I recently bought an Suunto Ambit3 Peak to replace my old Suunto Observer that I gave as a gift to our guide from our recent Kanchenjunga trek. I had the Observer for many years. It was a pretty simple altimeter watch. The Ambit3 is a different beast - with GPS and heart rate monitor and bluetooth connection to a phone app. It even has apps!
I wasn't really looking for a heart rate monitor, but it was included in the package I got, and of course I couldn't resist using it. Mostly what I found is that I probably wasn't getting my heart rate high enough.
I mostly run on the treadmill in the winter. If it warms up I'll get outside, but when it's really cold I'd rather stay indoors. But I find running on a treadmill pretty boring and tedious so I tend to run intervals, partly to break it up, and partly to get more benefit from a shorter time. But that only works if the intervals are pretty hard.
Back in my early twenties my friend Ian talked me into entering my one and only "race" (more fun run) with him and some friends. We ran the first part together as a group. Then he asked me if I thought I could go faster. I said probably, but I was happy running with the group. He told me if I could go faster I should and to get going. So I pulled ahead of the group and continued by myself. Of course, I was motivated to keep up my pace since I didn't want the embarrassment of the group overtaking me. A few hundred yards from the finish Ian appeared beside me. He had been following me to see how fast I'd go. He then proceeded to pass me and sprint to beat me to the finish. I cursed him and pushed to catch up. I just barely managed to beat him.
That run is one of the few benchmarks I have of my running when I was younger. I did that 10k in just over 40 minutes, not a competitive time, but I was happy enough with it.
These days that pace (15km/hr or 4min/km) feels pretty fast. I can run intervals at that pace, but I'm pretty certain I couldn't keep it up for 40 minutes. I fantasize that if I worked at it I might manage a 20 minute 5k.
The other benchmark from earlier days is that prior to our Cho Oyu expedition (when I would have been 37) I had a fitness test and managed a VO2 max of just under 70. Again, nothing earth shaking, but respectable. These days, according to the Ambit's estimates I'm lucky to hit 30 :-(
I remember my father saying he didn't really feel a lot different than when he was younger, which I found hard to believe since he had obviously aged! Now I'm in his shoes. Running doesn't feel that different to me than my memories of younger days. But obviously I have slowed down.
One of the big questions when you're using a heart rate monitor is what your max is. The old formula of 220 - age would put me around 165, but more recent estimation methods would give more like 175. Since getting the Ambit the highest I've seen is 167 and that wasn't flat out, so 175 seems feasible. (My resting heart rate is somewhere in the low 50's)
I've been running my treadmill intervals at 9 km/hr and 14 km/hr. (The only reason for those particular numbers is that our treadmill has preset buttons for those paces.) Previously I was doing 5 minute intervals but I switched to 4 minutes. 14 km/hr doesn't seem to push my heart rate enough so I've been adding a 3 % incline. Even that doesn't seem to be quite enough since it only gets my heart rate to around 155. Doing more intervals would be better, if I could get motivated to stay on the treadmill longer!
For even more numbers check out the record of a recent workout.
See also my last Running post.