Hill running, wonders never cease

It’s difficult to drag yourself upstairs and get ready for training when the other lady of the house has other ideas.

Our cat, Fifi

'Don't go running, stay and cuddle me'

But I am strong and Fifi is easily distracted with a ball of paper to chase.

Training today has been all about hill sets. And using the 8kg kettlebell to further work my glutes. So consequently I am sitting here with one well worked out, achy bum!

I had two big revelations today: one, listen to your coach and try to do what he says – it works! Secondly, controlling your breathing is possible.

But firstly can I say a big thank you to Keeping My Pace and The Dancing Runner for all their encouragement earlier this week. I was thinking of you both as I huffed and puffed up the last hills. ‘Doing it for the girls,’ I thought as I wheezed up the final hill on each lap.

Grey running day - 7 degrees

Grey running day - 7 degrees

This is what we did:

  • Set of eight hills
  • Kettlebell lifts – two feet on the ground, one foot on the ground, each side x15 (repeat)
  • Set of eight hills
  • Kettlebell lifts – two feet on the ground with squat combo (nice), one foot on the ground, each side x15 (repeat)
  • Set of two hills with running and 100m at pace in between x 2
  • Lunges x 3 each leg, then a set, of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (ouch!)
  • Set of eight hills

Most of the time Adam was running along beside me shouting ‘lift those knees, pump those arms, in time Deana, IN TIME.’ Clearly I was flailing around like a drowning woman at that point, but taking little steps, lifting your knees and driving through does power you up hills with less effort. Pumping your arms in time just powers more effort into your stride.

This bit isn’t the toughest for me, even when my legs are like jelly I know they’ll get me up. My bete noir, the thing about running that makes me panic – not being able to breathe. But you know, today I turned a corner. On the last set, when I should have been on my knees, somehow I was doing it – without wheezing. First hill – long steady climb, no wheeze. Second hill, short but steep, no wheeze. Third hill – fine, fourth hill – high, steep and seemingly endless – wheeze just started to kick in on the summit but i recovered on the way down and was ready to go back up. Suddenly ‘Can I?’ became ‘I can’.

And on the way back I was thinking about my blogging chums as I powered up the last hill and ran down the other side wheezing but happy in my wheezing? Happy in my wheezing? Have I turned a corner into my Spring?

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

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The mountain man

To me, trail running is snaking through the woods, running down grassed-over river paths. Gentle, recreational, fun.

But then I hadn’t heard of Kilian Jornet, the Catalan mountain runner whose trail accomplishments involve zipping up and down mountains. Yes, mountains! Who knew trail running meant mountains? Well not me.

You can see him for yourself on YouTube and check out the Kilian’s Quest series of short films. I like this one.

He’s 24 now and has already racked up records aplenty. He won the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and he holds the course record. He is the record holder for the Tahoe Rim trail, the Trans Pyrenees and for Mount Kilimanjaro. There’s a lot more. And a lot of skiing stuff. Yes he skis too. And he’s better than good.

And yet, watch him interviewed. He has a natural, matter of fact humbleness. He just is his running. A lesson there.

I’ll be thinking of him as I’m hill running on Sunday. My little Kilimanjaro.

I love my running trainer, I hate my running trainer…

Dawn over Northenden

Taken on way to training - how peaceful, how genteel, how unlike hill repeats training

Adam: “Push, push, push, push.”

Me: “Wheeze, wheeze, wheeze, wheeze.”

Adam: “Push, push, push, push.”

Me: “Wheeze, wheeze, gasp, squeak, wheeze.”

We’re doing hills in my Sunday running trainer session. Five sets (if you’re counting the warm-up loop – and I bloody am) of six hills today. Fast as possible up, jogging it off on the downs.

In between hill sets, lunges swinging the medicine ball, bouncing from one lunge to another (burns your thighs and bottom) and squats while pushing out the medicine ball (piece of cake, but don’t tell Adam!).

On the warm up round of hills I was thinking “Oooh, this is ok, I can do this.” By round three I was thinking more along the lines of “Oh no, I’m not going to be able to do this… yes. you can.. I don’t think so.. you can, you can, you CAN..” (Does anyone else have these inner pep-talks with themselves? Mine are more like inner-bollockings, but I digress…)

Adam does lot of “Good, good, excellent, pump those arms, pull up those knees, yes, brilliant, fantastic,” chat too. But when he said: “One more set.” I actually said out loud “oh no”.

And yet I made it. These trainers know what they’re doing. They don’t drive you into the ground. And yes, I may be cursing him on hills No5 and my only distraction is looking up from my pumping knees, to notice the hill’s brow has somehow shifted and I’m still going up. But without him I would never have made round three.

I am sure there are plenty of people who can push themselves past wheezing into the air-gasp suffocating-while-running state, but I’m not one of them. Not because I’m lazy but because I’m genuinely amazed I can achieve what I obviously can do and so would never think to go round one more time. I’ve got to love what Adam helps me achieve, but I’ve got to say sometimes… grrrr!

Stronger, faster, better

And ridiculously cheered by my progress today.

Top of my running hills

Last time we ran these hills, back on October 16, I did four sets of two, this time I did four sets of three. In effect, 12 times up the hills instead of eight.

There are three hills in a row.

For the first set of three I did the one hill up, fast as possible, and then did sets of squats and lunges with the kettlebell. Harry used the medicine ball, which weighs 4kg, while I got the 8kg kettlebell every time, so weight stepped up too. I’m not saying he’s cheating though – he does go on to play football after we’ve finished. I go home and loll in a bath/on a sofa/on anything I can find.

RUnning hills

Up and down up and down

Then we repeated.

For the third set of three we took it steady up the first hill down the slope and up the next, which is a much steeper incline, but not as long.

More kettlebell work, this time working side muscles around the core.

Then the fourth set of three – back to the bottom of the first hill, up, down, up, down another slope and back up the other side.

Now this is a particular triumph for me because I couldn’t get up that last slope the last time we tried this, my legs just went to jelly. And I did it three times today.

This wasn’t a breeze by any imagination, I was wheezing by the top of the first slope but I had a little revelation – I can run and wheeze. Ok, so maybe not news to you, but in my head I connect wheezing with things like panic (I used to have panic attacks when I was in my twenties) and so to discover I can run, wheeze and stay calm is astonishing to me. And makes me feel stronger.

Anyway, Harry kept saying ‘Im really pleased with that’ as we jogged back to the car. I was carrying the medicine ball as we jogged so I wasn’t saying much. But I was smiling.

Hill starts full throttle

Ok, what is it about running up hills I like?

Could it be the almost immediate fast, pumping heart beat, the bouncing up on your toes while lifting your knees as hard as you can, or the fact the top of your thighs and your bum muscles are screaming ‘for the love of god, what are you doing?’ as you focus on the hill brow and push on – and on?

Sounds like a recipe for Fresh Hell al Feugo but somehow it’s fun – even in the rain of a mizzly Manchester Autumn day.

Today is Harry Day so we meet up near the hills by opposite Cholton Water Park. There are three in a row of varying heights and gradients. Put there, no doubt, for sad people like me.

Oh and we took Mr Medicine Ball with us for fun so in between runs I’m doing sets of lunges and squats with the medicine ball (it has handles in it – 4kg).

1. Jog down hill – run hell for leather up hill x 3

2. Medicine ball on floor – hold handles and get into press up position. Left one knee to the ball, then the other. Repeat x10 each knee

3. Jog down next hill, run up following slope and down the hill after that. Then run back.

4. Do squats, holding medicine ball just in front of chest.

5. Repeat 3.

6. Do lunges. As you lunge right down swing medicine ball to your left and then to your right, twisting at the waist – that’s a balance tester! Repeat x10 each leg.

7. Run down the hill in 1 and then down to the sequence in 3. In effect running up one long hill, along and then down, up and down two short hills.

Then run back to the top of brow of hill one, where the medicine ball is.

Harry’s always complimenting me on my acceleration to the top of hills. This is my desperation to get there as fast as possible.

8. Press up position again but this time lifting leg out to the side, bit like a frog doing a  kick. Repeat x 10 each side.

9. Repeat 7.

10. Hold medicine ball with left hand and dip into a lunge with left leg forward, though not too deep. Lift medicine ball up in an arc over your head, collect handle with right hand and complete arc, swinging down to right and standup. Swap legs and repeat.

Final hill run. Start at the bottom of hill run, get to the top, feel your bum on fire, jog on, down the next hill and feel your muscles wobble all over the place. Then up, then down, then find yourself running as hard as your legs will take you up hill yet again while someone in the blurry distance of exhaustion, but is actually on your left, shouts ‘awesome’ at you.

Try not to repeat vomiting episode from a couple of Sundays ago.

Cool down jog while Harry tells you all about muscle fatigue and something about your neurotransmitters not firing so well because they are tired too, but contrary to what you think you can run down hill, so don’t worry.

And all that took just an hour. I’m still a bit all over the place, thinking about yesterday’s news and Theresa’s kidney cancer, but running this morning did give me a complete break from thinking about her illness and this general feeling of sorrow.

This was my first hill running session and I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in that makes it ideal today, but I’m hopping it’s going to be as much fun in the future.