Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Return to the hills

A couple of years ago when I screwed up my knee, I quit running or walking hills; it just hurt too much. I didn't mind little inclines or declines but even walking up steps was bothersome. When we decided on a marathon last year we picked the flattest one around, Chicago. Our training included no hills whatsoever and that suited me and my knee just fine.

This year I decided I wanted to run Vermont, so hills are back in the picture. Our longer runs have had a little hill here, a little hill there. But nothing like the hills I'll face in the marathon. Seeing that the race has a 6 hour cut-off and seeing that I'm running slower than I ever have before, I realized that I need to get a bit of hill training. Or a lot of hill training.

The return of Daylight Savings Time meant I could do a short hilly run after work. We've avoided Inspiration Point (and the damn cows) except for a couple of easy walks, but it was time to give them a try. Yesterday after work I met Anita for a planned 4 mile run. Our (my) intent was to do a firm 9:1 for 2 miles, turn around, and 9:1 for as long as we could before I blew up on the hills. It actually worked as planned, with a couple of exceptions.

We started out slowly (... like I'm running any other way lately) and the first hill had us both huffing and puffing. I literally gasped my way to our first walk break and never did catch my breath before that short little minute was gone. We made it through the first mile, continued on. A 9:1 with our pace usually has us running the hill leading up to the short forested part and sure enough, despite checking my watch desperately to find the walk-9, it was all run. I was determined to suck it up (heh) and keep going, so keep going we did.

When we got to the 2 mile marker I decided we should go out to the 2.5, turn around, run our complete 4 miles and then walk the rest. We kept going but right around the corner, to my cownsternation, was a large bovine on the side of the trail. My heart sped up a bit, but I decided to tough it out and edge around the far side. We ran a bit further and as the path opened up I saw on the other side of the trail: 3 more big -- really big -- cows gazing at us. Getting to the 2.5 marker would have meant squeezing past in both directions.

That was all I needed. We turned it around and hoofed (heh) it back down the trail, away from all that beef. Seriously, I wish they didn't cause my heart to race, my teeth to clench, my brain to freeze. It's dumb. It's silly. But the whole thing about a phobia is that it's irrational. Cow anxiety, sheesh. As if I don't have enough things in life now making me anxious.

It turned out to be for the best. Except for one slightly extended walk break we 9:1'd it right on back again, including the hill I had said on the outward bound that I'd be walking on the return. Yeah, I was wheezing like a bellows and at one point I think my quads were yelling loudly enough to be heard at the Golden Gate, but I kept on running. Heck, it was just 4 miles, right?

What made this a good run was the scenery. Yeah, it was gorgeous. From the views straight across the Bay, as far as that Golden Gate, to the vistas of the spillways of the reservoirs in the other direction. It was every shade of green imaginable. The wildflowers were yummy yellow, baby blue, sparkling purple and orange orange. We saw a murder of crows soaring on the thermals and perched on the pylons. The lowering sun, blowing wind and low-60's temp created the perfect conditions for running.

Today my legs are a little sore, my lungs are very irritated, but my spirit is high. I'm a bit more confident that the run in Vermont will go well, including the hills. I'm hoping to get to IP several more times before the race, increasing the mileage and my hill stamina. I'm glad I got to see the area in all it's spring glory!

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