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Running Field Trip: The Hills of Apopka

29 Jan

Yesterday morning, us Marathonfest runners took our first field trip of the training season: the hills of Apopka.

Just mention the words “hill training” to me and I tend to cringe. I’m the kinda girl that considers a speed bump a “small hill” and typically go out of my way to avoid any road inclines.

And yes, this is how I feel even though I’m told they will make me stronger. They will only make me stronger if they don’t kill me first.

So why does running hills suck so badly? I think this article from Runner’s World answers it well: “You have to recruit more muscle fibers to get yourself up the hill, which causes those muscles to fatigue faster,” says Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. On the bright side, keep doing hills and eventually your body adapts and gets stronger.

Since the Flying Pig Marathon has hills, I figured it was time to change my attitude. It’s either conquer them in training or face them unprepared on race day. So for the time being, when I hear the words “hill training” I will feign a “yeah!”

We started our run yesterday morning at 6 AM in Apopka. The street lights aren’t as plentiful out there and the roads were dark. Combined with the fog, it looked like a scene from a scary movie.

At least you could see our shoe reflectors:

Since I’m trying to work on my speed, I set out to keep up with the faster runners in our group. For the first 6.5 mile loop, I felt great! The hills were beasts, but I trudged up them, one foot after the other. However, towards the end of that loop I started to feel light-headed. I made sure to refuel with some Chocolate #9 agave gel.

For the second loop (only 4.5 miles) my energy level evened out. But around mile 8, my IT band started to lock up. Suddenly it felt like I was on mile 20 of the marathon and I had trouble bending my left knee. Rather than push myself through unnecessary pain (it’s just a training run) I decided to call it a day and walk the rest of the run out. The entire way back I lectured myself in my head for not doing more strength training in my legs. But at least I had a good 7.5 miles of hill running under my belt.

Lucky for me, I was sore by 5 PM. I guess I should’ve taken an ice bath, but with such low mileage it just hadn’t occurred to me. But at least the hills didn’t kill me. Well, at least this time.

Here are some more pictures from the run:

This hill was a beast.

My group running uphill. We had to be on the special lookout for cars, since they'll pop up over the hill.

With all the fog it was like we were running in a scary movie.

Farmhouse engulfed by fog

Do you run hills? If so, do you like it, or do it begrudgingly for the benefits?