Posts Tagged ‘hills’

Today I had a 7-mile run on my schedule.  At this point, that's not really long enough to scare me off, but it does mean that I need to actually get up when my alarm goes off in the mornings instead of hitting the snooze button for half an hour.  Lately, The Boy has been heading to the gym super-early on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he's already out of the house when the alarm goes off.  Not having someone else in bed trying to sleep while your alarm is going off?  Totally encourages the snoozing, because you don't worry about waking them up with your alarm every 9 minutes until you decide to roll your lazy ass out of bed (or they kill you).  I really wasn't looking forward to that early alarm this morning, especially since we didn't get home until after midnight last night, which is far, far past my bedtime.
Surprisingly enough, though?  I pretty much rolled right out of bed when my alarm went off.  The first time.  I got dressed and before I knew it?  I was on the road.  I'd spent some time while I was getting dressed this morning figuring out where I was going to run (most of my routes are something like, "go down this street in this direction until it's time to turn around, go home").  I decided to run a totally different route from what I've been doing lately, just to give myself some variety for the longer run.  One of the options I thought of involved a Big Stinkin' Hill, but I just wasn't feeling that sort of self-torture.  Instead, I picked out a route that would have a couple of decent hills, but would be mostly flattish or rolling.  I got through the first few miles of my run and just felt like I was flying.  In the back of my mind, I sort of knew that a big chunk of that was the fact that I was running downhill, but I ignored that and just enjoyed the fast, light feeling I had in my feet.  This was going to be a good run, even if it was still dark outside.
Around the 3.1 mile mark, I found myself at the base of the hill I'd rejected earlier with two options: wait for a light to change so I could keep running in a straight line and avoid the hill, or turn right, suck it up, and run up the hill for the next 0.4 miles.  It was almost a total non-decision and before I knew it, I was heading up the hill.  Let me tell you: if you want to find a way to make that last half mile before your turnaround seem about 5 miles long?  Spend it running up a big stinking hill.  My pace slowed to a crawl and I could feel the incline, but I just chugged right along.  The hill was big enough that my Garmin beeped for my turnaround just as I was getting to the top.  0.4 miles, straight uphill.  Boo. Ya.
Of course, the best part of all that was I got to immediately turn around and fly down the hill.  I usually pull myself up hills with the thought of how it'll feel to cover that elevation change later in the run, but I almost never get that sort of immediate gratification and it was fantastic.  That killer downhill pushed me through the rest of my run, even though most of my way back to the house was long, gradual uphills (since the way out had been long, gradual downhills).  I finished the run feeling awake and energized, despite the late bedtime and early wake-up call.
Plus, running 7 miles before breakfast?  Guaranteed to make you feel like a badass for the rest of the day.


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12Ks of Christmas

When I was putting my training plan together for the half-marathon, I knew that I wanted to run a 5K early on and then get a 10K in a bit later.  Partially because having intermediate goals like this really helps me keep my motivation up, and partially because I like racing and think it's fun.  At the time, I couldn't really find any 10Ks that worked in my schedule, but this race fit right in and sounded like fun, so I figured I'd go for it.  I signed up for the 12K and adjusted my long runs so I'd hit 8 miles the week before – I know it wasn't strictly necessary to do a long run that would be longer than the race distance, but it would make me feel better.

Then last week's long-run disaster happened, and I spent the week wondering if I was really ready for this race.  Sure, I could run 7.5 miles, but could I really race it?  It was a long enough run that the potential for things to go really bad was certainly there, so I tried to convince myself that I'd just use it as a supported training run and take it easy.  Sure, it'd take me an hour and a half that way, but I tried to make peace with that idea since there was certainly no way I was going to come even close to the 75 minute mark I had originally hoped for.  I even grabbed my freshly-charged shuffle since, you know, I'd be taking it easy and all.  Besides, I'd never run a 12K before, so even if I walked the thing I'd end up with a new PR by default.  Abslutely no need to turn myself inside out over it. Nice and easy.

Right.  I can't remember who said it, but there was a discussion a few years ago about using races for training runs and someone had made the comment that it had never worked out for them, because "as soon as you put a number on me, I turn into an asshole."  Their point was, if there was a timer running?  They were hauling some serious ass, regardless of their intentions to take it easy or "run it for fun" or "use it as a training run."  There's something to it.  Everything around race day – the crowds, the other runners, the nervous energy waiting for the start – just primes you to want to run really fast and it's difficult to phone it in.  I'd been listening to some music on my shuffle as I waited for the race to start, but I realized that if I was going to actually run this, there's a good chance I'd find it really annoying.  Plus, I didn't want to disconnect myself from all of the race day excitement.  It was why I was there, after all.

The race started out with a short but decently steep uphill. I decided to just use it as a warm-up mile and not worry about pace too much.  I was just going to get into a good groove and stick with it.  The course had a marker at each kilometer, and as I passed the first one I wondered if there would be mile markers.  I hit the first mile at 11:35 or so, but I couldn't see the marker clearly and figured that was way too slow, so there must only be kilometer markers.  It wasn't until I passed the mile 2 marker that I realized there were mile markers as well.  While I was mildly annoyed that I'd totally messed up my splits for the beginning of the course, I ws relieved that I'd be able to monitor my pace without having to do any math.  Mile 2 was mostly downhill and thusly blazing fast, and I passed by it right around the 20 minute mark.  I figured that was totally acceptable as we begin to wind through downtown Kirkland.

It was shortly after then that the course took a nasty turn.  We started climbing up a bit of a hill, and I looked up and saw runners passing by on a cross street.  A cross street that was much, much higher than I was and not all that far away.  There was a good chance that this was going to hurt.  I did a quick pace check to make sure I wasn't going to burn myself out before hitting the the top of the hill.  When we got to the top, I was half expecting to see a water stop.  Instead?  More uphill.  We spent the better part of the next two miles climbing upward, hitting the high elevation point of the course right around the 6K mark.

That 6K mark was a relief.  I knew I was halfway done and that the second half of the course had to be easier than the first half, mostly because there were going ot be some killer downhills coming up.  My watch was at 39 minutes and change, which meant that I had a decent shot at finishing in around 80 minutes – a full 10 minutes faster than I expected.  I got really excited, but reminded myself that I stil had several miles to go and settled for maintaining a steady pace.  The water stop was shortly after that and I sucked down as much water as I could.  The liquid and the brief walk break did me some good, and I set out ready to tackle the last few miles.

I was right in that there was a killer downhill, and I just let myself fall down it as I relaxed my upper body and took some deep breaths.  However, the climbing wasn't done, and there were a few bumps left to get over.  Compared to the insane amount of climbing I'd just done, though, I barely noticed them.  Just as I was really starting to feel the hill I was over the top of it.  I was also steadily passing people at this point, which made me feel good about my pacing.  I was still running strong and logging miles around the 10:15-10:30 pace, which made me very happy.  I was starting to wish that I'd carried my own water and/or brought a Gu with me.  I didn't really feel a desperate need for them, but it would have been nice to know they were there just in case.

As we made the final turn and came up on the 10K mark, I couldn't believe that I was just over the hour mark.  Some quick math told me that I could finish in under 80 minutes if I kept moving along, and I found motivation in the form of a runner decked out in a full Santa costume up ahead.  It may not be sporting to take pleasure in passing someone running in a full polyester suit in 50 degree weather, but I wasn't going to let him beat me, either.  I turned it up a little bit to make sure I passed him and quickly realized that I was probably going a bit too fast, but I only had a mile or so to go so I was going to stick with it.  Just as I was starting to really feel the increased pase, I saw a dude dressed up as Buddy the Elf, wig and all.  Again, it's not the most sporting thing to pick off someone who's probably horribly uncomfortable warm, but it gave me something to focus on.  I passed him right around the 11K mark, and at that point I could see the traffic light that marked the spot where I'd turn int the finishing corral.

I was running far too fast and feeling it, so I told myself that with a half mile to go, I wasn't going to walk.  I didn't have to keep running fast, but I had to keep running.  Slowly but surely, the turn into the finish line got closer and closer until, finaly, I was upon it.  I turned left and prepared to give it one last spring to the finish when two girls cut right in front of me and totally failed to speed up.  I couldn't get around them and I didn't have room to go through them, which annoyed me greatly.  However, I was still way ahead of where I thought I'd be, so I just let it go.  I tueked in right behind them, crossing the finish line in 1:16:59.  More than 10 minutes faster than my "realistic" goal.  Apparently, I'd been doing a wee bit of sandbagging.

I was beyond thrilled with the race.  Not only did I completely smoke it, I felt like I paced it really well.  It must be experience finally catching up with me, but I feel like I'm getting better and finding that line right between "sustainable for the distance" and "uncomfortable," which makes me really excited for the race in New Orleans.  I'm not expecting any sort of record-breaking run, but I'm now confident that I'll turn in a solid performance.

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