I have found that in a race I can sustain a HR above what I could do in training, and at critical moments or challenging sections hit and sustain for a period of time HR values that in training would likely lead to blowing up. Also, it would be hard to determine what to set it at: for me, cruising on the flat at 5 min/km, HR is maybe 115 or so, and on a hard, reasonably long uphill push where I typically gain time and places I might be sustaining 145-150 (for me this is quite high, observationally my HR values and zones are seemingly very low compared to most others; your middle zone 1 is into my zone 4). Sometimes you also find that you are running in a small group that begins to split, and it can beneficial to stick with the fast train on that break when you sense those falling off the back would be too slow. If I were to stick to HR zones 1-2 then I would lose ground on the uphills and miss sticking with the right group. Last, I live at sea level, but have raced a few times at higher elevations (1000–3000 m), which adds complexity to setting HR values. Consequently I remain old school and have always relied in races on perceived effort – if I track HR, it is only for curiousity.
Strict HR adherence during ultras
During races (especially 24+ hour pushes), has anyone tried strictly keeping their heart rate at a constant number, ignoring all other signs of fatigue (except for injury)?
With this method, you could minimize the risk of pushing too hard (above your AeT for long races) or underperforming. It shouldn’t matter what externality might be affecting your heart rate, be it caffeine, extreme heat, etc, your heart rate should tell you your true energy expenditure, right?
This could be particularly effective in multi-sport races like “adventure races,” where power output is hard to gauge (paddling a canoe, for example).
So, for me, could I simply try to keep my HR at 140 the entire race, the middle of my zone 1?
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