Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Awkward First Date...

"Hey, girl. The name's Repeats. Hill Repeats."
So there's this workout I've been toying with seeing. (A mutual friend has been trying to set us up.) To be honest, he's not really my "type," and I've been making a lot of excuses to get out of meeting up with him. But my friend keeps pressuring me.

"Come on, just give him a shot," she keeps saying. "Just one date. If you're still not into him, no biggie. But a lot of people think he's really great."

And she's right. I know he's a big name in certain circles, but having grown up in north Texas and gone to college in northern Ohio, he didn't really come up much among me & my Great Plains running buddies. (Seriously. The first time I visited Seattle, I was like OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS WRINKLY-ASS CITY??!?!)

Now, don't get me wrong -- it's not that I'm any stranger to running hills. In fact, around here you kind of have to go out of your way NOT to run at least some reasonably significant rollers. But short, hard repeats are not something I've done much of. (Or like any, ever.)

So I've been Google-stalking him to get a better idea of what he's got to offer, and here's a little of what I've found:

Sigh. Fair enough.

So tonight I got all decked out in my fanciest tights & a lovely green long sleeves (even wore a new pair of fancy shoes) and headed out to meet him.

You know how sometimes you don't want to try something, and people keep being all, "Come ON, just TRY it, you'll LIKE it!"? And reluctantly you do, and you're like, "Hey, maybe this is alright after all!" and you're really proud of yourself for trying something new?

This was not one of those times.

Maybe my expectations were not well-formed.

Maybe my kerfuffle-y day had already gotten the better of me.

Maybe I just really, really like mac & cheese & pizza & he's a little too much on the duck-cassoulet-with-brussels-sprouts side of things.

Either way, I'm not sure we'll be seeing each other again any time soon.

//End metaphor//

Looking back, I think the reason I was a bit hesitant to do this workout & kept putting it off is because I don't really know how to do it. All the plan really says is to do 8-10 repeats on a tough, steep hill -- no guidance whatsoever about distance, pace, or intensity.

There is a nice uphill stretch that I run on from time to time that's three blocks, about a quarter mile long, & climbs about 200 feet (For you locals, I mean Fell & Laguna up to Fell & Fillmore), which works out to about a 15% grade. Basically I ended up not-quite-sprinting up each block, pausing for 30 seconds to a minute in between, then walking or jogging back down at the end of each set of three.

Now, I don't mind the hill repeats themselves. Yes, once you're on to the second set of six, they do start to get very tough to finish without slowing down, but I seemed to recover from each one pretty quickly and they never really felt all that daunting. It's the going back downhill after. Who needs that? I don't, because a) it's a 15% downward grade, which is never comfortable, even just walking, b) when it's 45° F, a quarter mile walk / easy jog is MORE than enough time for a sweaty person to start shivering, and c) it's time I didn't need to recover and could've spent running, which made the whole process seem completely inefficient.

Also, Google-stalking non-withstanding, I'm not convinced they actually do all that much. The plan said 8-10, which felt really not all that taxing, so I ended up doing 12, and though I could've done more, at that point I was really just done with the entire process. When I finish a round of my beloved 5:00 @ 5K pace or 400m sprints, I can feel it. I know I have worked really, really hard. I can almost feel my red blood cells multiplying. These just left me feeling unsatisfied & annoyed. (Also, with sore lower shins / ankles. Going uphill fast seems to put a lot of pressure on that area.)

So I don't know that I'm sold on hill repeats, at least the way that I'd have to do them. I could see maybe doing them on a treadmill where you can control grade & pace more precisely & don't have to deal with going back downhill, but as that's not likely to become a possibility any time soon, I may just stick to the track and limit my hill workouts to negotiating the inevitable SF rollers on easy & long runs.


  1. *chortle*

    I love this post so much I want to propose to it like the nerdy dude up there with the dried flowers and the tux jacket.

    I agree with you that downhill is the worst part of hills, even when I'm jogging them in a little zigzag — though I bet that's a useful part of the exercise if you're running a race with big downhill sections. Otherwise, I'm kind of with you -- I quit on hill repeats after my first time too and instead resolved to just not aways take the wimpy flat route home.

  2. lol, hilarious post! The name is repeats, hill repeats!

    Maybe I am one of the weird one's but I love hills, and especially tough hills. Fell & Laguna is indeed a monster hill! Running down a 15% grade is indeed super steep!

    1. I'm indifferent to the uphills -- it's the downhills that I could really do without. :P

  3. The plan I use advocates hill sprints. All out, 10 seconds up a very steep hill, building up to 10 reepeats. The author uses them as strength training and feels people get less injured when they do them. So not so much an aerobic thing as a muscle thing. And yes, walking down the 15% grade is probably the worse part of the deal.

    1. Ah. Just going block to block mine worked out to 35-40 seconds each, not all-out sprinting but still pretty hard. In retrospect I really do wonder if 12 of those in a row may have been the main cause of the Achilles/soleus trouble I had in the days after. Maybe I should just do shorter ones next time.