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I Conquered Them... again...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From the time I started training for my first endurance event (Rock n Roll Marathon, Phoenix) in late 2003 the one thing I have always HATED is hills. Doing all the miles wasn't that bad, but hills always seemed to conquer me. I could do them but they would take most of my energy leaving less for the rest of the training or course. Well, last year I decided that it was time for me to take on hills with a new attitude... Respect not dread.

Last year, I signed up for the 1/2 marathon at Tahoe in California. The reason I did is it touted the "hill from hell"... a 1.5 mile long 7% grade. On top of it after about a 3/4 mile down grade it was back up for a 3/4 mile long 7% grade, a true nemesis to someone who hates hills. But I trained with hills and while the race was certainly difficult, adding almost 20 minutes to my average time for a 1/2, I DID IT! I listened to my body, watched my heart rate and pushed on. I conquered the hills, they did NOT conquer me.

Before doing Tahoe, I made a spark friend who was training for her first 1/2 marathon. I was surprised she had chosen the 1/2 in Sedona, Arizona. One of the first things I do is look at the course elevation profile when researching a race and this profile was full of hills. I thought NO WAY would I do that race especially with all those hills. Then I did Tahoe.

After talking with my husband and some friends, it was decided... Sedona would be the first 1/2 of the year. So I incorporated hills back into my training routine. If even by only a few minutes, I was determined to have a better time on this one.

Well, the Sedona 1/2 marathon was on Saturday, Feb. 7. We drove the course the day before the race and while there were lots of hills, they weren't as daunting as the Tahoe hills. We were up early (5:15) Saturday morning and readied ourselves for the race. We waited in the warmth of the car until about 20 minutes before the start. At about 8:10 the race started and we all were off. The first mile started with a steep downhill and almost as steep an uphill. I took it easy, not pushing too hard. One hill down and lots more to go. I was amazed at how much easier the hills were this time, partly because they were shorter in either length or altitude gain, one was 7% but only about 1/2 mile in length, but also because I decided that I would focus on my heart rate not my speed. In Tahoe I was usually the one being passed on the hills, this time I was doing the passing. I used gravity in my favor when going down the hills and listened to my body on the ups. Not once did I get to the point where I felt the hill could win. I was in control.

When I crossed the finish line my time was 3:24:11 cutting 20 minutes off my Tahoe time and being only 4 minutes over my PB. I was amazed. And even better, I felt great! I was tired, who wouldn't be after walking 13.1 miles, but I didn't hurt, and I still had energy left.

Again, I beat the thing I had always allowed to defeat me. While I still dislike hills, I respect them and love the feeling that comes from doing them well. Struggles with weight and other facets of life are like those hills. And I know that from now on hills will no longer be able to be the winner because, I CONQUERED THEM!
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