Tackling San Francisco’s Hills: Tips from Dean Karnazes

With The San Francisco Marathon (TSFM) races getting closer, many runners are staring down the course’s hills, with strategy in mind and a strong sense of determination. We caught up with ultra marathon man and Fitbit ambassador, Dean Karnazes, who is a seasoned runner on the TSFM marathon and ultra marathon course. Here are his words of wisdom as race day approaches:

1) How do you pace yourself on hills?
Try to keep your heart rate consistent with other points of the race. This typically means slowing your pace compared with flatter sections of the course. That’s okay; you’ll makeup for this lost time when the incline subsides.

2) You recommend using heart rate monitoring to set pace. But how, specifically, do you use heart rate monitoring?
By pacing using your heart rate on the hills you can avoid overexerting yourself and remain steady for a greater duration. Over-accumulating lactic acid early on in the race by elevating your heart rate too high during the hills can prove disastrous during later stages of the run.

3) What are the most challenging hills on TSFM course?
Everybody is aware of the notoriously steep hills during the first half-marathon, but it’s always the long, protracted climb from mile 14 to 17 that gets me. Those three miles are always the toughest because your legs are already fatigued from the accumulated mileage. The good news is that it’s all downhill from there, either literally or figuratively (HA!).

4) How do you attack the race in terms of your mental preparation for TSFM elevation?
Learn to love that which you hate. Many people dread the hills. Instead, shift your paradigm and embrace the inclines. It wouldn’t be San Francisco without the hills!

5) What is your favorite hill repeat workout when training for TSFM?
There are a couple different hills near my house that I like to run, depending on my goal for that day. One of them is extremely steep and short. On this hill I like to work on my explosive speed, sprinting to the top as quickly as possible, which usually takes about 25-30 seconds. I’ll typically do seven to ten reps. Another hill is a bit less abrupt, but longer, requiring about a minute to cover. The final hill is yet longer, but not as steep, and takes about two minutes to reach the summit. Rarely do I run the same routine on two consecutive days.

6) What non-running training activities do you incorporate in your marathon training to prepare you for hills?
Bike riding is an excellent no-impact strength building routine for hills, as is CrossFit or other forms of HIT (high intensity training). I always recommend to not neglect your upper body and core, either. Having strong arms can help you pendulum your way upwards during hill climbs, and a well-condition core can assist in initiating and maintaining the momentum. Hills recruit nearly every muscle set in the body into play, so train accordingly!

7) What’s the most important tool in your training arsenal?
From training time and pounding the pavement to tracking my nutrition and getting enough sleep, everything I do makes a difference on race day. That’s why you never see me without my Fitbit Ionic — a running watch from Fitbit that has built-in GPS, sleep tracking, onscreen workouts and more. It’s my go-to for all things fitness. SF Marathon runners can get one of their own with this special offer from Fitbit — the Official Race Wearable.

Time magazine named Dean Karnazes one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World” and  Men’s Fitness named Dean “One of the fittest men on the planet.” This New York Times best-selling author and ultra marathoner has a long list of personal accomplishments, including running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days; Running in the South Pole in -40-degree weather; Running 350 consecutive miles over three days, without sleep; and much more. Dean will be back again this year to run the UltraMarathon at The San Francisco Marathon on July 29, 2018, sporting his trusty Fitbit Ionic to track yet another awesome athletic endeavor. A Bay Area local, Dean will definitely be sharing his SFM running tips and inspiration, so catch him if you can! You can read more training tips from Dean on the Fitbit blog.

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