After running the Afton 50K last week, I wondered if I could ever run its snowshoe loop fast; I've always had problems there. Saturday, finding my usual path at Lake Walkathon was once again inundated with people, I decided to head back to Afton and try to run that section of the course and do it hard. Thinking ahead to next year, the men's master division winner usually averages 7.5 minutes per mile on the course and Matt Haugen's master's record is about 7 minutes per: could I run that section that fast?
I started off hard enough, startling two turkeys enough that I ran between them before they could fly off. The single-track section that kills me is only 1.5 miles long and I've never done it without having run for hours beforehand. I checked my Garmin - I was only at 8.5 minutes per mile. I hit the trail as hard as I could, skittering around turns, leaping over logs, climbing hills as if chased by a bear and managed to keep my balance throughout. I charged up the last hill back onto the prairie, going as hard as I could, until I was involuntarily stopped, gasping for breath.
I averaged 8.5 minutes per mile. That's not going to cut it. Being a week after a race is no excuse. Being 15-20 pounds over what I race at best may account for much of it, but 8.5... sucks.
On the sweet side, however, my heart rate on that last hill hit 184. That's a new maximum. I was last tested on a treadmill years ago and hit 177. Every six months, I push myself and seem to gain another beat per minute. It's supposed to be impossible to increase maximal heart rate, but I seem to do it. And, if one goes by 220 minus one's age, I'm now only 36 years old.
There's only so much one can do to improve. My heart rate maximum is now in the highest range for men my age. My resting heart rate is down to 30, so my stroke volume is as high as anyone's. Training has influenced the efficiency of oxygen uptake in the lungs, transport in the blood and off-loading in the muscles about as much as it can (barring altitude training). There's only one more way to increase maximal oxygen uptake and that's to lose weight.
Weight is less of a concern this year, as I'm running ultras exclusively and there're plenty of soft bodies out there on the long trails. Next year, however, it looks like dieting is going to be as important as training. Saturday, after the hard run, I picked raspberries along the course for two hours. If I'd seen the turkeys again, I'd've eaten them, too.
Note for physiology geeks: Training is supposed to lower one's maximal heart rate. See Whyte, G.P., et. al. Int. J. Sports Med. 2008 Feb 29 (2): 129-133.
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