Accidental Hill Training “What goes up must come down”

After seeing the SF RnR Half Marathon course, I have been thinking about adding hill training. My short running career has always about “flat” course. Hill is like Goliath in my mind. However, there will be few miles of incline in the SF course, in the beginning climbing onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was talking with my broker and sharing my need to add hills to the training. He then encouraged me to practice on the local trail called Los Gatos Creek Trail, which I regularly ran. He told me to go on this specific stretch, leading up to the Lexington Reservoir. In his words, these were “rolling hills”. Nothing crazy.

My broker is a Vietnam vet who pouches bags for cardio work out and rides up 1200 ft mountains for fun. I forgot “easy” for folks like him might not be so “not crazy” after all.

Today was also my LSD 5 miles run. I had planned to enjoy the “rolling hills” on a beautiful 72F day. Well, about half mile into the run, I realized that the starting point was well below the Lexington Reservoir. Then I thought, well, it probably was going to be increasing elevation slowly. Nope, that was not the case. The first “rolling hill” came to sight around mile 1.5, it was STEEP. As I came upon it, I thought “serious? people RUN on those?”

I thought back to my Chi Running workshop on the technique on running on hills. It was about turning the body side ways at 45 degree angle and “leaning” into the hill. The idea was to use the side leg muscle (and gravity) and not to stress the Achilles and calves. Well, I had to admit; it looked and felt unnatural. HOWEVER, as soon as I switched back to “normal” running, it felt even more work! I stuck with the side way crisscrossing. First hill was over and I survived!

I felt really proud. Then the gain on elevation was more gradual. I felt relieved, until I saw people coming down from the Reservoir. I was thinking “really? are those people or just my imagination?” When I came upon it, I swear, even when I was NOT good at geometry, that looked more than 30 degree! And the Goliath part of this was it was A LONG stretch. Here we go, crisscrossing all the way! I stopped 100 yards short of the top because I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I glanced down at my HR watch – it read 174! My aerobic threshold on LSD run was supposed to be 150+/-

I haven’t seen the Reservoir AFTER such a climb. When I put in the effort to run up to it (literally), it looked more beautiful than ever.


I had to fulfill the distance requirement, so I continued up along the reservoir, which turned out to be another significant elevation. Not as bad but at that point, but I felt every step. My saving grace was thinking “okay, what goes up MUST COME DOWN” It would be a nicer run back. The maximum elevation was about 722 ft.

ImageIndeed, the returning trip felt more manageable. I knew what to expected. Now I know why runners train on hills. It’s definitely more “bang for the buck” Hills made flat look so easy!

Surprisingly, the thought of “okay, I’m just going to turn around” never showed up. I attributed this to few things. One, with the Chi Running techniques, it felt easier to run in general. Two, with Chi Running’s hill technique, it felt different and some ways more interesting. And finally, I focused a lot on breathing today. It almost felt like I was “running and meditating” on certain part of the course.

I will return to conquer this “rolling hills” course since it simulated well of the actual half marathon’s course. Next week – 6 miles – the longest distance I ever run. I’m excited about it!

Imagep.s. I saw this on my cool down walk. Spring is almost here! I can’t wait for Daylight Saving to begin soon!!


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