Due to visiting various family members, I was in a different part of the UK for a few days, so I took the opportunity to run somewhere completely alien to me… HILLS! 🙂 The weather was still the same high 30Fs as earlier in the week, so I was wearing the same gear as before, including the sandals. I’d managed to coax the garmin back to life by having it charging for several days, so I was able to get both trackers giving me stats during this “historic” event.
After a quick 100 up minors warmup (which I think I’m going to make a permanent addition to my routine), I headed out the door. The first stretch was up a small (but steep-ish) incline, before descending down twice as far onto a level area on the side of the hill, so I used this as a chance to assess how the sandals (and my strapping) coped with the angles. The uphill was simple, and I only needed one tightening before getting to the top, then there was the downhill. I managed to control my speed going down fairly well – I didn’t want to go full tilt yet as I was still testing the sandals – but there were no problems there.
Full of confidence, I set off along the level stretch. There was one minor thing I hadn’t planned for – given that this was a small hillside village, the roads were very narrow, with no paths at all, so I had to run in the road itself. Not a problem back home, as there’s plenty of room, but here was a different matter – more than once I had to stop to get out of the way of a car coming down the road, and there’s no always that much room to do that either. Thankfully I didn’t need to dive into the hedges or anything like that! 🙂
Soon I’d reached the heart of the village and had three choices – turn back and run the level bit back to the house (and repeat a few times), run to the other end of the village (still on the level) and back, or leave the village by the one road in and out. Given that I was here to experience the place rather than just run past houses like always, I elected for the road out. Oh, did I mention that this road was completely up hill out of the village? And that the top of the hill was over half a mile away? Oh, and that the first part was a 1:5 slope!?
That last fact didn’t really hit me until I’d started up it. I was following all the advice I’d read about hill running (bend knees a lot more, mostly), but after about 20 yards of that 1 in 5 slope, I realised that I was just shuffling along, and I’d be better off walking. No shame in walking if it’s the same speed (and arguably more efficient than running at that angle), so I trudged up the hill for a fair way. Once the road started to ease off back to a gentler slope, I took a breather to enjoy the view and get my bearings, then re-engaged my running brain and tried to keep going up.
After stopping to allow a few more cars past (steep hill + high hedges + single track road = very cautious me), I finally reached a crossroads, and took a side road out towards the hilltop (which also would be much quieter traffic-wise). Just after the junction was a public footpath that crossed the road, one side out over a field, and the other heading up a farm track into the hill. Since the road looked like it wasn’t going any higher, I figured I’d take the farm track, which also was going out above the village, so the view should be good.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but this track was my first bit of trail running, and I’m definitely glad I had those sandals on for it. There were lots of loose rocks & stones, muddy bits where tractor tyres had churned it up a bit, and it was very uneven. Good fun to run on though! 🙂 The track went upwards a little way, then down a dip and back up again. I kept on going, but soon it became apparent that the track was going back downhill, and I had no clue where it’d end up. A quick check of my garmin showed I’d been out for over 15 minutes already, so it’d take me at least that long to get back, and I didn’t want to go back downhill onto to have to come all the way back up again, so I decided that this was as good a point as any to turn back.
Going back up the track was fairly simple, now that I knew what to expect from the mixed surfaces, and soon I was back at the junction, looking down the hill back to the village. This was going to be … interesting 😀 I headed downhill cautiously at first, but this part wasn’t too steep, so soon enough I was really running. The garmin shows that I was averaging (not peaking, *averaging*) 8m/m on that downhill, and I know that if I were to run this again, I’d be able to do it *much* faster. In fact, for part of the way down I was trying to keep my upper body upright, and it felt like I was almost falling over backwards! Adding any forward tilt resulted in immediate increases in speed, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure my feet were up to it.
I mention my feet, because there’s one thing that I hadn’t accounted for – the sandals. I could quite happily run, I was keeping my knees nicely bent during the descent, and I was trying not to land on my feet too heavily (especially not on my heels too much), but the sandals were getting to be a problem. Previous runs in the sandals (both in the UK and the longer runs back home) had often resulted in blisters and raw patches around where the front strap went between and under my toes, and during the downhills all my weight was pushing my feet into that patch of strap. It was a little painful after a while, so I had to reduce my pace on the later steeper stretches.
Only two things were between myself and the house – the long mostly level road, and the 20% incline before it. Given that my feet were complaining about the sandals, and that there were a few cars to avoid, I took the sensible choice and just walked down the 1:5. Once back on the level, I made one final push and ran the rest of the way back to the house, for a total 1.9 miles covered.
Yes, I did a very short distance in quite a long time (the 14:30m/m from runtastic breaks down into 17:20m/m for the uphill and 10:30m/m for the downhill according to garmin), but the elevation is key here – nearly 400ft overall according to runtastic, but over 500ft according to garmin. Either way, it was a complete change from my usual very flat runs, and I’m very glad I did it. Now I just need to find some way of dealing with the sandal strapping issue and I’ll be set for all future hill runs… if I can ever find any more hills 😉