If you ever want to do something completely frustrating, then try heart rate training.
For quite some time, I have known the merits of heart rate training.
I know how if you do the vast majority of your training in Zone 2, the "fat burning" zone, you will train your body to burn fat as fuel, thus making you more efficient.
I know how beneficial this sort of training can be for endurance sports, especially multi-hour events like ultras and long-course triathlons.
I know how if you are consistent with heart rate training, over time you will become more fit and that your paces within those zones will drop, often significantly.
And I know that it is incredibly hard to overtrain if you stay true to your heart rate zones. Really, it's a no-brainer. For most people, heart rate training is the way to go. Unfortunately, heart rate training is incredibly hard to do and pure torture if you are used to running by "feel".
One of the things on my 2013 To Do List was to stop obsessing about distance and train solely by heart rate. Because of this, I feel like I at least have to give it a solid effort. So, that's what I have been doing since January 1. And I've already learned some valuable lessons.
To begin with, heart rate training really messes with your ability to run with other people. In the past, I have shown up to run with friends and run whatever everyone else was running. Some days the pace was slow. Some days the pace was fast. But most of the time, I would call it conversational.
Now, when I run with others, I have to warn them that my pace will be incredibly slow and that if my heart rate starts climbing, I will have to slow or even walk to get it back into range. Although some people are chill with me screwing with their run like that, I really don't like to do it. It's just easier to run solo, even if that just means running a few blocks behind everyone else.
I have also learned that what I call "conversational" pace when I run by feel, in no way aligns with my Zone 2, although it should (in theory). This fact means one thing - my concept of "conversational" pace is really off. For example, during Christmas break I ran 8 miles with a friend with an average pace of 9:33. I would have said that was an "easy" run. We didn't struggle. We talked the entire time.
Today, I ran pretty much the same 8 mile route and stayed in Zone 2 (for me 138-156 bpm) the entire time. My average pace today was 11:06. And I probably could have run forever, which is kind of the point of running in Zone 2.
Ultimately, I know this is going to pay off. I just need to have patience and the mental fortitude to ignore the urge to pick up the pace. So, from now on, I'll be following the beat ...