(image courtesy of www.mountairymd.org)

HIlls:

Hills. I'm not sure how you feel about hills, but they bring real hatred up from deep inside of me. I live up. By that I mean that to get anywhere from my house I have to go down a big hill, which means when I go home, I go up that big hill. That's great for training for hills. Not so great for days when I don't want to run hills. Every run has hills. 

I huff and puff and swear (quietly of course, there are children in my neighborhood) and finally I stagger to the top. It ain't pretty, but I get there. I have a running partner who has legs like a gazelle. When we run hills she takes off and leaves me behind like someone kicked on her turbo boosters. It's why I hate her. Secretly. 

So, hills at a race are the toughest challenge I come across. 

When I ran the Zion's Half Marathon in April I came across one pretty tough hill. I looked up at it and decided I was going to run the whole dang thing no matter what. What made it even worse, was NO ONE was running it. At all. Every single person ahead of me already on the hill was walking it. So, challenge accepted. I wasn't really trained for this run so I decided that I wasn't going to break any speed records, but I was going to be a total Bad Ass on all the hills. Especially this one. 

I took a deep breath and started up the hill. I coached myself the whole way. When I reached the top I treated myself to a little celebration dance. No one really appreciated it, except me. I think secretly I loved my dance even more because I ran up a hill that no one else could. So proud of me!

As I mentioned before, I have a tough challenge ahead of me just 7 short days away. I have a 4.5 mile run as the third run in 24 hours as part of a team relay race. If you think I am just whining, take a look at the map of the leg that I have been working towards- Big nasty hill run.

So, how have I prepared for this? Well, one day a week I run a mile long hill by my house twice. So much of the training I found online recommends running intervals. But I need my body to be ready for a hill that goes and goes. So, I picked the longest and steepest hill in my neighborhood.

I also do the P90x plyometrics workout once a week. It is amazing how quickly I can see the benefits from that workout. Even after just one time. My legs gain such explosive strength from it. 

Tips from the experts:


In preparation for my run uphill next week, I did a search and came up with some great tips that have helped me work my way up all the practice hills. 

1. Maintain good running form- As you go up, shorten your stride and keep your feet low to the ground. Try to keep your head, chest, and hips perpendicular to an imaginary line. 

2. Breathe- Its really important to keep your breathing under control. Breathe deep and blow it out slowly. Don't hold your breathe. 

3. Look - look ahead, not at your feet. It frees up your airway. It also allows you to pick your best line. 

4. Pace- Even up your effort, which means you run slower than you did on flat ground, and at a nice steady pace.

 

What does all of this mean for me?

My strategy for this race?

Don't get too psyched out about this hill.

Breathe deeply and try to stay relaxed.

Look up and see where I am going.

Smile big when my team cheers for me.

Don't get too bummed as people pass me on this hill.

Oh, and not barf the whole way up. That is the greatest gift I can give my team. No. Barfing.

 

How can you train for hills?

It's flat where I live, how can I train for hills? You can use a treadmill to help fill in this part of your training. You should climb for at least 45 seconds for each hill interval. If you don't have a treadmill, or just can't bring yourself to run inside, then find a set of stairs at a park, a stadium, or at your child's school. Wherever you can. Run repeats to build that stamina. 

Why am I breathing so rapidly? Because it's a hill silly! But really, it means that you are either over-striding or bounding too high. Shorten your steps. Make your pace even. That might mean taking baby steps. Try to keep the same turnover rhythm that you had on flat ground. 

My back is tight when I run uphill? You are leaning too far forward. Remember to keep your hips perpendicular to that imaginary line. 

Why are My shoulders and arms are tight and sore? You are probably swinging your arms too much or extending your arms too far forward. 

Why do my legs feel so weak? Again, it's a hill silly! It takes time to strengthen the muscles in your legs to propel you up that hill. Don't give up!