It’s All Downhill From Here

17 Jul

On Sunday I woke up to find that someone had broken into my room the night before with a hammer and nailed a note into each quadricep muscle. The first one read, “‘I hate you.’ Sincerely, Your Body.” The other note read, “‘Thanks for the play-date!!’ Love, Seven Hills Road.” This is the worst my muscles have felt since my first half-marathon two years ago. If you plan on running a race with any kind of hills in the near future you need to learn from my mistake. Really, I’m finding that this is what this blog is about; I screw up and you get to laugh at me and learn from it. I’m strangely okay with this. I’m a team player.

I think my downhill spiral began the day before my big run on Seven Hills Road outside of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. You mountain folk may snigger, but this road has a rep for chewing up and spitting out cyclists all summer long. One of them passed me along the way and before I could open my mouth said, “Wow, and I thought I was crazy.” I laughed it off. I wasn’t laughing at the end.

I didn’t hydrate well the day before. I didn’t eat much for breakfast. I didn’t hydrate very much before the run. I didn’t sleep well at all because I knew I was cutting corners. I woke up at 4:30 that morning dreading a long run. Maybe my body knew. It was warning me to stay away from the devil’s road.

Untouchable

I’ve been feeling pretty invincible lately. I’ve been cranking up the incline and speed on the treadmill lately. I’ve been running longer and longer in minimal shoes. I’ve been lunging, squatting, and lifting more than ever. The long runs have been blissful in gorgeous country-side. On these long runs there has been a seductive whisper in the soft breezes calling me. Seven Hills Road would croon to me at every passing on the last few runs.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do it. I had planned to run 25-30 miles. Mapping Seven Hills Road showed me that it is 22.3 mile out-and-back run. Considering the hilly terrain I figured this would be sufficient. I got oh so much more than I bargained for.

Summing it Up

I want to get to the moral of this run so I’ll sum up some of the highlights:

  • Waving to one of many trucks hauling a boat only to have the passenger raise a camera to take a picture of myself. Do I really look that weird? Don’t answer that.
  • Passing two walkers that I thought had seen me only to have one scream and the other run off the road.
  • Running out of water with six miles left to go.
  • Sprinting down “the wall” and the resulting friction that I thought would set my feet ablaze.
  • The horrified expressions of motorists as I rolled into Johnsburg at the finish (guess I wasn’t as pretty as usual)
  • Running up most of the sevenTEEN hills on SEVEN hills road… twice, for a total 2089′
  • Finishing. I had my doubts.
  • What Goes Up MUST Come Down

    Remember those love notes pounded into my quads? The unexpected culprit of this crime was waiting for me on the backside of every grueling hill on that road. I never run downhill. Remember that my hill work is on a treadmill? The ones I run on are awesome, but they don’t go down.

    When I was younger I loved running down hills. I would open up and let gravity take me. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be. Okay, I need to cut that crap out right now. I’m only 31, no mid-life pity-parties yet. I just don’t run downhill. I learned last Saturday that I need to… just as much if not more than the uphills.

    Quads are Brakes

    When hills are steep your body puts the brakes on. Your quadriceps (located in the front of your upper legs) act as the brakes and control your descent. It’s hard work. It may not be not nearly as aerobically demanding as cranking up against gravity, but it’s an anaerobic repetition that will get you after a few declines, especially if it’s not something you do very often. I used to think it was awesome that I could keep going uphill forever on a treadmill without wasting time going down. Now I know why that biker thought I was crazy. At least they get to coast down the hills. For runners we still have work to do on the backside.

    Strategies

    Practice running real hills that go up AND down. Bleachers and stairs are also good options. Hill repeats on a hill or bridge or whatever you can find are great options too.

    Let loose on the downhills. Those hills gave you hell on the way up, give ‘em hell on the way down. Be careful of course, especially if the footing is bad.

    Walk the downhills. Okay which is it?? I’m honestly not sure. I’m trying both of these pieces of advice I’ve been given for hills. Walking a bit down the hills (especially dangerous declines) follows a tactic I use for training and racing which is to run through the sunny portions and take my walking breaks in the shade. This minimizes my time in the sun. Will this work for hills, giving me less time on the up and more on the down? Time and experimentation will tell.

    Parting Shot

    This run left me dehydrated, broken, and demoralized. I lost a lot of confidence out there on Seven Hills Road. Thankfully I posted about this very fact on Facebook and many of you picked me back up and helped me put things in perspective.

    Not every run is going to go well. This is especially true when you are continually going farther or faster than you ever have before. The fact that you endured to the finish of a training run is a victory, period. It doesn’t matter how fast or in what condition you limp to the finish. Finishing a hard run makes us stronger for our daily real lives outside of running. If it weren’t hard everyone would do it. Keep your head up fellow runners. There’s much to be proud of. Thanks for the reminder.

    3 Responses to “It’s All Downhill From Here”

    1. Hannah July 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Brandon – you are such an amazing writer!! Good thing I have those Bayfield hills to get me in shape lol

      • Brandon July 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

        Thanks Hannah! Yes, that means you should be all set to train for the 2013 Fall 50 right? :-)

        • Hannah July 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

          I really think we need a blogger meet up there :) he he

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