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Hills, hills, hills (x2)

Friday, August 10, 2012

So, I screwed up my leg a bit on Saturday. It was my own fault (hiking up and down a steep embankment in my sexy strappy dressy sparkly shoes wasn't the brightest thing I've ever done). It was nothing more serious than a sore calf muscle, but I learned my lesson earlier this year and listened to the leg. After a few days of rest (and one extra day for good measure), I went out for a test run on Wednesday.

The most surprising and distressing thing I learned from the more serious injury last spring is that you lose your fitness level quickly. I'm not talking about going back to couch slug after a day off, but if you've been building your fitness and endurance, it's hard to just jump back in at the level you were at. Yes, even after a week off. Last spring, I took about three weeks off completely to let my leg heal and then did a tentative test run. I had been doing some light cross training, but nothing compared to the race training I'd left. While the leg held up, my lack of endurance was shocking. I struggled to complete a 4k run without stopping, and had to walk for the last km of my 5k the next day. Before the time off, I'd been able to knock out a non-stop 10k easily on my steady runs and had been up to an 18k distance run.

Luckily, that endurance came back fairly quickly. It was scary for the first week or so when I worried that I'd destroyed months of progress, but I was able to sensibly build myself back up within a few weeks. I never quite caught up to where I would have been in my training program if I hadn't injured myself, but I was more than ready to go on race day.

Saturday's muscle snag was a much smaller scale, but I still wasn't going to take any chances. I expected my first run back to be a bit rough (especially after a reduced workout schedule while I was on vacation) and promised myself that I'd do what I could - just get out there and do *something*. 4k was just enough... I was way more tired at the end than I should have been for that distance, but at least I was back into it. And even though I'd lost some steam, the leg held up well enough.

I wasn't sure what yesterday's workout would look like. I had decided to do a hill run, because it had been two weeks since my last one. I kind of did some hills while on vacation, because my husband has a very different definition of 'flat' than I do and I hit a few unexpected monster hills on my long run, but I skipped doing a proper hill run last week. I promised myself I'd do one circuit of three hills, and if my leg and body were okay with it, do another three to bring me up to the six I had planned on my training schedule.

The good news is that apparently a week off only requires one crappy recovery run, because I felt great for the entire hour. I really wasn't expecting to have the endurance I did, and it felt good to know that I can trust my body to bounce back if I let it. I was a little slower in my heart rate recovery between hills, but otherwise I felt fine (I did treat myself to a relaxing walk home from the hills instead of running the whole way, but that was more about enjoying the park).

This is just more proof that it's good to trust your body. I had a few overtraining incidents in my first year of working out, followed up by a serious injury that developed gradually and kicked my ass. Those mistakes have taught me a lot, and I'm a lot more sensitive to my body's cues now. I let myself have a bad run occasionally. I know when to push because I'm being lazy, and I know when I genuinely need to back off. I'm still learning (and always will be), but it's starting to feel pretty natural.

So, with that out of the way, I thought I'd share my hills with you!

Hill one is in the red here. It doesn't look so bad from far away, but trust me... this thing is brutal if you don't conserve your energy. It's more than half a kilometer long, and the steepness alternates between reasonable and holy crap. It's always the first hill I do, because I want to get that thing out of the way. Here's a view from the bottom, which still doesn't capture the full thing:

(Those stairs are no picnic to run up either)

After hill 1, it's a long downhill run down the backside of that hill and then down along the center street bridge (which I didn't realize was as slanted as it is until I started running it).

Hill 2, in the blue, is the run back up centre street. It's not too steep, but it's long - from top to bottom to top again is almost a full kilometer. The fun part is standing on a street corner in Chinatown waiting for my heart rate to recover while hundreds of commuters drive past.

Hill 3 in the yellow (if you can see it) is a very short, very steep optional hill. It's always a fun one, because it's over almost before you realize you've run it.

Hill 4 in the pink is the backside of the first brutal hill. It's moderately steep and medium length. I love it, because it's probably the easiest of all three (1 is brutal, 2 is boring, 3 is steep and 4 is just a nice combo of everything)

And the reward at the top is the view. For any of the local folks who haven't run Crescent Heights, it's worth it. I really think it's the best view of the city (and the post cards agree with me). Plus, as rough as that first run up can be, there's a feeling of triumph when you finally reach that small crest and look out over everything.

One of these days I'll walk up here with my real camera, because my phone (and my sweaty fingers/squinting eyes) don't do it justice.

So, after two circuits of hills 1, 2 and 4 (3 gets added in next week when I do seven hills), I get to run home through Prince's Island Park:

Which is always colourful and lively and full of people out enjoying the city. I love it.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, be proud of your sweat emoticon

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