Okay heart, let’s try stop the beating

A few weeks ago, my personal trainer SuperStacey noticed that every time I ran, my heart rate would skyrocket above 190bpm. It’s never bugged me and I wouldn’t be faint or out of breath when I ran. But it didn’t look right.

Heart rate

This is what my heart rate usually looks like. I start running & it shoots up!

In typical Stacey fashion, she did some research to understand the issues and came up with a mini programme to train my heart. In her words, “…it makes no sense to only strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and core while your heart is what’s letting you down on the runs.” I did also occur to me that with all the running that I was doing, my aerobic fitness was terribly low. Not good.

Running Junkie Francis recognized my new running program on my Strava update as the “Maffetone” method. The what?

*Created by Phil Maffetone, the Maffetone Method is a style of training that focuses exclusively on aerobic running. Using a heart rate formula of 180 – your age (plus several corrections for injury, fitness level, health, etc.) you come up with an “aerobic maximum heart rate.”

In a nutshell, the low heart rate based Maffetone training method is meant to build up my aerobic base and keep my runs in the fat burning zone. Sounds good!

Talk about frustration, but the last couple of runs have been dreadful! Just when I get going, my watch beeps warning me that my heart rate is over the limit into what Garmin calls “Threshold” and a little red heart flashes on the watch face. I’m meant to slow down a bit until the heart turns to green indicating that my heart rate is down to aerobic levels.

Lower heart rate

Forcing myself to stop and bring down the heart rate – so far so good. It’s a big difference.

I run a few meters, hear the beep, slow down and then come to a crawl before I can run again, hear the beep, come to a crawl… a few times I’ve even had to stop to bring it down as it hovers in the 170’s!

This morning’s run felt a bit easier and it is something I’m keen to get right. It’s the patience I’m not so good with!

This is a run in March vs. May. Notice the difference in running zones.

I’ve discovered with running that there’s always something new to learn about my body and to shape my training around a new challenge.

Speed sessions. Strength training. Breathing techniques. Building my core. Leg work. When it comes to running, the training programs are endless.

I must also confess that I’m not the biggest fan of running in winter. This “maffetone phase” of mine suits me because it means I can focus on a few shorter runs, even run at the gym and not have any long distance training runs to focus on during the colder days. I might as well give it a go.

Have you ever tried it? Has it worked?

* Source: https://strengthrunning.com/2015/02/maffetone-method-and-base-training/

Treading lightly

The RAC 10km race is one of my favorite road races on the running calendar. It’s well organized, you can enter on the morning and the best part is the 8am start which means you still get to sleep in and enjoy your Sunday long run (bonus)!

Having taken a break since last year for his stress fracture in his femur, KK decided to run with me. We never run together. He’s too competitive and runs almost double the pace faster than what I can run. Which usually means we fight. And besides, I was worried about his leg. Would he manage 10kms?

But 2kms into the race, my worries turned to my own pain. My foot!

When I had X-rays taken in November last year for my sprained ankle, what surprised me most was finally seeing what had caused months of heel pain. The plantar fasciitis was in actual fact a heel spur!

I had not felt the stabbing hot poker to my heel since I started running again in January but boy did it rear it’s nasty head at this race.

I was disappointed. Was it ever going to go away? Most probably not.

Did it ruin my race? Definitely not!

Watching KK’s body language, the glee written all over his face at the fact that he was running: priceless! We stuck together for the entire distance.

And when he pushed me up that last 500m into the RAC field, I didn’t hate him. I would’ve run another 10kms if he asked me to.

Running through the Jo’burg streets engulfed in the most beautiful autumn colors. Just beautiful!

There are a few more winter races coming up soon and we’re both looking forward to them.

Will we run them together? Judging from his motivation to regain his running strength and fitness, most probably not. As I blog this post, KK keeps moaning about the DOMS from his training. There’s no such thing as baby steps in his life! Dude’s on a mission!

Baby (running) steps

“How was your run?” 

It’s the same question KK asks me every time I return from my run. I’m so busy sync’ing my Garmin to my Strava that I often reply with, “Great!”. But this time, it was different. My run was fantastic and I could not get the smile off my face. Looking at my watch, I was asking, “What? A PB?” I had just run my fastest time on a regular 4km route from home. I was thrilled!

Strava

Strava details comparing my runs on the same route

It’s my last month taking blood thinners since my pulmonary embolism scare in December. Six months of rehabilitation and slowly getting back into running. It’s not the only excuse reason I have scaled back on my running. With KK’s femur stress fracture, we’ve both been living life in the slow lane this year.

But I haven’t been sitting idle…

  • I’ve been training regularly with a personal trainer (and friend) Super Stacey. The focus of my training programme has been on strength exercises, and especially targeting areas such as glutes and hamstrings.
  • I’ve also returned to following a more balanced eating plan *whispers: LCHF/banting*. More veggies, less meat. Cutting out dairy for the first time in my life. What an eye opener! Lots and lots of water. It’s made a huge difference to how I feel. (and yes, I keep promising to update you in a follow up blog on my diet.)
  • Shorter runs. I love heading out for a 4km run before the sun sets in the evening. My route is out, up, down and back in. Mentally, it’s easier to handle after a tough day at work. I keep the longer run for weekends. And when I say longer, I mean no more than 7kms.

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 9.47.16 PMI’m unable to say what has made the difference to my progress specifically, but I’m guessing it’s all of the above. It’s a factor of quality over quantity in my running distances, proper eating, focused strength training all wrapped up in one, and time… in my case, 6 months.

You can’t just run. You need to strengthen and fuel your entire body. And sometimes, you need to stop thinking about half marathons and be pleasantly surprised by the joy and relaxation of a simple 4km run.

In other news, KK is ready to start running again. Baby steps….

Dear Annie

It’s been just over a week since we said goodbye to you. A week of re-adjustments and changing of habits. One bowl of food, not two. One handful of biscuits, not two. I keep looking for you and hearing your bark. Even though you’re gone, you’re still very much in our hearts and minds.

Brussels Griffon. You’re not a common breed of dog and when describing you, I always refer to the movie “As good as it gets” with Verdell. But that’s not how we ended up choosing you.

13 years ago, KK was not a big dog fan. When picking a dog breed, instead of strolling through kennels at the SPCA, he paged through a dog directory narrowing down his choices based on size, hair shedding and outdoor space requirements. The entry for a Brussels Griffon was a match!

You were so much smaller than your little beetle bug! And so stern. That look never changed.

We found a breeder in Durban and within a few months, you arrived. Just like the catalogue had described, you were “full of self-importance, happy, spunky, spirited, and comical.”

From day one, you were an escape artist. You managed to get out of the dining room, up stairs and set the alarm off while we were at work. For a couple who had decided not to have kids, we ended up installing a baby gate in the kitchen to keep you inside during the day with a little dog flap in the back door to come and go as you please.

You loved weekends when we would potter around in the garden and you’d do your best to mess with the leaves and grass.

You were always the first to dash outside an open door to greet guests and run trails along the bottom of the garden, barking at the neighbors dogs behind the wall.

You never knew quite what to do with your chewy and if we looked away for 10 mins, you had buried it in the sand outside.

You exploded with boundless energy and life. I can still remember hearing your laughter as you raced up the stairs and flew onto the bed. Or making sure you snuggled behind us on the couch to watch TV. The breeder warned us that this position meant you were establishing yourself as the “Leader” of the household. True words indeed.

Your favourite position.

There are so many memories of you in my head. The way you walked (pulled) on the lead. How you kick-boxed me when I was dishing up your supper. Watching you stalking and chasing the haadedahs.

Sitting on Oupies lap

Going for walkies with Oumie. You loved this!

In December 2015, our lives changed and a tumour was found on one of your adrenal glands. We were “lucky” that it had been caught early and successfully removed. But you were never quite the same after that. You lost your sparkle.

You hated being on a drip. Sorry Panks.

 

Suddenly old age caught up with you. You had started to go deaf and blind fast. When KK would arrive home from work, you wouldn’t run to the door anymore because you hadn’t heard him come home. If you couldn’t see or hear me in the room, you’d be frantic. You battled to jump on the couch and I started carrying you up and down the stairs in case you slipped and fell down them (which happened often when you ran down ahead of me). You refused to give up.

A little fighter. The ghastly Lenisilone drugs started to take their toll. Mood swings. Bloated belly. Hunger. You weren’t comfortable. A bout of pancreatitis meant a change in diet. Low fat kibbles and tin food. No more grated cheese snacks.

Cuddles…

You held on for another two years before your body gave in. A growth discovered in your belly and on your liver, inflammation of the stomach lining, suspected Cushing’s disease… I’m grateful for the doctors at Fourways Veterinary Hospital for their list of life-saving options but we made the decision to not pursue treatment. 12 years & 9 months is a good age for a dog. We made sure you had an amazing life. We refused to let you spend your last few years in and out of hospital and on medication.

We said our goodbyes on the 30 April. You spent your last day pottering around in the garden, barking at our neighbor’s painter on the roof. For lunch you had a big bowl of cheese and biltong and enjoyed a walk through the complex with your sister. I hugged you at every moment I could and stared at you while you slept in the warm afternoon sun. Emma would tiptoe up to you and sniff your sleeping face. She knew.

When we drove you to the family vet, you were calm. You didn’t struggle. KK and I stayed with you till the very end. We owed you that.

But my heart is broken. KK’s heart is sore and Emma is lost and confused. She misses you so much and you know how much she hates being alone.

But we did the right thing. You were not suffering. You were not in pain. You were uncomfortable but happy.

Sitting with KK on the bed XXX

A lot of people often refer to my dogs as “my children” because KK and I have chosen not to have kids. I always correct them saying, “No, these are dogs. No comparison to actual children.” But when I think of the love and joy that you brought us Annie, I think you were a pretty good substitute. You loved us so much! And we loved you. We called you Panks and I was your mom and KK, Mr non-dog lover, was your biggest fan.

You loved sitting on my lap.

Our first and last dog park trip. You couldn’t understand why the other dogs kept talking to you.

We will miss your smile, your stern face and your joy!

Spatchcock Annie