Hills, I love to hate them – Thank goodness for coaches!

8503c2e33b94a0c20cb09c257b2689d5I achieved two major goals for myself this week. I ran my first 10km distance – training not a race – and demolished some hills my second time out. I feel pretty good! Well…my legs hate me but I am use to them thinking I am mean. Secretly, they love it.

In 2011 I began training for my first half marathon. I walked it, I trained to walk it and it was the hardest thing I had ever done physically. Part of it was my extreme weight and low fitness levels and part of it was the lack of support. People constantly kept telling me I had no idea what I signed up for. That was true, but neither did they. They had never participated in a half marathon either.

My plan was simple, join the Running Room‘s Learn to Walk a Half Marathon class, do what I was told to do and then cross the finish line! YAY ME!

It wasn’t that easy.

The first class we were to walk 4km. I remember thinking, I find this hard. How am I ever going walk 21.1 km? I finished the 4km in just over an hour.

A few weeks went by and we were scheduled to walk hills, it started with 3 x 400m. Ya right – no freaking way could I do that. So I didn’t. What I considered a hill back then, I consider a bump now. A hill to me is serious business and there is an actual elevation change. I trained for my first half marathon and never climbed a hill. Which is fine, kind of, because the Edmonton Canadian Derby Half Marathon course is FLAT – prairie flat. No hills, so why did I need to do them?

I will tell you why I SHOULD have done them, recovery.

Training on hills and doing Fartleks makes you faster, stronger but more importantly, it shows your body that you can do more than it thinks it can.

I had no business walking a half marathon in 2011. I was not fit enough – yet I did…barely. My goal then was to cross the finish line.

This year in 2013 I have two half marathons scheduled. I am running the Canadian Derby half and I am heading to Florida for the WDW Marathon weekend. This time I have a different goal. I am aiming for a finish time and I am determine to have a better recovery time. Meaning – I don’t want to feel like death after the half. I know I will be tired and sore, but my fitness level needs to be raised from the last time I did this so I feel better. My plan is working. After I ran 10k on Sunday, I felt fabulous. The first time I walked a 10k I needed a nap. Not this time. I kept active and did stuff for the rest of the day. I didn’t feel tired, in fact I felt the opposite, I felt ENERGIZED.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not dissing walking. The reason I want to run is because walking takes a REALLY LONG TIME! Walkers go the same distance but tend not to be as fast – although they are still faster than me running but that is another story. So when a half-marathon walker finishes in 3:30 and runner can do it in 2:30… or something like that. My point being, walkers are as fit as runners. They just use different muscles.

Part of my strategy to recover quicker and get faster is

  1. Hill Repeats
  2. Fartleks
  3. Nutrition before, during and after the run
  4. Core strengthening – I have a six pack under here somewhere! I swear I do!
  5. Building up the hamstring and glutes for more power

Wednesdays are Hill Repeats! My first session didn’t go so great. I was to do 3x400m. Well, Edmonton has two types of hills steep get your heart rate going NOW type hills and laugh hysterically and question the incline type of bump. Most southside runners favour Emily Murphy Hill. Not the one out of the parking lot but the one that leads to the U of A. It’s officially called Emily Murphy Park Road. It is PACKED on Wednesdays. Why? Well, most people follow John Stanton‘s training methods because he is from here, he is a famous learn to run guy in Canada and well, people are sheep. We like being told what to do  and when. Training is no different. I don’t like to think about what I need to do, I just want to look on my calendar and know what’s next. Stanton has Wednesdays as Hill or Fartlek days. So everyone goes to Murphy Hill. The Running Room club goes at 6 on Wednesdays, so I go earlier because my schedule is flexible.

My first session had me excited and raring to go, so I ran up the hill – made it halfway, felt like my heart might explode so I walked the rest of the way, and ran back down. I ran up again, this time didn’t make it half way and walked the rest. I did that one more time and felt like a failure, defeated and slug like.

This week, I reached out for advice. I belong to the WDW Radio Running Team. We fundraise for Make A Wish, but more importantly we are a very supportive team. I have yet to run with them, yet I feel like a team member. They are truly terrific! There are a couple of coaches on that team Brian writes this blog and Joe writes this blog. I asked them each the same question :

Question: when running hills and you can’t make it all the way up, is it better to walk the rest of the way or turn around and start again? I’m running on an fairly steep incline for about 600 meters.

I got two different answers addressing different aspects of running. I love those guys! Brian suggested I slow my pace because walking uses different muscles than running. He added a ton more information, but it pertains to me and my fitness level. Joe gave me tips for mental toughness. This guy is the most focused guy on the planet when it comes to goals. He suggested I pick a target and don’t stop until I get there. That worked best for me. Often I could run past that target. I used a combination of both coaching methods and did 6x100m. It was all I could do without my heart exploding. I am a mom, so it’s important I don’t die until my kids move out. Listening to my body is important but it is also important to push it beyond what it thinks it is capable of. I did that yesterday. I kicked it! I did better that I thought I could and finished on a high note. That was the other bit of advice Joe gave me. He said:

Your muscles remember the last they do. So you want to finish a workout by hitting a target that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, not a defeat.

Actually, it has to do with brain memory and habits – you can read more about that kind of stuff in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg or some Dr. Bruce Perry research. At any rate, Joe’s suggestion resonated with me and by slowing my pace as Brian suggested, I finished on a high.

I know I need work to reach my hill targets, but practice makes perfect. Difficult doesn’t make me quit, it makes me work harder. I will get there and you will be able to hear me yell and scream with excitement when I do because celebrating is now part of my success ritual. Fist pumps for everyone! Woohoo!

The rest of this week’s training requires an easy 6k today (that makes me laugh, remember when I was afraid of the 5k?), 10km on Saturday and I am volunteering for the Police Half Marathon on Sunday. I am a road marshal over at McKinnon Ravine and 142 street so if you run by say HEY! I think it is important to give back to the running community. I appreciate them and volunteering shows it.

Here is a great video on the benefits of hills. Take a look, this Doctor guy is great! and as always, Happy Running!

Hills Get Stronger!