I like to do a lot of research about my hobbies and interests, and running is no exception. Across the Internet, there are recommended training plans and workouts to get faster and stronger as a runner. I’ll admit that I haven’t been very good at putting these into practice so far. The three workouts I see crop up over and over again are fartleks (speed intervals during a slower run), tempo runs (running continuously at a slightly uncomfortable pace for 20 minutes), and hill runs, which require no explanation.
I’ve struggled with hill runs, because in North Minneapolis it is remarkably flat. Near my house the only hills are a natural valley to the Mississippi, which is wooded and peppered with signs discouraging park visitors from leaving the trails, and an unnatural valley to highway 94, where running could get you arrested or killed. I looked at routes near my house and could only find hills about 30 feet high, which isn’t really sufficient for hill training.
After some frustration, I reached out to @mplsrunning on twitter and asked if they had scoped out any good hills in North Minneapolis. They came through, with a “beast” of a hill just across the river in Northeast. I mapped it out and was happy to see that it has a rise of over 100 feet in half a mile. The only thing left to do was to try it out.
Ethan and I drove to a park just a short distance from The Hill. We could have run there, but we’ve been doing some sorter runs lately, to give our legs some recovery time, and I didn’t think a 4+ mile run, in addition to hill work, was a good idea on a Monday night. I’ll keep that as a future goal. We did a slow run about half a mile to the base of the hill and away we went. The plan was to run all the way up and walk all the way down, three times. Unfortunately there is a major intersection about a third of the way up the hill, so we modified the plan to only repeat from the intersection to the top of the hill, rather than stop and wait for a crosswalk six times.
Because of our lack of previous hill training, I was nervous that after two times up the hill one or both of us would collapse and refuse to move for awhile, but I was pleasantly surprised that we both felt pretty good, and we didn’t even have to walk all the way back down the hill to feel recovered enough to take it on again. I did feel like I was spent by the time we reached the top of the hill each time, but I think that’s the point of the workout, so that’s nothing to complain about.
I was really happy with my recovery time, both in how quickly I felt better, and, looking at my heart rate graph, how quickly my heart rate came down. My heart rate was maxing out around 175 by the top of each hill, which is a significant improvement over 2 years ago, when it was getting up in the high 190s during strenuous workouts.
I’m looking forward to more hill training, and to next year’s MN Tough Mudder, to see how much hill training helps.