Free To Run

Run a hilly course.  Heart rate in zones 2-3 on uphills.  Otherwise heart rate in zones 1-2.  Avoid heart rate zones 4-5.  Take it easy on the downhills. 

Those were his (my coach’s) instructions to me this past Sunday.  Ninety minutes on a hilly course.  For the last four-and-a-half months, my Zone 1 heart rate (HR) has been so low, that it’s been difficult to actually keep any kind of ‘running-esque’ pace.  It’s been mostly: run for a few steps, then walk because HR had kicked over into Z2.

During foundation laying, prior to building up to an “A” race, I do A LOT of Z1 runs.  And for the last few months I’ve hated every one of those runs.  I even wrote about it a couple months ago.  However, after threshold testing a couple weeks ago, my zones have changed and I have a TON more wiggle room in Z1.  For example, pre-threshold testing, I averaged between a 13:30 - 14:15/mile in Z1.  Now, I’m sitting at an 11:54 for Z1.  That’s a huge difference that is felt not only in pacing, but in movement continuity. 

This past Sunday’s 90-minute hills extravaganza made me think of the now retired Southwest Airlines tagline: “you are now free to move about the country.”  I was free, there were no (real) limitations.  I knew not to push into Z4 & Z5 which was an easy ask.  I only needed to walk twice (both times for less than 30-seconds to bring my HR down within prescribed limits) hitting Z4 on two of the most steep hills on the route.  It was sweet, just me and a hilly route, opening up my stride and simply running.  This is what it must feel like to be a puppy running through a field in slow motion, ears flapping up and down.  Or like when you finally get around that car driving 15 miles below the speed limit in the passing lane and zip, zip, zoom, there’s open road (free from inconsiderate slow drivers) ahead.  Or as a chick, when you get home from the day and take your false eyelashes AND your bra off, I just heard a ton of y’all sigh and say: “YAAAAASSSSS”  Or as a guy.....ummmmm....yeah...I gots nothing!

It was amazing.  Still have a ways to go and a heart to pound into further submission, but this little taste of freedom, makes me want to work harder to become a more efficient runner.  It’ll come with time.  Until then, I’ll roam about the DFdub minding my thresholds.