On Sunday I dodged the big hill by getting a ride up the last three miles to Sun Mountain Inn (because, as you will recall, I had already run a couple miles further than I planned to and time was running short). I could have run the rest of the way uphill, if I'd had the time and inclination, but it would have been very slow and painful and possibly involving some walking on the steepest portions.
I am not unaccustomed to hilly roads. I am lucky to live in a city with plenty of hills, up and down, on my running route. That allows me to get some hill training in without having to make a special effort at it. Last year, in preparation for the Whidbey Island Half (very hilly route) and the Race to Robie Creek (nine miles up a mountain, four miles down), I made special efforts to do hill work, running repeats up the longest nearby hill and making at least one excursion to run the hilly trails of Discovery Park.
Thanks to these efforts, I have done okay in races with hills. My 10K PR and the prior 10K PR both come from the Mukilteo Lighthouse run, which is, as anybody who has been to Mukilteo will know, on a very hilly road. My half-marathon PR is from Whidbey Island, and last year's time wasn't bad either. Some of my less auspicious results, on the other hand, have occurred on pancake flat routes.
I've walked up part of a hill in two races. In each case I made a studied decision that walking would be faster than trying to run, and I only walked the steepest portion before going back to running. In each case everyone around was walking too, so it wasn't just me! The first time was in the Anacortes Half Marathon in July of 2007; there is a long steep hill about four miles in and I walked a section near the top. (However, when I did that run last year, I didn't walk at all.) The other time was Robie Creek, where I, and virtually everyone else, walked approximately the last mile to the summit. I remember walking along briskly as another runner, a younger girl, jogged slowly beside me. We were both going the same speed, but she was exhausting herself by continuing to run, while I was getting refreshed for the four-mile downhill finish.
On Sunday, when I got into the truck, I commented that I didn't really think trying to run up that extra-steep hill would have much running benefit anyway. Mainly because I probably would have been walking up anyway! No, not just that. I just think that when the hill gets so steep that you can hardly run, you are not going to get much out of it. Running up moderately graded hills seems like a much better training practice.
I will, of course, have another chance to test my hill prowess (or should that be hill insouciance?) on Sunday at Bloomsday. Spokane, though in Eastern Washington, is not pancake flat, and the Bloomsday route has several hills, the final, longest, and steepest being the famous Doomsday Hill at mile 4. I've tried to find some information about the length and grade of the hill, but that seems to be a closely guarded secret as far as Google searches are concerned. Let me just say, from my recollection last year, that it's long and it's fairly steep. Should be a good time!
***Congratulations to Lisa on a great performance in a very hill-challenging half marathon on Sunday!