Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hill running - Day 1

Baby, I'm Back!

Wow, it really has been a long time since I posted here. As a self-diagnosing hypochondriac, let me say I think I have adult attention-deficit disorder.

Ok, vague excuses aside, I'm trying to hold myself to the difficult, excruciating one-week of something-something. Follow my adventures if you care to.

I was reading recently about the effectiveness of running hills - even Olympians do it.

It occurred to me that I live near a very steep hill. It's so steep, that like the infamous Olympic training hill, it has a steps section. It's much smaller, overall, though, so it's not exactly the Olympian task that the article details, which is good, because I'm just a normal person who is very lax about working out. Anyway, I decided that for one week, I'd try to run the hill every day.

Here are some tips to keep in mind getting started on hills.

This first day, I decided to start at the top, because well, that's how I roll. Dessert and easy stuff first. I set my timer and ran down the hill as fast as I could manage. I like running downhill, even though I had to be very careful because of the steepness. It's fun to go fast, though. Even with smallish, quick steps, the impact was pretty solid, however.

At the bottom of the hill, there's a little neighborhood playground. I ran over to it, because a second part of my goal for the week has to do with pull-ups. My upper body is sadly deficient. I can do pushups, but I can't manage even a single pull-up. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz on Oprah, this is not acceptable, so I'm going to try to work on the pullup.

I reached the playground monkey bars, feeling very Olympic. Running downhill will do that to me. If I could somehow tilt the world so I could run everywhere downhill, I'd run all the time, though my knees would probably be shot within the year.

On my little downhill high, full of optimism, I reached for the bars overhead, settled my grip and tried to pull up. Surely I could manage just one?

No. Nada. I did pull myself up from the ground slightly. I tried again, arms quivering, but couldn't pull my chin even level with the bar, let alone above it.

Ok, well, this was the week for hill running, anyway. I set off for the hill, with my mantra "Don't walk".

The steps came first, but I managed to keep pace, barely. The steps are a series of cutbacks and continue on for about one fourth of the hill, cutting a steeper line than the street, which curves far around and meets the steps again at the top. I was breathing hard, and already doing the drunken-master jog of exhaustion at the end of the stairs. After the steps comes the steepest non-step section of the hill. Basically, it seems like the local municipality ran out of money for steps, so they just slapped asphalt on the hill and called it a road. This is deceiving, because it's so sheer that trucks regularly topple over on trying to scale the sheer hairpin turn.

That turn was my goal as I tried to keep my jog going. I just managed it, but it was so tough for me that the mantra went from "Don't walk" to "Don't stop". I walked a section of the hill that was only easy in comparison to the hardest part I'd just finished.

As I turned another sharp corner, I could see the finish line, so I ran for it again, ending up triumphant, if also very sweaty and stumbling. I looked at my watch - 15:35. Not bad, to get so tired in such a short amount of time. I'll see if I can shave that time down as the week progresses.

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