Friday, January 6, 2012


Big Sur, my target marathon, is known for having one of the most beautiful courses in the world. You start in the midst of huge redwood trees, and spend most of the race on the meandering, and spectacular, California coastline. It's been called the most-scenic marathon, and best destination marathon, in the world.

That's all on the brochure.

What the brochure doesn't mention is that Big Sur has some monster hills with lots of lesser hills sprinkled in just to make sure you don't get cocky, and your legs don't recover.

Training for a hilly marathon in Indiana is a challenge. The only way to train for hills is to run hills.* Since the Ice Age, Central Indiana has been flat, and by Ice Age I am referring to the last Glacial Stage in North America some 25,000 years ago, not the forgettable 2002 animated film that continues to spew forth ever worse sequels. Those glaciers scraped the place smooth, like a carpenter with a plane, and left what topology there was between Gary and Center Grove as shavings down in Southern Indiana.

How flat are we talking?

Benjamin Harrison

If you strapped an EKG, right now, on Benjamin Harrison, former Indiana Governor, US Senator, and 23rd President of the United States, who happens to also be quite dead, the resulting green line would be only slightly less interesting than a topo map of the pool table I call home. Here, let me demonstrate...

Benjamin Harrison's EKG

Pool Table

Central Indiana

The challenge was made apparent yesterday when my marathon training program, modified from here, prescribed 3 miles and "TUT 4:00".

"What the hell's TUT?", you may be asking yourself, which is probably not very useful. It would be better to ask me, or consult the link to the training program, or just keep reading.

I'll tell you what TUT isn't... TUT is definitely NOT a mid-run impromptu performance of "Walk Like an Egyptian".

Pffft, that would be stupid.

Almost as stupid as a mid-post impromptu viewing of "Walk Like an Egyptian"...

Ah, good times... For those who don't remember the 80s and might be curious, no, the laws of gravity did NOT apply to hair back then. Now, um... what were we... Oh, right!

Directly from the program description:
TUT - Total Uphill Time: The total number of minutes you spend running semi-vigorously up inclines-- repeats up the same hill or total uphill time over a hilly loop.

"Semi-vigorously"... Sounds like a description of a disappointing sex scene, or is that just me? "They went at it, but only semi-vigorously. In the book, they hit it with full vigor."

Anyway, yesterday, my 3-miler was reduced to running loops in the office park to get in my 4 minutes of hill work because there's really just the one baby hill, though there are a couple different routes up it. At a semi-vigorous pace, it's about a minute from bottom to top.

I'm going to have to get more creative for Thursdays. I can't take all of those loops for much more than 3 miles. And one-minute hills are NOT going to prepare me for the long climbs of Big Sur. Looks like I'll be trekking south to much hillier venues like Brown County and Bloomington for some long runs with grown-up sized hills.

Good running,

*Yes, I know I could use a treadmill to simulate hills. But, that is an absolute last resort. We've covered this (here), treadmills are stupid.

Images from here, here, here, here, here, and here.