Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hell on Hills

Some runners (me) avoid hills at all costs, because well they can cause injury, and because, wellllll, they're hard

But I also know that hill training is speed training in disguise.  Was it Frank Shorter that coined this?  Can't remember now. 

And honestly the past 6 months, without hill training at all, I actually have become better at them despite my lack thereof, due completely to the fact that I have been strength training. 

Even though Houston Marathon is considered flat by the majority, there are still some man made hills in there: first 2 miles over the Elysian, then a few under and up passes around mile 6, then again at mile 15ish, and the then under and up passes of Allen Parkway in mile 24.

NONE of which got me this year.  And then there is the fact that what we call hills, aren't really hills to a lot of runners who run on real hills.  Hills that I would call mountains.

So its been, gosh, I cannot even remember when I last did hills with KW now that I think about it.  Was it Spring 2010?  Summer 2010? 

Doesn't matter now because I'm back at it for the Spring.  And actually quite excited about it!
While there are a number of different types of hill training, here are three of the most common types of hill workouts: 
  • Speed and Power Hills - short, fast runs up steep hills with ample recovery between reps to promote explosive speed
  • Downhill Sprinting or Strides - short, very fast runs down a gently sloping hill to promote quick leg turnover
  • Stamina Hills - longer, "crisp" paced runs over moderately steep hills to promote endurance and strength
Climbing hills requires a slightly modified running technique.  This involves shortening your normal stride, dropping your shoulders to ensure a lower arm carriage, and leaning slightly forward into the hill. 

You should aim for a strong, steady and consistent pace throughout the hill rep. 

Running downhill also requires some modifications.  Again, shortening the stride and leaning slightly forward is helpful.  For steep down hills, thinking about leaping from one foot to the other can be an effective way to quickly negotiate the hill. 

All in all, while I loathe the training, I love the benefits.  I am just hoping that my body doesn't retaliate with my PF flaring back up or my (sh)IT band for another things!

So Monday evening was the first hill workout of the Spring season and on the docket was 'stamina hills' (interpreted above).  Great.  If there is one kind of hill I hate the most, its 'stamina hills'.  :O)

I have a crude representation of what the 'cloverleaf' looks like where last nights workout commenced.

Before we started the work out, I ran 2.5 miles for a warm up just around base, before running over with one of the guys that I've become friends with from the Saturday mornings before the run (because he is faster than I am).

Anyway, we ran over, and SW had to do his first night schpiel for the newbies, and I was just ready to get on with it.  We did about 5 minutes of drills before he gave instructions on the 'route' (again I knew what it was, so lets go already!)

Replica (with my squiggly line drawing)

Obviously this is just a replica, and obviously you can't see the 'hill' parts, but each clover leaf has a number 1-4.  We start at the S and the first part up to the road there is all a gradual uphill (run fast) until it flattens out up top (run slow/recover).  Then once over to 2, you walk down the steep downhill there and then run fast again up to the top, walk the steep downhill, run slow/recover underneath then blast up the gradual uphill of #3, recover over the bridge, walk the steep downhill of #4 then run fast again to the stop, walk downhill and then recover under the pass, then repeat with 1-4 all over again.

One full rotation of all 4 cloverleafs is = 1 mile.  You either do 3-4 based on speed, OR if you are one of the newbies, and have little to no base running, you end up doing 2. 

Or if you are a cheater (I saw plenty of those last night), you end up doing less than 3 because you skip out on #2 a lot by just going right under the pass when you really should be running up #2.  Cheaters!!  But then you know, you are only cheating yourself!!  I always love the first couple of weeks of a new session; the new folks have this look of WTF? on their faces and/or go at it gung ho for all of about 2 minutes before figuring out the workout is 30-40 min long and you need to pace yourself...or you end up walking.  Saw a lot of those last night too...

I ended up doing my full 3 loops and felt great the whole time.  Well not great as in I wanted to more, but great as in that I am obviously in better shape than I give myself credit for.  Sure I was needing those recovery parts when I was about halfway done, but I was still able to process a quick turnover once I hit the grass and was able to maintain some sort of speed to where I felt like I was definitely benefiting from the workout over all.

I felt my heart racing and it made me smile because I knew each blast of energy I was using to get up and around those hills, were blasting fat calories and making my heart and my legs stronger.

I am not going to lie, I've missed these workouts and so happy to be back in full swing! 

Next up is first round of speed work on Wednesday!  Tonight is some recovery miles followed by a session with K.  He texted me last night wanting to know if I wanted a session tonight, so yay for spontaniety!

1 comment:

Neeraj Rohilla said...

Have a love hate relationship with Hills. Can't agree more with your post. Very informative post. I need to start doing some hills soon.

However, one should keep in mind that your hill training should not be more than around 8-10% of your weekly mileage. Plus, count the hill work as a quality day and no more than two quality days in a week.