QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And again!

Right now, at this very moment, I would like all of you non-runners to bow your heads and be thankful for the automobile which transports you effortlessly up hills. Even the smallest incline, ascents which don’t even register while you’re driving, is big for a fatigued runner (or biker); indeed, many marathoners understandably shy away from marathon courses which harbor daunting hills. (The svelt woman pictured is not I).

Alas, any fairly serious runner is painfully mindful that hills are good for you. SO good for you, in fact, that they comprise part of the training regimen. Running up hills makes you faster and stronger. It’s a fact. It sucks, but it’s true.

In the beginning of May I ran my best marathon yet (3:50) in the New Jersey marathon; I achieved what we runners call a PR, or personal record. I was pleased but not yet satisfied, for my quest is to qualify for the revered Boston marathon, for which I need to run a marathon in 3:45:59 or less… so I am still 4 minutes short of the elusive goal.

The beginning of the month also marked the start of a new training program I’m trying for October’s marathon (a 24-week program). I’ve run the most recent 3 marathons (February’s Myrtle Beach marathon, March’s Washington DC National marathon, and May’s New Jersey marathon) without having trained intensely, mostly just wanting to get my body more accustomed to running 26.2 miles more frequently than the once per year I used to run a marathon. For October’s marathon, however, I will be stepping it up a notch or two, taking it more seriously; October’s Bay State marathon in Lowell, MA yields the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers every year (Philadelphia’s produces the highest NUMBER of BQs, but only because of its 40,000 field), and I intend to be one of them.

This brings us back to hills, the bottom of them, more specifically. Matt Fitzgerald, author of the current training program I’m using, LOVES hills. Believes in them. Recommends them. Sardonically prescribes them. Uses them in his training programs.


Having done 9 marathons at this point in my life, I’ve “done hills” in training before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seriously incorporated them into my training schedule.

Some of you are thinking: “big deal; jog up the hill and be done with it…” Ah, were it that simple! Here’s what “doing hills” entails:

1) You run a couple of miles at a relaxed pace to warm up.
2) You arrive at the bottom of the chosen hill. The earlier in the training program, the shorter and less steep the incline.
3) You swear softly to yourself in dreaded anticipation.
4) You look at your watch and note the time.
5) You sprint to the top of the hill for the prescribed number of seconds.
6) You jog slowly down to the bottom of the hill.
7) You run at the same “relaxed sprint” pace up to the top of the hill again.
8) You resist the urge to sit and chill out and instead jog slowly back down to the bottom of the hill.
9) You question why it is you’re doing this again?
10) You repeat this process again and again and again and again, up to as many as perhaps 20 times.
11) You acknowledge that the folks watching you think you’re a bit loopy.
12) You ignore your dog who urges you to keep going over the hill toward home.
13) Finally, this week’s hills behind you, you run 2 miles at a relaxed pace to cool down.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

Last week’s hills were 45 seconds and 8 repetitions. I took the dog with me and ran my 2-mile warm-up, only to discover that my chosen hill was also chosen that particular day for the installation of Verizon’s new FiOS cables, which meant a veritable plethora of observers of my strange behavior. After about 3 repetitions, the workers began to give me looks and mutter something in Spanish about “loco.” A few repetitions later, Sophie, my very intelligent and loyal German Shepherd who plodded along with me every step, began to doubt her previous estimate of her owner’s IQ. We’d get to the top and she would look at me imploringly: “okay, Mom. Home’s THAT way… wait. What’re you doing? Back down? Helloooo? Why are we doing this? Are you lost, Mom?”

Yesterday’s chosen hill was a bit longer (5 repetitions of 1 minute sprints uphill), but blessedly sans FiOS installation and also without Sophie; I can’t have my dog questioning my sanity.

I can’t wait to see what awaits me in next week’s training schedule…


  1. I can't begin to tell you how much fun that doesn't sound like.

    I wish I liked running but right now I'm having trouble just dragging myself to yoga.

  2. dig in girl--you can do it. Nothing but admiration from where I sit.

  3. Wow 9 marathons!?

    I was in CC in high school. I wasn't that good but I loved it. I could go at my own pace and besides it gave me killer legs and a tight butt. Gotta love that!

    We would do hills once a week and it was grueling, really bad. If I had known that it was going to be that difficult I would have thought twice before joining. Sometimes I think runners are a little goofy for putting themselves through this kind of training but at least you are in great shape!

  4. I am a treadmill girl. I do 2.5 miles in a half an hour. Thank you for the work out, where's the juice bar?

    Marathons draw big crowds. I don't like big crowds, but I do like FIOS. We're getting it installed tomorrow. :) (It's what all the cool couch potatoes are watching.)
    I digress.

  5. In related news, I ate a whole pizza yesterday.

  6. you want to borrow my car?

  7. I'm sorry, but I can't do ANYTHING for 3:50 straight let alone run. I ran two blocks a few months ago and had to go lay down for an hour. I thought I was going to have to have my husband push me around on a dolly for a while. So attractive.

    However, I admire YOU, my dear and possibly even envy you which is shameful, but there... I said it.

    Now hand me some of those french fries.

  8. Hmm...Im with Sophie on this one. I do admire you though. I wish I still liked to run, but I got over that in my early twenties, now Im just too old.

  9. thanks for all of the inspiration and motivation, all. :) I've put off my run so far today, because the drills after it involve hopping on one foot for 20 seconds as fast as I can....

  10. Very impressive! And to think I was complaining while running on my treadmill this morning with 0.0 incline.

  11. I used to run "stadiums" in college when I was playing long distance runner. That was tortuous. When we lived in N. California I would run up the side of the mountains around Marin. Got in great shape. Alas, no more. Keep up the good work and I will be rooting for you while I lay on the couch.

  12. Wow, I can't wait to see what your next week's training schedule will be. Do you use a personal trainer or just super human determination to push you through?

    I actually find it easier to run UP hills than to run DOWN them. weird, huh?


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