Race Behind Bars: Race Report

Ah, life at the back of the pack. Or in this case, the Beginner category for mountain bike racing. I’d like to upgrade to Sport, but a fourth out of ten in my age group puts me right in the middle of the pack. So I’ll stay for now. After endless Maffetone style aerobic workouts and only one race, it felt good to get out and go hard. The race was billed as the Race Behind Bars because part of the course ran on Folsom State Prison grounds. I expected something dramatic, like prison walls, or at least an armed guard or two. Nothing. I never saw anything connected to the prison. What I got was a fun course that had some challenges in it. No real big climbs, but enough rollers to disrupt your rhythm. There were some tricky sections of tight, twisty singletrack that forced you to pay attention. And one set of 4’x4′ stairs with a steep ride around that I’m proud to say I powered up and cleaned on both laps. Oh yeah, there were two laps. Pay attention! I was used to beginner courses doing only one lap, until I rode through the start/finish and was reminded by the racer behind me. Oops. Back out on the course. But the second time I got to see some scenery as we rode right above the river. Never saw it on the first lap. Fun race, I’ll be back at the end of the month for the last in the series and see if I can turn in faster lap times.


I thought I would be going faster considering my aerobic progress this spring. But when I cranked up to 175 bpm for race intensity, my average speed wasn’t that great. It makes me want to reconsider Maffetone style aerobic training. I feel I need to add some intensity, but I don’t want to hurt my aerobic development, especially since this year’s main goals are long distance events. Decisions, decisions… Another thing odd was the crazy adrenalin, endorphin high I felt afterwards. It was fun, but I really had a hard time winding down afterwards. I need to find some kind of post race routine to calm down and relax. I felt like my anaerobic engine was still cranking, even after grocery shopping and a cold micro-brew at Whole Foods. Hmm… meditation? Visualization? Some kind of biofeedback or brain wave synchronicity? For these shorter races I need something. I will have to pick a method and try it at the next race… which is-

The Chick Chaser!

My triathlon club is hosting the Chick Chaser 5K. Girls get a 3 min. head start and then the boys get to go. Should be fun.


About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete

Posted on May 7, 2012, in Race Report and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. vegpedlr,

    It’s interesting to read about your experience with a heart rate monitor based training program. I like the theory of heart rate based training. Make sure you don’t over train or under train and what better way to do that than to focus on ones heart rate.

    My problem when putting into practice might have been not so much the concept of using heart rate zones, but the application of that concept.

    Maybe my heart rate zones were just too low. If my heart rate zones had been “bumped up” by about 10 beats per minute across the board, I think the program I was provided by QT2 would have been effective.

    QT2 is a Boston based online coaching organization. My relatives, for a Christmas present, purchased me a coach and training plan with them to train for my half marathon.

    (I am sort of repeating what I wrote over at the McDougall forum in response to your comment.)

    Their recover heart rate zone was so low I had to run 12:43 min/mile pace to stay in the zone and they assigned me 2 to 3 recovery runs each week, in addition to rest days. I just figured the training program wasn’t challenging enough. But then I trained myself too hard and didn’t perform as well as I could have.

    On the other hand, my uncle, who with my aunt purchased me this coach and training plan with QT2, has been putting down personal records, presumably because he has been training according to QT2’s philosophy. He recently ran a half marathon in 1 hour and 38 minutes and he’s 51 years old. This was a 6 minute improvement over his previous half marathon.

    I asked my uncle, how many miles per week he ran. He said about 20 to 25 in the peak week and all of his runs were in Z1 (which means heart rate zone 1, an aerobic heart rate zone, which is on the low side). Being a tri-athalete, he does a lot of swimming and biking.

    Now, call me crazy, but how does someone get real fast by running 20 to 25 miles per week at relatively undemanding paces? If that were the secret to getting faster at the half marathon, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

    I agree that you have to at least do some faster pace runs and/or speedwork to get faster. Just don’t over do it like I did.

  2. I have had some confusion regarding heart rate zones too. I was given an online coach and a training plan from QT2, a Boston-based coaching outfit. They assigned me heart rate zones that were so low, I had to run a 12:43 minute/mile pace to stay in the zone. This was a recovery zone. But I was assigned 2-3 recovery runs a week.

    This was slower than just a relaxed pace. Even when I was totally exhausted trying to finish a half marathon, I ran faster than 12:43 min/mile pace. So, I lost confidence in their coaching abilities.

    However, the uncle and aunt who purchased this coaching plan for me as a gift, they swear it has made them faster. My uncle, who is 51, recently ran a half marathon in 1 hour and 38 minutes. He’s a tri-athlete. So, he does a lot of swimming and biking in addition to running. He says he doesn’t do high mileage in terms of running and he runs in low heart rate zones, which would presumably mean slow paces.

    But I agree with where you were going in your post: Don’t you have to run fast to become a faster runner? Am I missing something?

    I mean, if you always run in low heart rate zones and then you find yourself in a race in which you will be cranking up the heart rate to go faster, how will you be able to deal with that intensity, if the body has not become accustomed to that intensity?

    • Agreed, it can be frustrating to run at a much slower pace than accustomed. I race primarily off-road, so pace doesn’t mean much because terrain dictates it. But intensity remains the same. My racing heart rate is about 175 bpm, but I train with a 145 max. That’s slow. The reasoning is that in any endurance event, most of your energy is being produced aerobically, so it makes sense to prioritize it. That’s what the Maffetone Method entails. Maffetone defines aerobic and anaerobic differently than most, and it took me awhile to wrap my head around it by experiencing it. Faster paces at lower intensities seem to translate into faster race times. But you have to be disciplined, and that’s where the heart monitor comes in. I walk lots of hills! If you’re interested, I highly recommend reading more of Dr. Phil Maffetone’s work, especially Endurance Training and Racing. There are links and more discussion elsewhere on my blog. Since you’re coming from the McDougall forum, I’ll tell you to ignore his nutrition advice, he falls in the “eat protein and healthy fats” camp. He even writes about something he calls carbohydrate intolerance. But his training advice seems solid. I was skeptical at first, but I have experienced more success with this approach than anything else I have tried.

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