By Coach Colin, High Park Rogue Runners
You’ve done it. You’re injury-free, you’re fit, you braved the early mornings and winter weather and now you’re race ready. So, what next? Tackling this course requires a bit more planning than your regular race. The allure of the course is its scenery, its mixed terrain, and above all else, its signature hills. With just a few tips and a little bit of planning, you’ll be all set to make the most of your fitness and have a great race.
Perhaps the best advice I can give on race day is to leave the watch at home. Gasp, I know! But, the hills that give the Spring Run-Off its reputation are the hills that make traditional pacing extremely difficult. Instead, focus on how you feel. Even the flattest stretches of this race are covered in rolling hills. As such, your pace will fluctuate during the race and focusing too intently on your pace can demoralize you. Relax, take a deep breath, put the watch down, and focus on running well and having fun! You’ll be surprised how well you can do by listening to your body and enjoying your surroundings.
The Start of the Race
There are two big hills in the 8k race – Centre Road and Spring Road – and one big hill in the 5k race – Spring Road. If you’re doing the 8k, Centre Road hill is about 3k into the race. If you go out too hard, this hill will let you know. Try to stay relaxed at the start of the race and don’t let your adrenaline fool you. After about 300m the hill levels out with a much smaller incline. Whatever you do, just don’t panic. Stay focused on your form, stay relaxed, and when you get to the top of the hill, instead of stopping to catch your breath, take a deep breath and keep running – remember what you practiced in training with flat stretches after a hill. You’ll be surprised how quickly your heart rate goes back down after you crest the hill. Count to five in your head and you’ll notice most of that discomfort is already gone!
As much as we’ve focused on the uphill portions of this race, there are a considerable number of downhill sections as well. When you’re running downhill, try to let the force of gravity pull you. Don’t try to force yourself to slow down – that breaking motion can create a jarring effect on your legs, which will slow you down and create more fatigue. Running at the rate the hill pulls you will get you down the hill the quickest with the least amount of strain. Just stay relaxed, and lean slightly forward. Let the hill do the work.
Spring Road. La pièce de résistance.
Spring Road: the place where legends are made. The epic showdown for the coveted title of King and Queen of the Hill! We’ve touched on all of the basics that will help you crush this hill – don’t start the race too fast, stay relaxed, don’t panic, drive the knees and arms, focus on form, and don’t slouch those shoulders when you fatigue – but what I want to emphasize about this hill is actually what comes before it… a flat stretch of ground! The hill is at the end of Spring Road. The road itself is about 1.2k long, which includes nearly 900m of flat running before reaching the hill. In my experience, once people get to Spring Road, they feel like they’re in the home stretch and pick up their effort. 900m is a long way to get though, especially when there’s a large hill after it! My advice is again to stay calm and keep your effort the same, not to increase it. Don’t get carried away by what feels like the first stretch of flat ground you’ve experienced all day. Conserve that last bit of energy for the grand finale! Once you arrive at the hill, buckle down and dig deep. Let the sounds of the cheering crowds pull you along and bask in the knowledge that in just 300m you will have conquered this beast! You’ve got this!
Above all else, just have fun! This is a wonderful race in a beautiful park with lots of amazing people! Enjoy the race and immerse yourself in the full experience! I’ll be there to cheer you all up those hills! Best of luck!