Hill work

Tom and I spent all last week with his family at their home on Smith Mountain Lake. As the name suggests, Smith Mountain Lake is in the mountains.

Just the name alone speaks of beauty: A lake! Mountains!

And it is beautiful, really, really beautiful. It’s rolling hills and sparkling water and sunsets. You should see the sunsets.

But running in the mountains? Once you try running in the mountains, the rolling hills seem more spiteful than they do beautiful.

I’m training for the Richmond Half Marathon in November, so on our vacation I had no choice but to run in that terrible, beautiful scenery. What you just read was a public declaration that I will be running a half marathon on November 10. Now that I’ve announced it to the world wide web, I guess the only thing left to do is register for the race.

Oh, and train. There’s that, too.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about the half because I keep telling myself that I can bail if I need to. I haven’t really run hard or far since I injured my hamstring, and that particular injury feels like a ticking time bomb. It could blow at any moment. Then there’s the other time bomb in my life. David could get sick or stop sleeping, and then there’s childcare while I’m training…

Since the 10k I started thinking about the half, and upping my mileage just to see how everything goes…but now I’m deep in the training. I even have a training partner for my long runs (hi, Sharon!). Once you get a training partner you sort of have to run the race.

Cheer me on, ok? Because I’m nervous. I feel tentative about it, like everything is always on the verge of going wrong. But the truth is that I’m feeling good and running strong.

I’m actually feeling so good that I’m hoping to PR. Saying that I’m gunning for a PR feels weighty, too. It would be easier to just say, “I JUST WANT TO FINISH! HALLELUJAH!” But if I say I want to PR, that means I have to train hard and race hard…which is harder than just finishing.

This will be my fourth half marathon. I ran a PR in 2008 but I don’t know the exact time because the webpage displays results from every year since 2002 except 2008. Moments like this make me wish I had hundreds of thousands of blog followers because I would now issue a rally cry for everyone to email that webmaster and entreat him to fix the 2008 results! I need to know my PR!

It’s something like 1:59 or 1:58 or 1:57. We’ll just say it’s 1:59; that’s easier to beat than 1:57.

So there I was, on vacation in the mountains, training for a half marathon while the rest of my family was inside eating pancakes.

At Smith Mountain Lake it’s hilly no matter what weather, time of day, or season you run. When you’re sitting on your sofa thinking about running in the mountains you’re like, “YEAH! Hills! I’m gonna rock those hills!” But when you’re actually running there’s less rocking and more trudging; cursing the prehistoric tectonic plate movement that created the hills with each step.

It was humid, too. It’s not supposed to be humid in the mountains, but it was. Swampy, Richmond humid. Insult. Injury.

I grew up running these hills, so they used to not bother me so much, but now I practically live at sea level. In Richmond you can run 20 miles and the only elevation change is hopping on and off curbs. In the Monument Ave. 10k the course goes over a bridge (I-195) and there’s a slight incline. Slight might be an exaggeration, it is minuscule. I’ve seen handicapped ramps more extreme than this incline. Even so, you’ll actually hear Richmonders warn people about it before the race, “The course is mostly flat, except for this one hill. It’s a DOOZY…”

I’m not as accustomed to hills as I once was, and that fact became painfully clear to me when I’d been running downhill for ten minutes straight without even considering that, at some point, I’d have to turn around.

Eventually, I did, I turned around. And then I trudged back up the long hill I’d just run down. And then, dripping with sweat, I joined my family for pancakes.


  1. Meredith White September 13, 2012

    hahaha handicap ramps more extreme! 🙂 You will do GREAT. I have yet to go public like you so bravely just did, but I’m planning to run the Roanoke 1/2 (the week after your race) (shh). I also have not registered for the same reasons (minus the hamstring). WE CAN DO THIS AND OUR BABIES *WILL* COOPERATE ALONG THE WAY.

  2. Grammy September 14, 2012

    I have it on my calendar!

  3. Laura @ Mommyrunfast September 14, 2012

    Ooh, I’m so excited for you and your half!! Hill work is an awesome way to train- wish we had one little hill around here, but it’s pancake flat. I am confident you’ll get your 1:59!

  4. Jenny Richardson Ramsey September 17, 2012

    i know it’s not super convenient but if you ever want to run in mechanicsville, i am happy to watch david for you.

  5. […] written about running hills before, and though it may seem like it, I don’t hate hills. They’re hard, calf-burning and […]

  6. […] on Grace, and my Saturday long runs are finally in the double digits. I started my training with trepidation, and am so thankful that things have gone so well. My friend Sharon and I are doing a lot of our […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *