My training plans for big races tend to have themes.
For my first half-marathon just about a year ago, it was “closure” (to be explained in a future post). For my second half-marathon, is it was “survival” due to under-training and high-stress job timing. For this upcoming half (The Danbury Half-Marathon), I’m fitting in some consistent training, and I’m able to actually formulate a training strategy. This time, it’s KILL THE HILL.
I didn’t come up with KILL THE HILL until a couple of weeks ago, when my running BF Mary, her sis-in-law J and I decided to see what we had gotten ourselves into by doing a long training run on part of the The Danbury Half Marathon course. I’d heard it’s notoriously hilly. Not Rocky Mountains Hilly, mind you, but in the last 4 miles of the race, there are some serious butt-busters. It turns out this course is NO JOKE.
Since part of the race is on a very busy state route, we planned our route to avoid that and to do an out-an-back of the last 4 miles of the race, for a total of about 8 miles. It starts in urban-ish Danbury.
Shortly thereafter, this street sign loomed like an omen.
What a tease that was. Within 1.5 miles we went from flat to our first monster:
At that point, you might have heard a collective “Holy crap!” from the three of us, and then we all just instinctively shut up and dug in. (The shutting up part doesn’t come naturally, but we all knew we needed the breath.) I have to admit, I’m starting to like the ‘digging in’ part of running. When things start to get tough, you have to clear out your mind and focus on the task at hand. I tend to say a mantra in my head that matches my cadence. I think this day was simply, “Don’t. Stop. Don’t. Stop. Don’t. Stop.”
I took a brief walk break for about 30 seconds. Mary and J powered ahead. I had to remind myself that in the actual race, I’d be going back DOWN that part, and but that this was “good for training”. I was also trying to suppress the thought that it was also “good for pulling a butt muscle and/or puking.” After a few more minutes of huffing, puffing, and burning calves, we finally made it to the top, or at least the top of that particular hill. YAY US.
After that, there were a few rolling hills, and rural scenery was quite beautiful. It almost distracted me from my lungs being on fire. We passed scenic woods and hidden lakes…
Some farm animals (who would have waved if they could’ve, I’m sure)…
And a mocking road sign:
At mile 4.5, after a long downhill, we reached the halfway mark, and our refreshments, planted earlier by moi.
Time to turn it around. Yep, time to head back UP that long downhill. This time, the mantra was, “Kill the hill. Kill the hill. Kill the hill.” It worked.
Being that I was the dork with the camera, I had to get one last photo:
We got back to Danbury without walking or limping, but wow, that run was hard. I love my runkeeper app on my phone, because I go home and become a stat geek. My eyeballs just about popped out of my head when it said that the course we took that day was a 974 FOOT ELEVATION CHANGE.
What does a 974 ft elevation change look like in graph form? Here you go:
After that day, my theme for this training cycle became KILL THE HILL. Danbury Half-Marathon miles 9, 10, 11, and 12: You’ve been warned.