I love the hills. I hate the hills.

I have a love-hate relationship with hills.Last week at running group we did a hill repeat workout (followed by strides). We started at the base of a hill outside  and hoofed up, in classic ‘up and over’ fashion. Then we did it in reverse. Then we did it again. And again, back.

Running hills is an interesting lesson. It is hard for me to find peace with my body…I struggle with air, struggle to keep my shoulders back, struggle to look far enough ahead to stay focused, but not so far that I panic, struggle with what is ‘natural’ to do with my arms and how much to pump them, struggle with my pace – do I push it and get it over with or remain steady? – struggle with the ‘and over’ part, wanting to screech to a stop and bend over at the crest, struggle with catching my breath on the downhill, struggle with my limit on the descent between getting some turnover in my legs and going down with limbs totally flailing and out of control like a child. I struggle with the morale it takes to do it over and over again, with the added pleasure of keeping my times consistent. I just plain struggle.I love the hills. I hate the hills.

I can’t keep myself from the metaphor, God help me, it’s just too good. Maybe that’s why I always make myself do the hills, whether it’s part of the weekly bootcamp or just some personal torture in my neighbourhood on an average, unassuming Tuesday. I want to be fit for hills…in running, in life. They often come, be it in a race or in everyday living, when we least expect them. We think we are giving it everything we have, and then WHOA, there it is, no way around it except to climb. I want to do these drills, to feel dimensions of this inflicted pain, until I have a ‘muscle memory’ of it – in my legs or in my heart. I want to have practised enough, done the drills so many times, that when I am suddenly faced with a ‘hill’ of any proportion, I kick into auto-pilot.  I want to do the right thing, and do it well, if for no other reason than because it is what I have been trained to do. In life, there is not time to dwell on accessing the hill.  You just go because it is blocking your path. Sometimes you even have to be strong enough to carry others with you. Up and over.

You know in races when you are well trained and you come to a hill notorious for the demise of PBs, and you see people walking, puking, or simply sitting on the curb? And then you just stay steady and get it done? It’s awesome. It’s the difference between ready and not ready. It’s the difference made when pain turns into power.  Sometimes the anticipation and fear alone will inhibit my breathing and jack up my heart rate long before I reach the base. I am not making fun or making light of those who walk these hills (have done it myself), I’m only saying I want to be one of those who doesn’t flinch.

I don’t have a goal in mind in my racing schedule per se, and I am not in the midst of personal crisis, but this does not mean that I will not run hills with reverence and consistency, and occasionally with pleasure. Maybe I just need to know that in a pinch, if the situation requires it of me, that I can haul a little ass.

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