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Hills, Chocolate Milk and Ice baths

Coaching tips revisited

The year was 2002, I was turning 50, and I was preparing for my 5th Boston Marathon. I decided I wanted to run a good one - a really good one - and that I'd need some new tricks in my bag in order to pull it off. I hired a fellow I knew in New York who had recently decided to leave his day job to go into coaching full-time. The results were excellent!

Neil is a fan of hills (as am I) and one of the new tricks he taught me involved hill drills for form and strength. To do hill drills, one finds a hill that's about 1/4 mile long, and goes up that hill first bounding (return to the bottom), then skipping (return), then with high knees. After each drill up, run about 1/4 mile at the top, run lightly down, then go back up with the next drill. I was astounded by the jello-ish-ness of my legs at the top of each hill. And after doing the drills once or twice a week for a few weeks I was astounded at what a huge difference they made to my running - I was running stronger, taller, and with a more open stride.

Fast forward to 2007 when I'm trying to get ready for a summer of 180-mile weeks. Naturally I've been putting in a lot of miles. And my body says, naturally I'm getting lazier and lazier with my running. No zip, no pizzazz in the legs. When I noticed my body was increasingly hunching over as I ran (not entirely because of the cold, wind, and snow), I decided I'd better do something about it. Ah Hah! Hill drills! So yesterday I met up with AndyE at The Hill (there's a perfect hill drill hill in south Boulder) and we did 2 x bound, skip, and high knees. And got that good ol' jello feeling in the legs as we crested at the top.

After a 50 minute warmup, the drills and a 50 minute warmdown I stretched (obeying firm instructions from current coach Mark and massage therapist Holly), drank some chocolate soy milk (another of Neil's tricks), and got into a tub full of ice water - the highest level of water yet (over my hips). My original goal was to sit there long enough to drink the cup of coffee I'd made for myself. I drank that so fast I decided it would be way too wussy if I quit the ice bath then. The next goal was to stay in long enough for the next song on the radio to finish playing and/or when all the ice cubes had melted. The cubes disappeared first, and I lasted through the end of the song.

And afterward? Zippy, pizzazzy legs. Mission accomplished! Hill drills, stretching, and ice baths will continue to appear on the menu.

As for Boston 2002? Dream goal: 3 hours 45 minutes. Actual: 3 hours 46 minutes 33 seconds and my fastest marathon since Las Vegas 1995, my fastest Boston since 1992. Thank you Neil Cook!

Paula says: “I retired from the University of Colorado on July 28, 2006! For the next year, I (and this blog) will be dedicated to my run from hearth to home - from my adult home town (Boulder, Colorado) to the hometown of my childhood (Petoskey, Michigan). PJ's Run blog will track the planning and training from now until June, 2007 when the run shall commence!“

For more of Paula's blog go to: http://pjsrun.blogspot.com/

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Neil L. Cook, 212-472-9281 or 917-575-1901 or Coach@SLB-Coaching.com or Neil.L.Cook@mindspring.com
"Sweet Lightning Bolt" used by permission.