Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Run for the hills

When I first ran Charlottesville, reviews for the race warned me: “Do NOT run this race as your first marathon! The hills will kill you!” I ignored them, finished my first marathon despite crawling up a few hills, and now enough time has passed that I’ve sufficiently repressed the pain and am taking it on again. More prepared this time, and curious as to how I will do as a veteran.

But the hills still scare me. Even after I was happy about my last marathon pace workout doubts started setting in: maybe that route wasn’t hilly enough, maybe I was going too easy on myself. Much like the optimistic New Year’s resolution makers, at the beginning of every training season I tell myself I will be better at the little extras: I’ll run my hill repeats and do my strength work. But as the season gets going, it’s easy to slip into the rhythm, just check off workouts, and lose the perspective and desire to do the extras.

But after another disappointing tempo run last week, which I realized was the last tempo run of this training season (!!), I realized how close the hills of Charlottesville are. So for my long run Sunday, I tweeked my usual route to try to include more hills (often that meant just running up and down the same hill multiple times.) The workout was slow and beat me up sufficiently. My Garmin tracked the elevation, and the chart is below. Looking at it compared to Charlottesville, I see the “hilly” run wasn’t hilly enough.

I’ve tried to line up my route with Charlottesville’s and manipulate the scale so they are comparable. I highly suggest you do something similar in your own training. Even if you don’t have a GPS watch, you should make note of where the hills are in the race and approximately how long they are (200 meters? half a mile? two miles?) If you can get a sense of the steepness, all the better. Then try to replicate the same in your workouts. If there is a hill towards the end of the race, make sure there’s one at the end of your workout. In addition to building strength and power, it’s incredibly important for mental preparation. 

A few things I noted from my comparison:
(1) The hills in the middle of my route are barely blips, I need to find something more significant.
(2) The more significant hills (arrows) I ran over Sunday killed me but are eerily similar to the worst hills at Charlottesville. The hill at mile 24 was already terrifying. Knowing how I ran up a similar hill the other day, I’m sufficiently worried. (One more plea to check elevation charts: The race website claims four flat miles at the end. Not exactly the truth.)
(3) I need to get to work! Only six weeks left! Yikes this is going to be rough.

(The asterisks are not real hills. When I run over bridges my Garmin gets confused and thinks I instantaneously dropped down to the road below and then rocketed back up to the bridge. Technology is great, but not perfect.)

Dream big,

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