Saturday, December 10, 2011

Running the Newton Hills

This morning, I set out around 7am.....destination: the Woodland T-stop in Newton, as Team Running For Cover was going to be running the Newton hills and that would be our departure point.  Instead of taking the highway, I opted to take the back roads all the way there, taking me through Franklin, Medway, Holliston, Ashland, Wellesley, and finally Newton.  It was a clear, lovely slightly chilly (35 degrees) morning, and the slow ride through the still-sleeping communities gave me the time I needed to gather my thoughts of the day ahead.  For the first time ever, I was going to be running the fabled Newton hills, including the world-famous Heartbreak Hill, and I needed to be mentally prepared.  I know enough of the history of the Boston Marathon to know the special place held by those hills, and now I was going to be taking them on with the rest of my marathon team.  For someone with a "downhill" body, this was going to be a challenging day!

I got to the parking garage and pulled in, quickly found a spot and saw my new buddy Kevin getting ready.  Soon we were outside and the team was gathering together.  8 runners got ready to tackle the hills, and after posing for a picture (thanks, Trish!) , we set off.....

The group stayed together for the first half mile, and there it was....the fire station at the corner of Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  I knew it was the beginning of the hills,so I took a deep breath, turned the corner and started the climb.  Within almost no time, I slid to the back of the group.....then off the back entirely.  Could I have stayed with the group?  Definitely, but my goal for the day was to run the hills for the first time at a reasonable pace which would hopefully leave me able to walk the next day!  So that meant sticking to my plan.....and watching the group slowly pull away.  The way I figured it, the actual marathon isn't until April, and here wear are in early December, so there's plenty of time for speed later. 

So there I was, running up the Newton hills for the first time.  I'd driven up and down Comm Ave a million times before, but cars flatten hills, and you truly can't judge a hill until you're going up that hill under your own power.  The first hill was a warm-up for what was yet to come.  Heartbreak Hill is the 2nd hill and it actually wasn't too bad, just a moderately long slope.  After some false flat, the third hill came up in the distance and I saw a serious climb awaiting me.  I can only imagine how it's going to feel to see those hills on Marathon Monday......ugh!

After a water stop shortly after the 3-mile mark in the run, I decided to keep going and shoot for a longer run.  Prior to today, my long run for the year was a I was shooting for somewhere around 9-10 miles.  After cresting the final hill, I continued down the long downhill leading down to the Boston College T-stop across from the main entrance to the campus.  A quick check of my Garmin told me I'd run about 4.75 miles, so the run was probably going to come in around 9.5 miles (yep, I can do math!).  Unfortunately, that long downhill was now going to be a long uphill to be tackled almost immediately, so it was time to suck it up and get it finished.

The beautiful day had brought out several other charity teams as well, and I kept running into runners from the Alzheimer's Association team in their distinctive purple shirts.  The run back was WAY harder than the run out, but that's almost always the case with any out-and-back run.  Still, I managed to maintain my pace throughout, even though I started to slow dramatically, as seen below:
Mile 1: 9:44
Mile 2: 9:33
Mile 3: 9:37
Mile 4: 10:09
Mile 5: 9:33
Mile 6: 9:30
Mile 7: 9:43
Mile 8: 10:28
Mile 9: 10:29
Mile 10: 9:49

All told, it came in at 9.48 miles at a 9:52 pace.  I was shooting for right around 10:00 per mile, so I cannot complain.  It felt so good to get in such a long run and still be able to walk afterwards!  Of course, we'll have to see how I'm feeling in the morning, but as of now, it's all systems go.  Everything I've read about the Newton hills seems pretty true......they're not terribly steep or terribly long, but the reputation comes from the point in the race where they stand.  I can only imagine what it will feel like after 17-18 miles of net downhill running to turn the corner at the fire station and see those hills ahead.  Of course, knowing that when you crest that last hill before Boston College means that you've basically got only another 6 miles or so until the finish line will probably be such an amazing feeling that I'll be able to put aside the pain......well, we'll just have to wait until April 16th to find out, but I got a taste of that feeling today.  

I also learned again that runners are animals........some are gazelles.......some are cheetahs.......some are greyhounds.....

I'm a plowhorse.

I'm never going to be fast.....I'm just steady.  I can go long, but slowly.  One of the keys to my running in 2011 was a conscious slowdown, as I stopped trying to run all of my runs at full speed.  After getting hurt while training for the Bay State Marathon in 2009, I ended up getting sick a lot in 2010, while also making several trips to the chiropractor with back pain.  I truly believe all of it stemmed from running too fast.  This year, I've been lucky to be relatively healthy and uninjured and I want to end the year the same way.  So I'm ok being a plowhorse......while it's not fun to see everyone run away from me, the marathon is nearly 4 months away and there's no need to try to push things too hard today.  I feel that I have a plan and I'm executing on it.  Stay healthy, uninjured, and get to the start line in Hopkinton on April 16th in one piece!

So the plowhorse keeps chugging on......

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