Let me introduce myself. I am 56 years old and passionate about running. I started my running journey 10 years ago with a half marathon and celebrated turning 50 with my first full marathon.
But now I’m tired of beating my head against a brick wall. In my eyes the pinnacle of running success is to complete the Comrades Marathon before the final 12-hour gun (or even just to get into the stadium before then) but four times I have tried and four times I have not made the last cut-off before the end. This year I decided not to put myself through that again but to rather take a step back and formulate a new plan of attack…..
I have tried all the normal training plans, speedwork, hill repeats, tempo runs but have not seen any real improvement. I can crack a sub-5 marathon but several valves are burst in the process – I am trashed for at least a week!
At last, after reading, researching, browsing and a lot of thought, I think I have found the problem – enter Dr Phil Maffetone . If you haven’t heard of him, google! Also google Zone 2 training with a heart rate monitor. He maintains that if you cannot run comfortably while keeping your heart rate in a certain zone (for many people this will be our zone 2) then your aerobic base is poor. And if you have a poor aerobic base then no matter what you do it will be hard to see any improvement, and you will be constantly battling injuries and other assorted niggles. Sounds like me.
So I work out where my zone 2 lies and off I trot with my heart rate monitor on – SHOCK, HORROR! I have a TERRIBLE aerobic base. To keep my heart rate at the required level I actually have to go a full 2 minutes per kilometre slower than what I already thought was slow! And a whole load of walking is involved!
Dr Maffetone maintains that one should not do any training outside of that zone until one has built a decent aerobic base and he has a test, the MAF test, to gauge how one is progressing. Well I will be tweaking his recommendations a little (and also his test) to suit myself but the basis of my new attack is the Maffetone method. I will refer to it as Zone 2 training though because I will be tweaking as I go along and do not want to offend any Maffetone purists!
Also, like any good attack, mine is two-pronged, a pincer attack if you will. For 6 months now I have been eating according to the Prof Noakes plan aka Banting. I have never felt better. I used to have many digestive issues (including “runners trots”) which have all disappeared – how wonderful not to have to down a couple of Imodium before every race and then deal with the subsequent nausea!
So, basically my plan is to run as many kilometres as I can fit in but all in Zone 2, no matter how slow, for the next few months and see how I can improve my aerobic base. Whilst I am cutting out intensive workouts, I do not want to cut down on volume. I will pop in a marathon or two where I can find marathons with generous time limits.
I will continue banting – so far I have managed to run/walk for 3 hours on a creamy coffee with coconut oil and a handful of nuts – no energy dips, no nausea and no pit stops in the bush! I hope to be able to do this for a marathon soon, but that will be for another post!