Monday, June 14, 2010

Who's afraid of that big bad hill?

I guess I was.  Last week marked my return to hill workouts.  They had been on my schedule for several weeks prior, but I was too chicken about my achilles/calf not being healed to take them on.  I kept asking my coach for alternate workouts.  I guess she finally sensed that I was exhibiting avoidance behavior and nudged me toward the base of the hill.  So, I climbed.

But, not without freaking out a smidgen beforehand.  As it turned out, my first hill workout would have to be done on dear Tready, my favorite treadmill at the 24 Hour Fitness in Carmichael.  Ironically, Tready was my companion on my last hill workout; the one where I did all of the damage to my achilles.  Every corpuscle in my body was filled with angst as I ran the 4.5 miles to the gym to take on my 30-minute uphill workout.  Of course, everything went fine.  I ran at marathon effort for 30 minutes at 4-4.5% incline without incident then ran home, throwing in 5 x 2 minutes at 5:35 pace and 3 x 150m cutdowns for good measure to complete 14 miles.  I thought I felt a couple of twinges of tightness during the workout, but I believe it was all in my head.

My second hill workout was part of a 12-miler last Thursday, where I went over to my favorite 45-90 second hill at William Pond Park.  I warmed up, ran for 15 minutes at goal marathon pace (6:15) and then jogged to my hill to do 7 x 75-second hills alternating between 5k and 3k to mile effort w/3-minute jog down rests.  The first hill repeat was a true stinker.  The effort felt harder than 5k, but my pace was only a few seconds shy of 6 minute pace.  I know, I know, these are effort-based hills, but I've done this hill so often, I know what my pace usually is at that effort.  The next repeat was @ 3k to mile effort, and I brought my pace down to 5:30.  That was more like it.  I continued in this pattern, and alternated 5:45/5:30 pace for the rest.  I heard nary a whistle from my achilles or calf.  I pronounced myself officially healed after that workout.

The Heat Wave

We've enjoyed a pretty mild spring in the Central Oven Valley of California this year, and I have not complained at all.  I am a product of the Northwest and love my summertime clouds and rain.  I find summertime to be quite oppressive here in the Valley where we regularly experience a week or more in a row of 100 degree days.  I actually get depressed starting in late July from the constant sunshine with no clouds or rain, day in and day out.  Why do I stay?  Easy.  Winter, spring and fall make up for the miserable summer.

I generally consider myself to be a heat wimp and am absolutely certain that I will not survive the summer when the first 90-degree days hit.  I have been leveled by the heat on more long runs than I care to remember.  Somehow, I never really learn my lesson and find myself backed up against a wall, needing to do a hard workout or long run in 90+ degree weather.  Sunday was the first day this year that I tortured myself in this way.

I have really been having a ball with Pinky, my new Phat beach cruiser bike.  I got her some handgrip tassels and a basket last week and have ridden her all around Sacramento.  On both Saturday and Sunday, I decided it would be fun for me and the Genius to ride our bikes into the city to breakfast and then to get bike stuff, and…  Meanwhile, the temperature soared.  Saturday, I ran 8 miles in the low 90s.  Sunday, I started my long run at 6:45 p.m. The thermometer at my house read 100F.  The only saving grace was that the wind was blowing from the north, so the humidity was low.

With a cavalier attitude, I jaunted off to the track for my workout.**  It was a total of 16 miles and included 5 strides, then 5 x 1200 repeats as a cutdown:

  • 400m @10k effort
  • 400m @ 5k effort
  • 200m @ 3k effort
  • 200m @ mile effort
I got to jog for 3 minutes after each 1200.  I knew the heat would affect me, so I decided I would concentrate on effort.  Fat chance.  My first repeat was way too fast.  My splits (paces) were : 87 (5:43), 87 (5:42), 42 (5:29), 39 (5:12).  I decided to focus on slowing the first lap to try to hit 90 seconds (6:00 pace).  I was successful, but the second lap had me panting like a dog at the 300 meter mark.  I completed the second lap in 86 seconds and decided to shut that repeat down and regroup.  I grabbed my water bottle and sipped it during my recovery jog and tried to decide whether or not to abandon the workout.  I decided I would do one more repeat and really slow down the first lap to try to get back into the groove.  What was important, after all, was to run the effort and I could do at least that.

Bottom line: the next three were fine though I never really slowed the first lap enough.  My splits were:

  • 91, 89, 43, 41
  • 92, 90, 86 (stopped taking my 200m splits for the last 2 reps)
  • 92, 88, 83                         

It wasn't very pretty, that's for sure, but I got it done.  My run home was slower than usual, until I remembered I had 10 sprints left to do.  It always amazes me how dead I can feel and still get my little legs moving for sprints.  While running in hot conditions is not ideal, I need to do it.  The simple fact is that most of the races I run for the next few months will be in the heat, and I need to get used to it.  In fact, many of my training runs will be run in the heat regardless of what time of day I start.  Hello, summer, (un)glad to see you again.

**After reading Flo's race report today about succumbing to heat exhaustion during her 5k last weekend, I promised to take the heat more seriously.  Glad you're okay, Flo!

Track Goals 

I'm mostly concerned about running well in the heat during two upcoming track meets that are on my racing schedule.  The first is the Western States Masters International Invitational on July 10th just down the road in Davis, CA.  I plan to run the mile there.  This will not be a goal race for me, but will be a great prep for my goal races at the Masters National Championship meet July 22-25 here in Sacramento.  I will run the 5000m and the 1500m races in that meet.  All of this speed work that I'm doing right now is training me to run fast at that meet, and I'm pretty excited to see how fast I can get between now and then.

My goals for these races are:

  • 5:00-5:10 for the mile
  • <17:30 for the 5000m
  • <4:45 for the 1500m
Ambitious, but doable.  Tomorrow, I get to try these goal paces on for size with 20 x 200m repeats alternating between goal 5000m and 1500m paces.  I will, of course, do this bright and early to avoid the heat.


  1. Wow, amazing workouts as always. Congratulations on being healed! Fabulous news. 100 degrees? I died a little reading that. :-) Be safe out there!

  2. Yeah, but it's dry heat, right?

    Just kidding. I love having "whose heat is worst" arguments with Californians.

    Those are smokin' track time goals. And yet, doable for you.

  3. Flo, Julie's right. It's a dry heat. I will take the dry temperatures here over your east coast humidity any day of the week. Either way, running in the heat is unfun. Thanks for the wake up call and so glad you're okay.

    Julie, Yours is worse. I think what gets me most is the monotony of the summer heat here. Once it starts rolling, it doesn't let up until October.

  4. Tassels for Pinky! Very Phat.

    It's funny hearing you talk about the heat as we're jogging around in 40F temps. We have the dry heat too, and 100F will be with us come January - definitely no fun for anything long.

    Those look like pretty reasonable goal times, going by the 1200 workout. 5k in under 17:30 lines up nicely with a 2:40-low marathon.

  5. Hi Ewen

    I wondered when the sassy Aussie would chime in about the heat:) I actually thought about that when I wrote this post. Enjoy the cool temps while you have them.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a 5k PR that's comparable to a marathon PR and vice versa?! Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  6. It's freezing this morning!

    Improving the track speed should help your marathon too. There was a girl I used to run with many years ago (a marathoner) - sub-3. When she started racing track she was around 18:30 for 5. She did a lot of track training and racing - things like 40 x 100 (not sure that's a great idea!) - and got down to 17-low for 5 and a 2:40 marathon.