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The Horrible Hills of Lafayette Reservoir December 21, 2009

Posted by Richard Lowe in Training.
Tags: , , , , ,

Yikes. It was just One Of Those Days.

After last week’s great 15 mile run, it was only fitting to follow it up with an extremely challenging and not-so-fun one. That’s just how karma works, right?

I came up to visit my parents for the holidays and we happened to be in the Bay Area for my grandfather’s 81st birthday. I hadn’t had a chance to run the previous three days so I was desperate to get back on the road. However, being semi-unfamiliar with the area and needing a long run, I wanted a looping route that I could mindlessly breeze through. Well, I got the looping route but it was no route I could mindlessly breeze through.


You can’t tell from this Google Maps image but for a (beginner) runner, this trail is hell. For someone out for a stroll, or perhaps a lap or two of it’s 2.7 rolling green hills, it’s fantastic.

Don’t be deceived.

Even though the trail is 2.7 miles, there are about 15 hills of varying degrees. Admittedly, I wasn’t ready for it, even though I thought I could do it. What compounded the problem is running the trail multiple times meant running the hills multiple times. And the hills got the best of me.

The flatter hills were doable, but the longer, steeper ones really did a number on my body. Additionally, downhill paths, I find, are much more difficult than uphill, especially the ones with a longer grade. As someone who hasn’t done too much hill work, I could feel that it takes a whole new set of muscles to control a downhill stride. It’s so easy to accidentally overextend your stride when running downhill, not to mention the extra impact caused by gravity on your feet. It really takes some effort to control. For me, the only challenge with running uphill is muscle strength. Downhill requires practice.

I needed to do 16 miles, which meant 6 loops. I only got to 13 miles, but it was no farther than loop 3 that I was hurting. My hips and knees on both my legs were aching and hurting. I had never felt anything like it. At one point, I tried to simply loop one mile intervals but even within that one mile the hills were unbearable at that point. So I cut my run short.

These ducks were laughing at me, I’m sure of it.

In the end, I’m thankful for the run. It was a great training run, especially considering there will be hills during the marathon. But it was not fun. However, it does help mentally to know that I’ve done a run with massive, unconquerable hills. I know it will be useful come race day. Looking back I’m glad I did it, but at the time, it was terrible.

Distance: 13 miles
Time: 122:58
Pace: 9:27 mile

The words “hill” and “hell” are separated by only one letter… Think about that!

In the holiday spirit.

Even GU Chomps couldn’t save me.

Gorgeous day, gorgeous scenery, hellish run.



1. Yasmin - December 22, 2009

Don’t beat yourself up over it. Going from flat paths to hills for 16 miles is A LOT. And probably not a good idea, injury wise. Very good call to cut it when your body was telling you to stop. I’ve been told you’ll appreciate these types of runs on marathon day. I hope thyre right bc I’m not a fan of pointless suffering.

Loved the pictures btw!

RJL - December 22, 2009

Thanks for the support! Haha, I wasn’t too down, just frustrated. And yeah, I think it’ll be a big confidence boost come marathon day. Glad you like the photos, too!

2. Karen N. - December 22, 2009

I wish I knew you were in the Lafayette. The reservoir is one of my favorite running and recreational spots. I lived in Lafayette for my teenage years, and I went to the local high school. I can walk there from my parent’s house and did a rainy run in the morning … though I stuck to just four miles!

RJL - December 22, 2009

I should’ve texted you. I thought you might be in Lafayette. But, ugh, the route was so hard!

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