The Thrills of the Hills – Are You Ready to Conquer?

I love hills.

Actually I love getting to the top of hills.

Actually I’m more in love with the idea of how much I think I kick butt running up hills.

Because when I’m actually running up the hill, lungs gasping and thighs pleading, I think, “WHY? WHY do I love hills again?”

And this is something we can all relate to. Sometimes we love running, and other times, during our run when we hurt and we’re tired and we can’t get the same 10 seconds of that obnoxious new ridiculously repetitive hip-hop-dance-trance-bubblegum-pop song out of our heads, we start to question it all.

So today I decided to write about hills BEFORE my run, when all the advice and preparation seems easy enough, and then write the rest of this blog entry AFTER my run to see how it went in real life. It’ll be interesting to see what I think about when conquering hills in theory, sitting at my computer, breathing, feeling great, and what I actually think about and do while I’m running up the hill, gasping for breath, feeling the pain.

BEFORE

Today’s hill run was lovingly created by Jason’s best friend’s dad, Bob. Bob works for the city of Shawnee and helps with the snow removal, so he knows all the neighborhoods in that area very well (while we complain about tons of snow, Bob’s eagerly marking down the days to retirement because snow removal = overtime pay). Two years ago, Jason wanted a route to help him train for a half marathon in Colorado.

“Oh, you want hills?” Bob asked, “I’ll give you hills! I’ve got just the route for you.” And The Hill Run was born.

Just how bad is The Hill Run?

So bad we put it in capital letters.

The Hill Run starts in Merriam, KS, and is 5.85 miles with 7 hills that are all about 1/4 mile long (most a bit longer). You lose 800-some feet elevation during the route and, believe me, you make it all up during the run. For the curious and those who want the hard math of the elevation, check out this link to the route on Garmin Connect.

Most of the time running up hills, I really do get excited by them because this is my strength – great hill training helps you outlast and outpace those defeated by the hills. But even I am challenged every time by the Hill Run, and most of the time question WTF I am running this route AGAIN when I know what a B@tch it is (something we’ll all think when we get to Broadway Hill at mile 10 in the Hospital Hill Half).

It’s because it makes me a better runner, and I always know a yummy meal or beer will be in my future at the finish. Having hill after hill is great practice for races with several hills – like Hospital Hill. It’s easy enough to do a large hill or two during a run, but to have several large hills all less than a mile apart with steep inclines – well, if you can do that, you can pretty much kick butt in any race.

What I do to prepare for the hills:

  • Listen to some kick ass inspirational music that gets me in the mood to run
  • Make sure to hydrate throughout the day – especially if my run will be in the afternoon and the sun’s out
  • Make sure to eat healthy all day with an emphasis on complex carbs (whole wheat, rice, sweet potatoes, etc) and protein
  • If I know the route ahead of time, I visualize it, especially thinking about going up the hills. I remind myself it’s going to be hard but nothing I can’t handle.
  • I enjoy the ability to breathe while thinking about hills

What I plan to do/think about when running up the hills (in theory):

  • Instead of thinking “Oh no! A hill!” I greet the hill as a challenge and think of it as a friend (see my first HH post about a dorky running article that inspired me to love hills and think of them as this). I name all the hills I conquer – just another notch in my running belt.
  • I take it slow and steady – even effort up the hills so I don’t lose time. Unless you’re doing speed drills on hills, racing to the top of a hill will only tire you out faster and get you out of breath quicker – you’ll end up going slower because you either won’t last this pace to the top or once at the top you’ll go really slow to recover.
  • Breathe
  • Relax my upper body – especially my shoulders and arms
  • Slightly lean into the hill and take quick little steps

So now time for the run and see how this actually goes in real life.

AFTER

Here’s a list of random things that popped into my head while running up the hills:

  • constantly pick a landmark or mailbox and work towards it – marking my progress; nothing will break you faster than a hill that never seems to end because you never seem to move
  • think of the hill as a person or obstacle I’ve had to confront and overcome; taking it down to show there’s no stopping me now!
  • breathe
  • ………
  • breathe
  • ………..
  • pant, breathe, pant
  • I wonder if someone I know will drive by and offer me a ride
  • breathe
  • I’ve done this before – I can do it again
  • ……..
  • breathe, pant, pant
  • I’ve done worse – I’ve had worse runs – this feels better than that
  • I’d rather be running up this hill than (insert having a horrible disease or doing an undesirable household chore here)
  • I’ve finally found my thighs’ Kryptonite
  • When my quads start tiring, I can run more on the balls of my feet and use my calves as back-up reserve
  • Hmmmm….this incline seems to have depleted my backup reserve
  • ……….pant, pant………
  • When the delirium hits, I start to talk to the hill. I’ll greet it by name and tell it how much I missed it. I’ll tell the hill that it’s not going to beat me today (not out loud, of course, that would only make me look crazy but mostly because I can’t breathe). Sometimes I thank it for challenging me and making me a BAMF. I like to think when the hill catches that first glimpse of my giant thighs racing towards it that it strikes fear into the heart of the hill. But there’s a mutual respect there – I acknowledge the hill is hard and a struggle but one I appreciate, and in return, the hill is ok with me conquering it because I let it maintain its formidable reputation.
  • pant, breathe, pant
  • What am I having for dinner again?
  • Will I make it to the top of this freakin long hill to even have dinner?
  • Can’t quit now – almost done
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you…hurt
  • Almost there
  • Almost there
  • VICTORY IS MINE!!! (collapse)

Actually the hill route went pretty well today.  Sometimes just zoning out and going through the motions makes it easier than overthinking it – until the tough parts wake you up. It wasn’t until the last 3 hills, mostly the last 2, where I started really having to focus and start using my mental tricks to keep my legs going.  Uphill went well. Surprisingly well since I haven’t been able to breathe normally since recovering from bronchitis combined with the high allergen count this spring.

I also realized I hadn’t really named any of the hills yet – mostly it was Hill #1, the warm up, and Hill #3 the most challenging or at least the longest and Hill #6 the one I think is personally the worst.

So I went about naming them all. I started with the 2 warm-up hills that I count as 1 hill – they aren’t too long, go at a gentle slope, and you can easily see the top of them where they end –  the Twin Peaks.  Then Hill #2 is now the Harry Potter Hill – it magically keeps getting bigger and is on a street called Albervan, which sounds like the name of a former Hogwarts Headmaster. Then Hill #3 on Alden is now the Daughtry Hill because  “It’s Not Over” and it’s painful each time you encounter it (seriously, that song is annoying and overdone!!!) Then Hill #4 on Park Street is now the Sneaky Bitch Hill because although it looks the easiest out of everything so far (short and the top in clear view) it will “Take Your Breathe Away”  (but not romantically, like the song) and the steep incline will make your thighs quiver (again, not in the romantic way).

Then Hill #5 is the Are We Done Yet Hill? with the fake out top because you think you’ve reached the top and suddenly another football field of hill is there. Now is Hill #6,  the second-to-last hill (which you will need to remind yourself of) that greets you with a Limited Sight Visibility road sign – that’s how steep and curvy this last one is – even the CARS are WARNED. It is now the Kyrptonite Hill because it’s one of the few things left that can make my thighs burn. And finally, the last hill, Hill #7. Remember that lovely 300-foot drop downhill at the beginning of the route? Well now you get to run up that to get to the finish, so now it’s the Bitch Came Back Hill. It’s the physics of the hills – What Goes Down Must Come Up.

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to conquer hills. It’s also ok to acknowledge that sometimes hills suck. We all have love-hate relationships with several things in life, including people. We’re human – nothing ever completely pleases us. But by acknowledging our weaknesses or figuring out where the hate comes from, sometimes it gives the insight to figure out how to deal with it. My biggest complaint against hills is how they make me out of breathe and make my legs hurt – but it shows me where I need to work on my strength training and reminds me pain is temporary. The short (although sometimes it feels like FOREVER) discomfort of a hill is totally worth the long term health benefits and Hill Master bragging rights. And hopefully the long lasting satisfaction of achieving the race time you want.

If you can conquer the hill, you can conquer anything in that same manner. Step-by-step with a lot of determination. And probably with a lot more oxygen. 🙂

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About jhartz87

An English major turned Software Engineer, Jenny currently spends most of her time coding and running. And eating. And then blogging about these things for the enjoyment of others.

Posted on May 8, 2013, in Exercise, Food, Hospital Hill Blog Post, Humor, Lessons, Races, Ranked List, Recommendations, Running, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for the encouragement! Looking forward to”my” bitch hill in September! Need a race in Nebraska with hills? Check out: Logan View Raider Run. It won’t disappoint!

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