Saturday, May 25, 2013

You feeling strong, my friend?

Training in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Leaving behind the sidewalks and running San Diego's canyons. Ultrarunning on trails (excluding rail-to-trails or similar flat-like-a-pancake-trails) . Do these things have anything in common? Well, first they make running insanely fun. Second, they completely distort your perception from what the general public defines as a hill. Sometimes when it comes to talking hills with other runners, I feel like Miles Finch.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I'm in the midst of my usual pre-race insomnia and earlier today I poked a bit of fun about the elevation profile of the upcoming Madison Half Marathon race this weekend.

Madison Half Marathon elevation profile

I'm going to get a bit snobbish here and state that I see nothing difficult about this course. If you did any sort of strength running these "hills" should not threaten your pace all that much, at least not enough to fuss about. If I'm in a good mood and you're a beginner I'll let you call 250 feet of change a hill, because I like beginners, and I fully realize it feels as tough as you call it. Now, if you've got some running experience behind you though, I don't want to hear any whining about anything under 500 feet or I start turning deaf on you. Runners complaining about "hills" and "hill work" here around Stevens Point almost warrant a whole complaint post in and of itself. Let's get real about something. There are no hills here.

Now that we've established what isn't a hill, let's talk about a real hill.  

Kilimanjaro Marathon elevation profile
I still remember the pain from this one back from 2008. It was my first marathon (and race) and training had been less than planned what with all the giardia and hallucinations induced from the medication I was taking (prescribed by the way - I wasn't "that" Peace Corps volunteer). I topped out at 16 miles and I didn't know what the hell I was about to embark on at the start line. I remember stopping to walk in the first portion of the hill and upon resuming the run my feet were in such pain I vowed to never walk again until I hit the finish line. Stupid perhaps, but I did it. I can be incredibly stupid when running blind into uncharted territory. The folks at Amazing Running Tours claims this race has 1500 feet of elevation change and Redknot Racing Co. claims the hill is of 1300 feet. I think this race has set the precedent for my whole running life. To this day if my legs don't burn when I'm running a hill, it's not a good enough hill for me.

I really like elevation profiles. I have a bunch of them up on my office wall. 

This one I cried up. It was unforgivably brutal.

Oriflamme 50K: 5-mile ascent at mile 20ish from 2500 feet to 5000 feet

Aren't they pretty?

And here we have the PCT 50 with 7,500 feet of elevation gain. Basic graph but nothing to snuff at.
 And now for my favorite elevation profile of all time (not counting dream races I haven't signed up for yet)...

Superior 50 Mile Trail
How can you not drool looking at this thing!? 

Birds are chirping which is not a good sign. Damn insomnia. Read a book they say. Count sheep they say. Drink some chamomile tea they say. Workout in the morning not at night they say. Not a wink of sleep will be had before this race.
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