Wednesday, October 12, 2005

False starts, and "Am I doing this right?"

I spent one ill-fated year playing golf on my high school's team (luckily I migrated to cross-country the following season), where I was barraged with unsolicited "tips" to improve my struggling swing. I soon learned that trying to think about doing 20 different things at once (all in the three seconds it takes to swing a club) was futile. I had much more luck thinking hard about one element with each swing, as I slowly tried to put all the concepts together over an hour on the driving range.

As I poured over my copy of "Running to the Top" and Nobby's gracious notes on hill training last night, there was quite a bit of information to digest. I decided to take the same approach as I did with golf and focus on one element at a time. Lydiard describes three types of hill training; steep hill running, hill bounding, and hill springing. He suggests starting with steep hill running, then progressing to bounding and eventually springing as your condition improves.

I was set to tackle steep hill running and maybe some bounding. For the first, I was going to think about two things-
-Running slowly and taking short steps(to add resistance and avoid getting into an anaerobic state)
-exaggerate and maintain high knee-lift (hill running is meant to make it easier to maintain knee-lift more constant through a race)

For bounding, I was going to think about-
-back leg extension (getting my back leg straight at take-off to get "power and stride", and avoid running like I'm "sitting in a bucket"
-taking longer strides (like a triple-jumper)

There's much more to each, but I figured better to simplify for now and save springing for when I'm in better condition. So after a nice two mile warm-up I came to my chosen picturesque dirt hill in the folds of beautiful Sabino Canyon. After jogging down to the base, I started up. Half-way up the problem was apparent, this "hill" was really more of a gentle rise, and I just couldn't seem to get much resistance at all regardless of how slow I plodded along. "Am I doing this right?", I said to no one. Thinking maybe I was just a little too fresh after an easy day, I headed back to the base and tried again. Same deal, it was like doing high-knees on an almost level plane. I switched my handy GPS watch to measure "grade", and this "hill" topped out at about 3%. Kind of sad, since it was such a pretty place for a workout.

So off to the fail-safe, in this case Sabino Mountain road. My car had trouble on this one when I measured it on the odometer two days ago, so even though it was a last resort it was the only place close enough at about 6 miles into the day. The road is almost comically upright, averaging between 6-10% as it ascends about 4/10ths of a mile to some elite gated subdivisions perched high above the city. I hit the "lap" button and started up.

For those of you with kids, it was like waking up from a nap cross-eyed and nearly asphyxiated, looking up to find a three-year-old sitting on your chest. My heart was almost immediately in my throat, and I slowed down immediately. Next the quadriceps started a slow but insistent burn, and I knew I was starting to "get it". It took five minutes to ascend the .4 mile stretch, and I tried to think about one thing at a time, mostly keeping my knees up, going slowly (no choice here), and keeping my arm swing straight. I tried a few bounds, but I could only manage them when the road's grade lessened in a few spots. Make no mistake, bounding is very difficult (at least it is for me). I took it very easy on the way down, it was too steep for fast striding.

At the bottom I did a few of the prescribed "wind-sprints" on the rolling access road, mostly striders for about 100 meters. When I recovered I did two more of the circuits, which ended up being about 1.25 miles apiece. I was tired and my knees started to drop on the third, but I muscled through it and jogged back home for a total of 10 miles. I figure I was going up the hill for about 20 minutes total including my first two false starts, and remembering Nobby's words of "easing into it" I figure I'll work up to 4 or five circuits, and I'll probably increase the recovery time and distance to make the circuit closer to two miles if I can find the terrain.

All in all not a bad day, though I am definitely not doing the evening group run tonight ("common sense" as Nobby might say).

Training: 10 miles, with about 20 minutes of going uphill. 8:47 pace overall


Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, it's "mikeinboston" from may have written it somewhere, but which race are you aiming for in particular?


Mike said...

Good question! I just listed my races in the sidebar. My main focus with the Lydiard program is to be at my best for the AZ Rock'n'Roll Marathon on January 15, but I'm hoping for a good 1/2 marathon in Tucson on December 5.

Zeke said...

Hey, not a bad first hill workout. Nobby calls it "easing into it" and Daws would say "making smooth transactions".

Which type of hill workout are you working on flexing from your ankles? I think that's what will help me the most.

Zeke said...

That should say "making smooth transitions".

Mike said...

Hey Zeke,
I'll definitely get Daws book, it sounds like a ton of great info. I think it's the "hill springing" that focuses on the ankle flexation. I'll be working into that probably next week at the earliest. The description says "like a deer going over the fence". I guess you are supposed to raise your center of gravity as much as you can and get off the ground almost straight upward with very little forward momentum. I'll keep you posted.

Thomas said...

Mike, I've just read part of the "Introduction to the lydiard system" article, and it says "Find a hill with a raise of near one in three, or a little steeper". Does that really mean a 30% grade, or have I misunderstood something?

Flatman said...

I bet you are going to be hurting tomorrow... :)

Mike said...

Flatman, you are right. My calves are definitely filing a protest.

Thomas, I take "1 in 3" to mean that "3" is as steep a hill as you could find, kind of like those pitches of 25% or so you see cyclists struggling up in the Tour of Spain or the like. I take a "1" as about a third of that, so I figure anything 5-10% in grade for a "1", a "2" as 11-20% or so, and a "3" as "holy crap I'm about to fall over backwards when I take a step!"

Zeke said...

Hmm, I would take "1 in 3" to mean that the hill rises 1 foot for every 3 feet you move forward. That might be a good question for Nobby.

I'm not sure how they determine the % of a hill but I don't think 1 in 3 equals 30%. But maybe I'm just too much of a flatlander.

D said...

I'm aching just reading your workouts mike!

Mike said...

Aching? It's got to be your P.R. marathon at Chicago causing that, unless of course it's my sad grammer!