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Training with TNT for the 2015 Vancouver BC Half Marathon

Hal at the starting line

This is my page about training for the Vancouver BC Marathon, May 3, 2015, 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 is my 16th season with TNT (previously a half marathon in San Francisco and fulls in Portland, San Francisco, Napa, Victoria BC, Atlanta, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chattanooga/Chickamauga, Oakland, Richmond VA, San Luis Obispo CA [twice], New York City, and Chicago).

I was recently been diagnosed with a broken toe and, although it is mostly healed up, I decided to slow down my training this season and I ran the half marathon in Vancouver. I am hopeful that this problem will be vanquished in time for me to do a full marathon next season.

Vancouver Half Marathon

Here is my log of the race weekend in Vancouver. See here for my training log before the race.

Friday, May 1

Nancy and I flew from San Francisco on United Airlines, arriving in Vancouver late in the afternoon. It was surprising to see that the airport was almost completely deserted. We took a taxi to the Loden Hotel downtown. (The TNT bureaucracy wanted way too much money for staying in the official hotel, the Marriott a couple of blocks away, plus I did not want to hassle with making separate reservations to stay longer than the official time offered by TNT.) We attempted to visit two waterfront restaurants, but they were packed on a Friday night, so we walked along Robson St, which we learned was known as the Rodeo Drive of Vancouver, finally stopping for a hamburger at Red Robin.

A dramatic sculpture greeting us at YVR Movie shoot viewed from our hotel window

While we were in Vancouver we ran into movie/television production a couple of times; there is a big film industry here and Vancouver masquerades as many other more expensive cities. We saw one from our hotel room in which they were doing some sort of a snow scene. I'm not sure how they kept the snow from melting.

Saturday

We attended the Expo at the convention center at the waterfront, picking up my bib and T-shirt, the latter of which was not offered in my 2XL size, so I hope the Salvation Army likes it. (My impression of Vancouver is that most of the residents are skinny and fit, so I guess XXL is just too alien for them.) That afternoon we took a tour on the local hop-on, hop-off bus, over two hours to make a large circuit of the city. The only time we hopped off was at Granville Island for lunch. It has a very vibrant and interesting market, as well as lots of arts and craft stores and restaurants. The 4-acre market itself was really packed, and since we could not find a place to sit down, we had lunch at a café near by. Interesting sights on the rest of the bus tour included Stanley Park, English Bay, Yaletown, and Gastown. We had the traditional TNT Inspiration dinner at the Marriott, which was the typical affair with pasta, chicken breasts, and a few semi-inspirational speeches. (I was a bit disappointed with the speeches this season because they focused more on top fundraisers than they did on the race experience or on leukemia/lymphoma.)

Granville Island, under a bridge

Sunday

Race day! It was a seven block walk to the Metro, which offered fast service to the King Edward station. To my surprise, the trains were not nearly crowded. Once we got out, it was a half mile walk to the starting line, but unfortunately this mileage didn't count toward the race. :-) It was an unusual start because the half marathon race began at 7 AM, 90 minutes before the full. I stood around for an hour, using a disposable space blanket, which kept me comfortable in the chilly early morning. The weather was beautiful all day, sunny and cool, perfect running weather.

We were arranged in wave starts, so although there were only 7500 people for the half, I was not allowed to reach the starting line until 7:15. The course began with three miles downhill on Cambie St, which I am not really used to and I ran faster than I probably should have to start off. The course went through Yaletown, Chinatown, some downtown, English Bay, the interior of Stanley Park, and finally the seawall/waterfront back to downtown. There were lots of TNT coaches on the course: Hang, Erin, Meghan, and three others ran with me briefly. This, of course, is one of the great benefits of running the race with TNT. Since we were in a foreign country, my iPhone was not all that useful without incurring large data charges, and since we could not coordinate effectively, Nancy did not meet me on the course until the end. Usually she meets me in a few places to give me encouragement, particularly when hitting the wall in a full marathon, but that was not necessary this time. My time was 2:33:11, which was a tad slower than I wanted to achieve (and 15 minutes more than my half PR), but at least I didn't end up in the bottom ten percent as I often do.

Starting line Beautiful view down Cambie Street
Across False Creek Lions Gate Bridge from the seawall
View of downtown from the seawall

Google Earth Race Simulation

Google Earth logo

I recorded Global Positioning System (GPS) data with my Garmin Forerunner 220 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. 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.

Recovery

It was a blissfully easy recovery, and I was not mentally impaired, as I usually am after a full marathon. We watched the marathon winner from our hotel window, and I was surprised to see that he did not appear noticeably faster than the slow half marathoners trudging in after four hours. (Since he finished in 2:21 or so, he obviously ran a lot faster earlier in the race.) After a shower, we took a half mile walk through the Coal Harbor district for a harbor cruise on a cute paddle wheel boat. There were lots of beautiful downtown views as well as the port, seeing containers loading, and North Vancouver, the Lions Gate Bridge, and Stanley Park. There was a mother goose building her nest on the dock, in an old rowboat filled with dirt. She was surprisingly unperturbed by everyone going right up to her taking photographs. We had drinks at the Marriott bar with two dozen TNTers, and were pleased to hear that all their races went well. Dinner at the Cactus Club Cafe, which has a pretty decent modern menu including a Peking Duck club sandwich.

Full marathon winner, about a block from the finish Mother Goose
Downtown from the paddlewheel boat One of many seaplanes taking off
Cruise terminal Piles of sulfur
Panorama of downtown
Panorama of North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Stanley Park

Monday

We took a free shuttle bus to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver. In addition to the famous 450-foot suspension bridge, there is an elevated boardwalk through the trees that was very reminiscent of the Ewok planet in Star Wars, and a dramatic walk on the side of a cliff. There was a guided nature lecture/walk, of which the highlight was visiting a banana slug up close, but we also learned a lot about the local trees. I am certainly glad that I did not do this excursion after running a full marathon. The footing on the suspension bridge was pretty shaky and there was a lot of climbing up and down throughout the park.

Historical center at the suspension bridge Our nature walk guide
Banana slug Nancy on the bridge
River below Aerial boardwalk
Cliff walk Cliff walk
Like Ewok planet Hal on the bridge

In the afternoon we signed up for a Gourmet Foodie Tour. This was a group of eight that walked around to five local venues for a narrated selection of bites and sips. We had dim sum at Kirin restaurant; fancy supermarket (Urban Fare, like Whole Foods) bites with Akanagan wine samples; a slider, salmon sushi, and ginger margarita at Jean-George Vongerichten's restaurant; a pulled pork sandwich and craft beer at Hubbub; and finally a selection at Bella Gelateria, which the locals bill as best in world because they won a competition in Italy a few years ago.

Our foodie tour guide recommended the seafood at Miku, so we visited there for dinner. Excellent sushi and beautiful views of the waterfront, although a bit loud. We enjoyed Bella so much that we had dessert there on the way back to the hotel.

Tuesday

Today we had scattered rain showers. When we signed up for the bus tour on Saturday, we got a two day ticket, which was probably a mistake, but it's a good thing to do on a rainy day and this time we had much better narration. We hopped off at Gastown, which is the oldest part of the city. We found a great Neapolitan pizza place called Nicli, and once again stop for gelato on the way home.

We flew back to San Francisco and got home about 7 PM. It was a great experience in Vancouver and I will seriously consider returning someday for the full marathon, now that my toe has healed. My next marathon is actually going to be Richmond, Virginia, in November.

TNT Training

Weekly Training Schedule

Here is the table of weekly activities for our training.

Monday Cross training (50–75 minutes walking, swimming, or aerobics and weights at the gym), including core strength
Tuesday 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 with a number of hill repeat sessions mixed in.
Wednesday Cross training and core strength
Thursday Track workout under coaches' supervision (90 minutes). Mostly intervals, pacing runs, and hills/bleachers, generally 3–5 miles total, preceded by dynamic stretching, dynamic drills, and concluding with core strength exercises.
Friday Rest, stretching, core strength
Saturday
Alternate
(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 2–4 miles, progresses through the season to 6-10.
Sunday Rest, stretching, core strength

Workout Log

Here's the training I accumulated prior to the race.

Sat, Apr 25: Track on Thursday was deliberately easy as we are in taper mode. We did a two-person relay for 2 miles each, attempting to guess what our combined finish time would be without looking at our watches. I misestimated my time because I neglected to realize that there were very extensive rest periods after each 800 m, so my partner and I came in three minutes under estimate. No prize for us. But we didn't have to do any core strength exercises. The weekend run was a short on your own. I did 5 miles in the neighborhood at an 11:42 pace. My season mileage is 341. The Vancouver Half Marathon is next weekend!

Sat, April 18: I did not attend the track on Thursday because I gave a speech to a Civil War Roundtable, so I ran a bit extra on my own Tuesday. Saturday was a combined workout and race sendoff at Whisman Park in Mountain View. I did 6 miles at an 11:19 pace. My season mileage is 329.

Sat, Apr 11: Thursday track was hill repeats at Wunderlich Park again. A good workout on a pretty steep slope. The weekend long run was in Monterey, but I decided that a 200-mile round trip was a bit much for a 12-mile run, so I did the nearby Oracle Bay Trail on my own. I stupidly forgot my fuel (nowadays Jelly Belly Sport Beans) and managed to run too quickly—an 11:31 pace—so I pooped out at 10.5 miles and walked the remaining 1.5. I have little doubt that some carbs would have gotten me to the end, so I am unconcerned about my 13.1 prospects in 3 weeks. My season mileage is 316.

Sat, Apr 4: I had an interruption in running because of travel to Lexington, Kentucky (which you can read about here), so I missed one track workout and one OYO weekend run. Track this Thursday was Yasso 800s. We did six repetitions of 800 m with about a minute of rest in between. My pace was pretty good starting at 10:15 and ending at 9:51, with each slightly faster than the previous. If I were running a marathon this season, these times would theoretically predict I could finish just under five hours, but they do not really apply to half marathons and I use the run/walk method anyway, so I have never found them very accurate. The weekend run was once again OYO (presumably because of Easter?) and I did 7.5 miles on the hilly Cañada Road course in Woodside at a pace of 11:43. My season mileage is 298.

Training run in San Francisco, March 21

Sat, Mar 21: Thursday track was mile repeats. Our group did three of them and I maintained a pretty good pace of 10:48, even with my standard run walk interval. We were sharing the track with a lot of children so I actually got to use the inside lane for the first time in my running career, and I was surprised to find out that it is slightly under 0.25 miles at Woodside High School. The Saturday long run was in San Francisco, mashing together two training runs that have traditionally been separated. We did a 6 mile loop inside Golden Gate Park and then ran north up the killer hill next to Cliff House and up into the Seacliff neighborhood and then back. I am still on the half marathon training program, so I did only 10 miles, at a 11:56 pace, which sounds pretty good for a hilly course, but my statistics are suspect because for about a quarter mile near the end, I inadvertently switched off my GPS watch, so I cannot trust the pace or distance. (If you look at the Garmin summary I have posted here, you will see the anomaly at the corner where the Cliff House is located.) I actually think I ran a bit faster than 11:56. My first 5 miles were at an 11:27 pace! The runners training for the full marathon first did an extra 8 miles down the Great Highway and back. My season mileage is 275.

Our track workout at Wunderlich Park, March 12

Sat, Mar 14: Happy Pi Day! Track on Thursday was at Wunderlich Park in Woodside, where we did hill repeats, which were not nearly as stressful as I am used to at the Stanford Dish. The long run was on our own and I did 6 miles on the hilly Alameda de las Pulgas course near my house. Amazingly, I forgot to wear my GPS watch (I actually have a detailed checklist pasted on my front door, but I neglected to look at it!) so I don't know my exact pace. My season mileage is 255.

Sat, Mar 7: Track on Thursday was pretty easy this week because the summer team joined us and our coach decided to defer to the less rigorous agenda the summer folks had for earlier in their season. So we did a two-mile time trial and some relatively easy dynamic warm-up and core exercises, ending up going home about half an hour early. The long run was in Santa Cruz, and I exhibited less than admirable team spirit by declining to make a 110 mile round-trip for an 8 mile run. Instead, I ran the hilly Cañada Road, Whiskey Hill course, which is 10 miles. My pace was 12:15. My season mileage is 241. After changing over to my new run/walk interval (see below), I can't say that I notice any difference yet.

Sun, Mar 1: Track Thursday night was called circuit training, which meant that we would do a set of static or dynamic exercises and then run a lap and repeat. I think we did about 12 iterations, but I lost count. The night was a bit unusual because Woodside High School had a couple of lacrosse games in progress and would not allow us to use the track, so we had to run around the parking lot, which happened to be just about a quarter mile. On Friday I went for a follow-up visit with my running podiatrist and he examined a new set of x-rays of my broken toe. He said it is healing okay and that it is all right to run my race, but that I should ice it after a run. The weekend long run was on our own. I chose to do it Sunday for weather reasons and did 7.5 miles at Stanford on the Campus Drive loop, at an 11:55 pace. My season mileage is 223. I decided after the run today that I would change my run/walk interval from 4:15/1:45 to 4:30/1:30, to see if I can improve my half marathon time.

Sat, Feb 21: Track on Thursday was fartleks, the favorite running activity of adolescent boys. We ran for 30 minutes at slow and fast paces, changing at unpredictable times when we heard the whistle blow. The long run was Woodside along Cañada Road. In regular marathon training, this is a really grueling run for 14 miles, but today I got there at a leisurely 9:20 a.m. and ran 7 miles with the half marathoners. My pace was 12:15, which is not all that good, but the vast majority was on dirt trails, which always slow me down. My season mileage is 211.

Sat, Feb 14: Happy Valentine's Day! It was good to be back at track for the first time in a few weeks. We did "ladders," in which my wave (2) did 400 m, 800, 1200, 1200, 800, and 400, each separated by about 90 seconds of recovery. The long weekend run was on our own and I did 6 miles on a hilly course in my neighborhood. (According to the schedule, I was actually supposed to do 3 miles, but that is barely worth getting suited up to accomplish.) This week has been a rather slow one for me, with this OYO run at a 12:30 pace. All of my running this week was accompanied by taping my broken toe to its neighbor, which I did with "Coban" tape. My season mileage is 195.

Long Run at Shoreline, after the rain, February 7

Sat, Feb 7: I'm back on the training schedule, although now for the half marathon, so the long run this weekend was 6 miles at Shoreline in Mountain View, notable primarily for rain the entire time. The cold and wet were not as much of a problem as the complete lack of visibility from my fogged up glasses, although I realize later the rain was heavy enough to soak through my pouch and ruin my iPhone screen). At least my cold is finally almost over (fingers crossed) and I had no difficulty with my healing toe. My pace was a decent 11:18. My season mileage is 180.

Fri, Feb 6: In consultation with my coaches, I have decided to pare back my training schedule to allow my broken toe to heal, so I will be running the Vancouver half marathon instead of the full this season. My terrible cold has finally started to dissipate, so I anticipate returning to the formal training schedule tomorrow. I have been out of my normal training routine now for three weeks, which has been rather depressing.

Wed, Jan 28: I visited my running podiatrist, Dr Amol Saxena (who is an accomplished marathoner himself), and found out that my toe pain, described a few times below, is a minor toe fracture. The medical gobbledygook he recorded in my chart is "Irregularity distal aspect fourth proximal phalanx suggestive of a fracture with extension to the proximal interphalangeal joint. There are changes of the dorsal midfoot. Small ossific density adjacent to the cuboid, likely an accessory ossicle. Degenerative changes of the first metatarsal phalangeal and interphalangeal joints." ! He told me that the fracture is healing and that I do not need to do anything other than tape the toe onto its neighbors as a splint. I'm going to leave open the option of switching over to the half marathon if my healing does not proceed adequately.

Sun, Jan 25: I have had an interruption in my training because of travel to Orlando (see my travelogue about Backstage at Walt Disney World here). I was unable to attend the track on January 22 and the long run on January 24. The track session on January 15 was an odd sort of a relay race in which the wave 1 folks (the slower ones) ran a lap and the fastest person in the group tagged off on the wave 2 folks (my group), who also ran a lap and repeated the process, for a total of six laps, interrupted by relatively lengthy static recoveries. I think there are theoretically wave 3 folks, but they did not show up that night, I guess. My long run today did not go well at all. I am still suffering from the toe/foot pain that I have experienced since November, and I think I will have to bite the bullet and make a doctor's appointment and get it x-rayed. I also developed a head cold with a slight fever upon returning from Florida, so this combination cause me to poop out at 5 miles rather than the scheduled 10. I also ran pretty slowly: a 12:37 pace, my worst of the season. My season mileage is 158.

Sat, Jan 10: Track this week was a simple time trial to get us lined up for wave starts in future long runs. I ran 3 miles at an 11:11 pace, so we will see which wave I am assigned to. The weekend long run was at Sawyer Camp, the scenic, leafy flat run next to Crystal Springs reservoir. I did 8 miles at an 11:08 pace! I am a bit concerned about the foot discomfort I have had since last November. It feels like a slow-healing bruise or perhaps even a minor fracture. I can run on it well enough to start off, but start to notice it significantly after 6 miles or so. I might have to consider going to a doctor to get it x-rayed. My season mileage is 145.

Sat, Jan 3: Happy New Year! Once again, the Thursday holiday canceled our track workout for the Peninsula team, so we were on our own. I ran on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The latter was the hilly Woodside Cañada Road course, 7.5 miles at an 11:53 pace. My season mileage is 127. Our normal schedule resumes next week.

Sat, Dec 27: There was no track on Thursday because of the Christmas holiday (although our friends on the South Bay team had their normal Tuesday track). So I substituted a local neighborhood run on Christmas day. The Saturday run was on our own and I did 7.5 miles on Campus Drive at Stanford, at an 11:51 pace. Sunny, but really cold. My season mileage is 107.

Sat, Dec 20: Track workouts are on Thursdays this season for the Peninsula team, now conveniently (for me) at Woodside High School. This week we were introduced to a new assistant coach, Rich Williams, who surprised me by being the first coach in 16 seasons who actually led the dynamic drills personally. Unfortunately, he is a dead ringer, in appearance and voice, of Sen. Harry Reid. That will take some getting used to for me. The activity was an introduction to dynamic stretching and dynamic drills, and then three-person relays of 800 m each for a half an hour. We concluded with some simple core strength exercises. The long run this weekend was at Stanford, and I did 6 miles at a pace of 11:56. Somehow they managed to come up with a new course on the campus—two iterations of a 3 mile loop that went as far south as Stanford Avenue—but I missed one of the turns and ended up doing 6 miles in a single very long loop down to Junipero Serra St. Fortunately, I have run many times on the Stanford campus and can find my way around. My season mileage is 89.

(Part of) the tiny Peninsula team in our first workout at Ryder Park

Sat, Dec 13: Today was our first "long run" workout, held at Ryder Park in San Mateo (right next to the Seal Point Park we have used for the previous 15 seasons). A remarkably small number of people showed up, but we had a good time in our first run and I went 4 miles out and back. No track this week—there was supposed to be a gear clinic (to help people select their shoes and other running accoutrement), which I don't bother to go to anymore, but at the last minute it was canceled because of a giant rainstorm, the talk of the Bay Area. My season mileage is 76.

Sat, Dec 6: Today was our kickoff meeting and first training session for the spring season! We met at the Foothill College track and heard the traditional logistical information and leukemia/lymphoma pep talks, followed by some dynamic stretching, a mixture of dynamic drills and lap running, and of course static stretching at the end. The team is pretty compact, with both the Peninsula group and the South Bay group meeting together today, comprising not more than 50 people. I certainly have seen a falloff in TNT team sizes over the years.

Here's a summary of what I have done since the end of last season. After about 10 days to recover from the Chicago Marathon, I gingerly returned to the normal schedule of gym cross training on Mondays and Wednesdays, and runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I took it pretty easy and only put on about 60 miles total. The crimp in my plans was a cruise to the Caribbean, which theoretically took me out of running mode for over a week, but the giant ship (Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas) had a 670 m running track, so I did a rather strenuous 3 mile run one morning, moving at a faster pace than usual. Unfortunately, I did not have my regular running shoes, and I started to experience some knee pain after this workout. By the time I returned home, I was suffering from something very similar to my first couple of seasons in TNT—very tight quadriceps, probably with a knot, that caused my muscles to contract and exert tension on my knee, with discomfort and/or numbness all the way down to the right side of my foot. So I took another week off from running, although I still went to the gym on schedule. I also really amped up my foam rolling and my quad stretching. Although I have not completely recovered from this condition, I have seen improvement, and the workout at the track today was not a problem.