Hills Can Be Your Friend

Hills. I hate ’em. We used to have to run the local ski hill in junior high and high school cross country. Admittedly, it was in Chicago so our “ski hill” was a true skier’s bunny hill. BUT STILL. It sucked.

My least favorite, but most rewarding hill, is the climb to the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon. It finishes at Arlington Cemetery in front of the statue of the soldiers at Iwo Jima. It’s an up hill finish line and it is torture. But, it’s the end so it’s kind of awesome. Still, not my favorite way to finish a race.

Reasons I don’t like hills:

-They make my quads burn

-I can’t stride out

-They seem endless

-I sometimes want to vomit when I reach the top, but it’s almost never the end.

I sound like a great, big whiner right now. Pathetic, I know. But don’t be fooled by my whining, I still do my hills. Actually, when the race has some rolling hills, I do far better than if it’s completely flat the entire way. You do, too, you just don’t know why.

Hills do our bodies good. It allows our hamstrings to take a break and our quadriceps to take over as the main muscle group of our stride. This switching back and forth keeps our legs fresh because one muscle group isn’t being beaten up for the entirety of our run. This is more valuable than you think.

The Brooklyn Half-Marathon used to start at Coney Island and go north for 8 miles up Coney Island Avenue into Prospect Park. This meant that the first 8 miles of the race were completely flat. Great, right? Wrong. It wears out the hamstrings and your body gets overtired from running on the same surface for such a long time.

I remember very vividly hitting the park, which has some hills but nothing like the Presidio (that place was terrifying!), and being able to go faster. I tapped into my bored quadriceps for energy and gave my hammys a break. I left a lot of people in my dust because I focused on the previously second-tier muscles of my quadriceps and decided that they were ready, willing and able to take over as the motor of my running. I also had the very lovely reward of also going down the hills which I climbed. This is both tremendously mentally rewarding and physically rewarding.

A little thought about fact is also that running up hills takes away a tremendous amount of pounding on your joints. Because you’re pushing the weight of your body uphill, the force on your joints is lessened (well done, first semester physics teacher). The benefits of less hammering on your body is obvious. Suffice to say that this is a good thing. A good thing for racing and a good thing for your weekly workouts.

So next time you’re looking at a race and marveling about how flat and fast it is, remember that a flat road isn’t always your best friend. Try a race with some rolling hills. You might surprise yourself and enjoy the benefits of going both up AND down.

Now go out and run!!!

Battle Of Brooklyn Recap

JB and I just sat down for lunch (yes, lunch at 11am) after finishing the Battle of Brooklyn this morning and all I have to say is: Holy sweaty runner, Batman! I am not unaccustomed to getting my sweat on during a run, especially a 10-miler in August, but Oh. My. God. I think I left puddles along the course in Prospect Park. Yikes.

We almost didn’t make it to Brooklyn because our cab driver felt compelled to drive at the speed of sound down the FDR. I was convinced it was the end of us. No, we did not take the train to Brooklyn at 6am. We are that couple. My husband more so than me, but I really don’t put up much of a fight when it means I can get up at 6:30 (a much more reasonable hour) and do my morning routine without being stressed out about train times. Stress + UC = emergency bathroom breaks mid-race. So, yeah. We took a cab. And almost died.

Well, at least there wasn't a chance in hell we'd be late for the start!

Upon arrival, I thanked all of my guardian angels and headed to the POJ to do my thang. Ummmm….memo to Jackrabbit: When there are hundreds of people coming to your race, 7 POJ’s is insufficient. You read that right: 7. For a race. I was horrified and immediately staked a place in line, hoping I’d get to go before the start, suddenly thankful for my speed demon of a taxi driver.

Wow. Just...wow. Clearly, they did not know I was coming to this race.

One woman complained to some official-looking person. His response, "At 8:05, the lines will be gone!" PS. The race started at 8:00. Nice.

Thankfully, I made it in and out and to the start line with JB in plenty of time. A very unceremonious (not in a bad way) “GO!” started the 10 mile race. We took off downhill, steering clear of the brilliant runners who thought their 10 minute per mile pace warranted a front-line start. I will never understand that. Anyway, the park wasn’t too crowded and the race wasn’t either so it was a great run to pace it out and relax. 1st mile downhill = 7:15 first mile. Ooops. I did not keep that up. JB hung back and we both just tried to get a handle on our pace.

I really enjoyed running through Prospect Park. It’s not nearly as crowded as Central Park, the loop is shorter and friends who live in Park Slope come out to cheer! Nothing’s better than having friends cheer for you as you muddle through a soggy 10 miles. I must’ve looked super sexy.

JB passed me around mile 8, which I love. He’s 6’2” and a former Marine, so I fully expect he will be the fast one in the family. He finished about 15 seconds ahead of me and cheered for me at the finish line. Good man. Hard to miss the sound of someone shouting, “Go Abigail!” (he doesn’t call me Abby–ever). I love that he’s coming out of his cheerleader shell! Go honeybun!

So, done and done. We both ran just under 8 minute miles. Not exactly my goal, but close to it and the weather being what it was, I’m happy. We ran into Ali who was sporting her “I β™₯ SWEAT” shirt, a perfect theme for the race.

Clearly, I support this statement because, well, duh...

We also saw our friend from lululemon Run Club, Secret Agent Man who fully kicked our butts and later confessed he was struggling out there as well. No one was immune to the humidity beast today! We’re all just thrilled we finished.

Success!

I am home, showered, in my robe and about to devour my tacos. Do not get in between me and my food after a race. I will hurt you. Battle of Brooklyn winner? Me!

What did you do this weekend? Did you rock a run or take a break? Tell me and then…

Go out and run!