Thursday Things

1. In the ongoing saga of Bethany vs. wearables, I would like to submit my latest grievance: my Fitbit.

I started taking walks at lunchtime over a year ago (and really cannot recommend the practice enough as a way to decompress during the workday, get in a small amount of movement, and remind yourself that daylight does indeed exist during the winter – but the enjoyment I get out of lunchtime walks is another discussion for another day.), and because they usually last 20 minutes or so, Fitbit counts them as exercise. Probably about a month ago now, I started noticing strange and, honestly, quite concerning spikes in my heart rate once or twice a week during these lunchtime walks (according to Fitbit). I’d be cruising along at somewhere in the 110-130 range–exactly what I’d expect on a brisk walk–when out of nowhere, my Fitbit stats would show that my heart rate jumped to more like 175. The first time it happened, I assumed it was a fluke. Then it continued happening, though, and I began to worry that something was wrong with my heart.

It just didn’t add up, though. While walking, I never felt anything to indicate a dramatic change in heart rate. I never felt winded, fatigued, lightheaded or the sensation of my heart pounding in my chest. Additionaly, I never noticed anything remotely similar during my “real” exercise. My heart rate was in its usual 160-180 range during all of my runs, and in its usual 140-160 range during any other form of exercise. Any spikes I’d notice from those always correlated to increased effort (a hard hill on the stationary bike, for example, or a burst of mountain climbers in a circuit workout). I reset my Fitbit, and all of a sudden my heart rate graphs were back to normal on my walks…until, once again, they weren’t.

I started digging a little more into the data and realized something else didn’t match up, either. Even though the exercise log for my walk would show a huge heart rate spike, I never saw any indication of that on my all-day heart rate graph at lunchtime, even though workouts later in the day would get that high (when relevant).



See? It doesn’t come anywhere close to 180 around noon.



This one wasn’t a lunchtime walk, but a Saturday trip to go Christmas shopping. But again, do you see the all day graph indicating anything close to 178 bpm at about 1 p.m.? Because I sure don’t.

So then, I started checking in on my Fitbit during my walks to see what kind of heart rate it noticed. Finally last week, I happened to catch it when it thought my heart was going into overdrive at 178 bpm. I then searched for my pulse to see if I could feel that my heart rate was that high, and I could barely feel my pulse at all. I went for a run later that day, and, since I knew my heart rate was definitely in the 160s-170s, tried to find my pulse in the exact same location and had no trouble whatsoever, given that my heart was beating so fast. (As I sit at the computer writing this right now, my Fitbit says my heart rate is 65 bpm. I have a pulse (obviously), but it isn’t even close to being as easy to find as it was when I was out for a run.)

So I don’t know what the deal is. I am much more inclined to believe my actual body, particularly my pulse, than the data I’m getting from Fitbit. I just think it’s so weird that this keeps happening, and it really doesn’t do anything for my confidence in Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring capabilities. It’s not exactly a secret that Fitbit’s heart rate monitoring is hardly considered infallible (this article has some interesting comparisons), but I wish knew 1) why this is happening 2) why there is such a dramatic discrepancy between what my workout heart rate graph says and my all-day heart rate graph says and 3) how to solve all of these problems, if they’re even solvable in the first place.

2. In case you’re not on the Rock ‘n’ Roll email list: a heads up that today is the annual get-the-races-for-as-cheap-as-possible sale day. The half marathons are anywhere between $5 and $50 off ($50.99 up to $99.99 for the US races), which is a pretty solid deal considering how expensive some of these races can get the closer it is to race day. I originally planned to do three Rock ‘n’ Rolls next year, but then realized a conference I expect to attend for work just so happens to start the day after another Rock ‘n’ Roll race, so I’ll probably sign up for that one, too. Someone needs to teach me how to become a Rock ‘n’ Blogger so I stop blowing through so much of my race registration budget on Rock ‘n’ Roll alone 😛

3. Speaking of half marathons, I would like to solicit your advice. I PRed my half marathon at the Chi-Town Half in 2014, during what will quite likely go down as the best streak of races I will ever have, where I PRed four different distances on four consecutive weekends (oh, to be that early in my running career again). My half marathon PR is my oldest “normal” distance PR (my older PRs are in the 9K, the four mile, and the 7K), and it (unnecessarily) bothers me that my half PR is almost four years old. (It also bothers me that I’ve run 11 half marathons since my half marathon PR, and out of those 11, only two have come within 10 minutes of my PR, and only one has come within five minutes of my PR. But, I suppose when you know you run fastest when it’s cold outside and yet insist on nearly exclusively running half marathons between the months of May and September, that’s what you get.)

I’ve already registered for a late April half marathon and hoped to train for it with the intention of PRing, knowing, of course, that late April is a HUGE gamble in the weather department and that my ability to PR is going to depend heavily on favorable weather conditions. Yesterday, I got an email announcing that Chi Town Half registration had opened and will be super cheap ($49.99!) from now until Dec. 20. Given that I PRed at the Chi Town Half and given that it takes place three weeks before the race I’ve registered for and given that I’ve been invited to a destination wedding the weekend before the race I’ve already registered for (where I would most certainly not be able to get in a long run, if I can run at all), the Chi Town Half seems like a better target race.

BUT. Since the Chi Town Half is three weeks before my initial goal race, that would mean I’d have to start training three weeks before I planned to begin training again. That would mean picking up regular running sooner than I anticipated and would mean being in season for three additional weeks in 2018. Given that I could barely drag myself to the finish line of this year’s training season–which was the same length’s as next year’s will be if my initial goal race continues to be my goal race–the idea of adding three weeks to next year’s season sounds…less than appealing. On top of all of that, I’m really hoping to get my wisdom teeth out ASAP in January, not because I’m so eager to go through that whole rigamarole but because I want to get that whole rigamarole done and over with before I need to start training again, because once training begins, I have much less freedom to sit on the couch for a week while my mouth heals. I mean, it’s not like I’m legally obligated to not take a week off during a training cycle, but I most certainly don’t want to take a week off during a training cycle. I don’t put myself through these months-long ordeals for the fun of it: I do it to prepare myself to have the best race possible. Obviously, there are times when you have to take a week off–you get injured, you get sick–but since wisdom tooth extraction is something I anticipate planning to do, rather than something that will be done on more of an emergency basis, so I don’t want to plan to have a week of inactivity when I’m trying to train for a race, particularly a race I want to PR.

The other option, of course, would be to run the 10K at the Chi Town Half (the Chi Town 10K?). Assuming I follow Hal Higdon’s HM3 training program again–which I plan to, given how much I liked it last year–I’m actually supposed to run a 10K that weekend, so it seems like an obvious choice. But I could also run 6.2 miles on my own that weekend for free. But if the weather’s good, maybe I’d stand a chance at updating my 10K PR…? But I’m wouldn’t be training for a 10K PR…. And it’s not my 10K PR I want to update, anyway: it’s my half marathon PR, darn it! *stomps foot like a tantrum-throwing toddler*

But, but, but, excuses, excuses, excuses. If anyone has any helpful suggestions, I’m all ears, because clearly all I’m doing while trying to come to a decision is my own is talking myself in circles.

What races do you have on your calendar for next year? Officially, I believe I have four at this point (not including the Rock ‘n’ Rolls, since I hadn’t registered for them when I wrote this Wednesday night), but I don’t doubt that that number will get much higher.

5 thoughts on “Thursday Things

  1. I would run the Chi Town Half. Sounds like you are super motivated to tackle it – it’s the home of your PR after all! If I had to start my training cycle three weeks earlier, I would use those extra three weeks to do mostly easy runs and just focus on building endurance. I think three weeks between halfs wouldn’t be too big of an issue. If things go south during the Chi Town, you can always treat it as a training run and slow down so you can recover more quickly in order to have some quality runs before you taper for your goal race.

  2. Also, I’m registered for the F3 Half (getting nervous because I’ve been scaling back mileage due to some knee tenderness … and, if I’m being honest, due to the cold and ice), the Shamrock Shuffle, the Spartan Sprint in June and the Run Mag Mile 10K in September. I’m debating a spring half marathon. Maybe the Southwest Half in Palos Heights, since that was my first half back in 2010, or maybe something in Chicago proper like Chi Town. Or the Soldier Field 10 instead. Or the Lincoln Presidential Half because it looks cool.

    • Ha, I have always thought the Lincoln Presidential Half looked really interesting! I’m sure my inner history nerd would LOVE the scenery. I hope your knee starts cooperating more so you can do F3! I seriously considered it this year, mostly because I thought the shirt looked awesome (#noshame haha), but training for that would’ve meant being in training for races from Jan. 31, 2017 through Dec. 8 or 15, 2018, and I could NOT handle the thought of training for nearly two full years without a single break. So no F3 for me this year, despite the cool shirt.

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