Training with TNT for the 2010 Atlanta Marathon

Near the Atlanta finish line

Here is the place for a lot of information about my TNT training program. It's the Winter season and I have signed up for the Atlanta Marathon, March 21, 2010. (I selected this marathon because I want to add some Civil War battlefield touring to the trip.) If you would like to make a donation to sponsor my participation and help the great cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, see my fundraising page. This page starts with the race report, and then continues with the training needed to get there.

Atlanta Marathon

Here's my report on the ING Georgia Marathon. It's split into two parts—this one is about the race itself and the other is about the Civil War visits before the race. My wife Nancy and I arrived Wednesday night, March 18, so that I could visit some Civil War sites while dragging her along reluctantly. On Friday I went to the Expo to get my bib and a goody bag. The race tee shirt is pretty tacky and WAY undersized. While there I obtained a code that I used to reserve a slot in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31.

Our Saturday devoted a good deal of time to driving the marathon route as a preview for tomorrow's race. It goes through some lovely areas of the city, but it has a distressingly low number of flat stretches! Up and down like a washboard, although none of the hills are very steep—the organizers selected a really convoluted course to avoid severe hills. About the only CW connections with the route are that it goes through Little Five Points, which was at the northern end of the Battle of Atlanta (at just about the Cyclorama viewpoint), where Cheatham's assault hit. Also, it loops through downtown Decatur, where Wheeler's cavalry attempted to destroy McPherson's supply trains.

Course Map (click for larger version)
elevation graph
Elevation Map (notice all the little wavy parts)

At the kickoff dinner (pasta party) for the marathon, we were in a handful of people from the Silicon Valley and Monterey Bay Chapter of TNT, versus about 100 Georgians. The pasta at the Omni Hotel was excellent and overly plentiful—these Southerners take carb loading more seriously than we do at home. I was astonished to be called up for special recognition as the #1 fund raiser for our chapter. (I raised about $300 more than my minimum, which in California gets you a nod and a plastic license plate frame, but apparently the other 6 or 7 who flew in didn't even hit that milestone, so I walked off with a round of applause and a big bag of goodies!) We sat next to an honoree (they refer to them here as "honored heroes") named Don Armstrong and he was the main speaker of the evening, telling his story about AML, multiple chemos, stem cell transplants, etc. He's currently on a mission to run 10 TNT events this year and raise $500,000! An awesome achievement. Here's his website in case you'd like to help him out:

We also heard a humorous pep talk from one of the GA coaches. He emphasized the importance of salt and suggested that we could lick one of the more attractive runners we come upon if we don't carry our own salt. I'll have to say that our California coaches look like Adonises compared to these folks. :-)

I'm getting ready for uncertain weather tomorrow. It may shower or thunderstorm during at least part of the race. Wish me luck...

Sunday, March 21 — The Race

I'm back from the race and I did pretty well. Considering the threat of rain, cold weather, and lots of hills, it could have been a disaster. But I ran a reasonably strong race and finished with 5:41:50, not my best, but certainly not the worst. I placed 28th in my age group. I did not hit the "wall" as I have done in some previous efforts—the last couple of miles were fatiguing, of course, but they did not require specific mental effort to move each leg each step. I was pleased that I was able to run all the hills without unscheduled walking (I do run/walk intervals of 4/1 minutes and some of the scheduled walking did coincide with some hills). Actually, somehow the hills weren't as bad as them seemed in the car yesterday. The uphills were moderate and the downhills were a frequent treat. The weather reports were all mixed up. We got a few minutes of sprinklery showers in the first hour, but none of the promised thunderstorms later in the morning. It seemed pretty cold and my muscles were rather tight in the first half. The final couple of miles brought a cold, stiff headwind protecting the finish line.

group crowd sign
Californians ready to run 16,000 people at the start At MLK Jr Historic Site

Starting at 7am, 40 minutes before dawn, it took me 11 minutes to reach the starting line. They marched us off to corrals based on time estimates and I thought we'd reach Chattanooga before I finally got to my assigned spot. The race course was very convoluted to avoid big hills and to steer us by interesting sights. It was a very scenic race. Some highlights were the Martin Luther King, Jr, Historic Site, where the minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church waved to us all as we passed. Little Five Points added a taste of CW history. Decatur was all decked out with dozens of roadside sign displays, just like 1930s Burma Shave ads, with cute little poems about the race. A very nice touch. (One I remembered was at Agnes Scott College: Turn right here. For Agnes Scott. Intelligent girls. Are really hot. Decatur!) Druid Hills in miles 16-19 was one of the hillier districts, but lots of beautiful homes distracted us from the terrain. Emerging from Prospect Park around mile 23, we got an impressive panorama of the downtown skyline. We ran through a number of college campuses: GA State, Agnes Scott, Emory, and GA Tech. Coach Megan and Captain Rich (from the South Bay team) ran about 2-3 miles with me, something that really helps to keep me motivated, particularly near the end. And, considering the marginally unpleasant weather, there were a lot of friendly bystanders out cheering us on.

street mansion skyline
Little Five Points (part of Battle of Atlanta) Mansion in Druid Hills Skyline from Prospect Park

After the finish I suffered the same phenomenon as in previous marathons. I'm running and walking briskly for 26.2 miles, and then I stop for 10 seconds and I almost cannot walk at all! It was quite an ordeal to get back to our hotel across the street. Instead of an ice bath (our room did not have a bathtub) I dipped waist-deep in the hotel pool—outdoor, unheated, and very cold. Sunday night we drove to The Palm, my favorite steakhouse, for a mini-celebration. On the way back we drove through a violent rain- and hailstorm, so I was lucky during the day. Running in that would have been sheer misery. Monday we flew back to San Francisco and my recovery has been going pretty well.

All in all, a very positive experience. I have made it a policy not to repeat marathons, so I won't return to Atlanta, but I would recommend it to other runners. It's well organized, a little challenging, and the course is very interesting.

Google Earth Race Simulation

Google Earth logo

I recorded Global Positioning System (GPS) data with my Garmin Forerunner 205 watch during the race. By opening the resulting data file in the Google Earth application (which can be downloaded here for free), you can display the race course using aerial photographs and simulated 3-D terrain and buildings. There is a Play button that follows the course of the race as if you were flying over it in a low altitude aircraft. Really cool. (Note: If you see a number of Lap markers in the map, this is because of my run-walk strategy. After running four minutes, I walk for one minute and repeat. Each of these events shows up as a single "lap," so there are well over 100 laps in a marathon by this reckoning. For some reason, this race's data does not automatically generate the fly-over simulation that my previous races did. To get this effect, go to the Tools --> Options menu in Google Earth, and in the Touring tab, select the "Fly along lines" checkbox. By the way, the GPS data recorded in downtown areas is a little flaky, so it seems like I'm drunkenly weaving back and forth, but I actually run like a straight arrow!)

The Google Earth file for this race is here.

Weekly Training Schedule

Here is the table of weekly activities for our training, the same as previous seasons.

Monday Cross training (30-60 minutes walking, swimming, or aerobics and weights at the gym)
Tuesday Track workout under coaches' supervision (90 minutes). A few weeks of core strengthening, a few of "dynamic drills," then mostly intervals, pacing runs, and hills/bleachers, generally 3-4 miles total.
Wednesday Cross training
Thursday Buddy runs: easy runs with a group at a conversational pace. Early in the season they are in the 3-5 mile range, later they get to 5-7.
Friday Rest, stretching
(1) Distance run in scenic places, starting at 4-6 miles and increasing 2 miles every other week until you're finally at 20 miles. (2) On Your Own (OYO) runs, although group running is encouraged. Starts at 4-6 miles, progresses through the season to 6-8.
Sunday Rest, stretching

Workout Log

Here's the training I have accomplished so far. I do not include Monday/Wednesday cross training or Thursday buddy runs in this list because they're pretty regular, as described in the table above. I am going to try to include more photographs this season because I now carry my iPhone with its built-in camera.

Sat, March 6: Last long run of the season. Twelve miles at Sawyer Camp, at the edge of Crystal Springs Reservoir. This is a beautiful run that is flat as a pancake for almost 5 miles, but then it starts steeply uphill for a mile until the turn around. So it was a pretty good workout, although I had no trouble with the distance. Since the Napa runners are racing tomorrow, the turnout for this final run was very small. The coaches advertised it as "Hal's Run" because in theory I was the only one who was expected to do it as part of official training. Regina, who is running in the Boston Marathon, was also there and beat the pants off me, as usual.

Thu, March 4: A sad day for me. My father died today. I put his name on the back of my running shirt and I'll be thinking of him during the race.

Tue, March 2: No track tonight. We had a sendoff party for the Napa and Atlanta runners (I being the only one in the latter category) at Armadillo Willy's.

Sat, February 27: An OYO run. I did two loops of Campus Drive at Stanford, just short of 8 miles.

Tue, February 23: Another easy track workout, although the first of the season for me in which there was significant rainfall. We did six repetitions of 200m with 200m active recovery. Then we did another big Indian relay for a mile. We were all pretty cold and wet by the end. This was our last track workout of the season!

Sat, February 20: The longest run of the season, 20 miles in San Francisco. A loop around Lake Merced (4 miles), then 6 miles up to the eastern end of Golden Gate Park—which includes 2+ miles up a gradual hill—then back down and another lake loop. Nice cool weather, perfect conditions. I did pretty well, although not too fast—a 4.7 mph pace. Breakfast afterward at John's Ocen Beach Cafe, where I managed to allow my iPhone to slip out of my pocket and get lost, a $600 mistake. Argh.

Tue, February 16: Track was once again pretty easy because the Napa marathoners are tapering. (I have over a month before Atlanta.) We (wave 1) did 6 reps of 400/200 and then 8 of 200/200 (fast, 85% of max, then active recovery).

Sat, February 13: I did an 8-mile OYO at Shoreline Park in Mountain View.

Tue, February 9: At track tonight, something happened that I do not recall in my six seasons of TNT—we reverted back to dynamic drills! (Usually, the sixth or seventh track workout is the last we see of them.) Wow, I exercised some muscles that had not been exercised for over a month! We did four or five repetitions of all of them (other than the dreaded walking lunges) in conjunction with full laps, and then finished up by doing 1 mile of Indian relays. In those relays, you run in single file and the person at the back quickly runs to take position in the front and you keep rotating. Unlike previous seasons, where we did this in groups of five or six, tonight we did it with about a dozen people.

Sun, February 7: Saturday was the dreaded Woodside town hall run, which would have been particularly bad given the rainy conditions and the rocky, muddy hillsides. So I took a break from that and ran the Kaiser half marathon in San Francisco instead. This was my third running of the event and my good luck in attracting excellent weather held once again. It was a beautiful day and I had a good time running, for at least the first 12.5 miles. The course is substantially downhill or flat, but the last stretch is up a gradual hill, so I sort of petered out just before the finish line. My time was not stellar—2:33:44 (5087 out 6080 finishers)—but it was a training run that felt pretty good and I had a very quick recovery. The race results are here. (In the map below, note that it's not to scale. The leg down the Great Highway and back was actually half of the course. And thanks to Hang Cheng for taking the two pictures of me on the course!) After the race, I got a ride home with Connie and Patricia and we ate breakfast at the Squat & Gobble in SF's West Portal district.

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Connie and Patricia, breakfast friends after the race    

Tue, February 2: It was an easy day at track because many of my team members were getting set to run the Kaiser SF half marathon on Sunday, so they were "tapering" and the rest of us took advantage of it. We did six repetitions of 800 m in a relay format, using three person teams, which resulted in a three minute rest between each 800.

Sat, January 30: Today was an On Your Own weekend run of 6-8 miles. I did my 8 in two loops of Campus Drive at Stanford. Nice weather for a change and I ran pretty well at 5.1 mph.

Tue, January 26: The track workout was "stadiums" (should be stadia) again. This time we doubled the amount of bleacher stairs by not alternating up and down (which meant that each repetition was about 120 steps up, 120 steps down), but did recovery runs of only 300 m (three quarters of a lap) between each. Six repetitions. Then we did six repetitions of 200 m fast, followed by 200 m active recovery.

Sat, January 23: Not a good week for running! It rained most of the week. My father broke his hip and I missed both Tuesday track and the Thursday buddy run dealing with the consequences of that. (He's recovering now, slowly.) Saturday was the long run and I wasn't fully prepared. We did 16 miles (although my GPS said it was about 15.5) on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. I assumed that this would be an easy, flat run because I did it last year. However, this time we started with a loop up to the dam at the Lexington Reservoir, which meant the first approximately 2 miles was uphill and there were two relatively significant hills, both of which slowed me to a walk. (And the downhill return trip was slowed by slippery surfaces.) That was the bad start and then the cold, damp weather kept my muscles pretty tight and I was rather exhausted by about mile 12.

view view
Lexington Reservoir Vasona Lake

Sat, January 16: This weekend was an easy OYO run of 4 to 8 miles. I did 7.75 on Alameda and Woodside Road, returning via Edgewood Road.

Tue, January 12: Track tonight continued on the hill theme by doing bleacher repeats. Our wave ran six repetitions of 800 m and each two laps of the track included running up and down the all the stairs on the bleachers. (The fast runners, wave three, did 10 repetitions!) A bit tiring, but not overwhelming. We were very lucky to avoid rain because it had been forecast all day.

Sat, January 9: Today's group run was at the Stanford Dish in Portola Valley. We started off with 1.2 miles completely flat and then had a little over 5 miles completely in hills. (The Stanford Dish site is where we do the hill training during the summer season, so it is pretty severe.) Then we went back to the starting point and did another out and back to achieve 8, 10, 12, or 14 miles. For various reasons, I had never run more than 12 miles on this course in previous seasons and I assumed that the final 2 miles would be like their predecessors -- more of a a gently rising road. I was really wrong. A good part of thw mile before the turnaround was relatively steep dirt trails. I really got a workout. Because of all of these hills, I ran pretty slowly, at over a 13 minute per mile pace. And my legs felt like Jell-O at the end. But the weather was pretty good and the scenery beautiful, so it was a good day.

hilly scene hilly scene dish
hilly scene dish in distance

Tue, January 5: Another day at the track of doing 800 meter intervals--six repetitions of 800 m followed by 400 m active recovery. These are called Yasso 800s and they can be used to predict your marathon times if you can run a number of them with a constant pace. Last season they were very effective. I ran them consistently at 5 minutes and 20 seconds and, as predicted, my marathon time was 5 hours and 20 minutes. Today my constant 800 time was about 5 minutes and 5 seconds, although I have to discount that a little bit because I was in a lane at on the track that was a bit shorter than I recall using last season.

Sat, January 2, 2010: Happy New Year! The group run was at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. Despite some pretty heavy fog at home, to my surprise the coast was sunny and delightful. It was a 12 mile run, two of which in the middle were the infamous uneven trails where I broke my ankle in 2008, so I was especially careful and ran pretty slowly in that stretch. But otherwise it was a great training run.

coastal vista harbor horses
Windswept vistas Pillar Point Harbor around sunrise Sharing the trail

Tue, December 29: Track was all intervals today. A mile warmup (including one gratuitous lap of butt kicking and low skips) and then my wave did six repetitions of 800m with 400m active recovery. Rain was expected tonight, but we lucked out. The track was a bit puddly, though.

Sat, December 26: OYO run, 4-6 miles, so I did another easy 5.2 on Edgewood Road down to San Carlos.

Tue, December 22: Track was more dynamic drills—see December 8. This week the holiday caused us to gang up the track sessions, so the Burlingame was here wih us. The weather is holding out pretty well this season, pretty cool, but dry.

North/Mid-Pen + South Bay teams at the Baylands
Baylands, Palo Alto
Breakfast buffet at Whisman Park
Stretching before the Sawyer Camp run

Sat, December 19: The group run was at the Baylands nature preserve in Palo Alto, on a moderately chilly, overcast day—perfect running weather. Both our team (North and Mid-Peninsula) and the South Bay team ran together, which meant it was a pretty large group of people. The goal was 10 miles, but the course as marked was actually 10.5 according to my GPS watch. I ran it well at a 5 mph pace, bothered only by my eyeglasses fogging up pretty seriously. A lady brought a cheesecake for us to share tiny bites at the end!

Tue, December 15: Track was more of the dynamic drills (see Dec. 8), but we got some 400m laps sprinkled in between. I expected some rain, but lucked out and the weather was pretty moderate for December.

Sat, December 12: OYO run today, 4-6 miles, so I did 5.2 on Edgewood Road in my neighborhood. My first rainy run of the season (but after the Napa Marathon last March, I have no fear of that any more).

Tue, December 8: I have had a really bad formal start of the season, missing the first three track workouts. I just spent five days in Tennessee on a Civil War excursion (read about it here if you are interested), so I also missed the 8 mile group run on December 5. Therefore, this was the first track workout of the season for me and I found that I missed all of the core strength exercises (planks, lunges, push-ups, etc.) Fortunately, I know all of these exercises from previous seasons. Track tonight was "dynamic drills," including toe walking, sidestepping, grapevines, walking lunges, low and high skipping, and backward running (more like backward fast walking for me). Each of these was included in a lap of the track and we did the exercise on the straightaway and recovery pace jogging on the curves. It was really cold tonight!

Sat, November 28: This has been a difficult week for scheduled running activities. I had a personal conflict for the Tuesday night track workout and Thanksgiving got in the way of the buddy runs on Thursday. So for my Saturday OYO run, I decided I needed to put in a bit more effort than the recommended 4-6 miles. I ran north from Oracle in Redwood Shores along the Bay Trail and did an out and back of 13.1 miles (the distance of a half marathon race). I did not find it too difficult, although I did not run it at a stellar half marathon pace.

Sat, November 21: Our second group run was at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, starting from Whisman Park. I ran 8 miles at a 11:22 pace, which is relatively fast for me. It was cold, but sunny—a good run. We finished up with a bountiful breakfast buffet provided by the captains and mentors. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate milk, which is an excellent beverage for post run recovery.

Tue, November 17: Today was my 60th birthday, so I decided to take a break from exercise and didn't attend track, which was the first day of static drills (core strength exercises).

Sat, November 14: Our first training run was at Sawyer Camp, on the edge of Crystal Springs Reservoir. A very scenic and pleasant run. Our goal was 2 to 6 miles and I got my money's worth by going 6 (it actually worked out to 6.2, or 10K). I ran pretty well, averaging an 11:33 pace. We had a little bit of rain on the run, but after my six hours of running in the rain during the Napa Marathon, I am now quite used to it. :-) I ran part of the way with one of our new coaches, Cam Worsham (husband of Ellen, our team manager last season), and found that both he and I were veterans of the Ninth Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Mon, November 9: Kickoff meeting in San Jose. In preparation for the season, I am gradually returning to a weekly schedule as I recover from Victoria. My first gym cross-training was October 16 and a short run on October 19. I worked up to 8 miles on an easy run, plus 7 on Canada Rd, with hills. This season we had a new team manager, Jennifer Norris, and two new coaches.

I just found out that I have a second broken bone! Last season I tripped and fell during a run at Stanford, taking the force of my fall on my left hand. After 6-7 weeks and continued discomfort, I went to an orthopedic doctor and found that I have a small fracture of the scaphoid. He did not recommend that I do anything about it, but suggested that if I am still having problems next year, he can perform surgery. Here is an x-ray I found on the web (not my hand) that shows the location of the break. I've also put another copy of my broken fibula from 2008 for your amusement. I've run three full marathons on that one!

xray bones
Scaphoid break Fibula (mine is actually the left ankle)