Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hills and track: necessary evils, or just plain evil?

For lazy people like me, if asked what I prefer: A. hills or B. speed work, the answer is D. None of the above.  (Here's where half of my readers are shaking their heads saying, "Are you kidding me? Lazy? You're about the busiest person I know! Why, you do more in an afternoon than I do all week!"  And the other half of my readers are nodding their heads saying, "You know, she really is lazy.  Always whining about the hills.  Always whining about going to track".)

Training for the Boston Marathon has me at odds with my laziness, because there are no short cuts to that finish line.  How I feel that day will be a reflection of all the work I've put into preparation.  Adding to my inner inertia is the very real issue of my very unhappy foot.  Ever since breaking it in October I've had to baby it, wrap it, and do whatever I can to avoid excess pounding on the ball of my foot.  Running fast = pounding.  Pushing up hills = pounding.  Steamrolling down hills = pounding. My foot isn't exactly giving me the push out the door I need!

Just running around town gives me a lot of hills to hate, but only one time have I actually done a run to focus specifically on hills.  That was in October, just a week before I broke my foot.  Whether or not it was a contributing factor to the break I'll never know, but ever since then I've been very hesitant to put any undue stress on my foot.  With Boston just around the corner, why risk it?

While I think I've done the right thing in terms of being cautious, it comes at a cost.  What came clear to me after analyzing my Garmin data is that the pace of my short runs and long runs were all blending together.  I like my short runs to be faster, so that the long runs don't seem so hard.  Over the last couple of weeks, although I haven't done any track work, I have focused on trying to speed up a bit on my short runs.  It's worked, and I've finally got some 4-5 mile runs at paces in the 8's.  The funny thing is, I really enjoy the harder effort of running faster.  Unfortunately, after a couple weeks of incorporating faster runs into my routine, my foot started hurting.  A lot.  Right in the same spot where it broke in October.  I was pretty upset about this, and did the right thing by taking a few days off.  I did a short run on Saturday (4.5 miles) just to test it out, and there was still some pain but not unmanageable.  I had a 20 miler planned for Sunday but opted to shorten it to 15 (actually 10, but Anthony gave me a bonus 4.5 miles).  Oddly enough, my foot was 100% fine that day.  One thing Anthony suggested on our run was to try to introduce more hill work into my week if I could.  Just once a week, throw in more hills.  It will be good for Boston.  So then he says to me, he says, "Even just the hill right on your street.  Just run up and down that 10 times, and that's probably all you need".  If I could catch Anthony, I would probably punch him in the face.

Well, the last thing in the world I want to do is hill work.  It hurts just thinking about it.  That hill in front of my house is horrible.  Sometimes I skip running simply because I don't want to have to run up that hill.  Now Anthony is suggesting that I do it 10 times in a row.  Holy hell.  On the other hand, I may be lazy, but I'm also logical.  They say, "train hard, race easy".  So the harder I make my training, the easier it should feel on race day.  If I can run up this hill until I'm ready to collapse, I should be better prepared for Heartbreak Hill, and for the last six miles of the marathon when my legs are shot and it's all I can do to keep moving forward.  That's really what it's all about.  I don't want to suffer too much in Boston.  This isn't so much a "training plan" as it is a "means of survival".

So today for the first time since October, I did "hill work".  I realize that with five weeks left until the Boston Marathon I'm a little late to the party, but may as well give it a try.  I refused to commit to Anthony's recommended 10 repeats, but instead loosely committed to running up and down the hill "a whole bunch of times".  Well, "a whole bunch of times" = 4.  And it really was horrible.  The fourth time I made it to the top of the hill I had decided I'd had enough, I just kept on running down the street to get in more mileage before returning home.  While torturing myself, I couldn't help but compare it to my other nemesis, track work.  It's fun trying to think of which activity I hate more.  Today I'm confident that I hate hill work more.  Of course, that may change.  Here are a few observations of hills vs. track.

  • I've never puked on a hill, only on a track
  • My muscles have never screamed as much on a track as they did up that hill today
  • At track I have friends that I love running with.  Even the ones that yell at me.
  • Tracks are flat.  And springy.  And sometimes come with a marching band.
I'm not sure if any of the above observations are Pro-hills or Pro-track, but I guess that's up to interpretation.  While I wait for track season to start up again, I'm just going to keep on hating these hills, but I'll keep on running up them with the hopes that if I run uphill long enough, eventually the hills will feel flat, and the flats will feel downhill.

Today I was proud of myself for conquering the hills, and was excited to upload my Garmin activity to check out the elevation gain.  (I estimated it to be about 1,000 feet gained).  After all that, it was only 441 feet of climbing over 4.5 miles.  I guess I have some work to do!  I sent a quick text over to Anthony simply stating that my quads and butt muscles were pretty ticked at him for suggesting hills, but that I had given it a shot.  He congratulated me, and then told me that he just finished a trail run for his birthday, with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.  I guess deep down we runners are all just a special breed of masochist.

Click here to see today's run!

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