Saturday, June 7, 2014

How (Not) to Train for a Triathlon - Running Edition

That was scary
Running. The one thing I have been doing continually for the better part of two years. You'd figure I would have no trouble training for this part of it. Well, you'd figure wrong though. Sometimes, things happen in a certain order that conspire to make things extremely difficult for you and let me tell you, this is exactly what happened here. 

Heart Rate Training
The concept of heart rate training is not alien to me, yet I have not really been paying attention to what the HR data in my GPS watch has been telling me. Then, I start reading about triathlon and HR training is not only an important part of the whole deal but actually the very foundation of it. It makes sense: you are doing multiple sports over what is sometimes a very extended period of time. Maintaining a stable, relatively low heart rate is the key to the whole thing. At least that's what I have read. Dave Scott, who could be called the  Michael Jordan of Triathlon, is said to have been able to run 6 minute miles in HR zone 1 which for most of us, is the equivalent of a brisk walk.

Now, I'm no Dave Scott but I have been running for a while so I thought that as long as I kept it slow, maintaining zone 1 during the runs in the first phase of the training plan I was following would be no problem. Then, I actually went to do those runs. I adjusted my watch so it would show me both HR and HR zone along with the usual data and almost immediately trouble started. Not 2 minutes into the first run I check the watch: zone 6. Zone 6?! Wait. All the stuff I've read, the charts I have seen go up to zone 5 and here was my HR monitor casually telling me I was in zone 6. 5 minutes later, I was in zone 6.8, then zone 7. 250 beats per minute. Now, I don't know much about heart rates and stuff but that was not normal. 

Health issues is one of the reasons I took up running. High blood pressure in particular was a concern. I'll be honest. Seeing those numbers on the watch scared me. I was also scared that if I went to see a doctor, he would tell me to stop running. At least until we sorted the issue out. 250 bpm was no joke after all. I know how stupid this sounds but runners it seems, are stupid when it comes to these things. So, I spent most of April and May making sure the numbers I saw during that run were no fluke but no matter how slow I ran, no matter what I did, the HR monitor would shoot straight to the sixes. The high sixes at that. I even started to feel ill while running. A tightness in the chest that very conveniently coincided with my fears of what was wrong.

Well, turns out that what was wrong was a faulty heart rate monitor.

I Narrowly Avoid Certain Death
The good thing about keeping stuff you don't use -stuff like, say, heart rate data- is that it can sometimes come in handy. After checking all my logged runs, I noticed that some time after the marathon, all my runs were averaging around 240 bpm. It didn't matter if it was a slow long run or a frantic 5k, the result was the same. Before that, everything was normal. It must have broken at some point after coming back from Florida. Great. Now I need a bike AND a heart rate monitor. I don't know if it's the strap or the actual monitor that broke but it doesn't matter. I don't think they sell them separately.

And that folks, has been my horrendously pathetic introduction to the world of triathlon: A long way to go in the swim, a broken bike (that's not mine), and unfounded heart rate paranoia.

And yet, even though I have been forced to put my triathlon plans on hold and my first foray into training has not been spectacular, I can't wait to give it another go. Triathlon is a challenge that intrigues me and I will overcome. Some regrouping will be in order. In the meantime, I have a sub-3 hour half marathon to worry about.


  1. You scared me for a moment... Glad you're OK bro!

  2. At least you are trying! I am too scared to even attempt a tri!