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  • Writer's pictureEmily Red

The Running Saga 🏃‍♀️

In the two years prior to starting my Ironman training, my running was pretty much non-existent. Up until May 2018 I did a fair amount of running - this was as a result of my obstacle racing - post May 2018 my running significantly dropped off. This coincided with me joining the Fire Service, and my focus changed from running to CrossFit. I wanted to put my effort into training that would make me strong for my job, so during 2019 I set myself a weekly challenge for the whole year. My Weighted WOD a Week Challenge, I wore my weighted vest in a CrossFit workout once a week for a year. Half way through I repeated the workouts to try to improve my score.

Despite having run many races and ultra distances in the past, a year or two off of running significantly reduced my ability to complete that sort of distance again, without a fair amount of retraining first. Luckily, lockdown was the impetus to get me out running again after so long. Not gonna lie, it sucked. I think I did a 5 km (3 mile) run, which felt great, and then I jumped up to 7 miles. Ouch. That was tough! Learning from my mistake, I started following a training plan which gradually increased my mileage up from 3 miles to 8 miles. During this initial stage I was running at tempo pace when I could, I took it easy when I felt tired and I managed to beat my 10 km PB twice.

When the pools opened again after the first lockdown last summer, I added in swimming to my running and cycling training, and because of this extra workload, I changed tactics with respect to my running. I focussed on zone 2 heart rate training, and didn't allow my heart rate to go above 143 bpm when I ran. This type of training allowed me to increase my training volume, whilst greatly reducing the chance of injury and fatigue. It’s the type of training that elite athletes do, so they can get hours of training done without burning out. Essentially, it focusses on building up cardio or endurance fitness and your VO2 max, (rather than intense anaerobic fitness), which is what Ironman is all about anyway.

The method I was following is called the Maffetone method or MAF (maximum aerobic function). The principle is you find your number by subtracting your age from 180, and that is the number your heart rate must not go above whilst running. It seems odd, and counter productive, and unfortunately it can take up to 6 months before you see any benefits, but if you stick to it, you will get fitter. When you first start it's very challenging to run slowly. Every slight incline makes your heart race, and you need to walk to keep it down, but gradually over the months, you get fitter and better, and your pace will increase. I've managed to get a 5 km PB by solely doing this running. My 143 bpm pace when I started MAF running, was around 12 min miles. Now, I've broken 10 min mile barrier for some laps, but I'm consistently getting 11 min miles throughout my long runs. My goal is to consistently get 10 min miles.

I did MAF for 9 months, but I've recently switched up my training plan, and I'm now following 80/20 Triathlon. What this means is that 80% of my training is done at low heart rate, but 20% of my training is at higher heart rates with interval training. So far, I'm really enjoying the variety of workouts this type of training provides. If I'm gonna be running for a long time, I need to enjoy what I'm doing.

I'm not too worried about the running section of the race at the moment, I feel like, if I can complete the swim and cycle sections within the cut off time, then I know I can go the distance for the marathon, because I've run many marathons before, also, when I'm very tired. Having run two 12 hours events, one 18 hour event and three 24 hour running events in the past, at least I've got this previous experience to draw on.

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