ATC 299: Sub-2 Relay, HRV-Guided Training, How To Approach Hills on MAF, Ironman After 50, and Quelling Anxiety Around Those ‘What If’ Thoughts

November 22, 2019


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On this episode of Ask The Coaches with Lucho and Tawnee:

Intro Banter and Announcements

  • Do Our Survey!
    • We need your help! Participate in a survey to help us learn more for a new athlete health & nutrition program and be entered to win a 30-min consult with Tawnee for free! The brief backstory: Tawnee has been collaborating with sports nutritionist and registered dietician, Dina Griffin, on a new project, and we want to learn a little more about you to help us fine-tune things. So if you would be kind enough to take this survey we’d sincerely appreciate it. Be sure to add your email and you’ll be automatically entered to win a free 30min consult with Tawnee!
  • Jon let us know about a cool event:
    • “I thought you might get a kick out of an event that happened this past Sunday in West Michigan. In honor of Eliud Kipchoge’s first ever sub-2 hour marathon, I organized a marathon relay in Holland, MI on Sunday, Oct 27 and recruited 44 other runners to run 210×200 meters to see if we could match or beat Kipchoge’s time. It was a ton of fun and we got it done in 1:49:32 (4:11/mile pace). Runners ranged in age from 8 to 55 years old and ran between 1 and 26 legs. I ran 26 of the 210 legs and I’m feelin it this week! Crazy to imagine maintaining that pace for 26.2 miles solo There’s a more thorough recap and really cool highlight video available at

Research mention:

Training Prescription Guided by Heart Rate Variability Vs. Block Periodization in Well-Trained Cyclists

  • 20 well trained cyclists (15 completed)
  • 2 week baseline
  • 8 week intervention- HRV and BP groups, both maintained volume that was similar in each group
  • HRV trained according to HRV monitoring (weather to do HIIT, low intensity or rest, etc.). IF HRV was low they were not to do HIIT.
  • BP had set training program (as seen in study)
  • Several evaluation interventions with 40min TT, etc.
  • Used HRV4Training app, measured upon waking for 90 seconds.
  • For the HRV-G group, training was prescribed according to their HRV morning values following a decision-making schema (24) (Figure 2). Cyclists only performed 2 consecutive sessions of high-intensity training and did not accumulate more than 2 consecutive days of rest.
  • Results
    • Both improved Vo2max
    • Performance (40 TT) increased in the HRV-G but not in the BP group.
      • Individual changes in 40 TT reported only 1 subject with a decrease in performance for the HRV-G, whereas the BP group presented 3 subjects with less power output in POST (Figure 5). In addition, the mean change was 6 +/- 6%, and it has been suggested that changes lower than 4.4% could be due to normal day-to-day variation (26,27).
    • Peak power output improved in the HRV-G group with no change in the BP group.
    • Both improved power output at ventilatory threshold (WVT1 only in HRV but WVT2 in both groups)
    • qualitative assessment showed likely beneficial effects for the HRV-G, whereas in the BP group, it reported possibly trivial effects.
  • Therefore, it seems that individualizing high-intensity training when the athlete is in optimal cardiac autonomic homeostasis could lead to an improved adaptive response to training.
  • “Importantly, these data show that HRV- guided training prescription presented a more positive response at improving fitness and performance than a block periodization (BP).”

Loren Q. asks:

Hilly MAF Training

Hi! New to your podcast and am absolutely loving it! What a great format and lots of solid info.

I have been doing MAF for about a month and am curious how I should approach long uphill sections in my typical long runs. I have been avoiding those hills because I’m working on building my pace up with as few walking breaks as possible. At some point however I want to get back to the technical and somewhat steeper terrain I typically run and even race on (my long run happens to be on a 50K course that I raced last year). I love the scenery, the trails and the solitude up there, but I also want to improve my pace and stay injury free.

So my question is, how much hiking is too much hiking to do me any good with regards to building my MAF based pace? I suspect that on a 16 mile run that includes about 5,000 feet of elevation gain over very rough terrain that I’ll be hiking for at least 5-6 miles. That seems a ridiculous amount of moving slowly to stay at MAF. I would typically hike 2 to 3 miles max of it during my last training cycle, but my heart rate was 20-30 beats on average higher than my MAF rate would have been.

Should I try to find flatter terrain to do long runs on and only run that trail on race day? How much value is there to training on the actual race course? I wonder, as last year I was the last guy (that finished) to come across the line and I did every long run on the course. It was my first ultra, but I was still significantly slower than I planned, therefore I have adopted the MAF method in hopes of improving my time by an hour or so on this race course in 2020.

Would love to hear what you guys think. Thanks!


– 50 years old. MAF of 130 due to zero injuries. 5’ 10” at 165lbs.

– 10 years steady running experience with a few 5Ks for fun and several half irons as goal races over the years but not recently.

– First MAF test was 10:44/mile and has improved to 10:04/mile in just one month!

What the Coaches say:

  • It’s only been a month, so you can be patient and spend more time at MAF if you want to. You seem to be a good responder!
  • But limited time above MAF now won’t destroy the past month of work you’ve put into MAF training.
  • It’s really important that you noticed how much you value the solitude and scenery. Hiking with intent is a great way to enjoy that.
  • If you’re a really good hiker in a hilly ultra, you’re better off.
  • Being 20 beats over MAF when you’re going uphill isn’t the worst thing. It won’t necessarily cause injury.
  • To prevent injury, don’t push through pain and do high volume when you’re not feeling well.
  • Running significantly slower than your natural pace can cause injury or create soreness.
  • Mental health is more important than physical health in some instances.
  • Consider using HRV as your guide. If your HRV is lower, be strict on sticking to MAF during your run. But if HRV is high, then you can experiment with going above MAF on hills.

Steve K. asks:

Ironman over 50

IM after 50

I recently turned 50.  Feel 40.

Currently could pretty easily Swim an hour, hilly road ride 50, run 10.  Been riding much more. Weight train once a week: variety of stuff. Track once a week, since reading Fast after 50.

Prefer not to do the same thing two days in a row, although I can and do ride that way.  But want to avoid any overuse injury…its why I like tri.

There is an IM August 27 near me.

Wonder where I can get a general training plan and learn about how to periodize for this event. Book? Coach? Training peaks program? 8 month build up is best.

The plans I see look like less training than I would expect.  Maybe I am wrong. Goal is just a respectable finish…before dark.

What the Coaches say:

  • Pick up the Triathlon Training Bible
    • You can’t go wrong with Friel or Daniels
  • A canned program is helpful because it gives you benchmarks to reach in preparation for a race.
  • But, don’t treat the plan like it’s set in stone. Let your body (and HRV) be your guide, when appropriate.
  • Individualization can also be helpful when it comes to building up your weakness. Consider doing a swim, bike, or run focus.
  • Different programs advocate different approaches. Some emphasize strength, others MAF, others tempo/intensity.
    • Based on what the Coaches think you like to do (based on the details in your question), they suggest you stick with a plan that has a lot of diversity. MAF long term might crush your soul.
  • Weight training doesn’t make you faster, but it does prevent tissue/structural breakdown, which is so important for older athletes!

Christina Block asks:

More Qs on Split Long Runs

Hey guys,

Thanks for this very informative show! I was listening while I was on a second long run of the weekend. Well, and that is why I am writing.

I chose to split my long runs, because I was getting mental problems with long runs. I was nearly scared to go off for a 10 mile or longer run (in the middle of the preparation for a 50 mile run)… it was easier for me to split it.

Well, the race went terrible. I had this undefined fear in the middle of the race. It’s a mixture of “it’s too far away”, “what if something happens?”, “what if I just can’t run anymore”, “what if…..” a lot of stupid things.

Well, after off season and recovering it begins again. And all this unsecurenes came back, I am splitting long runs again. So, do you have a suggestion, how I can train this mental side? In the end, I love running, and I really don’t understand myself.

What the Coaches say:

  • It’s worth considering: is anxiety part of your normal life? If you have general anxiety disorder or just the regular traits of anxiety, then group therapy can be very beneficial.
  • In regards to run anxiety, Lucho recommends finding a loop near your house to train on. Let the loop be short, so you can stop at any time and go home easily. Then you can continue adding loops as you feel comfortable.
    • Alternatively, you can do out-and-backs.
  • Avoidance is not the answer. If you don’t face it, then you’ll never know if you can get through it and be ok. Life is a lot better when you confront your fears!
    • Consider changing “fear” to “challenge.” That positive phrasing can help you get excited about tackling the challenge (rather than avoiding the fear).
  • It’s also worth thinking about what caused this anxiety? Is it PTSD related? Maybe you have to work through another issue in order to alleviate your fear while running.
  • Split runs can definitely prepare you for a race, so have faith in that training protocol.

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