This week our club began 10 weeks of hill training on Tuesday nights. I ate a lot of dust and humble pie on the first one, which included going up and down two particularly gruesome hills in Balboa Park a total of six times. I managed to stay with my group the entire time, but on the last two climbs, we all pretty much ran out of steam and walked a wee bit.
Since I run hills routinely at home, I was surprised at how difficult the workout was for me. Hills are part of the training trilogy: long slow distance runs to build endurance; speedwork to improve pace; and hills to build strength.
We got a mini-lesson on how to handle hills from our coach just prior to the workout. The most important thing, whether in training or racing, is to "never, ever sprint up a hill." If you do, you will implode at the top and suddenly be passed up with no chance to catch up.
Form is key with hills. You need to keep your head up (to keep air flowing) and pump your arms to get those legs moving. But pace yourself carefully. Do not give it all to the hills...save something for once you reach the top. Take 10 quick steps and you should feel slightly recovered and ready to run some more.
As it turned out, I no sooner finished the hills when I felt some serious cramping and spent the next two hours in various bathrooms. Given I had no other symptoms, I think I just ate something I shouldn't. Still, I hope the next nine weeks don't end the same way.