Oh, did I say I was running hills in training? heh, heh. Oh, no. No, no, no. Not in the slightest. Wherever did you get that idea?
When I was training for my first Ascent (2012), I lost count of how many people told me, “Work on your speed walking, because you’re not going to run the Ascent.”
Words of wisdom to be sure. For one thing, unless you’re one of the real fast dogs up front, when you get to the spur trail at the end of Ruxton and then on to the Barr Trail, the path is narrow and congested. If you get impatient with the pace, it’s your choice and your decision, i.e. how much energy are you willing to expend at this point to pass people. Passing is not easy and the W’s (the many switchbacks in this stage) are steep. The energy you spend passing people could mean less in your tank when you get to treeline and for those of you who have never hiked to the top of Pikes Peak, 3 miles above treeline will test your mettle. Up there breathing becomes more labored and the mile from marker 3 to mile marker 2 may seem like a day hike in itself.
Local Olympic speed walker Carl Scheuler tried it both ways in two consecutive years. One Ascent he ran, the other he speed-walked and the difference in time, for him, was only about 4 minutes or so as I recollect.
I don’t train on hills solely for endurance and strength but also for perspective.
When you train on really tough hills, then anything you encounter in your races will seem more bearable. That may seem obvious but the same holds true for an entire course. If you’re training course or courses are more rigorous than the course you’ll be running in an organized event, well, for me at least, it’s a psychological boost. I’ll tell myself (and I do talk to myself a lot, especially when jogging) that a hill on a race course “isn’t as bad as such and such hill,” recalling some of my more favorite, punishing hills.
Also, as I was working out the other day I was reminded of the Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Russel (What else do you have to do while you run besides think?).
Russel, known for his intense defensive efforts, said a player should never rest on defense. If you’re going to take a breather on the hardwood, take it on offense. I believe the same holds true for hills. Go hard on the hills, attack them. You can rest, if you like, on the other side, on the downhill. When you work on a hill you get it over with faster and who wants to make any slope seem longer than it already is?
With the Garden of the Gods 10-miler looming on June 8, run some steeps and those long but gradual pulls in the Garden won’t feel so bad when you’re on them.