This week I decided to try a couple of new running routes. I've had trouble getting up early enough on Mondays to fit in a run before yoga class, and had been skipping these runs (and sometimes the class too) more often than not. So when I heard of a running group that meets downtown at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, I decided to check them out after Daylight Savings Time started (I really dislike running in the dark).
boyziggy and I opted for the shorter, 3.5 mile route, as that's about the distance I normally run Mondays anyway (my long runs are on Tuesdays), and Ziggy's not up to doing longer distances yet. Regrettably, I did not enjoy this run at all. This route (they are different each week), while a nice tour of some touristy parts of the city (Embarcadero/North Beach/Chinatown), had lots of traffic stops and pedestrians. Ziggy and I couldn't stay together easily as he tends to sprint and then slow to a walk, while I try to go at a steady pace. I also couldn't get my GPS watch to locate a signal for the first several minutes of the run, owing to all the tall buildings. Ziggy's smartphone GPS worked fine, however.
Despite being tired from inadequate training, Ziggy said he enjoyed the run and would like to do it again. I'm not so sure, especially on the evenings before I have my really long marathon training runs (such as next week, when I have a 24-miler scheduled for Tuesday morning). The organizers seemed friendly enough, however, and offered free Gatorade, peanut butter sandwiches, and samples from the yogurt shop where we met.
While waiting for that run to begin, one of the organizers told me about another event, the Divis Up or Shut Up Challenge, which normally occurs the first Thursday of each month. It consists of running up and down a steep, six-block hill as many times as possible in 30 minutes. I said it sounded awful, and I normally wasn't free on Thursday evenings anyway as that's when I have chorus rehearsals. But the run was the 2nd Thursday this month and the chorus has this week off, and the more I thought about it, the more I decided that it would indeed be a good challenge. I could always use more hill training, especially on the downhills where I am nervous about going too fast and losing control.
I walked the ~2 miles to the start of the challenge, which was a hilly endeavor in itself, especially going down an extremely steep portion of Jones Street. I was used to this as it's the same walking route I take when going to Monday yoga classes, but I still have to pick my way down slowly. I was greeted at the store by the organizer from the Monday run who had invited me to the event. I signed in and waited around, eventually striking up a conversation with a nice young woman who I spotted wearing a No Meat Athlete T-shirt, which gave me the excuse to ask if she was a vegan. She is, and I discovered that we're also both members of the DSE Runners club, so I told her I'd look for her at my next race with them.
We jogged over to the start of the course at Divisadero and Lombard, and soon began climbing the hill. I tried to actually run at least the first lap, but by the last block had slowed to a walk (my "running" was already at walking speed by then anyway). I already knew I could walk up steep hills, having done so frequently not only just to get around this hilly city I've lived in for 10 years, but also for exercise when I used to walk up and down a one-block set of 180 stairs for 20-30 minutes. (I got up to ten laps in 30 minutes before I got really bored and abandoned that exercise.) So I was hoping to do more running on this challenge, but it was not to be; I just don't have the cardiovascular fitness for that kind of workout yet.
It took about seven minutes to get up the hill the first time. My heart was pounding, and I was questioning the wisdom of doing this crazy activity. Took another four minutes to get back down; I was happy to have at least finished one lap. The second wasn't any easier on the way up, despite the faster runners cheering me on as they lapped me. But I willed myself to go a little faster on the way down, which left just enough time for me to get in a final half-lap before the 30 minutes were up. I actually sprinted the last few yards so that I could get to the top in exactly thirty minutes. Then I doubled over with exhaustion, and it took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath before I could walk/jog back down.
The top of this post shows a portion of a Google Earth screenshot showing the route with the beginning and end points marked. (If you haven't looked at Google Earth lately, the level of detail in well-covered cities like SF is truly astounding.) It doesn't really convey the steepness of the hill though. Here's another view, from my GPS data, which displays the actual elevation gain/loss underneath.
I finished with a pace of 16:05/mile, which I would normally refer to as "glacial" but hey, that was some hill. If I manage to complete another 2 1/2 laps next time (I believe the next run also happens to fall on no-rehearsal night), I'll earn a T-shirt. The more laps I run, the more and better T-shirts I can get. Something to look forward to I guess.
I enjoyed a free Coke back at the store (they also had beer) and then headed over to a restaurant across the street I liked, but they had a long line, and I didn't feel like waiting and dining in a crowded restaurant by myself. (Neither Ziggy nor Chad were available, and the woman I'd chatted with earlier, who I might have liked to invite, was gone by the time I got back to the store.) After the first two buses I waited for were both out of service, I ended up walking all the way home and fixing myself a homemade hummus wrap and a chocolate mug cake. Looking forward to more running adventures.