Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pace Yourself Part 4: Hills

Pacing can be tricky. Hills, heat, and wind--consider these factors instead of looking at the pace on your watch. You'll have a much better run if you do. Here are other posts on pace:

For most runners, hills are the bane of runs or races. Whether they're short and steep or long and gradual, hills can really make it difficult to run a consistent pace.

Running even a slightly negative splits in a race is ideal, but what if there are lots of hills? How much do they slow you down running up them, and how much do they speed you up running down them?

In "The science of hill running and how it impacts your race time" from RunnersConnect.net, author John Davis explores hills affect on pace in great detail, but here are two of the simplest ways to calculate how hills affect pace:
every percent gradient of incline (going uphill) will slow you by 12-15 seconds per mile, and every percent gradient of decline (going downhill) will aid you by 8 seconds per mile
 or
every 10 feet of elevation change alters your time by 1.74 seconds, regardless of the horizontal distance covered

It's important to note that running uphill slows you down more than running downhill speeds you up. Running downhill, while faster, can also take a toll on your legs. The impact on your legs is around 75% greater running downhill.

A race with a significant downhill early can leave your legs feeling horrible at the end. The Boston Marathon is a good example.

Comparison of race elevation changes via Boston.com
When I ran Boston in 2011, I was not prepared for how the downhills early and later in the race would pound my legs. Minnesota had near record snowfall that year, so most of my runs from February to March were on treadmills.

At the race, I was prepared for the uphills. The Newton hills, including the infamous "Heartbreak Hill," didn't feel bad at all. At mile 21, I crested "Heartbreak Hill" feeling like I had a 2:55 marathon in the bag--especially knowing there was a good amount of downhill and no more significant uphills for the rest of the race.

Unfortunately, I did not factor in the pounding my legs would take from the downhills. My race plan was to run a 1:27:30 through the halfway mark, which I did. The Boston Marathon finishes downhill, and my quads told me so. By the time I crossed the finish line, I just squeaked under my "B" goal of breaking three hours, running 2:59.

So what do you do with all of the above information? Calculate your paces and write down your splits? I wouldn't. My advice: Run by feel. Try this series of four workouts. Do the last workout the week of your race.


Marathon or Half Marathon
  • Week 1
    • Have a measured loop  or an out-and-back 1-2 miles from your starting point. Make sure the loop has a similar hill profile to that of your goal race
      • Measue 5-7 miles for a half marathon, 7-9 miles for a marathon
        • If you don't have a GPS watch, find a trail with mile markers (or run with some who has a GPS watch
          • Run a 1-2 mile warm up
          • Hit the lap button as you reach your measured loop 
            • Run without looking at your pace for that distance
          • Run at what you think would be a reasonable marathon (or half marathon) pace
          • When you finish, hit that lap button again
          • If you don't have a watch, try running with a buddy who's willing to time you
          • Note your time on that loop. Then ask yourself:
            • Could I have sustained that pace for my race distance?
            • If the answer is no, make sure to run next week's workout slower
  • Weeks 2-3 (or 4 depending on the length of your taper)
    • Do the same workout, but adjust your pace based on the previous week's effort
      • Don't look at your watch!
        • Note the time on your loop. Then ask yourself the same question:
          • Could I have sustained that pace for my race distance?
          • If the answer is no, adjust your pace the next week
          • If the answer is yes--good job. Do it again the next week.
  • Week 4 or 5
    • This should be your taper week, so you're going to need a new loop
      • Measure a new loop, still 1-2 miles from your starting point
        • 4-6 miles for a half marathon, 6-8 miles for a full marathon
      • If you must, you can use your GPS this time, but don't look at it too often. 
        • This pace should not feel taxing
          • If it is too difficult, note other factors like:
            • Temperature
            • Amount of sleep
            • Stress or and increased workload
          • If it felt great, awesome!
  • Week 5 or 6
    • It's race week! Make sure you do this workout at least 5 days ahead of the race
      • Go ahead and use your GPS now. Your pace is locked in.
        • Run a 1-2 mile warmup
          • Hit that pace you've found 
            • Run 2-4 miles for a half marathon, 3-5 miles for a full marathon at that pace
        • Your pace should be a breeze now. If it's not, plan on slowing down on race day!
5k or 10k
  • Week 1
    • Have a measured loop or out-and-back 1-2 miles from your starting point.
      • Measure ahead of time during one of your easy runs
      • 1.5 - 2 miles for a 5k, 2.5 - 3.5 miles for a 10k
      • If you don't have a GPS watch, find a trail with mile markers (or run with some who has a GPS watch)
      • Run a 1-2 mile warm up
    • Hit the lap button as you reach your measured loop
      • run without looking at your pace for that loop
        • Run at what you think would be a reasonable race pace
        • When you finish, hit that lap button again
        • If you don't have a watch, try running with a buddy who's willing to time you
    • Note your time on that loop. Then ask yourself:
      • Could I have sustained that pace for my race distance?
      • If the answer is no, make sure to run next weeks workout slower
  • Weeks 2-3 (or 4 depending on the length of your taper)
    • Do the same workout, but adjust your pace based on the previous week's effort.
    • Don't look at your watch!
    • Note the time on your loop. Then ask yourself the same question:
      • Could I have sustained that pace for my race distance?
      • If the answer is no, adjust your pace the next week
      • If the answer is yes--good job. Do it again the next week
  • Week 4 or 5
    • This should be your taper week, so you're going to need a new loop
      • Measure a new loop, still 1-2 miles from your starting point
        • 1-2 miles for a half marathon, 4-6 miles for a 
      • If you must, you can use your GPS this time, but don't look at it too often. 
      • At this point, this pace should not feel taxing
      • If it is too difficult, note other factors like:
        • Temperature
        • Amount of sleep
        • Stress or and increased workload
      • If it felt great, awesome!
  • Week 5 or 6
    • It's race week! Make sure you do this workout at least 5 days ahead of the race
      • Go ahead and use your GPS now. Your pace is locked in.
      • Run a 1-2 mile warm up
      • Hit that pace you've found 
        • Run 0.75 - 1 miles for a half marathon, 1.5 - 2 miles for a full marathon at that pace. 
      • Your pace should be a breeze now. If it's not, plan on slowing down on race day!

A few notes on running hills:

Run hills standing tall. Look at the top of the hill and imagine a tether wrapped around your waist--like a ski lift for runners--and let that tether pull you up. Keep your chest open--don't look down. Not only does it close up your airway, it can also leave you with tense neck and shoulder muscles after or during your run.

Run well.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email