Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stadiums - Urban Vertical

I live in north-west Orange County in Southern California. I remember seeing "NWOC" graffiti along the river one time and thinking that at least they knew their geography. This area is basically a flood plain and very flat. So to run any vertical, I have to travel quite a ways. To the west, Signal Hill in Long Beach is 9 miles from my house and not suitable for the long uphills that I like. The Puente Hills north of me and Whittier in particular have excellent hills with lots of trails (Habitat Authority) and I have been running there weekly. It's a 30 minute drive from my house. But I tried running there after work last week and it gets dark just a little after I get there (and I start thinking and worrying too much). Peters Canyon is close to where I work (although still a 30 minute drive) and has one pretty steep hill but like Signal Hill, it isn't long enough for my tastes. Other than these locations, I might as well go to the mountains which are 60 to 75 minutes from the house.

So what to do on a weekday, especially during the winter? I like stadiums. It has that high school/college workout vibe and I don't mind doing what seems like mindless repetitions to others. Access however is an issue. The high schools around here like to lock up their stadiums, probably due to liability concerns or sumthin. The universities around here do not have the problem of access. I've run on the UCLA and Cal State Fullerton stadiums. CSUF is about 30 minutes from my house. Parking is an issue but that is a good prospect. However, I am a member of the Runner's High club which meets 5 miles from my house at Millikan High in Long Beach. Millikan has a stadium with about 26 rows. Without measuring, I figure that you climb approximately 25 ft per climb and with 8 aisles, 200 ft per stadium. 20 stadiums therefore yield 4000' of climb over a distance around 6 miles. So I think this is going to be my Tuesday night workout.

I have two additional points.
  • The obvious difference between stadiums and mountain running is the length and intensity of effort. Stadiums are MUCH shorter, allowing a greater intensity of effort. In addition, stadiums have steps, requiring a a certain level of effort on each step.
  • The level of effort depends on the stadium. A few weeks back, I was at UCLA watching my daughter compete in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. We were next to Drake Stadium so I went over in my street shorts with my wallet, keys, etc. in my pocket and ran one set. A good workout but no problem. Today, I went to Cal State Fullerton's soccer/football stadium and ran a set. I knew I was in trouble after the first time up. Each row at CSUF (east side) is about 15 inches higher than the previous. This is several times higher than the amount I step up when running hill repeats.

There are 10 aisles at CSUF. The way I ran it there were 32 rows next to 8 of the aisles and 30 rows next to the two end aisles. This works out to being in the neighborhood of 395 feet elevation gain per set. So 10 sets would work out to the same vertical as 8 reps at my favorite hill in Whittier. If only that were possible. CSUF stadiums are very anaerobic and get my heartrate close to the maximum, whatever that is. One set was my limit today.

Addendum to the addendum:

Millikan High School:
The stadium has 28 rows of seats. Each row is 1 foot higher than the one below. The bottom row is 1.5 feet above the floor. So 28.5 feet of climb each time up. The stadium has 6 aisles. I decided to run up the seats on either side of each aisle so 12 times up per what I call a "stadium". Two of the middle climbs end one seat short because of the announcers box so the total climb for one "stadium" is 340 feet. I managed to get in 6 of these on Tuesday night so 2040 feet of climb. That at least is in the same neighborhood of my hill repeats - currently 3000 feet of climb in 2 hours. The stadiums are at a higher intensity since each step has to climb 1 foot. The intensity was such that I walked everything except going up. I didn't labor on the ups however. So this workout seems just right unlike CSUF (above).

So my hope with this workout (which I'll try to do weekly, at least for a while) is that it will strengthen my legs and improve my sore knees. The actual result of this workout was that my legs were sore in more than just the knees. My upper gastrocnemius in particular was pretty sore and the connective tissue around my hips and knees was worked.