Friday, May 1, 2015

Hills Baby

How do you feel when you see a hill approaching?
Do you jump for joy? or have a little flutter of nervousness?  

Do you ever look back at your app/Garmin to see just how big that hill was that kicked your butt on a run?
Sometimes I have to laugh a little, when I look at my laps splits and see the elevation may have been 22 ft. or 34 ft., and I feel whooped. 

Hills are supposed to have hidden benefits. Hill are speed work in disguise, that’s the saying, right?! What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. 

Hills and gradual uphill inclines are two very different animals to me. In my area I have both, I know where they are, and often I will pick my route by how I am feeling that day, but I can never totally avoid them. 
I have to go to a nearby neighborhood for some nice fairly flat, long stretches, but time constraints don't allow for it before work. 

I like a hill where I can see a crest ahead.  Sometimes I find those long gradual climbs a bit tough mentally. I have one route that is a steady, fairly steep grade, uphill for about a half mile. It's tough, I only take it on a good day. 
I will often look at my lap elevation and see the gain at 34 ft, 54 ft, 72 ft, 22 ft, maybe for some of you that doesn't even sound hilly, but it feels challenging to me!? In the summer, I run to the nearby neighborhood for the flatter ground. I can't take heat, humidity, and hills at the same time. 

These are some of my typical morning runs: 
79 ft. from the lowest to highest point - 183 ft. total elevation for the run
Just 67 feet from the lowest to highest point - 199 ft. total elevation run
80 ft. from the lowest to highest point 
- 138 ft. total elevation
I use different strategies depending on how I am feeling.
Sometimes, I try to increase my cadence with little tiny steps. Some days, I just slow up. A lot of coaches say your effort level should feel the same hills, which means decreasing the pace a little so you don’t use up all your energy before you are done.  

My doctor told me to walk hills after my injury until I was sure the bone was strong again.
Any hill that takes more than 25 or 30 seconds to crest on should be a walk break.  That was his wisdom, because according to him, hills cause more impact on my fragile tibia, and usually going uphill (and down) is where your form gives up a bit. I admit, I did this for my first few runs out of the boot, but now I am back to trying to keep myself  steadily going uphill, especially since I am doing mostly short runs. 

The last few times I hiked (last summer) I tried to run on the mountain trail a little.  Mountains are not hills...
Running up mountains is a whole different animal, it has its own amplitude. My heart was pounding, it’s very strenuous. I even ran down a mountain for a, but scary! I decided my Blue Ridge Mountains excursions will be for hiking. I would like to get stronger at it, but my proximity is not close enough to train on that kind of terrain.
A little of the section I tried to run 
Views from Flat Top Mountain
Appropriately named Sharp Top Mountain
At my last half marathon, a lot of participants left comments on FB and Twitter talking about what a challenging course Petersburg was. It was very humid and warm that day, which makes hills seem harder, but honestly it was a fun challenging course. I hope they don't change it. The first three miles are a little tough, mostly uphill, but the section through the hilly battlefields was pretty awesome.  The biggest climb on the whole course was 65 ft, with 426 ft. total elevation run. It was just enough. Two of my other half marathons had a lot more total elevation run, but it felt very different, because  it was not rolling hills, but long gradual climbs. 

I remember when I first started running, I thought MAY-BE after I had a little more experience, hills would feel easier... but nope, they are still pretty challenging to me. 

So fire away! 
Do you love/hate hills?
Do you have hilly running routes?
Do you ever look to see just how big that hill was that kicked your butt on a run?
Do you plan your running routes with an awareness of where the hills are? 
Ever been surprised on a race course, by how hilly it was?

I hope you have a great weekend! 
Rest and run 


  1. I don't mind hills, but for long races, I prefer flat courses. I have been told that I am good at hills. I find that now that I am older, it is the down hills I try and avoid when I am creating running routes! Hill repeats are a great way to get in a quick workout!
    I often check to see the elevation profile of my runs--it is fun to see what you have conquered!

    1. I like to see that elevation after a tough run tooo :) It does feel good knowing what you conquered.
      You are so right, when I only have a little time like my a.m.runs before I work, i can appreciate the hills give me a tougher work out.

  2. I used to run hills allllll the time and I loved them. :) I am learning to love them again... slowly hehe. I think the anticipation of the hill is worse than the hill itself!

    1. This is true, I have one hill that is a monster where I go for long runs...but I have like four or five flat miles before I have to hit it and I still sometimes dread it lol especially in the heat!

  3. Where I live, it is flat so I don't practice on hills. In a race, if I am slow running up them, I walk. I find, that when I do, I save energy and I pass runners on the downhill.

    1. I walked an overpass on the course in Disney, it saved a bunch of energy, you are right about that!

  4. When I see a hill I think "I'm almost home". LOL. The half mile back to my house is up, up, up. I usually loop around so I get in enough hills. But, they never seem easy. In a race, my trick is to focus on counting my left steps. Once I get to 100, the hill is usually over. But like Darlene if it is really steep, I walk and save it for running fast downhill. The graphs can be very deceiving as they are scrunched up and not a true representation of the race course. So happy you are running! Did you see my comment on Disney marathon? It's still available.

    1. No! Now I am looking for the comment lol Disney, when?? I am going to the website in a second.

    2. Yes I signed up. There's a story there too. I added my Disney comment to your Celebrating Small Gains.

    3. I am going to send you a message soon. I am so happy for you!!!!!!

  5. I don't like hills. They suck the energy out of me. I've never understood how people can enjoy them and be good at them.

    Like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get. I think I am getting a little better at hills, they are still tough but once I learned that they are just as much a mental battle as a physical one I'm starting to fear them less. It helps to focus on my form when I'm going up a hill, not my speed. If I concentrate on making sure I'm staying strong and steady and leveling my breathing, my body will pace itself naturally.

    Another thing I've learned is that what you do after the hill is just as important as, if not more so, than what you do on the hill. That's why it's so important to not waste all your energy going up hill, so that once you crest the hill you can quickly resume your faster pace and longer strides and get back into your rhythm instead of having to struggle to get back on track.

    1. Hills do suck some serious energy out of me. It seems like I am still really challenged after running on hills after a few years, I keep wondering how much practice it will take lol

  6. I haven't ever planned a route based on hills, except when I was training for a hilly half marathon, then I looked for big hills. I don't really plan races, etc. around hills. I will say the most annoying type to me are the long and gradual ones, especially if they are leading up to a race finish line and/or after a turnaround. I'd rather climb something steep and be done with it. Of course I like going DOWN long, gradual inclines. I do think they are a really great strength workout. One of the reasons I love running trails so much is it's almost constant up and down!

    1. Those gradual up hill climbs are so hard! I like if I can see an end to a hill too. My trails here are pretty up and down, I just have to settle in to a slower pace on trails, but I love how different it feels!

  7. We don't have any hills here, but I do usually get excited about running up a bridge just to break things up. Plus, I love that what goes up must come down, and even if running up is hard the downhill is so worth it!

    That being said in Portland I discovered that there is a difference between running a bridge once or twice during a long run, and dealing with multiple hills and elevation changes in a marathon. I'm not a fan of that AT ALL! Noooooo way I ever do that again.... (except for the next time I run Portland just to prove to myself that I can do better there).

    1. It is extremely challenging coming from flat terrain to hills! It's funny after I run uphill a certain amount the down hill hardly seems like a's just recovery lol
      Are you going to run Portland again one day?!

  8. There are tons of hills here in Atlanta and I think I usually start to focus more when I see them approaching. I much rather have a big hill and get it over with then the slow, long ones. They always look like they shouldn't be so much trouble. I have really seen a benefit to hill training!

    1. I think hills are a great benefit. I feel stronger on the flats for it, but it's funny to me that some days the hills I run still feel super challenging. Maybe one day I will get to see GA :)

  9. Norway is full of hills and mountains so obviously I always have hills in my runs. Simply because I can't avoid them. My parents house is in the hills, and my boyfriend's appartment is in the hills. Like.. On a little mountainside pretty much haha :) Hills are scary though, they are so hard :') I've been avoiding hill running as much as I can, mainly because it's exhausting and I feel slow xD And I haven't felt like it has been important to me, I mean.. I get some hills no matter what on my regular runs so why bother. But my dad an I have signed up for a Trail race in San Francisco in July! :O So now i HAVE TO start training in the hills/mountains around here. I'm kind of scared, but at the same time excited :3 If the weather is nice I'll try to get my first "big" training run for that race this weekend :D
    This is the elevation chart for the race we're doing:
    Hahaha I'm probably going to die xD

    The only race I was surprised by how hilly it was was Oslo Half Marathon.


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