Hit the Hills

>> Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm not terribly great at running marathons. And forget ultras, I'll never do one of those. Nor am I terribly great at running fast 5Ks. Track events would have never been my forte. But there is one particular aspect of my running I pride myself on: My ability to run hills. Across a hilly course, I'm usually able to keep a steady pace and not slow down when the inclines get tough. In fact, I can speed up those suckers and power through no problem.

My friend Dani, who photographed the 15K this weekend, captured a series of photos of me passing people up a hill on the course. It was a steep one near mile 8.

(I'm the one in all blue.)

Pulling ahead. All smiles.

Where did all those people go?
Oh, that's right.
They are still running the hill.

Yes. I'm bragging obnoxiously. But I do have a point. I want to share my secrets with you. Nothing I do is crazy or mind-blowing. However, if you incorporate these tips into your training, you -- too -- can kill hills.


#1: Map out a route with 4 or 5 (or more) good hills. Those ones you usually try to avoid. I have a route with two variations from my house that is between 4 and 7 miles. I warm up with a nice flat mile or so. Then I hit my first one. I actually end up looping around and doing a couple of them twice. Pick hills that are at least a quarter of a mile in length if you can. Bonus if you find ones that don't have a steep decline.

#2: Run this route often. At least once a week. There's really nothing more to say about this. Practice makes perfect. And, though it might hurt at first, it will get easier with time. If you get bored, run it backwards or find another challenging course. Anything to keep your legs guessing.

#3: Incorporate these same hills into your long runs and other workouts. And don't shy away from other, less intense inclines. There' this one road that leads to our house that's a steady incline over 2 miles. I run that at least three times a week as part of different workouts. It definitely helps.

(This tip is from Stephen:) #4: Pick up the pace. At least in the last 1/3 of the hill. And power through the first part of the downhill as well. It will help you with your strength AND confidence.

#5: Seek hilly race courses. Add them to your regular must-race list. There's this 10K in my hometown every June that gives runners the chance to climb almost 700 feet total across various mountains. It's intense. But I used to run it every year. Knowing it was coming kept me practicing. This year we're running a local race with a similar elevation gain, but over a 20K. Should be interesting.

#6: If you don't have hills in your area, simulate them. On a treadmill. Likely you won't use your ability much in the races you run if where you live is relatively flat. Regardless, it can't hurt to become a stronger runner.

What is your strength as a runner? Of course, it's all relative, so if you aren't able to run a 5 minute mile, but still feel like you are doing well with your speed work -- that totally counts!

And if you want to click over to Writing Chapter Three, you can watch an adorable video of Ada blowing endless raspberries . . . dripping drool down her chin. It's too cute.

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