Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!


They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?

The final races of the EMGP and a new PB

So, I wrote a post a little while back about entering the East Midlands Grand Prix weeknight series of races which took place during the final half term of school (very inconveniently timed with my return to work!)  There are eight races in total.  I wrote about the Silverstone 10k, Blisworth 5m and the Rugby 6m (PB) in my first post about the series.  I’ll jot down some notes about the second half of the series below.

I wish I’d had a chance to blog about the events sooner though, as I always find it hard to go back and write about a race later on, especially if I race several events in quite quick succession.  I’ll do my best to remember as much as I can about each race, but if you want the events summed up in a few bullet points, see below.

* There were eight races, of which I ran six.

* I PBd twice during the series (at 6 miles and 10k).

* I nearly missed the start of every event bar one due to traffic/leaving late/getting lost.

* Once my watch died before the beginning and once I forgot my heart rate monitor.

Those four bullet points pretty much sum up my last six races!  But if you are after a little more detail, then read on…

Corby 5m

What sort of sadistic Race Director starts a 5 mile road race on a steep hill, and then finishes the race on that same hill too?

The Race Director at the Corby 5 race, that’s who!

If a race starts with a steep uphill, you can usually fairly safely assume that you will be finishing on a downhill, in order to get back to the same spot.  However, the Corby 5 runs up a steep uphill at the start, then has a nice, fairly flat/slight downhill couple of miles, before throwing in a couple of hills and ends by running back up that same steep hill that featured at the start of the race before running through into the car park and across to the finish.

I had only run the race once before – in 2012 before I began blogging – but I still remembered those hills!

Nevertheless I planned on giving it my best shot.  There is a nice downhill section into the village in mile 2, and I took advantage of this, knowing that my legs wouldn’t enjoy the steep climb back up to the finish for the final quarter of a mile!

Corby 5m

Towards the end of mile 4 I hit a hill and couldn’t maintain my heart rate, so decided to walk a short portion of the race.  I chatted to another runner as I broke back into a run again.  The other runner hadn’t run the event before so was quizzing me on whether there were any more hills.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that final hill is tough so close to the end!

As always, my club was super supportive and were all there crowded around the finish cheering everybody in.  It’s much easier to produce a finishing kick when you have everybody in front of you screaming your name!

Official time: 48:14
Garmin time: 48:13
Position: 319/360
Gender position: 96/129
Category position: 24/33

More than a minute faster than when I had run it back in 2012.

Banbury 5m

The Banbury 5m event fell the day after I returned to work full time (I had been in for odd days only before the half term holiday).  Oscar had started full time at nursery the day before and, unsure yet of what time I needed to get up each morning to ensure that I was round and ready to leave Oscar in a state suitable for nursery and me fed, showered, and looking presentable with food for the day meant that I was getting up at 4:15am.  Two days in – by the Tuesday evening – I was already absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep.  Oscar gets up once during the night, and I had been going to bed late to try and get my work complete before morning.  It left me without much sleep and within minutes of arriving home from work on Tuesday I announced to Dan that I would not be driving the 55 miles to Banbury (the furthest distance to travel of all the races) and promptly fell asleep on the sofa, where Dan woke me several hours later!

Harborough 5m

This was a new-to-me event, as both times I’ve raced the series in the past I believe it has fallen on parent’s evening.

For some reason Oscar was super tired when I collected him from nursery.  He whinged and whined every time I tried to put him down so that I could get changed or go to the toilet.  Dan arrived home from work at about 6:20pm and I madly dashed around trying to collect everything I needed for the race and get out of the door.

Unhelpfully, as well as leaving late, one of the roads the satnav sent me down to get to the race start was shut and the satnav wasn’t picking up any alternatives, with the diversion signs being no help whatsoever.  I am so reliant on the satnav when it comes to getting anywhere, so I rang Dan and got him to quickly talk me through what alternative route I needed to take.  Luckily, as navigationally-challenged as I am, Dan is the opposite, so he managed to get me to the car park for the race with three minutes to spare.  I dashed out of the car desperate for the toilet, pinning my race number on as I ran over to the mob of green vests I could see by the start.  Somebody called out to welcome me and I screeched back “Where are the loos?!” before rushing in the direction I was pointed towards!  What a welcome Mary!

Quickest wee in the world (only possible because so many people abandoned the line fearing they were going to miss the race) and I managed to make it to the back of the pack just in time to hear the starting shout.

Not so lucky when it came to my watch though.  I had switched it on to find signal as I arrived, only to see this screen…

Harborough 5 Garmin time…it never even made the start line.  :(

The aim for the race had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but now I would have to go entirely on feel alone, something which I still haven’t been able to judge very accurately since returning from pregnancy.

In actual fact, I think the first three miles of the race were run at parkrun PB pace (8:35mm ish).  It resulted in a really bad stitch, meaning I had to break into a walk, and then even slow that walk down for perhaps quarter of a mile!  That fourth mile would definitely have been nothing to shout about so perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t have any Garmin evidence of it!  My last mile was strong though.  There was a fairly long, drawn-out gradual hill in the final section, and playing it sensible, I was able to pass several of the runners who had zoomed past me during my feeling-sorry-for-myself walk.  I haven’t had a stitch in years, and it was so, so very painful!

Both the start and the finish of the race were a lap around the grassy field – always difficult to remain strong when your legs are tired, you go from road to thick, long grass and you have everybody watching, but somehow I managed to overtake three runners during the lap to finish in 47m 32s.

Position: 280/312
Gender position: 84/107
Category position: 16/21

Weedon 10k

The one and only event where I made it with plenty of time to spare!  Although as I stood waiting to go, somebody asked if I needed to collect my number, as I wasn’t wearing it!  Quick jog back to my car to find it required!

I hadn’t been able to find my heart rate monitor anywhere in the mad rush before leaving the house.  I normally hang it over the bed post at the bottom of the bed, and when I arrived home that evening I discovered that it had fallen off and gotten tucked under the bottom of the bed annoyingly.  I threw my old heart rate monitor in to my kit bag in a hopeful attempt to be able to have some sort of data to base my pace on, but it is my old heart rate monitor for a reason, and it refused to pick up on my Garmin at all, so I ended up offloading it to another club runner’s husband at the start instead of running with it and annoying me the whole way round.

It was another hot day and it wasn’t until we were stood on the start line receiving the race briefing that the Race Director told us all there would be no water station on the course, as there had been a few marshaling problems.  It didn’t really affect me, as I wouldn’t take any water on for less than 10 miles anyway, but there were a few restless runners around me despairing and wishing they had brought water with them for the race.

Weedon is a race known for it’s tough hills, with a large hill at both 2 miles and 4.5 miles.

Weedon 10k hillsThe first hill always seems short and sharp, and there are people stood at the top cheering, so it’s hard to slow down too much as you have an audience!  I find the second one tougher mentally though – perhaps because it’s getting towards the end of the race by that point.

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

A few of the runners around me seemed to struggle a lot with the hills, and one guy asked me after the first hill if there were any more hills on the race.  I told him there was another tough one, although I couldn’t remember if it was at mile 4 or mile 4.5 at that point.  Two marshals stood up by the water tower were also asked by a nearby runner if there were any more hills, to which they responded “See the water tower?  That’s the highest point on the course!”  Although the top of the tower might have been fairly high, we didn’t run up there, and there was still a pretty tough hill to come!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

The end of the race is all downhill though, and once you hit the downhill it’s easy running until the last 200 metres, which head up a steep hill towards the finish funnel.

Weedon 10k

Poor form in this downhill shot though…

Weedon 10k 3

…but clearly I perfected my spot-the-race-photographer smile during this race!Weedon 10k

Official time: 61:22
Garmin time: 61:20
Position: 290/324
Gender position: 73/97
Category position: 18/24

My initial plan had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but unable to do that I was then happy on a hilly course, on a hot day to come away with a sub 10mm pace time, which I achieved.  It was also a time more than 3 minutes faster than the previous time I had run the event back in 2014.

Weedon 10k 2014 recap

Milton Keynes 10k

This was a stepping stone ‘target’ race for me.  Milton Keynes 10k was where I had achieved my previous 10k PB (58:27) and where I knew I had the best shot of improving my 10k time this year.  The course is fairly flat (if you don’t count the numerous redways) and is not overly crowded with a fast, flat, open finish.  I knew that I was in with a shot of coming away with a PB if I ran a smart race and didn’t get carried away at the start.

It was back to my usual problem of getting there on time though.

Leaving late, combined with a bad road traffic accident on the way meant that once again I arrived with just minutes to spare(!)  The start line is a short walk from the race HQ, and I arrived with just enough time to nip into an empty loo as I passed and tag along with a group from my club who were then walking over to the start.  One of the runners hoping to get under an hour asked me what time I was aiming for and I admitted that I was hoping to PB, but that my current time was 58 minutes.  I got the impression that they planned on staying with me, and I secretly hoped nobody would try chatting to me during the run – I wanted to focus and run strong!  I started chatting to one of the club’s membership secretaries and all of a sudden everyone started running forwards.  The race had begun, without our knowledge and so we hurriedly pressed buttons on Garmins and leapt into action.

Like several of the races, the start line is on a field, and so a wide path of runners set out, before narrowing as we came out onto the road.

I counted steps and also kept checking the numbers flashing up on my Garmin, trying my hardest to ensure they stayed between 165-170bpm.  I was struggling to run fast enough to bring my heart rate up to 170bpm, so decided to aim for 165, and reassess at the halfway point if needs be.

Mile 1: 8:45 – 146bpm
Mile 2:
8:51 – 168bpm
Mile 3:
9:08 – 167bpm

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

I was still feeling strong.  I passed a few runners from my running club who have finished other races in the series ahead of me.  I knew I was on target for a good race, and really did not want to spoil it.  My head kept trying to work out the sums over and over, but I can never work out timing math when I’m trying to run!  At least it kept my mind busy!

At mile 4 a bus drove past quickly through a deep puddle and soaked me and another lady that was running alongside me.

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

Mile 4: 9:20 – 168bpm
Mile 5:
9:06 – 164bpm
Mile 6:
9:12 – 165bpm

As my watch ticked over to 6 miles, I pulled alongside Margaret and puffed out that I was heading towards a new PB, as way of explaining why I was overtaking a runner from the same club.  She pushed the pace up a notch to challenge me further and I managed to keep with her, pushing past just before hitting the final field and managing to finish six seconds in front of her.

Milton Keynes 10k

Nubbin (0.27m): 8:11mm pace – 170bpm

I was obviously super happy and crossed the finish line beaming!  It was several minutes before the crowd I normally finish with began to trickle over the line.  I had PBd by nearly two minutes!

Official time: 56:40
Garmin time: 56:36
Position: 394/456
Gender position: 96/136
Category position: 28/35

My watch shows that I ran an average of 9:01mm pacing over the whole distance, so the obvious challenge to set myself for MK10k next year in 2018 will be to get the pace down to something starting with an 8:xx!

A great way to finish the series!

MK 10k 2014 recap
MK 10k 2015 recap

Overall standings:

11th senior lady (out of 16) with 105 points.

To score, runners must take part in at least 5 events out of the eight.  You are given scores relating to your age category for each race.  So, the first Senior lady is given one point, the next two points, and so on.  At the end of the series, each runner’s lowest five scores count and the lower your total score, the better.  (The winner of the series actually only scored 5 points, as they won all races they entered within their age category.)

EMGP resultsBecause I ran six events, my highest score (Silverstone) was disregarded when working out my total.

When was the last time you PBd?  Was it by much?
What is your favourite race distance?
Have you ever missed the start of a race before?

No Magic Mile this month

The last two months I have been able to get out to the Magic Mile following the parkrun at Northampton.  It was great to see the improvement I had made between December and January, where I knocked 31 seconds from my mile time.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the Magic Mile this month.  Dan and I were Birmingham-bound for two friends’ birthdays at the weekend and needed to be in Birmingham by 12:30.  I could just about make the slightly-closer Kettering parkrun if I headed straight home to shower and change afterwards, but I definitely would not have had time to head to Northampton and run the Magic Mile, which doesn’t take place until 10am.

Anyway, I was looking forward to running another parkrun without baby in tow.  The last time I ran the parkrun in Kettering I had been almost 39 weeks pregnant and it had been the first event held at that park.  I was curious to see what my body was capable of now, but knew that basically, I only had to beat 33m 15s in order to get a course PB.  Pretty much guaranteed!

It was rather cold when I woke up on Saturday morning.  Although, as always I dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and whacked the heating up full blast for the drive over.  I did worry briefly that perhaps the event would be cancelled due to the ice like it had been last month when I had tried to make it over.  But the barrier into the car park lifted as I arrived and a whole stream of cars followed me in to the grounds.

I briefly chatted to one of the marshals whose daughter also goes to Oscar’s swimming class and then the Race Director stepped up to give us our briefing and count us down for the run…

WAIT!  We have pacers!…”

False start!  He pointed out the two pacers that would be out on the run that morning and then we had a second, more successful count down to the start!

To be honest I went into the parkrun a little too relaxed.  I was cocky and thought I’d be able to easily hit a time somewhere in the region of 27 minutes on Saturday.  Whereas in reality I had felt rather light-headed for most of the Friday morning and I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night either.  Laying in until nearly 8am meant I then hadn’t had time for breakfast, and having stayed out late at a 40th birthday party the night before with just two sandwich triangles for my dinner wasn’t the best of plans.  Within minutes my heart rate was showing as in the 180s.  (I usually try to run a parkrun at 170bpm and it usually takes me about a mile before I come close to hitting that bpm).

Kettering parkrun heart rateThis was whilst running downhill as well, so I knew I needed to pull things back.

When my watch flashed up with 8m 36s as my first mile time split I knew I wasn’t running very well as it felt like I had been running much faster than that.

The course was much more ‘off-road’ than I remembered from having run it back in September.  Back then it was at the end of a hot Summer and I guess now we are mid-Winter and have had a fair amount of drizzle over recent weeks.

Kettering parkrun in the mud

(Image from the Kettering parkrun page)

I really don’t remember all that dirty, muddy track ever being there before.  Should have worn my trail shoes!

The Kettering parkrun course is run over two and a bit laps, and you cross the pontoon bridge twice.  I skidded as I leapt onto it for the first lap and almost went down, deciding at that point that I would be better to take little steps and sacrifice a few seconds of my time, but remain upright!

I was fairly confident that I was on track enough to still course-PB and so, in the interests of keeping my heart rate low I decided to walk up the slight hill after the muddy, grassy bank.  The woman at the top looked at me walking amongst all the runners and told me that I still had to do the distance again yet.  I felt like shouting out “I had a Caesarean 18 weeks ago!” but resisted.

Lap two was just as muddy, just as slippery on the bridge and just as cold.

Me running at Kettering parkrun

(Image from the Kettering parkrun page)

I think this picture captures just how much my legs were not impressed at the decision to wear shorts that morning!

Once you’re on the final bit-lap though, it’s pretty much all downhill to the finish, as my splits indicate…

Mile 1: 8:36
Mile 2: 9:26
Mile 3: 9:56
Nubbin (0.13m): 6:13 pace

A perfect example of rubbish pacing!

Garmin time: 28:49
Official time: 
Gender position: 
Age category position: 

Somehow I still managed to come in the top half of the results table despite my poor run and even came first in my age category(!)

Are you still wearing shorts for workouts at this time of year?
Any courses to mention with a great downhill finish?

Everything I know about running to heartrate

A few people just lately have asked me to explain how I train to heart rate.  Using my heart rate to run by is still something that is fairly new to me and whilst I’ve tried my best to explain the benefits below I am most definitely not an expert, having only been introduced to heart-rate training in November by a fellow runner.  As I have mentioned previously I have noticed large improvements in my running this year and can only share what I have used and what has worked for me.Everything I know about running to heart rateSome of the questions I have been asked are as follows:

Why run to heart rate instead of pace?
The thing that I really like about running to heart rate is that it takes into account if you’re feeling under the weather, didn’t get enough sleep or haven’t eaten enough that day (amongst other things).  You don’t have to worry about your body having a strop when you ask it to run at (for example) 9mm pace.  You run in whichever zone you had intended to run in and your times will reflect your poor nutrition/cold/lack of sleep, etc but know that you are not asking your body to achieve something which it currently is not capable of, leaving you at risk to injury.

For me, running to heart rate has given me a massive confidence boost.  During races where I’ve found it tough and might have thought about giving up or slowing to a walk, a quick glance at my watch and I have known that I can continue to push it at my current amount of effort until the end.  It has also helped me to learn how to pace myself better.  Primarily a long-distance runner, I found it very hard to switch between running long distances such as marathons and ultras to parkruns on a Saturday morning.  Wearing my heart rate monitor has helped me think about the effort level with which I should be setting out at for these shorter races.

Me with a heart rate monitor(Excuse the sweaty post run hair and top!)

How do you work out your resting and maximum heart rates?
I’ve been told the best time to measure your resting heart rate is when you first wake in the morning (although I suggest this might not be the best time if you are woken up in the morning by a shrieking alarm clock!)  You can either use your heart rate monitor and check the readings afterwards or place your finger on your wrist just like you did at primary school to count the beats per minute.
To work out your maximum heart rate lots of people say a rough guide is to work out the following: 217 – (age * 0.85) (Although there are lots of variations on this rule).  Obviously this isn’t strictly accurate, as my body won’t be exactly the same as every other thirty-year-old body out there.  Another way is to go out and run a hard session whilst wearing your heart rate monitor.  Looking afterwards to find the maximum number that you reached.

So how do you work out what your zones are?
If you are signed up to Garmin Connect there is a nifty little feature which works out your zones for you.  If you click on the person tab on the left hand side of the platform, select Settings, then Training Zones and finally select the Running tab, you can then enter both your resting and your maximum heart rates.  Your zones are then automatically worked out for you.  (See image below.)

Setting up heart rate zones in Garmin(Working the zones out by calculator also works just as well if you aren’t on Garmin Connect!)

Zone 1 is super dooper slow.  Only really used for recovery sessions between speed sets.
Zone 2 is for all those runs that are marked as ‘easy’ on a training plan.
Zone 3 is for day to day running.
Zone 4 is for your tempo runs.
Zone 5 is where you should be hitting for some of your faster speedwork.

During the week when I’m running six days I tend to run two easy runs in Zone 2, two club runs in Zone 3, sometimes a parkrun at the top end of Zone 4 and currently a speed session that touches in Zone 5, otherwise another Zone 2 run.  The easy runs in Zone 2 should actually make up most of your training sessions for the week.

What about for races?
I have been using the Runner’s World website to work out heart rates for races.

The guide says that for 5k distance I should be running at 95-97% of my maximum heart rate (for me about 176bpm).
For a 10k you should be at 92-94% of maximum heart rate (172bpm for me).
Half marathon 85-88% (163bpm)
Marathon 80-85% (156bpm)

I have tended to knock a couple of beats off each recommendation just to remain on the safe side and not burn out too soon, although I have been pushing these closer to the readings.  For example, when I first started running Saturday parkruns to heart rate I aimed for 170bpm.  I’m now aiming for closer to 175bpm as I’ve gotten to know my body and it’s capabilities a little better.

I’ve run a couple of more obscure race distances this Summer, and have simply worked out where I should be at accordingly.  The screenshot below was from Blisworth 5, when I achieved a 5 mile PB earlier on this year.  I had been aiming for somewhere between 165-170bpm for the race and my average heart rate was spot on, giving me the confidence to then go on and power past a few runners right up to the finish line, absolutely elated when I stopped my watch.Blisworth 5 heart rateMy previous 5 mile race (where I had not been running to heart rate) had resulted in two walking breaks and a very erratic pace chart!

Running my long runs in Zone 2 feels really slow!
It will do.  Zone 2 is most likely much slower than you are used to running at.  Apparently the majority of runners are running their long runs too quickly and need to learn how to slow these down.  When I trained for my first marathon I was told to run my long runs at one minute per mile slower than I intended on running the marathon on race day at.  Essentially this is the same principle, but by using heart rate it is personalised to your unique individual effort level.  You run long runs slower so that you minimise the amount of wear and tear on your body and help your body to become stronger with less chance of injury.  I really struggled to keep at Zone 2 pace originally and got very frustrated in the beginning before putting faith in the system and letting it help judge my effort level.

Some fab heart rate links… * * *

Have you tried running to heart rate before?
Any heart rate details which you’re not sure about?