Week 3 of Marathon Training: The Hills Are Alive

Shelley's DiaryThe hills are alive…just ask my calves, quads and glutes!

Hills played a large part in this week of marathon training. This was in part by design and in part due to my neighborhood geography!

I used to joke with my children that when they have kids of their own, they can honestly say that they had to walk home from school three miles, uphill both ways. (they did have bus passes, but frequently opted for the long way home with their friends!). In my neighborhood, no matter which direction I run from my home, uphill running will be required at some point.

I’m used to this, and had three neighborhood runs during the week. The pups and I had our usual early morning 3 mile outings. Then I had my long run on Sunday.

I was slated for ten miles and had no particular route in mind. Maddie, Milo and I did three miles together. Then I dropped them off at home and headed in a roundabout way to a local park, Rancho San Rafael. It’s a big and beautiful recreational area, but there were parts I had not yet seen. I decided to visit the Arboretum since I didn’t have the pups with me (no dogs allowed!)

I made my way along the winding paths, and thoroughly enjoyed many different areas including one dedicated to native plants, a rose garden and a rock garden. There were several areas to rest and just take in the fresh air (no, I didn’t!). It was a gorgeous route and I managed to rack up some good mileage. I decided to make my way to the top of the park and run what I thought would be downhill back to my own street. I was surprised to find that the street I chose demanded an elevation gain of 200 feet over a mile. Fortunately, the final mile of my run was mostly downhill.

Here’s the Fitbit screen shot of the last seven miles of my ten.  Fitbit screenshot 9.24.17

The hills had also been prominent earlier in the week, when Coach Carissa had us run to a nearby road for hill repeats. She asked us to start out at RPE 12 and end each repeat at RPE 14 or 15, jog back downhill and do it again for seven repeats. It was still dark and although we could see that the road inclined, we did not see how steep it was. You might even say there was a “false summit” The first time I ascended up the hill I started out at what I thought would be an RPE of 12, but it quickly became a 14 before I was even halfway up the hill! This day we learned the true definition of “perceived exertion” – you can be doing a 14 or 15 and be walking!

The Hills Are Alive
Photo credit: Carissa Tashiro
Why Hill Repeats, Anyway?

Hill repeats have long been a staple of training for many runners. But only recently, research has shown that interval training including hills can improve running economy. The two main benefits seem to be improvement in strength and power, but improvements are also seen in breathing and posture.

In order to feel these benefits, runners must pay attention to form when running uphill. Most coaches recommend a slight forward lean from the ankles rather than the hips.

I must admit, while I certainly feel the fatigue in my legs after doing these hill repeats, I do feel stronger the next time I run uphill!

Speed Work

Our work at the track has been helping, as well. This week’s speed Week Three of Marathon Trainingintervals included 4 x 800s, then 4 x 200’s at 1 mile race pace. The goal was to increase speed with each interval. It’s amazing how the workouts make you feel simultaneously fatigued and energized. And yes, stronger.

Things Happen for a Reason

The week did not start out very well for my friend and running buddy, B. She set out with her pup for a trail run on Monday. A mile and a half into her run, she stumbled and sprained her ankle (not to mention scraping up her leg in the process). She was fortunate that she was able to put enough weight on her foot to be able to limp back to her car. She took herself to an orthopedic urgent care and was assured that it wasn’t broken, but definitely sprained. Sadly, she is sidelined until the swelling goes down.

Now, I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason. It so happens that about 30 minutes after B left the trail, a wild land fire broke out very near where she had stumbled. Fortunately no one was hurt and no homes in the area were lost. I don’t know that anyone else was on the trail that afternoon; but had my friend not fallen and been forced to cut her run short, she could very well have been in danger that afternoon.  I am sad to have temporarily lost my running buddy and training partner. But I am so thankful that she potentially avoided something far worse than a sprained ankle!

The Other Side of the Race

I spent Saturday morning volunteering for the Battle Born Trail Series at Washoe Lake. It was a cold morning, but a beautiful, and I was almost envious of the runners who were racing. I rather enjoyed working behind the scenes for once, helping with last-minute registrations and packet pickups. And I loved greeting runners as they crossed the finish line and handing them their unique medals.

The other side of the race

How is your training going? What’s your next race?

Author: Shelley English

Shelley is a wife, mom and executive assistant who loves to spend the rest of her time running and writing.

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