My Maffetone Experiment - Part 2: The Results

In my last post I talked about my training using the Maffetone Method.  This past week was a recovery week where I did some testing so I thought I'd share those numbers as well as some thoughts on training by heart rate.

On Wednesday I did my last MAF ride and held 257 watts.  My first ride was 224 watts, and my best MAF ride was 2 hours at 264 watts, so I gained about 33-40 watts on my MAF power over 12 weeks.

Thursday was my last MAF run and I held a 7:12 pace.  My first MAF run was an 8:12 pace so I gained about a minute.

I had a pretty good idea what to expect with those workouts.  It was my FTP test that I was really curious about.  I did a test prior to my MAF training and my FTP was 280 watts.  I've never done a 3 month block of training without any threshold work so I had a tough time gauging where my threshold might be.

FTP Test

 I managed 295 watts for 60 minutes.  Physically I think I was strong, but mentally I was weak.  I was struggling already about 12 minutes in and was considering pulling the plug because I didn't think I'd make it the full 60 minutes.  I broke it down mentally into 6 minute chunks (10%) and just focused on getting to the next mark.  I was able to pick it up at the end so I think there was more physically but mentally this was brutal (central governor?).

One thing I found interesting is that my average HR was 156. Normally when I do a full hour at threshold my HR is between 165 and 168.  I don't know if this means I could have gone harder of if my threshold HR has changed. 

So my FTP went up 15 watts, but this isn't new territory for me.  My peak 60' power is 307 and it's pretty typical for my FTP to hover around 290-300. So the big change was that my MAF power went from 80% of FTP to 87%.  Probably not a bad thing for a triathlete focusing on long course.

One thing to remember about training is that the training you do now stands on the shoulders of the training you did in the past.  Now that I'm going to start introducing some threshold work, will I reach a higher peak after building a bigger aerobic base?  Or did I just lose out on 12 weeks of working on my FTP?  Time will tell.

What I'd like to do is hold my MAF power and raise my FTP, which will make my MAF a lower % of my threshold but I think that will work out because it will have me racing at a lower percentage my threshold - hopefully with a bigger aerobic base. 

Normally my training is a hard day/easy day style but for the past 3 months I've been Steady Eddie. Below you can see how that changed my average pace/power per week.

The break before 2015 was my back injury and you can see how my run pace took a hit.

I got another power meter in 2010 so nearly every ride since then has been with power.  Before that I usually only rode my key workouts with power so my weekly average is inflated.

 Sidenote - Average power/pace is cool to see general trends over time, but be careful with it.  Chasing averages makes you go too hard on your easy days.

If you use Training Peaks, maybe you've noticed a metric called Efficiency Factor (EF).  It compares your normalized power or pace to your HR.  I used that to help track my progress.  The only problem is that you can't graph it in Training Peaks so I had to track it in Excel.

You can see the trendline moving up as I was getting more efficient.

The trendline is a bit steeper for cycling.  Cycling has always been my strength so maybe that's the reason.

Some final thoughts on HR training.

What I liked - 

- The intensity felt about the same at ~140 bpm every time. All that changed was my power or pace.  I felt like I was controlling the input (HR) and measuring the output (power/pace).

- My power/pace increased gradually as I got fitter based on feedback from my body rather than a per-determined build and just forcing it.  It felt more natural.

- I was very focused on efficiency the whole time because I was limited in what I could input and I wanted the maximum output.  When I focus only on the output, I don't worry about how much energy it takes to get the desired output.

- I got to see my progress week after week without having to do a max effort (threshold) test.  Seeing steady progress is very encouraging.

- I learned a lot about HR training, which I think will make me a better coach, and it was fun to mix things up for a while.

What I didn't like - 

- My biggest complaint about Maffetone training is the 180 formula.  It put me in Friel's HR zone 2.  An athlete I coach has very similar heart rate numbers to me but he's 9 years older so his MAF range would have him in Friel's zone 1.  Another athlete I coach is 8 years older than me, but his heart rate tends to be about 10-15 beats higher so he'd be at an even lower intensity level. We could all do the same program, but we would be at very different intensity levels.

-  A lot of things can affect HR, such as heat, stress, caffeine, etc. so it's not the best measure of intensity.  All my riding was indoors so I had the same set up every time.  My running was mostly outdoors, but I never had to deal with any heat.  I think HR works best if you have a similar set up every time (and if you ride indoors get a good fan, and by good fan I mean one that was built for a construction site or barn).

Where to now?  I want to find a good mix of my old program and the program I just did.  I'm ready for some intensity, but I made good gains doing a lot of zone 2 so I want to keep that going.  I'd like to bring in some heart rate training as well as utilizing power and pace for more than just measuring progress.  Why use just one measure of intensity when you can use 2?  :)

Speaking of heart rate training, I'm in full on geek mode with my new Garmin swim HR strap.  I'll write up a post about that.  I just got it, but so far the numbers are not what I was expecting.

One final note:  For anyone new to endurance sports doing the Maffetone Method who finds this post, I want to point out an important detail - I got my first road bike and went for my first ride April 1, 2006.  I did my first triathlon in 2007.  I made good gains in this 12 week block, but preceding it is a decade of consistent training.  I got injured in 2007 and my PT made me start out with some really easy running in the winter of 07/08.  I dug through my old training log and discovered that my first run was at a 10 minute pace at an average HR of 148 (which would have fallen in my MAF range back then). Be patient.  Be consistent.  Enjoy the process.  


My Maffetone Experiment - Part I

My training hasn't changed much since 2008 - keep the hard days hard and the easy days easy.  I've mixed things up a bit from year to year, but generally my training hasn't changed.  Until now...

With 2015 being a rough year I figured this was a good time to mix things up and try something new.  I wanted something completely different from how I've trained in the past.

The Maffetone Method.

I've been curious about this approach for years and after listening to many Maffetone discussions/interviews on the Endurance Planet podcast I decided to give it a try.  I figured I'd need to give it a few months to give it a fair shot so I decided on 11 weeks of training followed by an easy week with some testing.  I started with a month off completely after IMWI and then did a couple of easy weeks to build up a bit of a base before starting my 11 week block.   

If you're unfamiliar with the Maffetone Method, it's HR based training and you use a formula to find your MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) range (mine is 134-144 bpm) and then you train in that range day after day.  I've been training by power and pace since I started triathlon in 2007 so this was a big change.   

My first MAF run was 4 miles at an 8:12 pace and my first MAF ride  was an hour at 224 watts.  So now I had my starting point.  All that was left to do was train in my MAF range....everyday.

I loved the simplicity of the approach.  No trying to remember complicated workouts.  It's the same thing everyday - get your HR into your MAF range and hold it there.  The only variable I changed was duration building my overall volume slowly week after week. 

Things progressed quickly....too quickly.  By week 5 my pace was 7:30 and my power was in the mid 240s.  Day after day.  MAF was getting tough. (to add some context to these numbers, I held 236 watts at the Muncie 70.3 in 2014 and followed that up with a 7:16 pace on the run)

I needed to back off a bit so I came up with 3 workouts to do - LMAF, MAF and PMAF.

LMAF = Low MAF.  I took my MAF range and subtracted 10 beats so it was 124-134.  These were my "easy" days.
MAF = Regular MAF range.
PMAF = Progressive MAF.  Starting in LMAF and finishing at MAF.

Sidenote:  My MAF range is more or less Joe Friel's HR Zone 2 and my LMAF range was Friel's HR Zone 1 so at this point I was basically moving from MAF to zone-based HR training.  Traditional base training, I guess you could say.  Lots of zone 2.    

A basic week now looked like this:

Monday - "Easy" day
  - 4 mile LMAF on treadmill + core work at lunch
  - 1 hour LMAF ride on trainer after work 

Tuesday - MAF day
  - Swim before work
  - 8 mile MAF run at lunch

Wednesday - "Easy" day
  - 4 mile LMAF on treadmill + core work at lunch
  - 1 hour LMAF ride on trainer after work

Thursday - Long run day
  - Swim before work
  - Long PMAF run after work

Friday - Easy day
  - Swim before work
  - Yoga after work

Saturday - MAF day
  - 90 min trainer ride at MAF in the morning
  - 6-8 mile run on treadmill later in the day (MAF if feeling good, otherwise LMAF)

Sunday - Long ride day
  - Yoga in the morning
  - 2-2.5 hours at LMAF (or MAF if I was feeling good)

So that's what I've been up to.  11 weeks of Maffetone training.  This is week 12, my recovery/testing week. I'm doing a MAF ride Wednesday and hope to do a MAF run Thursday if the weather cooperates.  I'll repeat my first MAF workouts so I can compare.  Saturday is an FTP test. That should be interesting, and by interesting I mean painful. I haven't ridden at threshold in months.

I'm working on part 2 - the results.  I'll go over my progress and share the results of my FTP test and final MAF workouts.  I may write one more post about my overall thoughts on this approach and heart rate training.   



2015 in pictures

A little different from my usual posts, here are some pics from my year....

I bought a new truck.

3 weeks after buying my truck, someone backed into it.  $500 that cost me.

I raced the San Juan 70.3 in March.  I'd love to go back and do that race again.

Puerto Rico.  This guy followed me around.  Orange cats...always the orange ones.

Speaking of orange cats, Calvin's highlight this year was proving he's not worthless by catching and killing a vole in the basement (and bringing it upstairs, of course, to play with it).

The Awake the Grapes 5K on Memorial Day weekend in MN.  It was cold, but we did well and both won our age groups. 

My dad loved to fish.  I never went with him as an adult.  We were planning on going but he was too sick to go so I took his pole and caught a fish for him.  I will forever claim that fish was much bigger than it actually was.

My dad put up a good fight, but unfortunately his battle ended on June 9, 2015.

I love summer.  I took this on my way home from an evening ride.

I spent way too much money on wetsuits this year.  The Orca 3.8 was the winner.

Devil's Lake swim.

I finally got to be part of a Door County Half Iron relay team.  It was fun and I'd love to do it again.  I think I can ride better than I did that day. 

I bought new shoes the day before a half ironman.  1/2 size too small (oops).  I wore them anyway....because I'm stupid.

While I went slower than ever before, Courtney went faster than ever before.  Lots of PRs for her this year.

The Clean Lakes Swim.


2015 Volume in miles.

Here's to 2016 being better than 2015.



I guess it was bound to happen eventually. If you race enough times, there's going to be a time when one of your biggest fears comes true - getting sick right before an Ironman.  

A couple of days before IMWI, I felt a cold coming on.  I hoped it was nothing and that I was just being paranoid, but by the day before the race it was clear.  I was sick.  It was a pretty good cold, but still just a cold, so I thought maybe I could still manage a good race.  I wasn't in my best shape ever, but I felt like I'd had a pretty good 6-8 week block of training leading into race day so I thought maybe...just maybe...I could still have a decent day.

Swim - 1:07:18

I lined up toward the outside hoping to avoid some contact and get through the swim without too much effort.  The outside worked for avoiding contact, but I'm not sure it worked out well time-wise.  I came out of the water a few minutes slower than expected, but I felt okay.  I had been doing a lot of coughing the day before the race and I got through the swim without issues and felt like I didn't waste too much energy.  All things considered, not a bad start to the day.

Bike - 5:25:24

The bike is where my cold caught up with me and everything started to fall apart.  I went out  a little below goal power holding about 210 watts for the first 3-3.5 hours.  The next hour I struggled a bit and my power faded to around 185.  After that, I had nothing left and my power dropped to 135 for the last 60 minutes of the ride as I soft pedaled on the way back to the terrace, debating if I would even head out on the run. 

"Run" - 5:12:08

I didn't do much running.  I was walking within the first 2 miles and just had no energy.  I had little desire to continue and every time I thought I had found a good place to call it quits and turn in my chip, there was someone I knew cheering me on.  I guess that's the problem with a local race.  :)

So I continued and eventually figured out that I could still break 12 hours so I used that as motivation to keep pushing myself to get to the finish line.

My final time was 11:55 which makes this my slowest Ironman.  It's fitting, I guess, considering how this year went.  Knoxville was my slowest half ironman.  In 2014 I set my fastest half ironman time and 2015 was my slowest.  What a difference a year makes, huh?

With my injury, my struggles with training and racing and losing my dad to cancer, 2015 is a year I'd like to forget. 

My plan post race was to take a full month off, my longest break since getting into triathlon in 2007.  4 weeks....nothing but rest and recovery.  Unfortunately, my cold got really bad after race day and ruined about 10 days of my break, but after that I got to enjoy some of the best fall weather we've ever had.

Then the rebuilding began..... 


Looking Ahead: Ironman Wisconsin

I’ve finished my last training block and am now tapering for Ironman Wisconsin which has given me a little time to reflect.  2013 through most of 2014 was my best block of training and racing.  I was handling the training really well and was setting PRs and felt like a really solid contender for a Kona slot at Ironman Chattanooga.  Then I injured my back and had to drop out.  It was during the worst of my injury when I registered for Ironman Wisconsin. It felt a little crazy at the time, but I was determined to prove this injury couldn’t slow me down.

That wasn’t realistic.

I made some mistakes pushing too hard too soon trying to get back to where I was.  Going to Puerto Rico was fun, but doing that race was a mistake.  I wasn’t ready.  The same is true for Knoxville.  Muncie was an improvement, but still well behind last year.  

It hasn’t been all bad though, just inconsistent.  I set a best 90 minute power earlier this year.  I had a good brick long run a couple of weeks ago and set a best 5 hour power last week on an indoor ride.  I’ve also had some really bad workouts and have missed some training due to setbacks. I’ve struggled with my swimming all season and can’t quite figure out what the problem is, if it’s related to my injury or not.  Cycling has been good, but running has been a big struggle this year.



Recently, I heard/read a couple of great quotes that really struck a chord with me….

“When I was at my best I was overcoming myself. When I ended up disappointed I was trying to overcome others, to win, to beat other people.”

-          Gordo Byrn on the Primal Endurance Podcast

And two good quotes from a Slowtwitch interview with Jordan Rapp....
Jordan:  "...I told him I wanted to talk about the idea of “resilience.” My friend Paulo Sousa introduced this idea to me about a year ago. Resilience is caring enough that you are willing to bounce back and try again if you fail. But you also need to not care so much that you get crushed by failure and by setbacks. It’s a tricky balance..."

ST: What was stopping you from your highest level of performance?
Jordan: I think it was an exclusive focus on objective goals - winning or hitting certain numbers in training. I stopped caring about having a good race or having fun...


Back in 2010 my training went really well all season and I still needed a roll down to get a Kona slot.  I may have a bigger fitness base now, but looking back over the season and being brutally honest with myself, it doesn’t look like the work of a Kona qualifier.  It hit me in the middle of Devil’s Lake the other day struggling through yet another sloppy swim.  I’m just simply not where I want to be.  I’ve been fooling myself. I won’t lie, it’s a very disappointing realization, but then I thought about Jordan’s quote on resilience.   

I initially said I wouldn’t race if I didn’t think I could qualify because it wasn’t worth it to go through all that and run the same time I’ve done several times already.  I want to reach the next level.  But I decided that after all this work, good or bad, I need to follow through and finish what I started.   

I believe you need to focus on the process and not the outcome.  If you work the process, the outcome will happen naturally.  I typically enjoy the process, but I haven’t been focused on the process this year - only the outcome - which has led to mistakes and frustration.  It hasn’t been a fun season, but I can’t blame my injury.  I blame my approach. 

Fortunately, it’s never too late to change your approach.  Ironman Wisconsin is just another day in the overall process of training and racing triathlon.  So my goal is to focus only on myself and take pride and find satisfaction in a well-executed race.  I know it’s a cliché, but I just want to have fun.  I want to cross the finish line knowing I did the best I could on that particular day. 

After that, I’m taking a month off.  Mentally I want to continue training, but physically I need to recover from years of training and injuries.   

Then I’m going to rebuild.


My inspiration for race day.  My dad may have lost his battle with cancer, but he never gave up. 



It's been a few weeks since I've blogged.  Since then, I've been training trying to see if I can get my fitness back and make a decision on IMWI - will I do the race?  Transfer to Cozumel?  Call it a year and wait until 2016?

My training block started out a little rough.  I just didn't feel fit and running was rough - really rough.  I decided not to make any decisions until my build block was over so I just kept plugging away even though week 1 wasn't giving me any confidence.  I was having some knee and hamstring pain so I was questioning if I would be able to hold up with volume building.

Week 2 was a little better.  Things were improving and my knee and hamstring pain was slowly disappearing.  It wasn't a great week, but my confidence was returning.

Week 3 was a little better yet and I ended with a solid weekend.  Saturday's ride was 2x30' @ 290 watts followed by 5x18 miles at 220 watts.  I managed to push 232 watts for the final 18 mile loop and end with a 230 watt average for 5 hours and 13 minutes.  That was a tough ride, but good for confidence.  

The key to the weekend though, was my 20 mile run on Sunday.  I decided to return to the run/walk, which has worked really well for me in the past.  Conditions were a little tough for a 20 mile run with humidity being really high, so it was pretty tough, but I managed 20.4 miles at a 7:58 average pace.  It wasn't my best 20 miler, but it was an improvement over previous weeks and really good for confidence, especially the day after a tough ride.

Although not ideal (for me), I opted for a 4-week build cycle.  Normally I do 3 weeks on, 1 week off and often switch to 2 on, 1 off when volume gets really high.  But a few athletes I'm coaching were doing a 3-day training camp and I wanted to join them so that meant I'd have to build for 4 weeks.  I was getting fatigued leading into week 4 so I was a little worried.  My 20 miler put a hurting on me.  I anticipated a rough 3-days with them beating the crap out of me, which they were looking forward to, but I held up well.

4-week build

The forecast for our camp had highs in the low 90s.  Not having dealt with the heat much this year, we opted for a really early start each day.  I was afraid too much heat in addition to 3 days of big workouts on fatigued legs might push us over the edge.  So we hit the road by 6 am Friday and Saturday and 7am Sunday.

Friday was a 106 mile ride followed by an 8 mile run.  My legs felt a little sluggish on the bike and my power was a little low.  The sun came out for the last two hours of the ride and things really heated up.  Temps were in the 90s when we got off the bike and I was afraid my run was going to be a death march.  Surprisingly, it went well.  I did struggle with the heat on the second half, but part of that was because I felt good the first couple of miles and pushed the pace too much.  Miles 1 and 2 were a 7:31 and 7:36 pace, which includes walk breaks, so I was pushing.  I faded after that and ended with an 8:12 for the final mile so a pretty big fade.  Overall, I ran 8 miles at 7:53 average and I was really happy with that.

Saturday was a century - no power goals, just a fun group ride.  We avoided the IM route as much as possible, partly because we're sick of it but also because Saturday was the Madison Open Water Swim and the loop is super busy that day and it seriously sucks to be out there.  One of the athletes I coach mapped out a great route.  We had good road conditions, very little traffic, a few tough climbs, plenty of places to get water, etc. It was a really good route.  I'll definitely do this one again. 

Saturday's Century.  It kind of looks like a dinosaur.
We had a good group, including a few guys who didn't join us for Friday so they were feeling fresh and did most of the work.  My legs were pretty heavy so I sat in most of the day.  Despite that, I ended the day with 288 TSS for 106 miles.  I was hoping for an easier day because I really wanted to have a good run Sunday, but it was a really fun ride with a good group so I didn't mind pushing it a bit here and there.  

That's me in the Wisconsin Indoor Cycling kit. 

Sunday was a 16 mile run on the Ironman loop.  I mapped out the route and added two out and backs to Brittingham Park and chopped off the section out to Picnic Point.  That gave us a 16 mile loop with 4 water stops.  I was hoping to match my average pace from the week before so I started out about that pace thinking I might step it up on the second half if I felt good.  We've had some humid weekends lately and the humidity dropped a bit so even though it was hot it didn't feel that bad out there.  We all had great runs (we've been doing this camp for a few years and so far no one has blown up on the Sunday run).  

I did my run/walk (9:30 run with a 30 second walk break so it's a 10 minute cycle) and managed to step it up on the second half and finish strong with 16 miles at a 7:45 average pace.   

Miles splits from my long run.

Sunday run route.

I ended the camp with an easy swim a few hours after my long run.

Overall, it was a really solid 4-week block. It didn't start that great, but it ended strong with my best long run of the year.  All total for the 4 weeks, I swam 40,172 yards, biked 931 miles and ran 143 miles.   My knee hasn't bothered me in about a week and while my hamstring isn't quite 100%, it's getting close.

Now it's time for a recovery week and then one more big week and a taper for IMWI.  Unless something goes wrong in the next few weeks, I'm planning on being on the starting line September 13....and maybe Cozumel as well.  Things are turning around and Courtney and I are throwing around the idea of doing both races.  


Race Report: Muncie 70.3

Last year, Muncie was a great race for me.  I came out of the water 3rd in my age group and took the lead in T1.  I set the fastest bike split in my age group and then managed to hold on for my first age group win at a WTC event.  

Naturally, Muncie was on the schedule again this year. I thought I could go faster, maybe finally get my sub 90 minute run and with a solid swim and fast bike I thought I could come real close to breaking 4:20.  

With my injury, all that was out the window and I had to readjust my goals.  


I think I mentioned in my last post my back injury left me with some weakness in my left hamstring and calf.  Well, that led to some hamstring issues and brought back my old knee injury.  So I did very little running between Knoxville and Muncie, which was discouraging because the Knoxville run was ugly.

A friend of mine loaned me some Powercranks to try out to see if those would help me hang onto some run fitness.  If you don't know what Powercranks are, I envy you.  They're cranks with a clutch so the crank arms move independently ( a video - not me - if you're curious).  They're hard work, and they really work your hip flexors and hamstrings, and if you have weakness in one leg they'll let you know...trust me.  

I thought I might do anywhere from 30-60 minutes on my first ride.  I did 90 seconds.  That's it.  I progressed quickly and worked my way up to an hour before Muncie. I did get out for a couple of runs prior to Muncie and they felt okay, but I could tell I lost a lot of run fitness.  The interesting thing was that my cadence running uphill was easily above 180 and that's never the case. So maybe Powercranks help with that.  I'm not convinced they helped my running, although I did end up running faster in Muncie than Knoxville so maybe.

I went into Muncie with low expectations.  I was hoping to swim well, bike a little faster than last year and survive the run. 

The race....

The swim -  Like last year, the swim was rough in terms of having to swim through a lot of people from prior waves.  People were backstroking, floating....it was chaos.  I did my best to avoid the carnage, but plowed into two people taking a kick to the eye on the second one.  That hurt and I was sure I'd end up with a black eye.
I came out of the water in 32:32, nearly 2 minutes slower than last year.  That wasn't a big surprise because I've been struggling with my open water swimming this year.  My pool swimming is fine, but open water has been slow and I can't quite figure it out.  I did get a new Roka wetsuit so that might be the problem, but I'm not ready to place the blame on the wetsuit just yet.  I tend to suck at swimming so the problem is likely me.

The bike - The bike was okay, not great.  I felt a little sluggish and struggled to hold goal power and ended up about 7 watts low.  My lead in to the race was very different than usual, so I suspect I was paying for my last minute panic training and the spontaneous 15K TT I did on Thursday before driving to Muncie.   My speed was good despite my power being  a little low (put my wheel cover back on) so I biked about a minute faster (2:15:57) than last year on 3 fewer watts.  Conditions were very similar to last year, so I'm happy I was faster, but I really wanted to break 2:15 and I think I could have if I had hit 240 watts.

The run - The run was tough, but A LOT better than Puerto Rico or Knoxville.  I felt okay coming off the bike, but can't say I ever felt good on the run.  It was hard work from the very first step.  I ran the first half at a 7:35 pace and the second at 7:55 for an overall average pace of 7:45.  All things considered, I'm happy with that.  It got me a 1:40:37 run split which ranks as my 5th fastest ever. Puerto Rico earlier this year was my slowest ever at an 8:43 pace.  I managed to pick it up a bit at Knoxville and run an 8:07 pace.  So....progress.

I'm not 100% sure I'll be on the start line for IMWI yet, but I am going to start my final build and see how that goes.  I really want to find out what I'm capable of for an IM, but unfortunately this isn't going to be the year, so I'm trying to figure out how to salvage a decent race.  What I need to do is swim well, bike fast and manage the run.  With my current condition, that's all I can do.  I'm working on my swimming, and also ditching my Retul bike fit and working on replicating my fit from my Cannondale the year I did short course.  Then I'm going to teach myself to hold that position for 112 miles.  I think I can be a little more slippery and get a little more speed for my power.

Next up - The Door County Half Iron Relay.  I'm finally doing a half iron relay.  I'm the cyclist.  I can't wait.