"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, April 24, 2017

How Many Hills Are Enough Hills?

When I first started thinking about the Superior 100 Mile (more than a decade ago), the prevailing thought was "If you can run up Buck Hill 30 times, you can finish Superior." Superior has 20200 feet of elevation (the sources saying 16800 must be from the course when much was on road and 21000 seems to be rounding up) and Buck is a little over 300 feet and a little less than a half mile long, or about 1.5 times the average steepness of Superior. Thirty repeats would be half the elevation of the race, which, figuring that the course probably has some flat [damned little, as it happens] and some steeper sections, this seemed like training for the harder part.

Then Buck Hill was closed to runners and hikers. It's been re-opened and closed so many times and it's so far from me that I just stopped thinking about it.

The popular choice for hills became Hyland, where the south ski hill is about 140 feet of elevation and 7 repeats is about 2 miles (2.5X as steep as Superior)Runners were doing 60-70 repeats, again about 10000 total feet of elevation.

Then I started seeing scientific reports on delayed onset muscle soreness. Because gravity is an acceleration, the impact forces increase by the square of the distance. If Buck was 1.5 times as steep, then 1/(1.5x1.5) times 20200 feet gave 30x300 ft repeats - what people did! But this would give only 23 repeats at Hyland, a mere 6.5 miles. If one went by distance run, rather than by elevation, one gets Hyland being 103.3/(2.5x2.5) or 16 miles, which is 56 repeats, about what people did. This same measurement for Buck, however, gives 46 repeats.

Looking at my favorite hill, Snake, it has the same grade as Superior with 174 feet elevation change in .435 miles. It's 116-119 repeats, by either method of calculation. Doing 13 repeats in two hours, I've thought about doing that 9 times over - at that pace, I'd set a record!

Going back to the one meter box jumps used for DOMS studies, assuming a two foot jump out (you need space for your legs), the two methods give 90 repeats and 150 repeats. The method used in the studies was 100.

I did 100, which took about 50 minutes (where I do it has a long ramp). The next day, I was sore in my piriformis, gracilis and abductor magnus and a bit sore in the hamstrings and quads and was surprised by pain along my spine (probably lats, but maybe erector spinae), all the things that go wrong for me when doing ultras.

Then I went to Snake Hill to find out how many steps it takes me to do repeats (just over 600 down, just over 800 up), which means I drop 3.4 inches with each stride when tired. Plugging that into the equations, Superior is equivalent to 150 box jumps, as one method above had it.

The problem with box jumps is that one lands on both legs, which is not like running. If one were to do one-legged landings, far far fewer would be possible. Seeing how far forward I would bend when doing them - sometimes I braced myself from falling with my fingers - explains why I have back troubles. Landing straight-backed would be preferable, which is essentially doing squats.

My God, squats. Now I'm thinking like everybody else!

1 comment:

JojaJogger said...

No matter how many equations or formulas you throw at me, you're never going to convince me that the last sentence is true.