Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ups and downs of hill running

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes - 3% grade

Some people claim that they'd rather run uphill than down. To me, that's like saying they'd prefer to skip dessert, although I know some people who do. I love downhills because they allow me to back off on my effort during a hard run and use gravity to maintain a good pace. But every hill, either up and down, is different. I like the fact that Saturday's race has a sizable downhill section, but I wouldn't want it any steeper than it is.

Running downhill can be a challenge when the grade is high because it takes work to maintain balance, lest you begin to move faster than your legs can go. There's a whole different set of muscles at play when negotiating steep declines. I write a lot about Cow Harbor's formidable hill on James Street, but that elevation goes two ways. There's a part of Eaton's Neck Road where I wish the sharp drop would just flatten out, which it does briefly before rising for a mile on Waterside.

This morning I set my treadmill to a 3% grade and cranked my speed so that I'd get to a race-ready heart rate. It wasn't the most comfortable workout, but I was able to sustain it over 25 minutes. I can't simulate a downhill on the treadmill although some high end machines can do that. I'm not sure I need to practice downhills because every time I run at Bethpage I run down exactly as much as I go up. I just enjoy that part more.

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