Today I completed my first truly difficult hill workout. As much as I complain about the lack of trails in West Michigan, I am fortunate to have access to the Lake Michigan shoreline. Specifically, I have access to sand dunes. Sweet, sweet sand dunes.
For those of you that ever have the opportunity to visit Grand Haven, Mich, you have to run Five Mile Hill a few times. It is located near the State Park. The paved hill is one of the better training hills in the area. It consists of a 1/4 paved road with a 10% grade. Standing at the top, you can see about five miles offshore in Lake Michigan (hence the name.) At the top, you can either go down the other paved section down to street level, or run down a sand hill on the back side. The sand hill has a 20% grade. See map below:
I ran five “loops.” Each loop started with a run up the sand hill, then down one of the asphalt road legs. I’d cross to the other leg on the flat road level sidewalk, then run up the other leg. Finally I would run down the sand hill.
This was also one of my fist midday runs. Temps approached 87° with fairly high humidity. The day had been cloudy… until I ran. At least I was able to achieve decent heat acclimation training.
The run totaled a mere 4.6 miles, but had an elevation change of around 2000 feet. Total time was a pedestrian 45:42 with my slowest pace (~28 minutes/mile) near the top of the sand hill, while my fastest pace was 4:37 going down the sand hill. Here’s the elevation profile:
Hopefully, I will be able to squeeze in at least two hill sessions per week for the next month. Based on prior experience, this is one of the most important aspects to ultra training. The ability to run hills effectively can be the difference between finishing and abject failure.
While I am envious of my mountain-dwelling friends, I am also thankful to have training opportunities such as Five Mile Hill. What do the rest of you use for hill work?