Do I like running hills? HILL YES!
As I spent the second half of 2011 training for the ZOOMAAtlanta Half Marathon, I found myself seeking out every hill possible so I would be prepared for the race on Saturday, November 26th. All I kept hearing from others who did the race last year was how many hills were on the course! I took their words of caution seriously and decided to take on the challenge!
One of my favorite places to practice hill repeats is Amsterdam Ave. Amsterdam Ave. stretches from Monroe Drive in Midtown near Piedmont Park, through Virginia-Highlands to Rosedale Road near Emory’s Briarcliff Campus. There is a short steep section from Rosedale Road to Lanier Blvd, then there is a long, gradual uphill section from Lanier Blvd to N. Highland Ave. But wait, it gets better! I like to make this even more fun by continuing on Amsterdam, past N. Highland Ave, and turning around just before it curves around to Monroe Dr. Then, I like to head back up Amsterdam Ave. for a longer, uphill stretch! Then, I like to do it all over again and again!
Over the years, I’ve learned that hills are a great way to build strength, speed and endurance. When I was a participant with Team in Training back in 2003 and training for my first triathlon, one of the Coaches gave me tons of tips on running hills. He said things like, “Shorten your stride”, “Pump your arms”, “Be okay with the fact that your heart rate is high…It will come back down when you start to run downhill”, “Don’t look down”, “Keep up the short strides and arm pumping until you get all the way over the hill”. His voice still echoes inside me to this day when I’m running hills!
As ZOOMA race day approached, I knew I was ready! I had a plan: 1st 10 miles, take it easy and run in Zone 2 near a 10 minute mile pace. Last 3.1 miles, kick it in to high gear and attack each hill. Like all well laid plans, this one changed a bit along the way. Here is how my race actually went: 1st 6 miles, I took it pretty easy and stayed in Zone 2. I fluctuated between a 9:45 and a 10:30 minute mile pace. After the halfway point, I decided to pick it up by staying faster than a 10 minute mile pace, regardless of my heart rate. The hills kept coming and coming. I didn’t let them intimidate me! I really tried to capitalize on the downhills because, “What goes UP, must come DOWN”! Also, it helped to see some familiar faces from Tri-Kids at the short, steep uphill that was the 12-Mile Mark! Woo Hoo! I was stoked and I took off like a kid who just stole the last Wonka bar with the Golden Ticket! As I rounded the end of the course at Chateau Elan, the finish line was in sight. I turned the corner and booked up the FINAL HILL to cross the line at 2:08:12, which was a PR! HOLY MOLY that was a tough race! But so rewarding! Not only was it a PR, but it was really fun to share the experience with a bunch of fantastic, tough, fast, motivated women! You know who you are! <wink>
Training for and completing this race reiterated my belief that hills are my friends! Not everyone agrees and that’s okay. There are plenty of flat race courses out there. Me? I’ll run for the hills in a heartbeat!