Embrace the Hills

HillsWhen you register for Big Sur you have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into- hills, lots and lots of hills.  In fact, it’s known for the infamous Hurricane Point, a two-mile long stretch around mile 10 that has runners climbing 520 feet, but they swear the view at the top is worth it!

Well, I grew up and lived in eastern Massachusetts my entire life and while we do have some significant hills, they are mostly rolling hills. So when I moved down to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania for my job at Runner’s World, I knew the hills were going to be a shock to my running system.

I was scared, I’ll admit it. I’ve never been a huge fan of hills and my cousin, and closest running buddy, can attest to that. Whenever she suggests a race I ask- are there any big hills or is it mostly flat?

But now that I live in the hilly valley and am training for a very hilly marathon, there’s no more avoiding the hills. Yesterday during lunch I went out for a run with a few of my coworkers to tackle a monstrosity of a hill- the 10th Street Hill. This hill has roughly the same elevation gain as Hurricane Point but over about half of the distance. So, it’s steeper but shorter.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 1.41.40 PM

I knew it was going to be really hard but after my hilly 14-miler last Sunday, in which I ran all of the hills, I thought I’d be ok. I told myself it would be fine if I had to walk part of it or maybe run the flats and walk some of the hills. Take it easy, find a rhythm and breathe.

We did a 1-mile warm-up around the neighborhoods and then as we began to head up 10th Street, Tish Hamilton, an executive editor at Runner’s World, gave me a run down of what was ahead. She said we’d start to climb a hill, then there would be a false flat, followed by a steeper hill which would take an almost 90 degree turn to an even steeper hill that would climb to the top.

I was glad to have an idea of what was ahead but I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be as steep as it was. I had to walk about half of the distance and even walking it was a hard effort. It took me awhile to get to the top but once I got there, after running the last incline, I felt proud. Yes, I had to walk some of it. Yes, I was disappointed because everyone else was able to run the whole thing. But this was my first attempt and a first attempt is better than no attempt.

We finished the run with an additional hill and then started our descent back down. The whole run was just over 5 miles for me (the other ladies did one repeat at the last hill) and I finished feeling good. More importantly, I finished knowing I was to try it again and again until I can run the whole thing.

Did I mentally psych myself out? Yes. Could I have pushed harder? Probably. But for me, the key with training for this marathon (my first marathon) is to get to the starting line healthy and prepared. This won’t be the last time I see the 10th Street hill, in fact I’m going to incorporate it into my training as much as possible, but it was the first time and it’s only up from here.

Until we meet again, 10th Street!

Follow my training here.