Hills and a Little Bit of Crazy

Lions Valley BridgeFor the past few Saturday mornings, I’ve played “Choir Mom”.  The Dude has been singing since he was 6 years old, moving from being the one of a few boys in a children’s choir of 80 voices to 1 of 65 voices in a male choir.  It’s been pretty exciting to watch him grow, adapt to his changed voice and take leadership within the organization.  This fall, when the opportunity came along for me to give back, I jumped at it.  So I spent a few Saturday mornings measuring boys for their uniforms and helping out at the choir, which somehow this led to car-pooling with another family.  Don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing as it gets one more car off the road and saves me an hour of my time every Saturday.  But it’s also meant that I’ve had to move my morning run to a later start.

Last night, one of my training partners, Monica, texted me:  hills tomorrow?  At the same time, I got a message from the car-pooling family offering to do the morning drop-off.  This meant I could run earlier.   It was a clear message to both:  yes!  I love it when things fall in place.

This morning, I ran up to Lions Valley for our hill workout.   I don’t like hills but, like medicine that tastes bad, they are good for me.  I was worried about today as I haven’t done repeats since this time last year and the hill we picked is a beast.  But, with a race on a hilly course only a few weeks away, I knew that I needed to train on them.  And there is nothing better than getting through a workout than getting through that workout with a friend.

Lions valley hill - the startMonica’s coach had sent us a plan.   He suggested a ladder, which could have come in handy on the hills, but he had another idea in mind – a few 300’s and 600’s, a few continuous hill repeats, and more of the same  shorter sprints.

“Ummmm….Greg knows that I haven’t really done much speed work in the past year, right?”  I asked.

The hills did not disappoint me.  I wanted a tough workout and I got it.   We started at the end of a gravel path, which stretched out the hill an extra 30 metres.  “Really?” she questioned.  “This far back?”  Of course I did as I secretly hoped that the longer flatter start would somehow throw some extra momentum into my legs to help me spring up the last 100 metres.   The first time we ran up, I chased Monica and yelled – just to hear my voice echo off the walls of the trail.  I felt like a kid but, then, feared that I might wake up someone who lives on a street near the top of the hill.  As soon as we got to the top, we turned around and went back down for me.

“You really want to go this far back, do you”?” Monica asked.   “Hills and a psycho.”  Then she proceeded to share her theory on progress.  “You need to be crazy if you want to get better.  Look at Einstein.  People thought he was crazy but look at what he did.”

She was right.  If I want to improve in my running, I need to be crazy – crazy to know what I want to  do and just crazy enough to push myself in that direction, to do what it takes to get there.  So if pulling the start of our 300m climb back to make it 330m is crazy then, yes, that’s me.

The second time we climbed the hill, I listened to my breathing get harder and harder with each step. Lions Valley - after hill repeats  “Maybe my breathing isn’t that bad,” I thought.  “Maybe it just sounds bad because it is echoing.”

Definitely crazy.   Now I just have to figure out how to channel that craziness into progress.


Battling Mother Nature

My training with Lions Valley Athletics fits in perfectly with my work schedule.  We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00, which gives me enough time to stay after school to get some solid marking done or head home to make sure the boys’ homework is done.

In the summer, though, it’s a different story.  I’m off work so I really prefer to run early, get it out of the way and have the rest of the day with the family.  There are many days, though, when training with the club gives me something to look forward to – an opportunity to escape the nonsense and noise that 9 and 14 year old boys can bring into my life.  Getting out with the club also makes sure that I am pushing myself more than I do when I’m on my own.

Tuesday afternoon, I found myself staring out the window, longing to run.  It was warm and sunny, the rain had already passed through, and rush hour traffic hadn’t quite started.  I almost got changed into my gear but, instead, sighed on the couch with a book in hand.  “I need to run with the guys tonight,” I told myself.  “I need the hill workout.”  I knew which hill we were going to use too; I didn’t want it, but I knew it would be good for me.

Just after 6:00, three of us left the Rec Centre to meet our coach in the valley.  Barely 10 minutes into our warm-up, the skies opened.   Within minutes, we were in the middle of a deluge.  Buckets of water were dumped on us, making it impossible to see where we were putting our feet.  Our clothes were soaked through, and I felt the weight of the water start to pull down my running skirt.  By the time we got to the bottom of the valley, we could hardly see our coach waiting for us in his car.   He got out and took us under a dry shelter to tell us what the workout would be.

“Um, I’m okay not doing hills today.  I’m happy to just keep running home.”  My training partners, Darryl and David, agreed.  Coach didn’t try to convince us otherwise; hills in that rain would have been a challenge and, possibly, dangerous.  He left and the three of us continued to run.

Once we got into the trails, we headed into a new adventure.  The rain was letting up but the rain and run-off from the hills left huge puddles, covering the entire width of the trail and longer than our height.  We had no choice but to try to jump over them (and I write “try” as  we often ended up landing in them) or run through them.  Our feet were already soaked  so it really didn’t matter which way we went.  Once we got to higher ground, the sun was out and there were fewer, smaller puddles to navigate but, at that point, we were carrying a few extra pounds of water in each shoe; my legs were tired.

When the rain stopped, we felt our pace drop.  The battle against Mother Nature was over; there was no more adrenaline to push us through our run.   By the time we got back to the roads, the sun was out and the sidewalks were nearly dry.  I tried to wring out some of the water clinging to my running skirt and we climbed one more long, gradual hill on the return back to the Rec Centre.

One soaking wet running skirt but fairly clean legs, all things considered. If only you saw what ended up inside my shoes.

As I left the guys and turned down a side street, I started to hear it.  “Squeak, squeak.”  A lady walking ahead turned back to look.   “Squeak, squeak.”  My shoes!  They were so wet that they were squeaking all the way home.   As drenched as I was, there was very little dirt on me; it was well hidden in my clothes and the rain took care of any other dirt by washing it down and into my shoes.   Thank goodness because I don’t think I would have been allowed in the house if I were still covered in it.

While getting caught in rain like that can be a nuisance, it is actually a lot of fun.  The unexpected element brings a new kind of challenge and it gives us a break from the predictability of a planned run or a workout.  Both physically and mentally, it was one of the toughest workouts we’ve ever done.  And if I end up getting rained on in Chicago, because anything can happen in October, I know that I can handle it.

The Drying Rack
Multi-purpose sports equipment: the next day, our hockey net became a drying rack for my still soaked running shoes.