On Saturday morning I headed out for a run. Time was tight. I had to be home by 10am so I could eat, shower and be in the car on time to meet an old friend from my university days.
I went out with no expectations of distance. I figured I had time to run 90 minutes so I would run for 45 minutes, turn around and come home again.
Just like last Saturday's run, this run was all about heart rate. This time I was ready. I was ready for the fact that I would have to run slowly and I was ready for the fact that I would have to keep slowing down even when I thought I was already running slowly.
For long runs, my heart rate should ideally be between 149-153 beats per minute. After last week's experience, I figured I'd be happy if I could keep it under 160.
Imagine my surprise when, for the first few kilometres, I actually found my heart rate to be too low. I kept having to pick it up a bit because I would look down and see 145 bpm on my watch.
By the third kilometre I was settled into a zone that seemed to hold steady between 153-157 bpm. It felt easy and yet not painfully slow. I was grateful for the snow-covered roads that helped temper my pace without making me feel like I was crawling along.
Two things happened on the run.
First of all, my body has already adjusted enough to the lower heart rate that I could feel without looking when I creeped up above 160 bpm. My breathing would suddenly become audible when before it was quiet and easy. I'd look down to confirm what I felt and then slow just enough to bring my breathing and my heart rate back to the 158 zone.
The second thing was most impressive...at least in my books.
I ran 6.5k before it was time to turn around. I ran 6.5k back. The light at every intersection turned green just as I got there and there were so few cars that I never needed to slow down and let them pass before I darted across the street.
I ran 13k and never once stopped. Not even for a second. Not to blow my nose or fix my hat or let a car go by.
The most amazing thing about it was that I didn't realize that I had done that until I was telling my friend about my run later that day. I told her that I ran 13k....without stopping. We both looked at each other with our eyes wide. We both realized how big a deal that was.
Usually on runs that go longer than an hour I have to play games with myself in order to finish the run without stopping. My body and my brain fight it out as my body comes up with any number of reasons to convince me to stop. Often it's just stopping at a red light but it's enough to catch my breath and lower my damn heart rate.
On Saturday morning I never once thought about stopping. I never felt the need to. I just ran. Because I never once felt the need to catch my breath and lower my damn heart rate.
It was lovely at the time and, in hindsight, it was pretty amazing.
When I did the math afterwards, I realized that I had run 13k in 90 minutes. There are only 8 more kilometres to bring that to a half marathon. I can run 8k in 50ish minutes while still keeping my heart rate in check. That would give me a half marathon time of 140 minutes which is just about the time it currently takes me to run a half marathon. The difference is that I usually run a half marathon much faster and then crash by about 15k which means that the last 6k are usually a nausea-filled walk run.
This heart rate logic is starting to make sense.
Wouldn't it be lovely if I could run a half marathon at a slower, easy pace, and still finish in the same amount of time?