Saturday, August 6, 2016

Starting From Scratch

This was a good experience. I not only wanted to test a bit of the physical but also the mental today, i.e. the new me.

On the agenda was a MAF Test! I'm not starting to train for anything in particular at all, but I've been wanting to get back to a running/workout routine and with my data-oriented n=1 brain, I feel it's only appropriate to measure my current baseline and then see what I can do with it. This is also something I want to keep very public so people can follow along with me. I've had a couple weeks back at some running, and by this I mean ~3 runs a week of ~3-4 miles with walking to control effort. Last weekend was a "big day" of 7 slow miles. Crosstraining too (bikram yoga, SUP, surf, walking).

I was actually really excited to get the baseline data with where I'm at. When I started true MAF training last time I already had a pretty good fitness base right out of the gates so I had decent MAF results right away (mile pace in the high 7's / low 8's). But now? My endurance conditioning is complete crap, I'm really not exaggerating. I don't remember the last time I felt this out of sport-specific shape. BUT I don't mind whatsoever, in fact that's what makes this so fun. The past is the past. This is now. I'm starting from scratch and get to see how I progress following the MAF Method the way it's supposed to be done. I'm starting from scratch like so many people who take on MAF for the first time and are humbled by what they see. Well, I guess in my case I knew my numbers were going to be a far cry from the old me, and I was fully prepared, excited and ready to face reality....

John was out of town so that made it really easy to have an incredibly mellow and healthy Friday night with the test planned for Saturday morning. Was in bed and asleep by 9:30 p.m. Whenever I feel this awesome I tend to wake up early and am ready to charge, so I was up by 5 a.m. Hung out for a while, did a little work, had ~4 oz cold brew and a Primal Kitchens Dark Chocolate Almond Bar; didn't feel the need/desire to eat any more than that, nor did I want to run fasted. I'm in the first part of my cycle (follicular phase), which is when I tend to feel my best so at least that was working in my favor (if it had been pre-menstruation, no way, I'm junk).

Got the the track and started my warmup at 7:15 a.m. From there, here's what went down:

Test Date08-06-16
Average Pace9:57
Average HR150 (each mile)
Peak HR156
Test Time49:46
Test miles5
Warmup Laps2
WU Time21:38
Average Pace10:47
Average HR137

Actually, better than I expected! Remember: This is the present, not the past.

It was overcast and cooler than it's been lately, but still really humid so I was sweating like a boss by about halfway in. I drank a total of 16 oz water, most of it post-test (wasn't thirsty during and didn't have any during). I weighed pre and post (for test purposes!) and only lost 1 pound, so not even a full 1% loss of body mass. Speaking of weight, I am a teeny bit heavier right now than my past weights and I don't care because I'm very healthy and happy, but I'm sure the little extra weight factors in. I am not looking to lose weight at all for the record.

Interestingly this is about 20 seconds slower than my Boston pace this year, so I guess my fitness is still about the same from then despite having done nothing lately? As Maffetone says, your marathon pace ideally is about 10-20 seconds faster than MAF pace (15 seconds faster on average). So this lines up. With the health things I've overcome & beat this year, shutting down training even before Boston took place, then of course recently "letting loose" and partying, I guess I'm impressed? Who knows, I'm not reading into it. I was thinking this test was going to be easily 10:30-11:00+ miles AND painful due to lack of miles in my legs, neither of which were the case. So that's a win in my book. That's also why I love MAF, even with low mileage coming into this, running 7 miles didn't feel overly aggressive and was super gentle and comfortable.

On that 4th mile being faster: I think it was because I was playing around with technique--I adopted more of a forward lean and it was clicking. By mile 5 though, I think the lack of overall fitness especially muscular strength/endurance was starting to set in, and my body was starting to say, "we're wrapping up for the day." Ha.

The peak HR was high, but anytime it crept to 153-156 I'd catch it right away and appropriately walk/jog until it was 147-150 again--wouldn't take long, just seconds, for it to drop. Overall, it was very easy to control HR at 150 and a higher HR was never sustained; each split was a 150 average. And yes I am 31, but 150 is a nicer number than 149 to follow ;)

The best was afterwards when the track coach stopped me to ask a million questions on what the heck I was doing. He could tell I was in the zone, but really, who runs 7 "slow" miles on the track at a steady rate? (Meanwhile the weekend crew doing crazy sprints and all the tracky workouts.) So I explained, and I think he was impressed. Hehe.

The only issue--next time I need to plan a better playlist going into it instead of jacking around with my phone to find good tunes ;)

Fun times!


  1. Tawnee, I'm so excited to follow along as you start training from scratch again. I'm just starting out with MAF training myself so I am definitely in that "humbling" stage. It's refreshing to hear your grounded perspective going into this, and way to go with those great results!! Funny that you were able to talk with the track coach after your workout - the last time I did this test on a track I felt like all the track folks were giving me weird stares the WHOLE time it made my slow pace feel even slower. Endurance runner's gotta do what an endurance runner's gotta do!

  2. Please dont take this the wrong way. I am afraid this will come across as negative, but I am trying to understand. I would have guessed you would have run this HR at closer to 7:10. I would think a part of you would be really disturbed. Are you a little concerned deep down or are you really like I infer from the blog that you are totally fine? Second question, is it really that necessary to get that out of shape when trying to get our bodies back to balance? I use the SweetBeat HRV system and I am always surprised at how quickly it tells me to get back on it.

    1. Hi there! This is no bullsh*t from me here :)

      Does a 9:50-10:00 MAF pace bother me?! HECK NO! I'm just happy to be out running and feeling good again. Running a 7:10 MAF would certainly not happen for me because I haven't been training this year. Is there secretly some concern deep down? HECK NO! I'm at peace with myself, my life and what I'm able to do every day. Granted, I'm not trying to say I'm perfect. I still get stressed out over things and have tough days but not in regards to my pace or athletic performance - it's just not even worth getting worked up over that anymore. If I was secretly "ashamed" of my pace would I blast it all over my blog and podcast? Probably not. I'm totally fine with the present.

      As for your second Q: For me, it was necessary to let go of my fitness to the extreme I did and "get that out of shape." But I think many of us misunderstand what it means to be in shape or out of shape. "Being in shape" is all relative. Maybe I'm not in great endurance shape and couldn't do a fast half-Ironman right now, but I'd argue that my body is in better shape than ever because it's finally much healthier (on the inside) than it was for years.

      I hope this helps. If you are struggling with body image and self-confidence I'm happy to chat more.

  3. So when you're doing a MAF test, is there specific pace drop off where you'd usually decide to call it quits? I might perform one soon, as I'm getting back into marathon training.

    I'm not really sure what to expect for my MAF pace, but say it's around 8:00/mile for simplicity, should I stop if my pace slips to 8:24 (5% drop off) as a general guideline, or just try to get 3-5 miles in no matter how much I need to slow down ?

    1. No, that's more appropriate to VO2max workouts. For MAF you generally want the test to be 5-7 miles in duration (not including warmup miles) no matter what the drop-off is. You're not doing harm by slowing down but you are able to assess aerobic strength sustained over time the longer you go! Ideally, you want there to be as little drop-off as possible. This is also why ultra folks can do MAF tests up to 9+ miles - because they need to hold an even more steady pace! Meanwhile, if MAF is slow like 15:00+ pace, I'll usually only prescribe a 3-mile test for starters. But for you, i'd be doing a 3mile warmup, 5 mile test, and 1 mile cooldown; you could even bump that to a 7-mile test. Track drop-off in all your tests and ideally it should improve!