Hill Repeats …. back to paying my dues

Posted: August 4, 2011 in Training
Tags: , , , ,

The marathon is a funny race.

Not ha-ha funny, because let’s face it, personally I don’t crack a whole lot of smiles while I am out there running 26 miles and 385 yards.  But it is a race that is in rare company when it comes to the types of challenges you face and how you need to prepare your body to cope with them.

In a 5K it is all about taking your body to that red-line level just below lactate threshold pace and holding it there for 3.1 miles.

In the 10K it is about locking into a pace that is comfortably uncomfortable that you can hold for in my case just under 40 minutes.  Never really red-lining it until the closing kick, but racing at only :10-:15 seconds per mile slower than that all-out 5K effort.  It takes a lot of discipline to lock in and stay right there mile after mile.

The half-marathon, another race where pacing is king.  Drop another :20-:25 seconds per mile from that 10K effort and you are locked in racing mile after mile for 13.1, hanging on over the last three miles as every part of your body is telling you to slow down except your brain and your heart.

But the marathon is a different animal all together.  The race is simply too long to fake it.  You can’t simply hang on and gut it out if you start to fast or if you have not put in the training time and preparation.  The race taxes you physically of course, but also mentally.  Three hours is a long time to stay 100% focused stride after stride, mile after mile.

It is the marathon training calendar that prepares you for race day.  Every bit of it.  Hard days, easy days, speed work, long runs and for me Hill Repeats.

The methodical nature of training for 18 weeks, peaking for one single morning and a run of 26.2 miles is the beauty of being a marathoner.  It’s not a race where you can just throw out your race shoes and perform.   You have to work hard at it.

You have to love it a lot, but you also have to hate it a little.

I know that for me, I think about the 2010 Boston Marathon at some point on every single training run.  It might be just a fleeting thought that washes over me while I crest a hill or it could last as long as a mile on my run as I replay a section of the course in my mind and how I need to run it differently next spring.

Running Boston was a tremendous accomplishment.

Racing Boston is what I am now interested in doing.

The race standing between me today and the starting line in Hopkinton, MA in April of next year is New York City.  I am looking to show up in New York as the most well-rounded and prepared marathoner I have ever been.  Even better than I was in February at the start of the Austin Marathon.

14 weeks remain until race day and with our first triathlon now in our rear view mirror it was back to the hill this morning, and time for our weekly hill repeat workout.

The hill is 3/10 of a mile from bottom to top, climbing 60 feet in elevation.

The workout starts with a 3-mile warm-up at a relaxed pace, just enough to get the muscles loose and the blood flowing properly.  I run the repeats on Thursdays after an up-tempo workout on Tuesday and a medium-long run on Wednesdays, yesterday’s run being 10 miles.

Running hill repeats on Tuesday would be easier after Monday’s day off, but that is not the point.  The point is to run this workout on somewhat tired legs and hold consistent pace repeat after repeat.  As the workout continues on, much like the marathon, your legs get heavier and heavier. 

Holding pace repeat after repeat is difficult, just as holding race pace over the final 10 kilometers of the marathon gets harder and harder.

And harder.

Today’s workout called for 7 trips up and down the hill.  A sprint to the top at 5K effort, followed by a recovery jog down to the bottom.  A quick turn and back to the top again at 5K effort without a break, repeated 7 times.

It had been awhile since I ran this workout, so I decided to start with 7 repetitions.  Next week will be 8, with 9 the following week and 10 the week after that.  We will then keep the repeats at 10 all the way through to the taper for NYC.  All in all the repeats will add close to 5,000 feet of climbing to our training – all at 5K effort.

The equivalent of racing at top speed to the top of a 500 story skyscraper.

It’s not a lot of fun, but there is nothing like it to build strength and speed.

I made my way through the warm-up with the temperature already at 80 degrees at 5:30 a.m.  In the winter preparing for Austin I would arrive at the bottom of the hill for my first repeat and not a drop of sweat would be on my brow.  Today I was soaked down to my socks in sweat, my shorts already sticking to my legs.

I made the turn and like old times fell right into the routine:

Repeat 1:  1:48

Repeat 2:  1:43

Repeat 3:  1:46

Repeat 4:  1:47

Repeat 5:  1:47

Repeat 6:  1:46

Repeat 7:  1:45

Average time 1:46 which equates to 6:13 min./mile pace.

With the exception of the second repeat which was my fastest of the morning, the consistency was very solid.  My average repeat time of 1:46 was just :03 seconds slower than our final session in the winter before the Austin Marathon.  All indicators this summer are showing that we are faster than we were at this point one year ago as a 43-year-old.

A good omen as we prepare to chase another Marathon PR in New York City on November 6th.

We’re healthy.  We’re happy.  We’re focused.

Now it’s just a matter of putting in the work and building from workout to workout getting ready to light that fuse in November.

Marathon training is filled with workouts.  Some will be great, some will be average and some will not go the way I want them to.  The important thing is to take them one at a time and do my very best each and every morning.  If I can do that and we catch a little bit of a break this time with the weather on race day, look out.

We are going to be one dangerous runner standing among 45,000 other marathoners on Staten Island.

Boom goes the dynamite Nov. 6th.

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