Thursday, April 05, 2012

Hardcore Hills!

When you're training for a running race of any distance, Wednesdays are usually dedicated to "hills". On hills days, I get together with a group of my buddies (who are training for a triathlon) in the evening  and we run the dreaded, but invigorating, Memorial Drive stairs/hill.

The whole purpose of running hills is to increase your power and endurance and to create some balance and variance in your training. It's important to incorporate this activity into your program because although it hurts, it helps you make valuable gains. You're forcing your body to access new muscles and systems and therefore you gain strength, speed, lung capacity and perhaps a little hardcore factor :)

Look way way into the distance and you'll see the stairs of death!
I'll admit, hills are not the most joyous of activities, but you can feel that pleasurable burn of "I'm getting better" as you endure them so you know it's worth it.

Hills are much easier to conquer when you have a group of friends hacking through them with you. It's really rewarding to high five your buddy as you are both leaning over, grabbing your thighs, gasping for air and spitting up wads of phlegm. You always push yourself harder when you have an accomplice sneaking up behind you. A little healthy competition is always a good thing. Finally, like mentioned in a previous post, it's always easier to endure suffering when a buddy is present because it's comforting to know that you're not the only one having to conquer that voice inside your head that is enticing you to quit.

On Wednesday, we all started out with the best of intentions. Emails were going back and forth as we put the finishing touches on our plans for the gruelling suffer fest. It was decided that we would all meet at 6pm, run our 8 hills and then head to an awesome yoga class at the top of the Calgary Tower taught by Jeff Mah in support of the Calgary Humane Society. Sounded like the perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening...

Well, good ol' reliable Calgary weather turned on us mid-day and the wind started to gust. When I got off the airplane on Tuesday from Ottawa it was sunny and a balmy 16 degrees celsius, but just 24 hours later, the snow started to flake and by 5pm my inbox was going rampant with emails indicating that everyone had made alternate exercise plans in the safety and comfort of indoors. Apparently the previous day's sunshine, lollipops and rainbows had misled my running gang into bringing their shorts and tank tops to work instead of their toques, pants and mittens. Imagine that...

It appeared that I was the lone soldier willing to fight the battle with the elements. I simply couldn't concede because of a little  cold weather and snow. No excuses, no regrets. The Memorial stairs are the pinnacle of "hills training". Nothing else in the city compares to them and their impact and I committed to leaving no stone unturned in my marathon training journey. I need to stand on the line on May 27th in Calgary and know that I did everything I could to be prepared. Grinding through a sloppy wintery run in the middle of April was going to add a layer to my confidence and increase my "warrior" factor. I also kept singing "Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride. Ain't nothin' gonna slow me down. Oh no. I've got to keep on moving" to myself and that gave me a significant boost of confidence as well :)

I drove into the city from Airdrie (where I was observing and learning tons about Trampoline for my upcoming colour commentary gig with CTV in London) and parked 2 km's from the stairs. I grabbed my water bottle, mustered up every ounce of positivity and motivation I had inside and headed out into the wonderful spring blizzard.

Caution: Slippery when wet!
I both hated and loved the next 45 minutes of my existence. I hated the fact that it was cold, slippery and lonely and that my eye balls were being pummelled by snowflakes. But I loved the fact that I was out there pounding through my sets and feeling the burn. With each journey up the stairs/hill, the layer of snow got thicker on the ground, but my mission got more empowered.

I had one slight hiccup after hill 5 - I got super light headed and had to take a breather for 5 minutes to convince myself that I wasn't going to pass out (that would have been bad as I didn't even have my ID! - Kristin hates that). I was about ready to pack it in when I started to feel dizzy because I didn't want to risk injury or embarrassment. It took some solid internal convincing to keep me going, but after a quick mental scan of my mind and body, I knew that I wasn't hospital bound so I continued to persist. I'm so glad I did because I wouldn't have been too proud right now if I would have given up.

One of the highlights of the night was when I ran into a Special Olympian who's training for her very first 5K! We high fived each time we passed and not only did it bring a smile to my face, it also made things a whole lot easier.

When I finished my 8th and final set, I zoomed back to my car to grab my yoga mat and headed to the Calgary Tower for some sun salutations and a good post-run hamstring stretch. I felt a lot of self-satisfaction knowing that I took the road less travelled. I could have easily given in, but I chose not to and I know that it will make all the difference.

"Two roads diverged in wood, and I
took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"
- Robert Frost 


Kerri said...

Great post! Really enjoying reading about your journey. Incredibly motivating and helping me as well (5k.....small fries compared to a marathon!)

Kyle Shewfelt said...


Glad you're enjoying my blog!

Good luck with your 5K. When's your race? You've got to order the small size first just to make sure you like the way it tastes :)