Hills: “Ah yes, we’ve met before. How’ve you been?
Hills are a necessary evil when training for The Big Day. Steamboat’s 15Kers can expect to encounter the same long hill twice before crossing the finish line. These long steep planes can zap vigor from even the most conditioned athletes because running on an incline is completely different from running on flat ground. Your center of gravity is tilted and it forces you to propel yourself by recruiting more and different muscle fibers; the long lost ones that you “didn’t know that you had.” These muscles may take a few days to stop from being sore and there is no shame in that. Significant improvements in training distances, anaerobic capacity, and strength can be expected with just a few devoted drills on hills. Just expect discomfort, pencil in recovery days, and remember to practice inclines several days prior to the race to allow for sufficient healing. We’re four days out, so if you too are running Steamboat, today’s the day we head for the hills!
Tips for Running Hills: Ascend with your chest up, hands loose, and your stride shortened. Breath. Don’t stop once you reach the top. It’s tempting, I know, but allow the descent to be your recovery. We’re prone to give in to “jello legs” during the downhill by lazily flopping our feet forward and praying that our shoe lands sole side down, but one can imagine that it’s a recipe for knee-lock-ankle-twist disaster. So strive to instead gracefully cast your leg out as far as it can (without landing locked) and produce minimal shock on the body. That’s my advice.
When I practice running on hills I use my cell phone as a stopwatch to gauge how quickly I can get from the mailbox on the bottom of the hill to the mailbox on top. This helps to make sure that I’m not getting lazy by slowing up. With a little determination normally I’m within five seconds, depending on the length of the hill. When practicing on hills over the weekend I noticed that small quick strides produce a faster time than long slow ones when ascending uphill.
Anybody else experiment with their stride length on hills? Let me know.