Monday, August 19, 2013

Hill Charging in the New 'Hood

Today: 4
Present: 401
Count: 59

If you live and run in San Francisco, and you don't embrace the hills, why bother? I mean sure, weaving through tourists on the Embarcadero is great, but if you fail to take advantage of our peaks and valleys you're denying yourself all sorts of freely available running pain pleasure. Not to mention, its a damn good workout and makes running the flats seem like downhill.

Moving from Bernal to Potrero, I made a few trades. The biggest downgrade for me is not having the Bernal Hill trails just outside my front door. A single track proving ground, the narrow, slanted trails teetering on the edge of the park make your average single track feel like a fire trail. And while I certainly did run hills in Bernal, the narrow, windy, steep roads just never tempted me to charge.

Potrero is a different animal, almost begging you to charge. Wide streets, runways up and down.

I started with Vermont Street, the south side's answer to Lombard and the real twistiest street in the world. But its short and just when you get going, its done. Meanwhile the Potrero grid on all four sides of the hill has nearly endless hill charging options. So I picked one off the Strava segment map and went after it.

20th Street from DogPatch to the top is a true urban charge. You immediately set off on a freeway overpass, cars whizzing below just past the three-foot guardrail. Not too steep, its quite runnable and even offers a little flat midway through. But then the charge begins.

Its only two blocks, but from the freeway to Mississippi is really steep. And when you foolishly pick the mid-afternoon west wind to run into when trying to take the course record, its uphill into the wind all the way and a real test of the strong mind. That last block is like running up stairs, but on the road, clocking in at a more than 45% grade.

I hit the top and my lungs burned ... for the next 10 minutes.

Hill charging is one of those things you kind of don't want to think about. Because if you do, you'll stop. So I try not to think too much about the climbs until I start them. And certainly not when I drive them.

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