I’ve always enjoyed running hills and with one exception I’ve always lived in states where there were ample opportunities to to roll up and down a running course. I seem to recall, many moons ago, reading in some magazine about a runner who said races are won on hills, that hills were the place to exert some effort, to pass and maybe even demoralize your competition. Well, if you’ve been reading any of the previous blogs here you know that I am not really out to win anything but still I maintain a philosophy of working on hills. Serious hills, the ones that are really steep, say 30% grade and above, require grinding it out but if I’m approaching a gradual incline that may only be about 50 or 60 yards long, I tell myself “power up.” I gear down, maybe dropping my hips a little bit and try to envision my hamstrings as rope tows pulling me up the hill. That little bit of effort seems to make a big difference for me. If I’m approaching a short little knob, say a 6 or 7 foot rise in the trail that’s only 10-15 feet long, I’ll say to myself “roll up.” Just like the Magical Mystery Tour, I roll up and over it, almost as if it was nothing more than a speed bump. You can put whatever word or words you want in your head. Attack is a good one. Even if you don’t get overly aggressive or fast (and I don’t believe in doing that myself), you are attacking the hill, meeting it head on, almost working with it instead of having it work against you. Now I’m getting too touchy-feely aren’t I? Next thing I’ll be talking about embracing hills the way one running book talked about embracing fatigue. I tried that, tried to give fatigue a nice little hug. Ol’ buddy. Fatigue just shoved me away, scoffed at me, told me in no uncertain terms it didn’t want to be friends. Trying to get your arms around fatigue is like, well...never mind. The great Bill Russel, a member of the pro basketball hall of fame, known for his outstanding defense was once discussing his strategy. He said something to the effect that you work on defense and if you want to rest at all, you take a blow on offense. Never on defense. I look at hills the same way. Never walk a hill unless you’re power walking or keeping up a good, brisk walking pace. Work a little bit on the hills, then, if you want a break, coast on the downhills. That’s what the downhills are for, resting. My mentor and coach was cautioning me, once again, to not think of any part of the Ascent being easy, particularly the last 2-3 miles, particularly the 16 Golden Stairs. No worries there! I have nothing but respect for the mountains. I need to get more elevation training in. For now I’m just trying to get in miles (hitting about 20-23 a week) and work on the hills at lower elevations. I try not to think too much about how many more miles others might be putting in. As I said, I believe every individual needs to do what they feel is right for them and their body. Then, last week I meet a guy on a trail. Said he had done the Ascent several times. Tells me that when he was training for it, it was nothing for him to come home and run for three hours at night. Ai-yeesh! Always some kill-joy out there to make you feel like a regular slacker! In my next installment, I’ll tell you about a self-designed workout I did this week that did a fair number on me.