Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The hills are alive...

Allright, folks. This Midwestern flatlander has put her money where her mouth is.

I have officially registered for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

This is a big deal for me. Pittsburgh is filled with some of the most terrifying hills I've ever seen. For example:
Canton Avenue, which is the steepest officially recorded public street in the U.S.
Source

After years of playing the avoidance card, I now HAVE to get real with hill training. Otherwise, I'll most certainly be doing a long, painful death waddle on May 1.

Adam is very proud of his hometown, so he is beyond thrilled, of course. He is going to have a great time spectating! We've got several local friends who run the race every year and I am pumped to join them this year. It'll be fun to take the extended tour in my running shoes.
Source
And so begins the challenge.

From a timing standpoint, I'm not going to start training in earnest until my Pure Barre membership ends in a few weeks. In the meantime, I've started researching indoor hill training plans. Since there are almost no hills in Chicago, I definitely have to rely on the treadmill for help.

Based on the guidance in this article, I plan to try doing the following workout once a week:

- Warm up for 10-15 minutes
- At moderately hard pace, run:
  • 2 minutes at 4-6% incline
  • 2 minutes at 6-10% incline
  • 2 minutes at 2% incline
  • Repeat
- Start with three repeats. Try to work up to more repeats and/or increasing the speed/incline.
- Cool down 5-10 minutes.

I'd also like to try mimicking the Pittsburgh Half Marathon's elevations in training. According to the course elevation map, there are massive hills between approximately Miles 11.5 and 13. (Yikes!) Therefore, when I do my long runs, I will ideally add some hillwork at the end. So help me, God. This will require doing the tail end of my long runs on the treadmill.

I'm already trying to think of positive affirmations to keep myself going mentally. I know I'm going to have many moments of ugliness along the way. But hey, style points don't matter, right?
From a strength-training standpoint, I've already been focusing on squats and incline presses. I might try to up my game a little bit here. Maybe I'll add some lunges, etc.

At the moment, I'm planning ambitiously, of course. When push comes to shove, we'll see how strongly I actually execute. But I figure that even if I'm not completely consistent, a little bit of hillwork is still better than the zero I'm doing right now. Baby steps.

Any other thoughts or suggestions on how to whip a Midwestern flatlander out of her comfort zone? What are your best hill-running strategies? Any war stories to share?

--
Linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run on the topic of "Goals."

36 comments:

  1. Yay! That should be a nice tour of Pittsburgh! Those hills though- tough to train for here. When I did the Knoxville marathon which doesn't have any flat portions, I did hills on the treadmill and also would incorporate running hills outside during my long runs- just looping around and around to run a particular hill 10+ times. (Like over by the aquarium) I think that rolling hill plan you found will help you a lot- but I would recommend taking a minute or 2 or more (of flat running recovery) between each 2 minute set until you get accustomed to running them more.

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    1. Thanks for the tips, Xaar! I completely forgot about the area near the aquarium - great idea to train there! I'm going to start doing looping around and around the Shedd on weekends so you'll know where to find me. =) Really great idea to take some flat running recovery in between incline sets on the treadmills, too, because heaven knows I could burn myself out on the very first try! I bet you felt like Superwoman after Knoxville!!!

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  2. The elevation chart for the race is interesting! A few bumps then WHOA big climb at the end. The treadmill plan you posted is a good start!

    Is your goal for this race to finish feeling strong? And not die at the hill on the end? You aren't trying to PR?

    When I trained for the Hospital Hill Half (elevation here: https://connect.garmin.com/course/1076466) I did hill "sprints" once a week, and purposefully ran a hilly long run, also once a weeek. Like Xaarlin said, I would find a hilly course and just run it over and over and over. It worked for me :) If you can leave Cook county and come to Lake county, I have lots of good recommendations for hilly courses :)

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    1. The Hospital Hill Half looks terrifying!!! You must have felt so accomplished afterwards! The funny thing about the Pittsburgh course is that what looks like (and what most locals consider to be) bumps during the first 10 is probably still going to be really tough for me, LOL.

      Thanks so much for your tips! I am glad to hear your weekly hill sprints and looping a hilly course worked well! I'll definitely be emulating that. Please do share some Lake County course suggestions - maybe we could even run a few of them together over some upcoming weekends!?!?!?

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    2. Yeah, let me know if you're ever up here and I will plan out some hilly routes for you! It would be fun to run together!

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    3. YAY!!! I need to make up for not getting to run Prairie State with you last fall. =)

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  3. I think doing the stairmaster might help too. You keep moving up at least to engage the glutes.

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    1. Oooooooh - GREAT idea, Lesley! Thanks so much for suggesting as I never would have thought of the stairmaster! You are right, it VERY much mimics the uphill motion! When I am just walking up steep hills, it very much feels like I am climbing stairs. =) This will be a perfect cross-training activity that still helps build up hill strength!

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  4. Good for your for taking on such a tough race! I'd say go run March Madness in Cary but of course it sold out in a minute. Maybe take a trek out there for a practice run. I'd go if you want. I've done that race 6x so I kind of know my way around. Your training strategy is great. I'd add to practice downhill running too. We tend to forget that part but oh my it gets interesting on the downhills too!

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    1. Thanks Marcia! I've heard a lot about that March Madness course being insane. I would love to sojourn out there some weekend with you for a practice run! Good call on practicing downhill running because you are absolutely right, it can be so harsh on the joints. THAT is tough to practice on a treadmill so the real thing will be important there!

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  5. Pittsburgh sounds tough as heck but super fun too! I have a couple of races this year that will be very hilly, so I need to figure out a good plan to tackle them as well, though Philly probably isn't as flat as Chicago.

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    1. What races do you have on your calendar this year that will be very hilly? Would love to hear about your training plans for them, too, so please share! And Philly is much hillier than Chicago. Chicago is about as flat as can be! =)

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  6. Blerg! Just thinking about hill training made me throw up in my mouth a little. I even made the poison "Mr. Yuk" face when I thought about it. Thank goodness I have a good excuse to NOT be doing that right now.

    To be more positive, though, when you get into hill training and start to progress - you will feel so great! I remember the first time I ran a "tough" hill after getting into my hill training ... I felt so strong and accomplished. You are going to feel sooo good when you make it up a hill you never would have tried 2 years ago!! Focus on the future and you will do great!

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    1. LOLOLOLOLOLOL, I've long said that you and I think so much alike. You better believe that I've made that "Mr. Yuk" face and thrown up a little bit in my mouth many times when it comes to hills, too! And yes, while you have the excuse to NOT be hill-training, you've certainly got PLENTY on your plate otherwise!!!

      Thank you so much for the positive reinforcement and confidence in my future progression! I really appreciate it and can use all the support I can get. =)

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  7. How fun!! Not really the hills but Pittsburgh! And I love the treadmill picture. LOL. Good luck!

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    1. Hehehehehe, I completely agree with your sentiments on Pittsburgh being fun but not the hills. Thank you so much!!! Please keep us all posted on how you are recovery from your shoulder surgery!!!

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    2. Emily, I'm doing pretty well so far. Just had another doctor appointment. Of course it's only been 7.5 weeks so I'm still working on range of motion. I'll post about it very soon.

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    3. Glad to hear you are progressing! I look forward to reading your next update in further detail!

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  8. If you're able to get out to Barrington, I know that's where pretty much all the Boston training programs around here take their runners for long runs (not every long run, but the big ones). I don't know where they run in Barrington, as obviously I've never been part of that crew, but that's where they go. If you're really into studio fitness, you could look into Trainology. Their treadmills go up to 30%, and also go down to -3%. I don't have a clue what classes you'd have to take there to get in the most hill work on a treadmill, but you could always inquire if you were interested. Or if you want hills in Chicago, you could do repeats on Cricket Hill up by Montrose, the sledding hill over by Soldier Field, or the 606 (it's not *that* hilly, but it rolls more than the Lakefront for sure.). If you go to the 606, I'd recommend getting off at Damen, running north, and tackling the Damen bridge that goes over the river between Diversey and Fullerton. That'll get your heart and legs pumpin'! You could also probably just do repeats on that bridge if you wanted.

    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

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    1. Thanks so much for these suggestions, Bethany - they are really helpful! Noted on Barrington! I have some friends who are familiar with the area so maybe they can suggest. If Boston training takes place there, you KNOW it's the real deal. I've never heard of Trainology until now but I am intrigued by the treadmills (although, a 30% incline sounds like murder, haha). The sledding hill by Soldier Field is a really great suggestion. I've passed by it a million times but have never run it, and it's close enough to that incline by the aquarium that I could loop both. I'll definitely have to check out that Damen bridge, too, as I've never run it. I've only done the 606 once and this sounds like a perfect add-on! Thanks again!!!!!

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  9. Sounds like a great adventure! :) That will be a great place to run and and it is a big race! Should be really cool. You can do it!
    I ran a half marathon in Dec. that had a mile and half of straight uphill it was about 240 ft. at the end. I tried to psych myself up for it, and I still ended up walking just a little, but it was okay I still had a good time :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! Really appreciate your confidence in me!

      OMG - I remember reading your recap of that half with the straight uphill in the final miles. How torturous!!! I have to imagine VERY few people were able to run the entire thing, especially at that point in the race. But you DID it!!! HUGE CONGRATULATIONS and way to push through!!!

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  10. I hope you don't have to run up Canton Avenue! Wow! Too bad the marathon course is not downhill near the finish. Oh well, glad to hear that you are back on the "running side"! :)

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    1. Thank GOD the course does NOT go on Canton Avenue! Believe me, I checked. =) And yeah, the finish is certainly what we'll all call a character builder, yes? =D Thanks Pete!

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  11. I live in a valley so I never do hill work, therefore I have no advice what so ever..lol.
    I have been intrigued with the Pittsburgh races because I reall want the "Runner of Steel" medal ( since my last name is Steel). But no way I'm doing a hilly half! Do they have a 10K or 5K?

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    1. So you are I are in the same boat when it comes to hillwork. =D OMG, that would be the COOLEST THING to earn a "Runner of Steel" medal to match your last name!!! Talk about frameworthy!!! YES, they have a 5K on Saturday!!! Let me know if you decide to sign up, would be really fun to meet up!!!!!!!!

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  12. That hill is INSANE haha Every once in awhile I come to a hill here and complain and then remember how crazy flat everything is in comparison lol Best of luck!!

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    1. I am right there with you, Alexandra! My friends in Pittsburgh laugh at me when I struggle up the "inclines" and get passed up by the little old ladies in their 90s. =D Thanks for the good luck wishes!

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  13. My suggestions for running hills in Chicago? The 18th Street Metra bridge just southwest of Soldier Field. It goes up AND down so you get some of both :-) Also, keep up that strength training! And, yes, the incline work on the treadmill will help. When I ran the Puerto Rico half I'd been doing some of that at Cross Town Fitness and it really helped on that hilly course.

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    1. Oooooh - I never would have thought about that 18th Street Metra bridge, what a terrific idea! Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear the strength training and the incline work on the treadmill helped you so much on the Puerto Rico Half. I'm learning that strength work pretty much helps everything, which is a good thing. =)

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    2. The 18th Street bridge by Ping Tom park is also a pretty good hill in and of itself. I like to take Morgan to 14th place (cutting through the UIC campus), go east over to Halsted and then south to 18th and then east on 18th to the lake front and back. That will get in some good hill workouts!

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    3. Awesome! This is super, super helpful, thank you! I am pleasantly surprised how many great hill-training options there really are in a pancake-flat city. =D

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  14. I don't mind going UP hill, I have more trouble going down. Way too much pressure on my knees. But I too have signed up for a 25K in May with tons of hills. I will think about training specifically for that once my marathon is past - luckily its all flat.

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    1. Going downhill is no joke, indeed! It is so harsh on the joints! I think a lot of folks try to sprint on the downhills, too, which makes it even worse. Good luck on your hilly 25K in May!!! We can commiserate together on the hill-training process. =)

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  15. I hate hills! Almost every half marathon I've run in other states have hills which I cursed because I never trained in them.

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    1. You and me, both, Zenaida!!! You and me both!!! I have to admit that I do have many, many moments of post-registration fear on what I just got myself into...!

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