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How to pace yourself on hills

September 3rd, 2010

I’m posting from a little town in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, where I’m preparing for this weekend’s World Mountain Running Championships (more on that later). Not entirely by coincidence, this week’s Jockology column in the Globe and Mail is about how to pace yourself on hills:

… Fortunately, a group of Australian researchers used the latest technology to investigate this question, sending a group of runners out on a hilly 10-kilometre course while wired with a portable gas analyzer to measure oxygen consumption, a GPS receiver to measure speed and acceleration, a heart-rate monitor and an “activity monitor” to measure stride rate and stride length. The results, published this year in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, suggest that most runners make two key mistakes: They try to run too fast uphill and don’t run fast enough downhill… [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE]

I did the course tour this morning — 12km, with a steady climb of about 1,200m. I suspect that whatever pace I start out at, it will feel “too fast” by the time I get to halfway!

  1. John Lofranco
    September 4th, 2010 at 01:26 | #1

    Three gears: four steps per breath at the beginning to keep it under control, three when you are in the groove, then two when you really want to move. And watch for any flat or downhill spots and really giver on those, because that’s what the Europeans will do to gap you.

  2. John Lofranco
    September 4th, 2010 at 01:30 | #2

    Also: is the author talking about running up hills during a race, or in training? Cause in training, it doesn’t really matter that much, and in racing, there could be a tactical advantage to surge up a hill, to break someone, and even if you don’t necessarily get back to your best speed right away, if you can make the other runner feel worse, you’ll maintain your gap. My high school coach always taught us to be steady up the hills and then hit it over the crest and beyond, as that’s when it would hurt the other guy most.

    So, mostly it’s about hurting the other guy, haha.

  3. September 4th, 2010 at 21:12 | #3

    John poses a good question – is this advice for a race or a training run? My HS coach had the same advice. My college coach advised us to surge when you hit the hill’s half-way point, as most other runners would start to slow at that point.

    Regardless, the best thing you can do is run a lot of hills in training so you’re used to them. When it’s time for a race, you’ll be ready.

  4. alex
    September 5th, 2010 at 21:30 | #4

    Yes, good point. Basically, this study is looking at the physiologically optimal way to approach hills — the fastest way to complete a hilly course in the absence of other tactical considerations. Of course, other factors are also important in racing, since you’re competing against other people. You could say that, for a 5K on the track, (roughly) even splits is the physiologically optimal approach, but the best actual splits in any given race will depend on what your competition is doing and how you react to it. Same things applies here.

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