Ramblings of a Tampa engineer

A long time ago in December of 2020 I was attending a wedding in Kansas City and I went on a run in the early morning. It was absolutely freezing around 28 degrees, but sunny. This meant I did an extremely short run at about 12 minutes and escaped back to the warm hotel.

Once I uploaded my run information to Garmin - I found I had unlocked a new badge called "Frosty" - Record an activity when it's below freezing.

Gamification of my own physical workouts was pretty interesting to me so I decided to get a bit more involved with my Garmin equipment. I was still using an old watch I got for a birthday present nearly a decade ago and wanted something that could do workouts, music and more.

So after a few year delay - I purchased some new equipment to track my workouts more closely.

  • Forerunner 955 (Watch)
  • HRM Pro Plus (Heart Rate Monitor)
  • S2 Smart Scale

At that point since COVID rolled through I had gained way more weight than I liked and was weighing above 200. So I decided to enter all this data with the goal to lose 20 pounds and get back to my high school weight of roughly 180. Every morning I woke up and weighed myself and did exactly what my watch said to do.

It would give me workouts that ranged from "Run x minutes at y pace" to "Warm up with 10 minutes at this, do 3x9 15 second sprints with 3 min breaks between and then cooldown"

I learned pretty quickly that I was out of shape and needed to make some changes.

  • I needed new shoes & quality socks.
  • I needed to watch my diet because I could easily tell a bad workout was from the food the night prior.
  • I needed to drink less alcohol as the night prior made a workout terrible.
  • I needed to have a sane sleep schedule.

It was interesting to me watching all these stats combine to get a status report of my health. The watch knew when I slept little or went to bed late and adapted the workouts. The watch knew when a workout kept me in the red zone too long and tweaked the next day.

All these changes worked up to December 10, 2022 where I broke some personal bests and lodged a 7.29 mile run at 8:00/mile pace.

💡
I reset my Personal Bests (PBs) post back-surgery (April 2019) so I could have new goals to beat.

I was happy - I looked at my weight graph and things looked too good to be true.

I dropped my weight roughly 18 pounds and was almost to my goal. Unfortunately Christmas arrived and my schedule of work & workout came to an end. I was traveling & with family and it was a bit difficult to pull off my same care of diet & workouts.

20 days later I lodged my first post-holiday workout and it was tough, so I realized how quickly you could undo months of workouts. I went back to strict workouts with the goal to beat my last record and push for my internal goal of 8 miles at 8 minutes.

So February 11, 2023 arrived and my watch said "Long Distance" workout and I knew it was the day. I attempted the 8 miles at 8 minutes pace and failed - I got 8 miles at 8:30 pace.

I attributed this failure to the boredom of running at the same park for years on the same loop. I tend to do better on runs that don't loop as much and/or more open street running.

The next day after failure the watch told me "rest day" and I was mad - so I did a workout anyway. I could feel some back pain returning and sure enough I was drained of energy and had a garbage workout.

I never recovered in 2023 to get back to my prime of workouts and I still don't know exactly why. I traveled a ton more in 2023 than 2022 and blogged about all those trips:

Most of these locations were trips full of food, alcohol and no workouts. Between all these trips - every single time I did a workout, my watch said I was pushing myself too hard and would cancel the next day workout.

So now I had a watch that went from taking me from out of shape and overweight to almost prime time and now everything I did was apparently too much. It became a running joke at the office as my Garmin watch was insulting me nearly every day. As you can tell I only have a green status (productive) a little bit of time - otherwise I'm bouncing between de-training, recovery or strained.

However in the scheme of things I was bouncing +/- 5 pounds and staying in what I believed was a healthy zone for myself so I didn't worry. I did the workouts, but realized something changed in that my previous bests weren't even reachable on the workouts I was being prescribed.

It was almost like my watch gave up on me. So once the holidays ended in 2023 - I got back to business with tracking VO₂ max, heart rate, power & endurance.

I learned something happened with my Garmin watch that changed my maximum heart rate to 180 - this is what led to workouts constantly being marked as difficult and controlling my workout plan.

Of course I didn't know what a good or bad heart rate was, but I'm pretty sure if I was pushing myself too hard I would know it. So I did some research and found a generally agreed upon "max heart rate" is 220 - age = max so I changed my max heart rate to 189 and changed my zones.

Now my workouts were generally in the orange zone (Threshold) instead of red zone (Maximum) and I felt good on those increasingly difficult runs. My prescribed workouts were increasing and I was getting back to the tough and longer assigned workouts.

Then about a month ago a car tried to intentionally hit me while I was running on the shoulder on the road. Yes I wrote an entire blog about that incident which got passed around in some running Tampa chats. What I learned from that is how people examined my raw heart rate data and were nervous how long I kept my heart rate in 190's during that encounter.

However, one guy asked if I got at least 6 hours of sleep a day and whether my resting heart rate was under 50. Sure enough my resting averages 47-49 bpm and I tend to get between 6 and 8 hours of a sleep a day.

This individual was roughly the same and spent hours at testing at doctors and more and they found nothing wrong. His heart just stayed low (in the 40s) and could ramp and stay high (in the 170s) during workouts and push even higher (200s) when he was actually pushing himself to the edge.

So I felt a bit more validated than a bunch of random comments saying my heart was overworked. He gave me this list of like 10 things to look for that would suggest my heart was not okay and none of them applied.

I am never dizzy, don't faint, no chest pains, no shortness of breath, etc so I felt like I learned a lot all because I posted my raw heart rate data when a car tried to hit me.

This same individual asked if I could send over blood pressure data which I didn't have. He recommended since I already had nearly every Garmin product to buy the Garmin Index BPM monitor and add that data collection point to my arsenal.

So I bought one and awaiting its arrival. This guy recommended I take a reading each morning at the same time and switch arms every day.

However, I couldn't shake the greater population of random Tampa runners telling me to go to a doctor. So I went online and by chance found an appointment the next day at my doc. Yet when I was actually trying to solve back pain scheduling these appointments was never this easy.

The patient reports the following problems: Patient was told from friends and family that he has elevated heart rates. No family history of iron deficiency or high cholesterol. Patient does eat sensibly and exercises regularly. No chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations or edema. No melena, abdominal pain or emesis. No weight loss.

So I visited my doctor and boy they were heavy on the questions of which most I had no idea the answer to. Lesson learned to never have two years between doctor visit as they are forced to treat you as a new patient. I was just there trying to calm some concerns that I didn't even have and the doctor is asking me 40 questions about my mental state.

So after a bunch of tests and nothing alarming - he agreed to approve some panels to calm any concern I had. Thus I was approved for:

  • LIPID PANEL WITH TOTAL CHOLESTEROL:HDL RATIO, SERUM/PLASMA
  • CBC AND AUTOMATED DIFFERENTIAL RFLX MANUAL DIFF
  • COMPREHENSIVE METABOLIC PANEL (CMP), SERUM
  • IRON, TIBC, FERRITIN PANEL, SERUM

So I waited in a room for 30 minutes - got my blood drawn and was off to work. Sure enough the next day at 6am I had the results in my inbox and nothing was wrong with the simple short comment - "labs normal".

I have no idea what I'm reading or looking at, but the doctor said I was okay and I feel okay. So I think I can officially disprove all the random runners that said I was in danger.

I'll continue my workouts, add a blood pressure monitor into my collection and I purchased a new pair of shoes since I just passed 600 miles on my last pair. I believe my heart is healthy from both my own judgement and a doctor.

I'll have fun watching my body battery stat on tough workout days and try and unlock some new badges. I'm watching the opposite of the "Frosty" badge code-named "Toasty", but running in 100+ degree weather seems like a death wish.

With a bit more validation that I'm not hurting myself dangerously - it's time to break these personal records.

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