How to read an elevation map

Happy Thursday!!  I hope you’re off to a great start.

This grandma was a party animal and didn’t go to bed until after midnight. 

Sometimes I wonder about myself.

Actually, Simon & Reena came over for dinner and we had a great time catching up, we lost track of time.  So it’s a slow start this morning. 

In other news, I have big plans to do my first training ride for the California Classic today, so let’s keep the coffee coming mmmkay.


Yesterday was Mike’s last day of vacation so we spent the afternoon getting my bike dialed in and working on the patio.  P.S does anyone else leave their bib on until their next race? 


Instagram pic.

Mr. I want to dig my way out and be free like a hippy was not happy about this.

Mike put concrete around the stepping stones so now Mr. hippy wannabe has to dig through concrete to get out.  Muhahaha


While he worked on that, I pulled weeds and repositioned rocks.  So basically busy work to make him think I’m actually doing something.  Winking smile


~~~~~Subject change~~~~~

Mike & I had a pretty interesting conversation last night about how to read an elevation map.  Okay well it was more like him skooling me as we all know I don’t agree with math, but now I get it.  

Coming from Fresno where elevation maps didn’t exist because it’s so flat, I never took that into consideration.  Our “hills” were overpasses.  <-not joking!

Mike’s advise: “when you look at an elevation map, don’t just look at the picture itself, take the math into consideration.” 

Below is the elevation map for the SLO Marathon.  I ran the half and the turning point was just past mile 7.  The elevation numbers (on the far left) range from 60 to 380.  At first the map itself didn’t look too bad, but of while running the course, it was so much harder than I anticipated. wp content uploads 2011 07 slomarathon printout v6.pdf

The most important thing is to pay attention to the numbers on the left side. Don’t just look at the hills on the map.

There is about a 200 foot gain just from miles 2-4. Holy smokes, that’s huge for this flat land runner.

Here’s another example:  I’m interested in running the Santa Rosa Marathon this summer, but after one quick look at the elevation map, I laughed and said something like hell no.  Winking smile 

Course Info

Mike explained that it’s not as bad as it seems.  He did a little math and pointed out the last half of the race has a .0350% incline per mile. 

Knowing I’m a visual learner, my nerdy husband actually measured the curb outside our house, which is 6 inches.  So…

1 mile = climbing 31 curbs

NBD uh!?

On a totally random note:


Not gonna lie, us runners do the same.  Ha!

Do you review elevation maps for race courses you’re considering? 

What spring race are you training for?

Tell me something random!


0 Comments on “How to read an elevation map

  1. I did Ragnar last year, leg 5. Map showed a slight incline for first 1.5 miles with a slight down hill for 1.5 miles. They however stretched it out across the paper so it looked SLIGHT. It ended up being 1.5 miles up straight up with .5 miles straight down before the last flat mile. It zapped my legs for the remainder of the Ragnar adventure. I learned the hardway to not read the details in the numbers!

  2. that batman comic is nothing short of awesome. thanks for the chuckle! 🙂

  3. I always look at elevation maps. I think it’s important to look not only at the elevation gain, but also the distance you gain it in. So like you said, on the second map, it might LOOK like a lot, but it’s spread out over a long distance, so it doesn’t feel bad when you are actually running it. On the other hand, if you realize you are climbing 100 feet in a quarter of a mile, that is one killer hill! But if you can analyze that hill in the elevation chart, then you can go try to find one close to you to incorporate into your workouts (either as part of a run, or as hill repeats), so that your legs aren’t totally shocked on race day.

    It’s also important to look at the downhills, too, because while gradual downhills are FANTASTIC!! Steep ones (like dropping 100 feet in a quarter of a mile) can be killer on your knees and quads.

    The other thing I look at is total elevation gain/loss for the run. A run might not have any killer hills (say no gain over 50 feet), but if you do that gain over and over and over again, and all of a sudden your total gain for the run is 1000ft and you aren’t used to doing runs that gain more than 300ft, your legs are going to be dying by the end.

    I’m training for a race right now that has 3200 feet of elevation gain, so to try to get my legs used to that, I try to make sure that my total weekly elevation gain somewhat matches that. So I might go for two flat runs, one run of hill repeats where I will do a total of 700ft gain, and two trail runs that gain around 1000-1500ft each.

  4. Ok I’m getting back with some plans…yes running the mermaid in Fremont and so crazy but we (bffs and I) have run Santa Rosa the last two years! Highly recommend !!! It’s gorgeous and flat 🙂 for central valley chicks….. Also last minute but quick ordered Boston shirt and running diablo trail run this weekend….I can’t sit still with wanting to help so I’m gonna run! Join last min if u want should be beautiful weather…..if not two trail runs down ur way in June Hellyer? And another in Pinole ( spell check keeps correcting with ” hellbent”…. Ummm yeah that too!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *