Heart Rate Training Update: Adding up the Miles

I'm officially on #BAMNR for my first 50K—and I can't wear to wear this shirt, which will debut in the AMR store soon!
I'm officially a #BAMNR for my first 50K—and I can't wear to wear this shirt, which will debut in the AMR store soon!

Quick update to bring you back up to speed—keeping your heart rate under 140, of course. I—Dimity—am training for the Superior Spring 50K with heart-rate training. I laid out the basics here; did an update on my fitness here, and am now about to give you my next chapter.

My week in Training Peaks. Not only did I go over 40 miles, I climbed 4,000 feet. (Yes, I get to round up!)


There are very few running accomplishments that make me crazy happy, but this one had me grinning for over a day. Two weeks ago, I ran for five days and covered over forty miles.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.08.55 PM
My week in Strava. Much less climbing, but still, the miles represent.


I could've cruised on that crazy happy, but then—whoops!—I did it again. (Call me Britney!) This past week, when we had over a foot of snow in Denver and my kids had not one, but two days off of school. (Let it be noted: The snow days fell the week before spring break. Way to throw salt in that wound, Ma Nature.) Anyway, another week, another 40+ miles.

I am not one to crow over my accomplishments, but I can't help but do it here. Why? Because I never, ever thought I'd run 40 miles in a week. Even when I pictured my ultra training, I pictured lots of my training in the pool and on the bike. I am not sure I have ever run 40 miles in a week—and if I did, it was when I was 25.

So these two 40+ mile weeks? My "after" picture.

My "before" pic? Regularly injured with serious, in-the-boot or out-of-running situations. Unable to run more than three days a week. Scared of training for a half-marathon for fear it would be the final nail in my #motherrunner coffin. A lower back that tightened like a vice whenever I spent an hour on the pavement. A head that loved the post-running feel, but was weary from constantly convincing myself to run harder, keep striving, not wish away the run.

By slowing down and keeping my heart rate under 140 for most of the miles, I have changed everything about my running: my perspective, my goals, my perceived ceiling, my confidence in my body.

To be sure, it's not all Espresso Love GU Cake as I bop along at an easy pace. Off the road, I have been more dedicated than I've ever been. I have been spending some quality time on the BOSU to build up glute and one-legged strength, doing short strength circuits, and foam rolling at least three times a week. Once a week, I do hill repeats, and I also do a weekly set of four 800s. I do not love 800s.

And even the long, slow easy runs can be mentally challenging. To wit: I was supposed to run 3 hours, 50 minutes this past weekend. (All my runs are by time, not miles, which also greatly helps me deemphasize splits and tune into myself.) Long runs should be on trails, but that's not a a possibility 48 hours after a blizzard. The sidewalks weren't even shoveled yet, so I went to Cherry Creek State Park, where the roads were clear and the traffic, minimal.

The loop around Cherry Creek is about 10 miles, and I wasn't sure if I could cover 20 miles in 3:50. So I just decided I'd head out and see how things went; there are multiple options for routes and I figured I'd work it out on the run.

Cherry Creek Running

It all started well: sun shining, calm air. Around five miles in, I encountered a small river on the path that veered off the road and made the circle around the park.


I had a choice: forge through, or turn around? Turning around meant I'd have to run back and forth on the same route about four times. Really not interested. The sides were more sloppy than the middle so I just went for it, getting my feet quite wet. The wind was kicking up, the sun was disappearing behind the clouds, and my feet were soaked.

But hey: my heart rate was low, and my legs felt fresh. And I had run for about 1 hour and five minutes. Just, oh, a mere 2:45 to go.

Another mile or so, and I came across this.

Yes, this is uphill. At the end of it, to the left, I knew the path was clear.
Downhill, but crazy loud traffic. There is a sidewalk underneath, but it felt shaky.


I knew that if I could Shackleton my way through that patch, the path up to the left would be clear.

I went for it--walking through it would keep my heart rate under 140, right? I made it through, and ran about 2 more miles to get to 9.5 miles, and about 1:50 down. Then I had a choice: I could run past my car, and do the exact same loop again— wasn't sure I could mentally tackle that—but I wasn't really interested in the river/Arctic passages again. Then again, I wasn't interested in having to repeat this 3:50 run. I turned around to retrace my steps, figuring I'd get the hardest parts over first.

And as the wind picked up, the clouds covered the sky, the jelly beans I packed weren't the pick-me-up I wanted them to be, the seas parted. Because somewhere in the four out-and-back miles, somebody had plowed!

Another before and after. Hallelujah!
Another before and after. Hallelujah!


That surprise gave me such a boost. It's the little things, right? The final six miles weren't easy—my feet got sopped again in a river deeper than it was on the way out—and I had a few woe-is-me moments, but I pulled out my new secret weapons—Ginger Chews—got over myself and ran for 3:45. I rounded that puppy up to 3:50 for a #BAMNR run—and my second 40-mile week.

Nineteen miles on pavement isn't 31 on trails, and 40-mile weeks don't guarantee I'll have a great race in mid-May, but that doesn't really matter right now. At the risk of sounding like a cultish zealot, I'm running beyond any expectations I've had, and I'm just going to be crazy happy and appreciate it.

If you're interested in getting a new perspective on your running—and giving heart rate-based training a whirl—we are going to have our first-ever heart rate-based challenges in the Train Like a Mother Club. Registration for 20-week plans for fall half- and full marathons will open on April 18, so stay tuned! 

27 responses to “Heart Rate Training Update: Adding up the Miles

  1. Great job, Dimity! I love reading that HRT has allowed you to go farther than you thought possible, and given you a new lease on your running life. Your positivity and results may convince me to try it when the plan rolls out! 🙂
    I love the Mango Ginger Chews- you have to try them! I find them at T.J. Maxx- they are one of those “always in stock” types of items that come in handy.

  2. Not a rave run, but surely a challenging run worth it’s bragging rights in gold! Congrats! You’re awesome, you’re awesome, faster than a possum:)) (GOTR girl cheer)

  3. Congrats on the 40+ week, and powering through the sloppy long run. You’ll be glad you did come May when there will most likely still be wet and muddy parts on that trail.
    I’m super curious about the 140 heart rate because I’ve HR trained several years but have always been advised to keep it below 150. 140 would be a recovery run for me. What or where can you direct me to?

    1. Hi Mindy–140 is basically the Maffetone formula (180-age–I’m 43). Mary-Katherine Fleming, my coach, keeps all her athletes except really young and former elite endurance athletes, under 140, as it’s a solid number for most people that can only benefit them…if a cap of 150 has been working for you, that’s awesome. Here’s a link:

  4. Nice work! What type of HR monitor do you use? I’ve loved my Polar, but lately it hasn’t been working…want to get a new one but not sure which one to get

  5. Oh my goodness, I am so excited for your success Dimity! And this is such music to my ears – I have been trying to incorporate my 1/2 marathon training schedule with the HR training schedule in my book but am not having much success (one schedules by time, the other by miles). I have also been so disheartened because keeping my HR under 130 has me mostly walking around my hilly home streets. Your satisfaction just confirms all the other positive comments I have read concerning the way HR training gives a runner new perspective. I am looking forward to hearing more and signing up for the HR training plan – thanks Dimity!!!

  6. I’ve missed your voice on the podcasts and was so excited to read this piece. Congrats on some great accomplishments! We’re all rooting for you!

  7. Great post Dimity. Love hearing about your training and reading your writing. Super inspirational. Look forward to hearing more about TLAM HRT, So hard to go so slow.

  8. I was wondering how that all went down for you. Did you consume all the fuel you posted a picture of? Great working keeping positive and so good to hear you have a happy body with the larger miles. As my miles went up I have few aches and pains…but I have slowed down overall as well. Some days, like today, it’s just that I can’t go any faster, HA!

  9. HOLY MOLY. That was an amazing post, an amazing run so beautifully captured!!! Dimity, I love your writing, and your inspiration!!!

  10. So awesome Dimity!! I am loving these HRT updates. I just got a Garmin 235 and am trying it myself. So far, it feels great, and I LOVE looking forward to long runs again, slow and steady feels so good. 🙂 Thanks for the great updates, can I can’t wait for the HRT challenge!

  11. Oh! I am excited about the heart rate training TLAM this spring… Will it be similar to how this current one rolled out with race date-based start weeks (waves)? There is an August half I would love to try Heart Rate Training for.

    Also… Go, Dimity, Go!!

  12. Wow! Great way to get your run done. I love reading about marathoners and ultra marathoners, and love that we can see how your journey is progressing, Dimity.

  13. Congratulations on your great run Dimity! I can’t wait to hear about the Heart Rate Training program. Reading about your experience with it has really peaked my interest.

  14. Great job, Dimity!! Oh, I love hearing about your HRT!! I’m thrilled that your first report was really one of the main things that convinced me to stick with MY HRT plan. 10 weeks in and I’m a happy, happy runner too. The fact that the TLAM HRT club opens April 20 is proof this is meant to be for me. My 10k HRT plan ends April 16 and I’ll be ready to start a half plan!!!

  15. What a great report! I am definitely interested in trying out Heart Rate Training. I had a friend give me some of those gingers chews you mentioned and I LOVED them but didn’t know where to find them….Now I do! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

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