Yeah, I have hills on the brain right now.
Reach the Beach is less than two weeks away. The course covers just over 207 miles in 36 shifts. Running, then cooling down, then running again. Then doing it a third time… it’s a unique experience to long distance relays. The average team member will run 17.25 miles in three shifts, or roughly 3 10K races within a 24 hour period. That’s one thing I have to train for, and I’ve been preparing by running more than once a day at least once a week.
The other thing I have to train for is the hilly terrain. The course includes over 11,000 feet in elevation gain, and 14,000+ feet in elevation loss. No matter how you slice it, there are going to be some serious uphills on that course. Enter hill repeats.
Here’s an interval run I completed recently at lunch (click photo to enlarge). Just over five miles, I ran up the hill near work 15 times. It’s not a very long distance up that hill (or back down again), but it packs a wallop with over 60 feet of vertical gain in roughly a sixth of a mile. Then get to the top and run down. Repeat, repeat, repeat… I remember running a 5K in my work neighborhood last year and I ended up walking up this hill. It feels good that I was able to run up it so many times without stopping. I wasn’t fast, but persistent, and no walk breaks.
These are the Ghost 7 by Brooks. I’ve worn the Ghost 6 on almost every race I’ve run in the last year, and have been very happy with the shoe. I also have a pair of the Ghost 5, Goretex version which gets pulled out whenever the weather requires some extra warmth or water protection.
My Ghost 6s are starting to show their age, and so I decided it was time to start thinking about retiring my favorite racer. I also know better than to bust out a pair of new shoes on race day, so I wanted to take these out for a spin.
They gave me a blister. I occasionally get blisters on my toes, and will usually wear running toe socks on warm days with a long run scheduled, but didn’t have any clean pairs, so I grabbed the Thorlo running socks instead. The Thorlos have never failed me – very cushy. They’re an excellent sock, I highly recommend them. But today I was planning on running 18 miles, with a two mile loop in my neighborhood. Not as hilly as that work thing I did, but 18 miles is far.
Anyhow, I lasted 12 before these shoes had to come off. I was developing a small blister just behind the ball of my right foot – a spot I’ve never had issues with.
So at the end of the sixth lap, I headed inside and put one of those Bandaid blister things on it, grabbed some fresh socks and another pair of shes, and headed back out.
That was hard. 12 miles in, and your hip is bothering you, and your foot is blistering, and oh, that right hip is tight. And you’re worn out, and it’s only getting hotter. If it weren’t for this, I’m not sure I could have gone on:
That’s the best aid station a long distance runner could possibly hope for. Water. More water. Under the goody dome, there were pretzels, bananas, Lara bars, and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Clean towels to keep one fresh, and a goat mascot to cheer me on. Gatorade, in a wine glass, no less. Oh, and wash cloths in an ice bucket, filled with ice and water, to cool off with. My family? They kick ass.
And after my 8th loop (and 16 miles), when the Gatorade was gone, and the water was gone, and I my mouth was too dry to attempt to eat anything, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy with my effort if I didn’t get my 18 miles in… that was tough. I’m talking to the goat about what it means to be an endurance runner, and how that translates into real life all over the place. If I can bag 16 miles with over 1,100 feet of elevation gain, be standing in my drive way with the promise of fresh water and a hot shower just a short walk away, and still turn around and go out for one more lap, that’s a good moment for me. If I can do that, then what else can I do? If I can ignore the blister that started forming over an hour ago, and keep on chugging, that’s a win. But it’s hot, and I’m tired, and the goat isn’t really giving the best encouragement (mocking me about my hills when he runs up mountains, right?). I’m dehydrated and the hip is screaming. So I did what any sane person would do.
I took the washcloth out, squeezed it over my head, drank the washcloth water from the ice bucket, and kept at it.
Here’s my elevation chart. Nine loops. 18 miles. I feel good about this. Now I’m going to go get in a bathtub full of cold water and dump ten pounds of ice in with me. If I hadn’t already done the ice bucket challenge, I’d post a video. But I already did, so I’ll leave you with the elevation chart from my run today.
Imagine what you can do if you only choose to work a little more after you feel like you’re already done…