My wakeup HR was 49 this morning. Last week, I got about 6 1/2 hours sleep each night, including Friday night before my long run yesterday. That sleep wasn't quite enough, and my wakeup HR was elevated a bit during the week to 50/51. However, I took an hour nap after yesterday's run and got a good 7 hours last night, and my wakeup HR this morning was back to its "normal" 49.
Last fall, while I was increasing my mileage from 7 miles to 10 miles, my pace would be 11-13 minutes, usually in the 12 minute range but frequently in the 11 minute range. After I reached 10 miles, my body couldn't handle the increased stress, and I had to drop back to 8 miles and slowly work back up to 10 and then on to 15 miles. I also had my gall bladder removed in November, and that increased the stress on my body. During the spring, my pace was usually 12 to 14 minutes. Yesterday, even though it was hot, I felt good during my run and felt a strength in my body that I hadn't felt since last fall before I got to 10 miles. My pace yesterday varied from 11 to 13 minutes, and I felt like I did last fall before I got to 10 miles.
Another way that I can tell that I'm getting stronger is how my feet react to the running. I started running when I was about 38 due to pain in my feet. I had always walked a lot during my earlier life, but when I finished college I got a car and began driving everywhere. Over time, my feet began to hurt when I would be on them for extended periods such as during yard work for several hours. I was told by a specialist that the muscles in my feet were weak and that I should do what ever I wanted to strengthen the muscles. I began running, a natural extension to all of the walking I had done in my younger life. Running really helped my feet. The threshold for the foot-pain was pushed out, although my feet would still hurt if I stayed on them for a really long time. During the two years that I ran marathons (3-4 years of marathon training), my feet felt fine after I did yard work or completed a long hike with my scouts (I was scoutmaster for 12 years in Massachusetts).
However, after I stopped marathon training and my mileage slowly came down to just a few miles per week, my feet started hurting after a few hours of yard work. The pain would come after periods of rest, not during the activity. This is a syndrome known as the "squeaky door" syndrome. My feet felt fine during activity but became stiff and painful during periods of rest, just as a rusted door is hard to open (no movement) and you have to push extra hard to get the door moving. Once the door begins to move, it moves more freely.
I've noticed during recent weeks, especially after I got my mileage past 10 miles, that my feet were stiff and painful the morning after my long run, even though they felt fine during the run. The pain was usually gone 24 hours later, but the stiffness after periods of rest remained during the week. At work, I sit at my desk and do computer programming. After two or three hours of sitting, if I get up to walk somewhere, my feet are stiff, and it takes a couple minutes of walking to loosen them up. I do my long runs on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, when I first get up, my feet are stiff and painful, but after a couple minutes of walking, the stiffness is gone and the pain is reduced to just a "tender" feeling in my feet. After 24 hours the "tender" feeling is gone, but the stiffness remains during the week. I look like a really old man when I get up and walk around :)
This morning was a pleasant surprise. When I first got out of bed, my feet had no pain and almost no stiffness. That is a good sign that my body and feet are getting stronger. It will be interesting to see if this "good sign" continues and improves in subsequent weeks.