Sunday, February 7, 2010

Born to climb

This week, I had a great first week of hill workouts.  Maybe it was because I ran relatively low mileage or the fact that less mileage meant more sleep.  Whatever the reason, it was a nice beginning.

On Tuesday, I started my 12-mile workout at dusk.  I had to get myself to a 1-minute hill, and the only thing close is a bridge at William Pond Park.  The workout asked for 15 x 1 minute hills @5k effort with 1 minute jog down rests.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you need a long hill to make that happen because a hill that takes 1 minute to get up at a fast pace will take longer to get down at an easy pace.  So, you inch your way farther uphill with each repeat and run out of hill quickly, in my case.  My bridge hill isn't much of a hill, but it can last for over a minute if you start at the right place.  To try to meet the intent of the workout my coach suggested I run the effort a little faster than prescribed and run the rest a little faster too to keep the HR higher between the intervals.

This part of the American River Bike Trail can be a bit sketchy after dark I found.  The hairs on the back of my neck were at attention for most of my repeats probably from the fraidy cat adrenaline rush that I got from being startled by the many Parkway residents: wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and homeless people.  I ran my 15, one-minute hill repeats at 5:30 pace and ran down the hill at 7:45 pace, generally keeping the jog rest around 1:30.

Today, I tackled my 16-mile long run which included 7 miles run up a hill at lactate threshold (LT) effort.  I dread this workout for weeks leading up to it when I see it on my schedule.  I can't imagine that anyone could psych themselves out more than I do over this workout.  Yet, every time I do it, I always walk away thinking it wasn't that bad.  I do the 7 miles on a treadmill since, as you may have gathered, I live in a topographically-challenged area.  I have done this workout on a "real" hill a few times, but the logistics require a near day-long adventure to make it happen.

I did a 7:30-paced 5k warm up outside before changing into an appropriate gym costume and hopping on one of the inferior Precor treadmills for the first 3 miles.  The two good treadmills (less wobbly, better calibration, built in fans) were being occupied by two ladies walking at a breakneck 2.5 mph pace.  I kept checking the good treadmills for an opening and was was able to snag my beloved Tready for miles 4-7.  I had a plan for this workout to keep it interesting: change up my paces and incline each mile.  Last summer I did this workout on a treadmill and ran a steady 4% grade between 7.8-8 mph for 45 minutes.

Here's how my workout played out today:

  • miles 1-2:  4.5% grade, 8 mph (7:30 pace)
  • miles 3-5:  4.5% grade, 8.3 mph (7:14 pace)
  • miles 6-7:  4.5% grade, 8.5 mph (7:04 pace)
  • added bonus: 1/4 mile @ 5%, 8.8 mph (6:49 pace)
That's right.  I felt so good at the end of the 7 miles that I wanted more and pushed it for an additional 1/4 mile.  I actually wanted to go farther but decided to leave some for my cool down and for next week.  I ran my 10k cool down outside at around 7:20 pace to complete 16 miles.

I ended up doing some interesting research regarding equivalent paces for treadmill workouts after reading a treadmill workout suggestion from Magdalena Lewy Boulet in Runner's World.  She referred to page 136 of the runners' bible, Daniels' Running Formula, written by her coach Jack Daniels where he published a chart with the conversions.

I did a bit of extrapolation, but my paces roughly equate to:

  • miles 1-2:  6:28 
  • miles 3-5:  6:14
  • miles 6-7:  5:56
  • last 1/4 mile: 5:37
So, maybe I was sandbagging at the beginning, but I also noticed a major difference in effort on the Precor machine versus Tready in that the equivalent incline and pace on the two machines felt much harder on the Precor (and I have the HR data to prove it).  Of course, who knows which one was properly calibrated: probably neither.  These equivalents are just for fun anyway but do serve as a good benchmark for future iterations of this workout in the next few weeks. The most important thing was that I was able to get progressively faster during this workout and felt great.

I also started a new weight routine last night and am paying for it in DOMS today.  I imagine it will be worse tomorrow.  Ouch, ouch, ouch, I say with every step.


  1. For a good hill, have you ever tried running on the bike trail from rainbow bridge in folsom up toward beal's point? Those are some great hills --and much better than the William Pond bridge. Just my two cents.

  2. Thanks, K. Yes I have, and I use that hill when I can. Since I'm generally pressed for time during the week and running in the dark at either 5 a.m. or after 6 p.m., it doesn't make sense for me to travel that far (William Pond is about a 5-minute drive from my house, Beals is 20-25 each way) to get in 15 minutes worth of hills. For the 7 miles up a hill workout, Beals is way too short. You get maybe 3-4 up hill miles tops over the stretch between Rainbow and the Dam. The only hill I've found that is a steady 5-7% grade for 7+ miles is Mosquito Ridge Rd. out of Foresthill. That is a mean climb, but requires that you park a car or bike at each end or have someone pick you up at the top or drop you off at the bottom of the hill. I may not have mentioned that the 7 mile uphill mile workout is all uphill miles, no downhill allowed. The logistics of these workouts are a workout in and of themselves.

  3. Wow, super impressive. The toughest race I ever did was leg 3 of Reach-the-Beach 2007, 8.1 miles with a 1700 foot elevation gain, zero downhill or flat. I stopped four times and still put in one of the best times of any team, right at 7:00 pace. But it beat me up for my other two legs.

  4. Wow, back at you Joe. Uphill workouts, I can handle, but uphill races? No thanks. 7:00 pace on an inclined treadmill is one thing, but doing that outside is quite another. Nice work yourself.

  5. There aren't a lot of good hills here in NYC either. Now that I'm running, I realize why everyone enjoys Colorado (where I grew up) so much...

    That's frustrating on the treadmills. They should have a "fast person only" one available.

  6. Jaymee, I always feel less tired after reading your blog! That sounds like a killer workout. As a solution to getting through long runs (like you said on Joe's blog)... well, one wouldn't be bored.

    You should try a mountain race one day. You could be good at it, and maybe make a US team in that discipline.