Monday, April 7, 2008

Battling the hills

Indian Trails 15K, Middletown, NJ - April 6, 2008

A couple of minor setbacks put me behind on mileage, and I was only able to maintain 15-20 mpw during Dec, Jan and Feb. My goal to run the marathon was still in the back of my mind, the journey was just longer than I had anticipated. No matter...I am in this for the long haul.

By end of Feb 2008, I was ready to step it up a notch. If things went well, I would follow a customized version of Hal Higdon's Novice 2 Marathon Training Plan, with some additional miles thrown in. If my injuries had taught me anything, it was to be flexible and ready to cut back from time to time.

I looked up races - 10K and 15K, as training races for my marathon. The Indian Trails 15K turned out to be very convenient. It was lcoated not too far away, scheduled about a month before the LBH (which I planned to do this year as well) and followed a scenic route. Increasing my long runs by a mile or 2 per week, I got to 12 miles on March 26. So far, so injuries, no soreness or stiffness.

This race was touted as a "Challenging Race through the Scenic Hills of Navesink Course: Roads & Dirt Roads. Not a X-Country Race"; "Great Warm-up for The Boston Marathon or The New Jersey Marathon".

My training has never included hills...there are no hills to speak of in or around Piscataway. So, I was looking forward to running hills for the first time. I had no idea what I was in for!!!

DH and I drove to Middletown and were directed to the parking lot by a volunteer, Paul, an ex-colleague of mine who had initiated me into marathon training a year and a half ago. It was a pleasant surprise, running into him after all these months. Paul was running the 15K as a training run for the Boston Marathon.

The weather was chilly and I wore a full-sleeved technical tee and shorts, goosebumps all over my legs. Though it took a while to get us all assembled (there was a bit of confusion around the start), I was still cold as deli meat when we took off. DH took position and clicked a few pics as I crossed the start line, smiling for the camera, blissfully unaware of the tortuous route ahead.

Here is a link to the course (what attracted me in the first place):

The course took us through woods and tree lined paths, so it was beautiful throughout. However, a killer hill loomed ahead at Mile 3 and a number of people I had passed during miles 1 and 2 sailed past me, while I, a total hill novice, struggled to kick the hamstrings, calves, glutes and hip flexors into full gear. My pace slowed down considerably and at 3.5, I felt I was crawling. Then, ahhh...the luxury of level ground! I stepped up the pace to make up lost ground...felt better as I overtook a few people. Another runner and I kept pace with each other, he beating me on the hills and I, feeling a cheap thrill as I overtook him on familiar ground - the plains.

A few small hills intervened after this, but none as lethal as the first. I had had enough of hills for the day. As I came up to Mile 7, though, my hopes were crushed, as I overheard a woman who had run this race before casually mention to the woman running next to her that we had one more hill to go - a whopping big fella!

I groaned in agony...and my race buddy (Dennis is his name and he happened to be from Piscataway as well) wholeheartedly echoed my sentiment. It was one thing to plunge into this headlong, unprepared and uninformed...a completely different ball game altogether to have to do it, while still reeling from the previous assault. As I cleared the last hill (dragged myself over it is more like it), slowing down to a walk to prevent my palpitating heart from being regurgitated through my mouth, Dennis slowed down as well and we fell into conversation (he talked, I gasped and wheezed). He had run several marathons previously, the NJ Marathon among them, but these days, he was concentrating on shorter distances. He did not view this course as being particularly tough (Aww...c'mon buddy, did you have to take that away from me? That's a mean thing to say to someone who nearly had a massive coronary).

We came to the top of the hill, and forgot palpitations and sore muscles as the spectacular skyline of New York came into view. We took in a deep breath and enjoyed the view. Then, level ground and the finish line! Not a moment too soon. We dragged ourselves to the finish and shook hands, exhilarated to be done at last.

My dear, dependable DH was waiting for me, as I guzzled water by the gallon and downed some fruit and bagels. Well, now I know not to underestimate hills! Despite training up to 12 miles, I was no way prepared for them. I whined about the (45% gradient (yeah, right!)) hills to my bro', the mountain climber, who laughed his head off and told me to put a sock in it and do what he has always told me to do...go climb some mountains!

Indian Trails 15K, Middletown, NJ - April 6, 2008
Place: 180/289 overall; 36/91 women
Bib 168

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