The Everyman: Fast and Flat Or Slow And Hilly?

Why run on flat road when you can run on hills like this one? Photo:

Which type of course do you prefer?

I competed in the Nation’s Triathlon last weekend, an Olympic-distance race in Washington, D.C. that consisted of a 1,500-meter swim in the Potomac River, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10-kilometer run.

Aside from a few swells during the swim caused by safety boats in the water, the course was mostly flat.

The data from my Garmin (yes, I bought a Garmin 910 to solve my watch dilemma) says there was a 653-foot elevation gain on the bike course, which is not much. And there really weren’t any hills — it was all small rises in the road due, in most cases, to the highways and bridges we rode on.

As for the run, it was flat. Like, an elevation gain of 92 feet.

Dead flat.

Not surprisingly, the course profile led to some fast times. I had my best run ever in a triathlon, averaging just over an 8:00 pace. I can generally hold a 7:30-7:45 pace on a five- or six-mile run, but not after swimming and riding my bike. So I was happy with my time, no doubt.

But to be honest, it was too easy. I need more of a challenge.

RELATED: Hit The Hills, Reap The Benefits

I live in the country, surrounded by farms, vineyards and rolling hills. I ride my bike up a mountain a few miles down the road every once in a while, both to keep things interesting and to keep my fitness at a high level.

And while I haven’t ventured up that same mountain while wearing my running shoes, I try to use the rolling hills to my advantage during training runs — which gives me a huge advantage in races against people who only run in the flatlands.

So what happens on a hilly course? My times plummet for sure, but crossing the finish line after laboring up and down hills gives me a sense of accomplishment I’ll never have on a flat course.

My cycling friends poke fun at my enjoyment of riding on hills. Maybe I’m crazy, but there’s something about pedaling — or running — on a flat surface that doesn’t do it for me. I rode along a popular beach in North Carolina a few months ago and it was like being on a piece of plywood. Thankfully there was a strong wind that made it difficult, and interesting, since it broke up the monotony of the course.

My point here is I’d much rather do a race on a hilly course and sacrifice some time — and a PR — than fly through a flat race.

I’m not saying I’d want to do the Mt. Washington Road Race (Seriously, who is crazy enough to do that?), but a few hills here and there are not a bad thing.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or Tweet at me.

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