Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hill work

Today was supposed to be a relatively easy day -- 8 miles or so, at a 9:00 pace. As it turned out, from that perspective I didn't do very well: I ran just 5.29 miles at an average pace of 11:08 per mile.

I'm staying at a place called "Cliff House" on the island of Hawaii, almost 1,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. We're next to the Waipio Valley, and we can see 1,500-foot cliffs on the other side of the valley, looming over the Pacific. I took a look at the Google Map of the road we're on and noticed that it continues about a mile and a half to the town of Waipio, so I decided to run in that direction first to see what the end of the road looked like, and then to finish the run by backtracking and running along the highway we arrived on, which is basically a flat road running along the top of the cliffs on this side.

After about 200 meters, I realized that this was not going to be an ordinary run. Large signs warned that the road was "4WD ONLY! No AWD!" I headed down the hill and encountered at "25% grade" sign. That's pretty steep. The road wound down the side of a cliff, and soon I had stunning views of the valley below. I could see that my route back was going to be a little tougher than I bargained for. Okay, a lot tougher. I didn't have a camera with me, but later in the day I convinced my traveling companions to walk down the road, and here's a photo Pat took:

Yeah, that's kind of steep!

It was steep enough that I couldn't really run down it; what I did was more like skip down the hill, landing lightly on one foot and then heavily on the other. The road ran on and on, much farther than I thought it should. Even on this "easy" downhill section, all I managed for Mile 1 was a 12:11 pace.

Finally I arrived at the bottom of the hill and continued on for about a half mile on a flat but rough road. I looked up for a minute and was rewarded with the site of what I later learned was a 1,200-foot waterfall. Again, the photo is courtesy of Pat:

Yep, totally worth it!

I got to run along below the falls for a quarter-mile or so, but eventually the road ran across a river, with a ford that looked to be at least 18 inches deep. Given that I'd soon be running back up that very steep hill, I decided to avoid getting my feet wet and turned around.

Before I knew it, I was at the base of the hill. My pace for Mile 2 had been 10:23, still slower than the ideal, but given the rough road and the distraction of the fantastic view, not terrible. I started up the hill at a 14:00 pace. Amazingly, a cyclist was ahead of me. Would he make it up the entire hill? Nope, he stopped about 200 yards in, and soon a pickup truck came by and drove him the rest of the way. I kept running. This photo, again courtesy of Pat, gives you some sense of what it was like going up:

Actually it felt a LOT steeper than this

I passed two hikers who were on the way down, and they seemed impressed that I was attempting to run up this hill. Meanwhile, I was gasping for breath. Finally, after 5 minutes of climbing, I took a walk-break. I gave myself a minute, then launched back into a run. After another 4 minutes, I was back to walking, this time for two minutes. I took off running again, and just a minute and a half later, I was at the top. I was glad to have made it, but disappointed that I had taken the second break so close to the top.   Still, I took another walk-break at the top. My average pace for Mile 3: 15:25, including the walk-breaks. Back on level (or nearly-level) ground, I decided this run was tough enough that I didn't need to do the full 8 miles. I cut things off at Mile 5.29 after running at a 9:05 and 9:14 pace for miles 4 and 5.

Now that I've actually run this hill, I think tomorrow I'm going to give it another shot. The goal: Run the entire 850 vertical feet without a walk-break. I'll let you know if I make it. I'll leave you with one more image: The elevation profile of today's run.

Mile 4-5 would ordinarily be a fairly major hill!

Oh, all right, here's one more image:

The guts of the run, from above

I started at the green marker, then proceeded to the left -- I think the hill is fairly obvious. That's quite a run! Details of today's run are below.

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick update: I did the run again today and made it up the hill without stopping for a walk-break. Interestingly, my average pace for the mile was the same both days!