Who would ever think it? I know I didn't until I encountered them. Hills, they are a killer, and they are deceptive.
I was at Felton this past weekend for a 10k race that was run on trails. I made the obligatory stop at the restroom, and just outside the restroom the course and elevation chart was posted. As I was, um, er, tinkling, I eavesdropped on a couple. The woman was saying, "300 foot hill. Ah, that isn't bad, right? That doesn't sound big", and the man agreeing with her. I'm standing there, suddenly looking off into the corner of the bathroom, remembering the weekend before.
*** Vision goes blurry as clouds swirl in and out until clearing and bringing me back to Los Gatos***
I was running along a gravel path at the Dammit Run, knowing that my first little hill was just around the corner. I was about 1.5 miles in, so not too tired yet. Then the hill arrived in all its glory. I struggled up it, slowed my pace so that I didn't make my heart race trying to maintain the pace I was running on the gravel road. I was almost to the top before I had to stop and walk. Wow, that was a killer. Uh, then I remembered, that little hiccup was only .08 miles long and was only a 61 or so foot climb. Comparatively, nothing. At least to the untrained it would be.
I pushed on and hit the dam, and didn't even try and run. I walked it. This one was only a .25 of a mile, but it had an elevation gain of 132 feet, and I knew better than to play matcho comacho rambo man and charge up all willy nilly. Hell, just walking up it after running 2 miles was tiring.
Ah, now the last hill. I knew once I was past this things were all down hill and it would be a lot easier. The first tenth of the hill had a 120 foot gain. THE killer. I walked the whole thing, tired and breathing hard by the time I got to the top.
***Blurry vision and twinkling chime music brought me back to reality as I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and realized I was standing in front of a stall and there wasn't any more tinkling noise***
I couldn't help but laugh as I washed my hands. 300 foot elevation gain was small? Before I started running hills I would look at an elevation profile and say, ah, it's only 100 feet, that is nothing. I mean, I would consider it in terms of feet on the road or the track. So the number 100 was small. Even 61, like the first hill of Los Gatos, seems like nothing. But then I started to realize: 61 feet is six stories of a building. So I start to look up and visualize the climb I would have to do. That was when I started dreading hills, when I began to be able to visualize the distance going up.
So I knew that the 300 foot hill, although small in actual number, would be a deal breaker, and I wasn't wrong. This was a monster of a hill that went on for a mile. 30 stories I ran up. And I was exhausted.
Moral of the story? Respect the hills, even the small 25 footers, because they will kick your ass every time. I am amazed when I watch someone run up a hill without stopping, without slowing. Practice, practice, practice.
Someday I will be there.