It started innocently enough.  A little red message icon on my Facebook page.  Oh dammit, when those are from Roger, I know I’m in trouble.  He sent me a link to a Hill Repeat From Hell Challenge.  “OMG, he’s totally lost his mind” was my first through tenth thought. He has this horrible/wonderful habit of raising the bar on what I think I can accomplish.   I tried ignoring  the challenge at first, but could not dismiss it.  I knew I would accept.  I always accept such challenges, but, dang it, it wasn’t going to be easy.
            The challenge was to do increasing hill repeats over a four-week period ending in 100 hill repeats.  The rules were simple.  You had to complete 25 the first week, 50 the next, followed by 75 and then 100 in the final week.  You had the entire week to complete the training.
            Now, me being me, I had to up the ante.  My Sunday morning long runs are carved pretty solidly into my schedule.  I’m usually good for a 3-4 hour trek.  It’s my LSD run or long, slow, distance run, and it is my absolute favorite of the week.   I was going to add these repeats to my LSD.  It’s one of those things that sounded good in theory.  Oh, and I was going to do all of the hill repeats in one shot each week.  Also, I was aiming for even splits, meaning that I would run each 25-hill segment in the same amount (or better) time.  Sometimes being me is a challenge unto itself.
            I chose the Dome to do the repeats.  It is a well-known hill in my ‘hood.  It is where I take the kids sledding and where I taught Natalie to ride a bike.  It is accessible from all four sides.  I planned on dedicating 25 repeats to each side, running the same path each week.  My intention was to carve a trail on each face that would form an X when I completed the challenge.  I would then christen the hill “Tough Cookie” hill.
            The first week was great.  Roger, his wife Kris, Denise and her husband Dan all accepted the challenge.  We all completed week one with ease and patted ourselves on the back for our hill awesomeness. Week 1—no big deal.
            Week 2.  I assumed this would be a repeat from week one.   I set out on Sunday morning, running through the frost and then the snow.  I completed my 50 reps---harder, but not impossible.  I vowed that I would run each and every hill repeat.  No walking in this challenge, not if I wanted those even splits. Again, no big deal.  But, whoa, that little red message icon was back.  Rog was dropping his famous “suggestions” that I space out these repeats. 
            Week 3:  The suggestions turned into a full on lecture.  Thanks for caring Rog, but a girl’s gotta do what girls gotta do. Roger has given me some of the best running advice over the years, and the fact that I was doing exactly opposite of what he recommended was scaring the heck out of me.  
             It was harder this week.  I had to run in the rain (I’ve now deleted all songs with “rain’” in the lyrics from my iPod).  The trail was slippery, especially on the north face, which is where I start.  I was forced to blaze a new trail, close to my original so I wouldn’t face plant in the mud.  The south side of this hill (my last 25) was a bit more technical.  It is the side the snowboarders use and it was much more rutted and rocky than the first two sides.   What have I gotten myself into?
            Week 4: I checked the facebook page before I left.  I read Kris’ progress and it gave me the jolt I needed to get going.  The repeats went well until the last 13.  I was behind on time, and had to let go of all of my inhibitions and put all I had into the challenge.  I was rewarded with negative splits! I was able to complete the 100 repeats and then 18 miles albeit with my iPod blasting at unhealthy levels, stripped down to a sports bra and shortie shorts in December, and with my hands on my knees sucking air.   I felt cocky and strong and very alive!
            I reflected on other challenges I’ve encountered and can honestly say I don’t have regrets about accepting any of them.  Some of my best life memories have come from attempting things I had no idea I could do.
            This challenge has brought me down a dress size (is 2 really a size?!?!) and claimed a toenail or two, but it has also given me physical and emotional strength.  Now I’m itching for a road trip, to try this challenge on the trails.  I just have to narrow down a location.   
            As for Roger, I’m sure there will be another little red message icon from him.  I just hope it doesn’t say ‘double or nothing”, but if it does….bring it, I’m up for the challenge!


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