keep me hydrated.

On another note, I bought a new flavour of gatorade powder. I'm a creature of habit and have always used the orange one, but the grocery store didn't have any so I'm trying lemon-lime. I'm a rebel.

First official tempo run tomorrow morning. Gotta get to sleep for the 5am wake-up call.

Stress Test

on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 7:05 AM

Went for a cardiac stress test yesterday.  I also had an echocardiogram done while there.  I have to wait 2 weeks for the official report.  I tried to garner some information from the people doing the tests, but all they said was that everything looked okay. Not sure if that's what the tell everyone so as to not scare you.

My family doctor suggested the stress test after I mentioned the weird symptom that I sometimes see while running.  Here's an example from when I ran a marathon last fall. 

I started the race out fine, but at about the 2mile mark, the HR spiked for 4 miles and then returned to normal. It doesn't happen on every run and I'm not sure if there's anything that triggers it. It's a weird symptom.  I can sometimes sense when it starts since it feels like a skipped heart beat, but other than that I don't really know that it's happening unless I look down at my watch.  As far as I can tell, it impacts my performance only during shorter faster races where VO2Max becomes a limiting factor.  I think that's why I have problems with 5k races.  The harder intensity means that the HR is more likely to spike which causes a worse performance when it does. Anyhow the main objective of a stress test is to stress the heart to try and get it to do something abnormal and then analyse what the abnormal part is.

I had my echocardiogram done first.  This is where they use an ultrasound to take various pictures to get an idea of what the heart looks like and the blood flow through it.  The tech said that everything looked fine, but I'm not sure if she was the one doing the analysing or if a doctor is supposed to look at the pictures and issue a final report.

Then had the fitness test done.  They hook you up to a bunch of electrodes to get an EKG and then put you through a treadmill test at every increasing intensity while monitoring your blood pressure. The doctor asked some general questions about my HR issues and wanted to know a bit about my running. I said that I ran marathons and she then mentioned that she was a runner too and was doing her first marathon this fall in NY.  She then said that we might be here a while since the test builds up only gradually and most people will bail at some point during the test once the effort level increases.

So the test starts at a slow walking pace and flat incline.  Every couple of minutes the pace and incline of the treadmill increases and they measure your blood pressure.  I kinda figured early on that my HR was not going to spike during this test since from experience I know that if i build up the effort gradually enough, the HR will not spike and since this test was doing just that, it probably wouldn't reproduce the conditions that cause it to occur. I think I got a lot farther into the test then most people would because the treadmill started to make some strange noises at the higher speeds and the tech and doctor began to comment on it like it was a weird occurrence. The HR never did spike and the test shut down after what I'm assuming is the maximum effort level that the treadmill can induce. It could also have been that they thought i was working too hard since by the end of the test, i was dripping lots of sweat.  I'm not sure of the speed but by the end, it felt like around 8min/mile.  The incline was somewhat steep though.  My legs were starting to fatigue at the end and I was breathing somewhat hard, but not like interval hard. Afterward, they said my HR peaked at around 180 which for me is a good tempo effort when I know from past experience my max is at around 190.  In total, I think the test lasted a max of 15 minutes.

I'm somewhat disappointed by the test since I don't think the test really "stressed" me. But I can understand the reasoning for the treadmill test.  Most people that come in for stress testing have heart issues and are not involved in exercise and are usually of older age. Most of the people in the waiting room were seniors and the people who were younger seemed to be people who had brought their parents/grandparents to the office.  The test should induce cardiac stress in most people, but just not me on this particular test. 

I have to wait for the official results, but assuming that they don't report anything wrong, I will have to examine some other options as I'm still concerned about the increase in HR.  Another option which I'll have  to talk to my doctor about is a Holter test which is where you are hooked up to a portable EKG unit that you wear for 1 to 2 days.  I was actually hoping that my doctor would initially prescribe this instead of the treadmill stress test .  I think the main purpose of having the stress test done in a doctor's office is that you would have medical personal there in case anything bad happens.  The downside is that you are somewhat limited by the artificial test conditions present whereas if I used a holter device, I'm fairly certain that I could get my HR to spike under conditions of my choosing. 

Anyhow, I'll report on the results when they come in which should be in about 2 weeks.

Getting Faster and Fitter

on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 6:43 PM

Did 14 miles on Sunday at about 8:20 min/mile pace.  This was a recent bump in pace for me.  All my long runs to date including the ones leading up the spring marathons were at about 9 min/miles.  I was way over my target long run heart rate for this run so I'll probably have to return to the slower long runs the next couple of weeks until I can build some mileage and get the HR back down. 

In past training cycles, all I've done is run.  No cross training, no weights, no anything else.  Though I've tried the 100 pushup challenge and the occasional core workout, I never really stuck with anything to the point of seeing change.  I never really saw the need for it since I'd been able to accomplish most of my goals without it.  I feel though that I've hit a bit of a wall in terms of training effect.  Most people can get faster by building some endurance or losing weight.  I think I've already hit that ceiling in terms of weight loss and VO2Max with very little in the way of future room for improvement. I think this training cycle, I will try and do a little more total body fitness. Hopefully this will assist in getting me to a point where I can gun for some PRs without having to add a ton of extra mileage.  Who knows, maybe a 3:10 marathon attempt for the fall is in the cards.

I did 8 miles outside today with some strides and had the HR spike a couple of times which I suppose is good timing since I'm going for my cardiac stress test tomorrow.  I haven't had any issues with HR as of late, but I think that's because I've been running at a lower intensity level. I'm just hoping that I can reproduce the symptom tomorrow. I'd hate to go through the whole exercise of getting tested without being able to reproduce the effect. 

It begins...

on Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 2:21 PM

And so begins the first week of training for an October 17 marathon.  Doing the old reliable Pfitzinger 18 week/55 mile plan that has gotten me through many a marathon.  You should hopefully see a bit more posting, but it just seems that everything that I've wanted to say over the years has already been said.  Having said that I will try and post a bit more.

Week so far has gone okay.  Did 7 miles with 10 strides on Tuesday. Did 9 miles which included 3 miles at around 7:10 min/mile pace and then did 2x800m at about 3:17/800m.  Did 5.4 miles today at a recovery pace and will try and do 14 miles tomorrow for a long run. 

I was planning on doing an after work 5 mile race next week, but have decided against it.  There were a couple of reasons for it.  The G20 meeting is next weekend and everyone is being advised to work from home in the week leading up to it.  Our building isn't in the security perimeter, but everyone is on high alert about protests downtown. I don't have to be told twice to stay home since I generally hate the commute to begin with so I'm staying home.  Second reason is that my LT run this past Thursday just sucked.  I was hoping I would be able to handle 3 miles at 7 min/mile comfortably, but this just wasn't so.  I'm fairly certain I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace for 5 continuous miles.  Maybe if I had another month i could make it so, but I have less than a week.  Lastly, I've finally decided to get a stress test done for my heart which I'm having done next week.  Those of you have been following for a while and can remember my graphs know that on occasion I have had issues with my heart rate spiking while running.  It happens during training and in races, but doesn't happen all the time and I don't really know what causes it or if it's a cause for concern.  This should hopefully shed some light on it.

I've been reading up on it and what I've been able to discern (thank you wikipedia) it's  a treadmill test where they hook you to an EKG and walk/run on a treadmill and they try and detect changes in your heart rhythm as the work load increases.  I'll post more about the experience after it happens. I just hope they don't expect me to run a 5k pace on a treadmill indoors attached to a bunch of wires. I get flustered trying to do runs with my headphones plugged into the treadmill; I can't imagine what it would be like with an umpteen number of wires attached to my chest.