Here's my problem. My pace is consistently slower during a race than during training runs for the same HR. For example during recent marathon training I ran marathon race pace tempo runs (up to 12 miles) at 165-170 HR (my max is 196), but come race day I ran a good 20+ seconds slower for the same HR. I had followed a proper taper and was well rested so I don't believe that is at play here. Plus this has been consistent during each of my Fall races. Does anyone have experience with training versus race day heart rate tendencies? Any advice? Thanks!
I have had experience with this myself, I can run 10 min miles till the cows come home in training... often 9:30's for my long runs...but come race day for a marathoner I am definitely slower. It is a bit of a stumper, I'd think with your tempo runs (time, distance and hr) you'd be ok, but perhaps it is simply the sheer distance of the race, or some other factor. Here are my thoughts right off the bat- How far are your long runs (i.e. have you gone past 20 miles)? Have you tried Yasso 800's?
Any other marathoner with more experience than me may shed some additional light.
When you say "come race day", I assume you mean marathons. Was your training run pace consistent for the entire distance? At what point in the race did you have to slow down? If you start the race a little too fast you may have to slow considerably to bring HR down when it starts to climb. How did terrain compare between training and race? How did weather compare (taking into account any difference in dress)? How about hydration, later in the race in particular? You may be hydrating more frequently and/or consistently on your training runs. HR can be a deceptive measure in some ways because it can vary depending on other factors.
I've done the Yasso 800's the last two years and my long runs are 20+. I don't think distance is the issue as my HR reaches an elevated state in the 1st third of the race and much earlier than during training runs. The only thing I can come up with is race day adrenaline, but I would think the adrenaline of the race experience would cause me to run faster not slower. Glad to know I'm not the only one to experience this!
During the Fall I ran 10k to half-marathon races (progressive 1/month leading up to marathon) and with each race I experienced a similar HR issue. It was cold the morning of the marathon (30's, 20' wind chill), but during the half marathon I ran it was fairly warm (50's). My heart rate elevates in the first few miles so distance doesn't seem to be the issue. During tempo runs, running a consistent pace, my HR would start in the 150's and take 8-10 miles before reaching 170, but during races my HR peaks to my target HR in the first few miles. During the half-marathon I tried to push through and see how long I could hold it and bombed. So knowing better I ran my target HR for the marathon and let the pace fall out. The strategy worked as I did PR the marathon, but I'm just perplexed that my training is not showing up on race day. Thanks for the help!
The same thing happens to me. I've finally given up on going by my heart rate and just go on perceived exertion. One race I was practically walking in my attempt to keep my HR at my training level. I finally just gave up at mile 13 and ran at a pace that felt "right". I ended up with negative splits. My theory is that my adrenalin is pumping so much that I wake up on race day morning with a faster heart rate. Don't know if that's the answer for you but you might want to check your resting HR the morning of the race and just see where it's at compared to a normal training run morning.
Plan your run and then run your plan.
The only other thing that makes sense to me is your pace early in the race. If you're running harder early, your heart rate may elevate too soon. I have found (for me) that once it is up, it's almost impossible to keep it down, without slowing noticably. Similar to Bellsway, this is one reason I stopped running by heart rate. You might look at the book Precision Heart Rate Training, by Edmund R. Burke. In the first few chapters, he talks about a number of factors that can contribute to heart rate rising during a workout.
I saw this on nytimes.com recently: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/health/nutrition/10best.html. It seems to support the argument that heart rate isn't the best indicator of performance.
Here's an excerpt from the article (and read the whole thing too -- it's interesting!):
One recent study, by the late Thomas Reilly and his colleagues at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in England, found that people’s maximum heart rates and sub-maximal heart rates were lower in the morning but that their perception of how hard they were working was the same in the morning as it was later in the day. Dr. Reilly and his colleague Jim Waterhouse, in a review published this year, also noted that athletes’ best performances, including world records, were typically set in the late afternoon or early evening.
Greg Atkinson, also at Liverpool John Moores University, said that some researchers, noticing that heart rates during exercise were lower in the morning, reasoned ..... that people must be more efficient in the morning. It would mean that exercise was easier in the morning. .... Not really, Dr. Atkinson said. It actually is harder to exercise in the morning.
“Most components (strength, power, speed) of athletic performance are worst in the early hours of the morning,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “Ratings of perceived exertion during exercise have generally been found to be highest in the early morning.”
Marathons are almost invariably run in the early morning, right? So the article doesn't explain your high heart rate but it could be one factor (among many) that helps explain why some people feel slower in a race than they did in training. I'm not a marathoner, but at my favorite distance (10k) I can 100% vouch for what Len said about going out too hard. I learned that when I do that, I'm sunk, even if I calm myself down later. I never seem to recover from the early (over)excitement. Instead I've done much better by starting almost embarrassingly slow and let everyone pass me. I have to assume my HR stays much lower for the first part of the race when I do that.
I read of a study (which I can't find right away, naturally -- I'll keep looking) that found runners' heart rates were slightly higher at the same pace on race day than in training. This held true even if the paces were run in time-trials v. actual races.
They sounded a note of caution to runners who train by heart-rate-to-pace correlation: allow for a perhaps 5bpm elevation in heart-rate at a given pace come race day compared to training. (That's from memory; hopefully, I'll find the article and will post a link.)
EDIT: this isn't the one I read, but it's on point:
Racing with a heart rate monitor
The benefits of racing with a HR monitor have yet to be unequivocally demonstrated (O'Toole et al., Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 38: 181-7, 1998). Of course, paying attention to your HR can help you maintain a steady effort during races with wildly varying terrain or no mile markers. However, several pieces of data suggest that setting a target HR or HR range for a race is no easy task. First of all, a given speed may elicit a higher HR in a racing context than it does in training (Lambert et al., Journal of Sports Sciences 16: S85-90, 1998). In addition, if you settle into a constant pace during a long (>30-minute) race (or workout), your heart rate will gradually rise, a phenomenon known as cardiovascular drift. This occurs even when fluids are consumed during the race to prevent dehydration (Coyle, International Journal of Sports Medicine 19: S121-4, 1998). Conversely, if you keep your HR constant during a long race, your pace will decline (Boulay et al., Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 29: 125-32, 1997). Thus it is difficult to say exactly how pace and HR should be adjusted during races so as to achieve optimal performances. In any case, one should keep the above findings in mind when racing with a HR monitor.