Hill of doom!

For the past few weeks I’ve been all to friendly with my treadmill. It was a great learning experience and I’m proud to say that I managed to stay on the darn thing for more than an hour. But once I arrived on this gorgeous campus, I realized that running outside would be so much more exciting.

Yep, that is right, be jealous. This is legitimately the most gorgeous campus I’ve ever step foot on. You drive up to the main building and are surrounded by palm trees. The other great fact? The area is mostly flat! Most people assumed it would be hilly since I’m close to San Francisco, but that is a horrible misconception.

Although I love being on the flat ground, there is one reservation where it is nothing but hills. I’d driven past the entrance a few times and saw my new Hill of Doom. I wasn’t initially planning to run the route, but somehow I got sucked in. I stopped a woman on my way up to the entrance and she mentioned that there were “a few hills” but she thought they were doable.

Doable, maybe, but it was brutal. My time fluctuated like you wouldn’t believe. You’ll notice that miles two to four were a constant incline, I’ll admit I took plenty of walk breaks trying to get to the peak. It was well worth it. From the top you can see the most amazing view of campus. And that hill on the way back to my apartment was quite the treat (and my fastest time for the whole run).

As I was hoofing it up I passed a larger woman who was struggling. I stopped to talk with her about the terrain and she was the sweetest. She warned me that the hills wouldn’t be over for a while; we had a nice time commiserating about the difficulty before she sent me on my way. Is it odd that I want to high five everyone I see that is kicking butt? She gave me a major boost and I continued on with a huge grin on my face (I’m a nerd).

I’ve decided that I want to attack these hills once a week. My goal for the year is to improve enough to jog 90% of the trail. It is going to take a lot of dedication, but hopefully it will help me prepare for the Big Sur marathon next April.

How frequently do you run hills? Do you have a hill of doom that you like to conquer?


About Michelle

I'm an engineer living (and running) in Palo Alto, CA.

Posted on September 14, 2011, in Running and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. I love that we don’t have tons and tons of hills in Dallas and at the same time I kind of hate it. Would be awesome to be able to concur hills like the ones you’ve got in this post! Sounds like a great goal and one I’d make for myself if I lived there!

    • I’m perfectly happy with flat ground! There were absolutely no hills in Columbus and I loved it.
      Is there a park somewhere nearby with any hills? I had to go an hour away for a hill in Ohio, but it was great training.

  2. I avoid hills. I dread hills the way I dread speed work. I should run hills more because I kow they are good for me. I’d love to run one of the crazy hills in San Francisco!! The trail along the coast there is gorgeous. I walked from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge this summer. WHOA HILLS! There were people running it and I was jealous…some day that will be me!

    • While we were hoofing it up some of the hills in SF, my friend looked at me and mentioned that “Hills are just speed training in disguise.” So now I can try to knock out my hills and speed training in one workout (not that I can go quickly up those hills).
      If you come to SF for FoodBuzz, I promise to (attempt to) go running with you on the hills!

  3. Oh and the high fiving people you see kicking butt? When I would run in Madison, I would see lots of other people running on the bike paths. One time I was struggling and this guy was running towards me, and he told me to keep it up! I loved getting words of encouragement from a stranger. It made those last few miles a little bit easier!

  4. There are no hills in south florida!

  5. I agree high fiving strangers is awesome. When I was training for my last half, I was really struggling (read: practicaly in tears, totally wanting to give up, knowing the only thing that was stopping me from calling the boyfriend for a ride was the fact that he didn’t have his cell phone on him) through my longest training run. A group of three women I had seen on the trail earlier ran by me and told me I was doing great…or something equallty as encouraging, and it perked me up a little bit. It was still a terrible run over all, but for the next mile or so, I felt on top of the world.

    And hills, what’s a hill? I live in Chicago; there’s no such thing as hills here.

  6. Wow that hill looks insane. Great job pushing through it Michelle! Was the down hill a little bit more fun?
    I love to say hi to strangers running and tell them they look good. Sometimes I worry they think I’m insane but I figure if it makes one person happy then it’s worth all of the people who think I’m nuts :)

    • I honestly wanted to flail my arms like a small child while I was going down that hill. It was definitely my fastest mile in a long time.
      I’m sure that people can tell I’m insane, but I don’t care all that much. I’m with ya, I’d be happy to just improve one persons day. (But yes, you are nuts and that is a fantastic thing!)

  7. Sadly I never do hills–yet. Maybe one day. For now, I just up the incline on my tready! :-) But that view of the campus looks magical. Oohhh how gorgeous!

  8. That makes ME so happy that you stopped to talk to that woman! I feel the same way when I’m out running – I sometimes get super emotional about everyone that is working on improving their health alongside me!

    Keep working at those hills and soon they will be super easy for you :) Better work at them if you ever plan on doing a race in San Fran. That would be killer.

  9. Get it, girl! MIT always made us finish on this g-dawful hill that goes from the trail up to Thomas Worthington (on 161). I HATED it. But by the time I finished training for Cap City hills were no big thing on most of my runs, so I guess it is good for you.

  10. I avoid hills.
    I need to be mo’ like the Jewess.

  11. Good for you! I don’t really run, per say… but I do like a good walk now and then.

    • I think going for a solid walk or hike is absolutely fantastic as well. In fact, I did the hilly path with friends for a walk and it was still quite the workout!

      Thanks for the comment. :)

  12. You should make the pic bigger, it’s the main reason I clicked on your blog (and the fact it is Fresh obviously…), it does look like an awesome campus from what I can see tho!

    Aww, I went to Big Sur once, such a beautiful place, had a hot choc at the top and watched the sunset. Good times!

    • Oh Peter, you have no idea. You drive into the campus and are immediately surrounded by palm trees. Possibly the most gorgeous campus I’ve ever been on! If you are ever in the area I suggest checking it out.

  13. “Hill of doom” — I love it!

    Best of luck as you continue to conquer it…


  14. I live in Florida, which is not supposed to have hills. But my part, Tallahassee, has plenty. For me, every uphill is a hill of doom. I can only assume I’m geared wrong or something: I can fly down hill like a crazed kangaroo, but I go uphill like a cranky walrus. This is despite years of hill training.

    • Oh I really don’t go up the hills all that quickly, some days it feels like I have to drag myself up them or I’ll start sliding back down. And I think I’ll steal the term “cranky walrus,” it definitely seems appropriate for some of my runs!

  15. Thank the Lord you are healthy enough to run. Some of us can hardly walk. You’re right, the place is gorgeous. Connie

  16. Randomly came across this – glad I did! I run 4-5 times a week and wish I had more hills…Nashville doesn’t have very many where I’m at.

    • When I was living in Columbus, Ohio I had to use overpasses to get any semblance of hill training. I suggest traveling a bit to find some nice trails with hills (I assume there must be some within an hour drive). And don’t forget to enjoy the flats, you’ll miss them when they’re not available (trust me).

  17. No hills for me! Although they make my legs look amazingly toned and shaped :)

  18. Wow, what a lovely place! As for hills of doom, I wish you could see Mount St. James, on the campus of Holy Cross. I had to park up there for a football game recently, and the 30 minute walk to the stadium wasn’t bad as it was all downhill. Going back to the car, however, was a different story. It was a hill so steep I couldn’t walk up it standing up straight. I’m in pretty good shape but geez. I’m glad you don’t have any hills like that to deal with.:) congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    • Does anyone run up that hill? I find that hills that steep are better to trudge up than waste all my energy slowly “jogging” up them. I believe a hill like that exists in San Fran, fortunately I’ll never have to run it.
      Thanks for the love Jennie!

  19. I study in bangor in wales and believe me we have ‘some hills’ with everything inside a valley you go up a hill at least once a day.
    In my third year now I see the first years having to stop for cigarette breaks half way up the road to university and wonder why they are tired, that its only a small hill – but remembering back on first year; yes that 1 in 6 hill was evil!
    Anyway what i’m trying to say is the more you try the easier it will feel! :) look forward to seeing the first time you make the run-up!!!

  20. I’m such an asthmatic I never go running ): but walking up hills is a lot of fun (;

  21. I once read that Jared Leto just ran up and down hills to keep in shape. I decided to try that and failed miserably.

    Hills kick my butt every time.

    Great job on the post as well as showing that hill who’s boss! :)

  22. I once met a hill that could kick my @$#. It soon was nicknamed “Popsycle Hill” – on days I was successful, I celebrated with a popsycle !

  23. I salute your running prowess…I avoid stairs. Thank you for sharing this awesome post. Made me smile. ;)


    • I think it is entertaining that I can run ten miles and feel great but when it comes to stairs I’m winded within minutes. It is odd how that can happen to me, perhaps I need to start running stadiums as well as these hills…

  24. Always will remember sledding down a hill, I fell off and scrapped my knee so bad.

  25. I live in Houston, Texas and don’t have a hill of doom or even anything resembling a hill until Austin, Texas. I have ditch to the side of the house that if run up quickly, would be about 50 feet. I do hills a couple times a week. I started a weightloss blog and like to find people like yourself and read your great blogs because they give me inspiration and keep me motivated. I started a couple weeks ago and are finding the ups and downs of working out very tough. Through it all I do find inspiration through these blogs so thank you for sharing this and good luck on your hill as I keep working out on mine.

    • I hope you are staying motivated! If you ever have questions about some awesome bloggers, I’d be happy to set you up. This community is disgustingly loving to their members (I mean that in a good way). Good luck with all of your hills and weight loss!!

  26. I do not often run up hills, but when I call them cool things like Hill of Doom, or Hill of Annihilation, or more often Hill of many Coronaries.

  27. Since we live near Yosemite, I understand hills. It’s always so satisfying to conquer a steep “death hill” as I like to call them! Great job & keep it up with the hills. Eventually, it will make you that much stronger!

  28. You go girl! Not much of a runner myself – but setting goals is great! I am sure you will beat that 90% run in no time!

    • Thanks Anita! I can guarantee that you are a much better biker than I am, seems like you’ve gone to some amazing places with your bike in tow. I’m hoping one day I can travel the world like you. :)

  29. I think that hills and your need to transgress them are symbolic of your studies or other goals. Universities are also located at the tops of hills for this reason because it shows that knowledge or the approval of authority is what we strive for there.

  30. iowa is full of hills. especially centeral iowa. we’re no stranger to a climb every now and again. i wish you the best of luck…but suggest finding flat ground :)

  31. I have a hill on my run every day actually. It’s pretty steep and I have to conquer it up and back but I always ALWAYS feel better for having gone that route that another. (Tallahassee has an old Indian translation of “seven hills”.) I’m glad I do it because most of the races I have run have had far less inclines so I am much better prepared for them anyway.

    • You are a rock star and I hope you know it. I have a fear of hills and have avoided them for quite some time, one day I’ll hopefully have the same motivation as you and manage to run them regularly.

  32. My adult kids run, I watch and take pictures at various events. Perfect scenario for me. Great post and a high-five to you!

  33. Your blog name and phrase make the visit worthwhile.

    shvitz…. hahahahah!

    love it.

    Running on the other hand… not my thing.

    Have fun.

  34. All hills to me are hills of doom! I’m terrible at running hills, but I know its good to practice them. (everyone always says that, right?) Portland is pretty flat but there are plenty of hills around if you go to the right places and avoid the flat city. Most of the local running events here have a hill in them, so I usually practice the hill that will be in the race course while prepping for the event. My pace uphill slows down tremendously, but I always find I can make up time going down.
    I actually think downhill is really hard because I end up going too fast and its a killer on my shins.

    Glad you found a beautiful place to run. Finding nice scenery is always a motivator for me. Happy running :)

    • I can definitely make up some time when I go downhill, although I’m very cautious since I don’t want to hurt my knees. Most days I stick with flat ground, but it is about time I start
      getting off my rear and trying those hills.
      I hope to make it up to Portland for a race sometime in the near future. I had considered running the marathon but I wouldn’t be nearly ready in time. Perhaps you can suggest some good races I can attempt in the area?

  35. Congratulations on the FP!

    I do hill repeats and those have helped me perform better in races. They’re also quite handy if I need a quick workout. So I think hills are a matter of perspective.

    Also, best of luck with grad school! Running (based from personal experience) helped me get past the roadblocks and stress.

  36. Wow, nice post. Congrats om FP! :)

  37. I have always loved hills, I just didn’t know it at the start. Go hills! Is that Stanford in the pic? I was there for a conference – just remember being impressed by a nightclub with a lifesize replica deer on the dance-floor. You have to admit that’s pretty cool, but then I’m a nerd too! :-)

  38. wow very nice post , I am enjoyed !

  39. Definitely a beatiful campus! Good luck with your running, I’m sure you’ll do great. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed :)

  40. Good for you! I just did a post on running too, but mine didn’t end so well as yours.

  41. Michelle, I don’t think anyone runs up that hill. I could barely walk it. Hill of doom it is though. I joked with someone that there’s a very good reason Holy Cross is a religious institution — you’re praying to God with every step that you make it to the top of the hill.:) I’d love to meet the person who could run up that hill though.

  42. At a quick glance I thought the first pic to be one of northern Italy. Then of course I realsied the buildings were too new. You’re right about it being a gorgeous campus.

  43. Hey, thanks for all your help, greatly appreciated.

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