Hill Repeats

Besides getting stronger and more powerful leg and gluteal muscles, running up hills strengthens your heart and lungs, encourages better form, reduces the physical stress of impact, and helps you achieve a faster cadence. It is also mentally strengthening which is especially important in an endurance athlete. There’s plenty of reasons to incorporate hills in your running route(s), but if you want a bigger boost of the benefits, then having a hill-specific workout in your training cycle is a great idea.

Where I live, there’s plenty of great hills (a.k.a. mountains) to add a hill-repeat workout to my training cycle. After my usual warm up, I do five to eight repeats. I prefer walking down to increase my heart’s ability to recover, aid in fat burn, and save the extra quad stress of running downhill for later.

If you don’t consider yourself a “climber” there are a few tips you can try. Pretend the hill is a set of stairs – shorten your stride and pick up your knees. Instead of trying to pull yourself up the hill with lunging strides, push off the ground with your ankles. Focus on your level of effort rather than your pace. This is especially important if you have more miles ahead of you and need to conserve energy.

Another reason why I walk down is to reduce injury risk. I know that if I had perfect form it wouldn’t matter, but I don’t. When I’m doing repeats, I’m focusing on the benefits I’m getting from uphill running. I get practice running downhill in my trail runs.

When I’m racing and there’s downhill portions, I do my best to float with no extra effort pushing or slowing down. It should be a little faster than my usual pace, but again, I’m focusing on no extra effort. When I get to level ground, then I settle back into goal pace.

Duration: about 1.5 hours total (including cool down)

Frequency: once every other week

dont look

San Diego Hot Chocolate 15k 2018

Shorter stride, faster cadence. That’s what I was telling myself as I was struggling to grasp a rhythmic movement. The leading ladies were spread out relatively far apart by mile 2 and I was having a hard time keeping any them in sight. Breathing heavily, from the ups and downs that were already run in the course, I tried to relax into the long climb ahead. This race was again going to be about effort, but I didn’t want to fall away from fourth female.

The San Diego edition of this race starts downtown on a hill, then takes you through a winding course among some neighborhoods and parks full of elevation change, and then throws you back downtown, where for the last .3 miles you finally get to remember what it feels like to run level. 

Yeah, it’s a really fun course. But taking it back to mile 2, I could hear the 5th female coming up beside me. I immediately recognized her from a half marathon last April when I chased her down to try to take second place, but hesitated for too long and she beat me by 33 hundredths of a second. I couldn’t let her overtake me, but we weren’t very far into the race and I didn’t want to pull away and waste energy that I knew I needed later. She stayed with me for another mile and then let me lead by mile 4.

But she was right behind me, and coming from behind in a race gives you the advantage at the end (if you’re willing). Mentally, I was exhausted from racing. I didn’t want to do it. I was tired for several reasons, but as much as I love racing, it’s HARD and all I wanted to do was sleep.

What I wanted and what I didn’t want weren’t lining up, so I had to choose. I didn’t want to give up and just run the rest of the way. However, I knew that if she remained close enough behind me, she could attack and I didn’t feel like I had it in me to counter that move. My best option was to slowly pull away and try to create a gap big enough that would discourage her from making a move at the finish.

It was working, but we were about to go on a nice size downhill and then immediately up up UP. This was my third year doing the course so I knew what was about to happen. She caught up to me at the bottom of the downhill and then I dropped her hard on the uphill. My legs recovered, and I continued to increase the gap with just two miles left. I felt like I had her, but I really needed to push the downhill finish. I threw myself down the 9th mile in 6:02 and demanded more from my lungs for the last .3 for a strong finish.

Forty-five seconds ahead – it was enough.

I had hoped for a sub 60-minute and a podium finish. I didn’t get either, but I got more experience racing and a really good workout. Right now, those latter things are  much more important. Since moving to Utah and recovering from injury, I haven’t been able to find a good training groove. It will come, but I need a little more time. My lungs continue to be what’s lagging behind. For the most part, my legs felt great with all of the ups and downs on the course. My cadence was better this race at 182 steps per minute. I got to see more running friends and walked away with a bowl of chocolate. What do I have to complain about?

Final Stats

Time – 1:00:54

Overall – 15th of 3665

Female – 4th of 2588

Age group – 2nd of 320