Training with TNT for the 2012 Oakland Marathon


This is my log of training for the Oakland Marathon, which I completed on March 25, 2012. Once again I signed up with Team in Training (TNT), which raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by providing training opportunities for wannabe-athletes such as myself.

This was my tenth season with TNT (previously a half marathon in San Francisco and fulls in Portland, San Francisco, Napa, Victoria BC, Atlanta, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chattanooga/Chickamauga) and I welcome anyone who would like to make a repeat donation to a great cause! Visit my fundraising page to make a donation if you can. (Or hold your contribution and come back in May to see my new fall fundraising page.) Thanks!

Oakland Marathon

Sun, Mar 25: I had a slow, but successful experience in the Oakland Marathon. Since this race did not involve travel to any exotic location, my report will be relatively brief and omit some of the touristy information I typically give. I was rather concerned about the weather, watching four Internet weather services, all of which showed pretty nasty weather, as late as 5 AM on race day. However, the racing gods were on our side and we could not ask for better weather. Cold and overcast for the first few hours, and then partly cloudy and still pretty chilly. (As we were driving home, we got into some significant rain.)

There were supposedly 8500 people in the third annual Oakland Running Festival, but this was spread over three events and the full marathon had only about 1500 runners--nice and cozy. (Only 926 finished.) I had expected heavy traffic driving to Oakland, but there was virtually no one on the streets 30 min. before race time, 7:30 AM. We visited a number of areas in Oakland I had never seen before, some attractive and suburban, others rather gritty. But if there were any evildoers about, they were probably sleeping late on Sunday. And there was a police car at virtually every intersection along the route. All the logistics worked very well and there were more than ample water stops. One oddity was that there were supposed to be 14 bands along the route for our entertainment, but perhaps many of them were impatient at my slow pace and I only encountered three. But there were lots and lots of friendly neighborhood people on the sidewalks cheering for us. Nancy managed to maneuver around the course and meet me four times!

map elevation map
Course map (click to enlarge) Elevation, as measured by my GPS watch

The course was mostly uphill for 11 miles, although the elevation chart that I show here is quite exaggerated in the vertical axis, and most of the uphills were pretty gradual. The big downhill that started at the Mormon Temple was brutal, though. I thank goodness that it was not raining, because that would've been a really treacherous stretch. After that, most of the course was virtually flat. There were lots of TNT supporters on hand, including 15 coaches, and I got to run with Coach Cam for miles 8-9 and Coach Deb for 20-26. That really was a godsend for me, because I usually spend the last 6 miles of a race bemoaning my stupidity and wondering how I ever decided to run another of these terrible events. But running at a conversational pace and conversing kept my mind free from such negative thoughts. Coach Al told us yesterday that Lake Merritt would look bigger than it ever looked before, and he sure was right. The end of the race looked completely doable when I saw a little corner of it, but then I turned around a bend and saw the full size. It looked frickin' enormous.

My overall time was 5:52, which is really pretty poor even by my standards (I think it was my fourth slowest marathon out of 10), but I never hit the wall and never experienced any sort of distress, such as I did in my two previous efforts. My problem with back pain did not recur, and this was either the result of more core strength exercises during training and/or my decision to take along a couple of ibuprofen, which I ingested at mile 15 as a precaution. The official race results amused me by classifying me in the Female 60-64 group. I got an AgeGrade result of 53.7%, which I assume is artificially inflated by the classification error. Once again, I trailed in in the bottom 10% of finishers overall. (A lady in the finishing area handing out bagels mildly annoyed me by referring to us as "stragglers.")

So it was a successful day for me and I really appreciate all the effort that the TNT staff went to to train me and support me during the race. I will most likely be doing another marathon in the fall. I have applied for the New York City lottery again this year, but if that is not successful I will need to find something else. (One of the choices to the TNT runners in the fall is the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, which is a really great race, but I have decided that at my advanced age I will not duplicate any marathons.)

Nancy and I both took some photographs with iPhones. Hers were with the old iPhone 3GS, so they aren't too good.

start truck
The modestly crowded starting line An interesting vehicle I encountered along the way. Unfortunately, this photo does not show the dramatic flames coming out of the horse's nose or the flames from the torches above.
temple hill
Nancy took this while waiting for me at the Mormon Temple This is the start of the brutal downhill stretch
dragon runners
The residents of Chinatown greeted us Coach Deb encouraged me, miles 20-26
One of the stragglers at the finish

Google Earth Race Simulation

Google Earth logo

I recorded Global Positioning System (GPS) data with my Garmin Forerunner 610 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 Tour button that follows the course of the race as if you were flying over it in a low altitude aircraft. Really cool. The Google Earth file for this race is here.

TNT Training

Here is the place for a lot of information about my TNT training program. I started posting my log in December. While I waited for the season to start, I recovered from my experience at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, running 6–10 miles at a time, about three times per week.

Near the Atlanta finish line,
March 2010

Sat, Mar 24: Tomorrow is the big race! Nancy and I drove to Oakland for the TNT "inspiration lunch" (pasta party) and had a very good meal. There were speeches from two honorees and also from the famous East Bay coach, Al, who had some amusing lines. The best was "You will be running tomorrow in places you will not be able to visit on Monday." :-) There will be 128 TNT runners in the race tomorrow, but only about a table's worth from our chapter. Then it was over to the convention center at the Marriott Hotel for the Expo. We followed some people into a big line and waited about 40 min. before we realized we were in the wrong place, something to do with sign-ups for Golden State Warriors jazzercize. Sigh. The actual Expo was a lot more efficient than that. The freebie was not the usual T-shirt, but a thin fleece pullover that feels like it is made of dryer lint. Wish me luck! We'll probably get some showers tomorrow.

Tue, Mar 20: At track tonight, they went easy on the Oakland runners, who are in taper. We did some relatively easy dynamic drills and then four repetitions of 600/200 intervals, followed by five repetitions of 200/200.

Sat, Mar 17: I'm sorry to say that I missed track on Tuesday. There was a nontrivial rainstorm going on and I didn't want to risk getting sick this close to the race. Today was supposed to be the long run on Cañada Road in Woodside, but when I arrived I found that the coaches thought the trail was too muddy, so they moved the operation to Sawyer Camp, at Crystal Springs reservoir. I did 10.5 miles on the mostly flat course, at a 11:38 pace. I was expecting some rain, but lucked out. The only negative aspect was a giant puddle about 4 inches deep and 50 yards wide that could not be avoided. Luckily I brought my old shoes instead of the ones that I will be using for the race.

Sat, Mar 10: My on-my-own run was on Cañada Road, a rather hilly course. I did 7.5 miles at an 11:29 pace.

Tue, Mar 6: Track tonight continued the pattern throughout the season: dynamic drills, core strength, and intervals. The core strength was particularly challenging, with coach Cam introducing a push-up/sit-up "pyramid." With a partner, one did a situp, while the partner held down the other's feet and did a partial situp. Then we reversed roles. Then we repeated, with two repetitions, three repetitions, etc., up to 10, and then back down to one. I gave up in exhaustion at about halfway, but those who completed the exercise wound up doing 100 situps and 100 partial push-ups! Aargh! It was quite an escalation from previous weeks. The intervals were eight repetitions of 400/200.

Sat, Mar 3: The long run was at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. A long loop through Golden Gate Park (including the Panhandle), Great Highway, around Lake Merced, and back. I was targeting 20 miles, but was able to do only 18.61, at a moderate pace of 12:24. It was certainly a beautiful day, very un-winter like, with brilliant sunshine (I should have used sunblock!) and temperatures reaching the 60s. This will be the last really long run before the Oakland marathon.

Tue, Feb 28: Track this week was more core, dynamic drills, and intervals--five repetitions of 600/200, and then three 200/200.

Sat, Feb 25: It was an on your own weekend and I did 7.5 miles in two loops of Campus Drive at Stanford, with a 11:09 pace.

Tue, Feb 21: Tonight at track we did the exercise called "stadiums," in which we run up and down the bleacher stairs and then do active recovery around the track. I did six repetitions, which amounted to 54 flights of stairs, the equivalent of running to the top of San Francisco's Bank of America tower (55 stories) and down. Brutal, but I'm very proud to say that I completed it.

Sat, Feb 18: We had our long group run in Portola Valley. For the first time in 10 seasons, we did not run up the hill to the Stanford dish as part of this run. Coach Terry apparently decided that the races we are training for will not be hill centric. The course was primarily on rolling hill trails along Alpine Road and Portola Road and very little of it was completely flat. I had a very disappointing performance, starting to become fatigued after 6 miles, suffering from rather dramatic speed losses. I did 16 miles at a 13:41 pace; I was supposed to go 18 but apparently I took a wrong turn on the course somewhere.

Tue, Feb 14: Not a lot of people showed up on Valentine's Day for track. But once again it was static and dynamic drills and some intervals--four repetitions of 800/400.

Sat, Feb 11: The long run was on your own this weekend. Conforming to guidance from the coaches, I kept my mileage down for recovery: 4.66 miles at 11:37. This course on Alameda has one big hill, so I didn't completely slack off.

Tue, Feb 7: Track tonight was static and dynamic drills and some intervals--eight repetitions of 400/200.

Sat, Feb 4: The long run was at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. Once again the beautiful weather prevailed and it was a great run. However, I was annoyed to find that my GPS watch had not been recharging correctly so I started with a low battery, which meant that I could not use the GPS functionality or my run/walk interval alerts. My pace was quite erratic and ended up at 12:14. This was the course on which I broke my ankle a few years ago, so I treaded pretty carefully in the 4 miles out of the 14 that were rather rough trails.

Tue, Jan 31: Track tonight was static and dynamic drills and some intervals--five repetitions of 600/200.

Sat, Jan 28: I missed Tuesday track because of a car maintenance problem. Today was an on your own run and I did 5 miles up the hill on Alameda. 11:29 pace.

Sat, Jan 21: Our weekend long run started in Pacifica and headed south along the coast. We were all concerned about the weather because a big storm came through Friday night and there was a good chance of rain showers Saturday morning. However the weather gods smiled on us, and although it was very windy on the coast, we had very good running weather, with no rain. My timing was pretty bad--12:19 pace--because there were some significant steep hills on the course. Those of us doing 12 miles got to do each of the hills twice. :-(

Tue, Jan 17: Tonight at track we had a coach from the East Bay who gave us information about racewalking and we have a little competition to walk the fastest over two laps. Last season I won this competition on an age-adjusted basis, so we'll see how I did this year.

Sat, Jan 14: Today was an on your own long run and I did 8 miles in a couple of loops of the Stanford Campus Drive, 11:00 pace. I keep a spreadsheet of the amount of running I do and today I went over 108 miles for the season. Two and a half months to go…

Tue, Jan 10: Tonight we skipped the track workout for the Cause for Celebration meeting in Palo Alto, where we had some light snacks and heard a speech from a Stanford medical researcher about his work, which has been funded by LLS. I have to say that it was completely incomprehensible.

Sat, Jan 7: Our weekend long run was at Seal Point Park in San Mateo, running up and down the flat course along the bay. The weather was beautiful and I ran pretty well, 8 miles at an average pace of 10:42, about 5.6 mph!

Tue, Jan 3: Track was the same as last week: static, core exercises, and dynamic drills, but we also added 4 repetitions of 200/200s (200 m running, 200 active recovery).

Sat, Dec 31: It was an on your own weekend with a target of 2-4 miles. I did 7.7 by running two loops of the Stanford Campus Drive. Beautiful, cool running weather. 11:00 pace, 5.5 mph.

Tue, Dec 27: The track workout between the holidays was very sparsely attended tonight, only about a dozen hardy folks. It was pretty chilly again. Tonight we did both static, core exercises, and dynamic drills.

Sat, Dec 24: Christmas Eve! I ran 5 miles on my own, 11:24 pace, 5.3 mph.

Tue, Dec 20: Track was the same as Dec 13, dynamic drills.

Sat, Dec 17: Our second long run was at Stanford, which was a first for me in 10 seasons of TNT. We did a single loop of Campus Drive and then around the stadium, for a total of 5.9 miles. I guess they are taking pity on us before the holidays because this is the first time I can remember in which the mileage did not increase from one long run to the next. I did this at a pace more characteristic of my fitness—10:41, about 5.6 mph.

Tue, Dec 13: Our first track workout was dynamic drills—skipping, walking lunges, side-by-sides, and grapevines. Pretty cold out there at Stanford in the dark.

Sat, Dec 10: Our first group workout (long run) was at Sawyer Camp, Crystal Springs Reservoir. I ran remarkably fast (for me)--10:14 pace, over 5.8 mph! It was a beautiful, cold day, and a very flat course, out and back. Afterward we had a potluck breakfast provided by our mentors.

Sat, Dec 3: I attended our kickoff meeting at the Santa Clara Marriott. We had some moving speeches about cancer victims and a pep talk about the season to come. The team does not seem to be very large this season—we were almost overwhelmed by the support staff. The surprising news is that the team has already fund-raised $11,000! I was disappointed that the suits have redesigned our running T-shirts. The old colorful logo with the giant word TEAM has now been replaced with a very minimalist design. Oh well, I do not expected to slow me down. :-)

Weeky 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.