I have read time and time again, that to get better as a long distance endurance athlete you need to run/cycle/swim more slowly.
The idea is that I should be exercising at an intensity that I could hold a conversation with somebody. That my heart rate is up, but not up too much. That I am in “Zone 2”, meaning that my heart rate is in that sweet spot for maximising aerobic capacity.
I usually run my training runs with a heart rate monitor, so keeping track of my heart rate is relatively easy. Using a calculation taken from the Don Fink book “Be Iron Fit’, and having achieved a maximum heart rate whilst running of 191bpm (just after crossing the line at the Great South Run following a sprint finish), I know that I need to keep my heart rate under 162bpm to stay in the magical “aerobic zone”.
Borrowing further from Rich Roll, who mentions in his excellent book “Finding Ultra” the need for him to slow down his training speed to get fitter for the mega endurance events, I have concentrated on keeping my heart rate at around the 140-145 mark. This feels about right to me. I am not out of breath, feel like I can run forever at this pace but am still getting a reasonable workout. At least I think I am. But there is one problem. I am getting slower.
Using good old Strava (click the link to follow me), I can keep an eye on my runs and track if I am getting quicker or not. Almost universally, I seem to be getting slower. Despite now running 5 days a week and concentrating on keeping in Zone 2, I am definitely getting slower.
I keep telling myself that perhaps this is not such a bad thing. Perhaps you have to get slower before you get quicker. After all, I am not trying to break any world records. That being said, it would be nice to at least feel that I am fitter and faster than I was two years ago. I simply must be fitter. There is no way you can do the amount of training I have done over the last two years and not get fitter. I have done an Ironman for God sakes. The problem is, the evidence just does not show this.
In April 2015 I was well over a stone (7kg) heavier than I am now, but I ran the Brighton Marathon in 2015 a full 4 minutes quicker than I ran it just a couple of weeks ago. I am lighter than I was in 2015 and am almost certainly fitter, but I am slower. All of my runs on Strava are tracking slower too.
If anybody out there is reading this and has experienced something similar, please get in touch and let me know. I am especially intrigued to know if you did eventually get faster, or if I am destined to be the slowest fit person in England.
I really hope it is not the latter.