Training with TNT for the 2009 Royal Victoria Marathon

finish line
Finish line of the
Royal Victoria Marathon
(read the race description to
find out how the clock
is deceptive here)

Here is the place for a lot of information about my TNT training program. It's the Summer season and I have signed up for the 2009 Royal Victoria Marathon, in Victoria, BC, October 11, 2009. If you would like to make a donation for my participation and help the great cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, see my fundraising page.

The race is over and I did very well. See my report.

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.

Tue, October 6: Our final track workout. We did 3x 800s with 400 active recoveries, then a "burrito relay" in which we formed teams of two and ran 3 miles. My team ran one on, one off. The goal was to predict our total time as accurately as possible, with no watches allowed. We predicted 34:00, but finished in 32:55, so no burritos for us. :-( The winners were only 10 seconds off their prediction!

Sat, October 3: Our final long run (10-12 miles) at the Bay Trail (heading north from the Oracle campus). Although I almost always go for the longer distance, the coaches recommended only 10 miles for the Victoria runners. I had a very good run, finishing faster than I usually do (about 1:54). I will need to manage my starting speed more expertly in the real race or run the risk of pooping out too early. After the run, we went to Hobee's for a Victoria send-off.

Tue, September 29: My favorite track event is "Indian running," where groups of 4-5 run in single file and the person at the rear runs to the front to become the leader and this rotation keeps repeating. We ran 30 minutes at a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, I managed to trip on a small broken tree branch and took a spill, bloodying my knee and bruising my hand pretty severely. I hope that symptom doesn't last too long! Then we did intervals: our wave was 3x800 w/400 active recovery. I ran very well despite the minor injury.

Sun, September 27: My OYO run was 8 easy miles at Stanford, 2+ laps of the Campus Drive loop.

Tue, September 22: Track was a relatively easy set of intervals. My wave did 6x400 w/ 200 active recovery, 6x200 w/ 200 active recovery. They took it easy on us after the San Francisco long run.

Sat, September 19: I approached the long run with considerable consternation, given my very poor performance two weeks ago. However, I was able to deliver a strong performance on the 20 miles, over a very hilly course, with energy left to spare. The course traversed ground that the Nike marathoners will experience: from Chrissy Field on the Presidio, we ran through the Marina and Aquatic Park and around the Embarcadero to Pier 9, then back through the Presidio, up the steep hill to the level of the Golden Gate Bridge, down the long hill to the Seacliff neighborhood, past the Cliff House, and a mile down the Great Highway at the beach, before turning around and returning over those same hills. (Other than being 6 miles shorter, this double treatment of the hills makes this training run considerably harder than the actual marathon.)

Tue, September 15: More intervals at track: six repetitions of 800 meters interspersed with 400 active recoveries. (These are known as Yasso 800s, named after an editor of Runners World magazine. Their interesting characteristic is that if you have a consistent pace over six to ten repetitions, you can supposedly predict your marathon results using a simple formula: take the minutes and seconds and turn them into hours and minutes. For instance, I was pretty consistent running the 800 m in five minutes, 20 seconds, which is supposed to predict that I will run the marathon in five hours and 20 minutes. I will actually be very pleased if I am able to pull that off.) UPDATE: This was exactly my marathon time! See race section. Amazing!

Sat, September 12: The on-your-own run was for 8 miles and I did it by running two loops of the Campus Drive at Stanford.

Tue, September 8: They went easy on us at track, setting us up for three-person relays where two of us run while the third is resting. Wave One did six repetitions of 800 meters.

Sat, September 5: A significant failure on my part today and I'm feeling pretty bad about it. It was the fabled Woodside Town Hall run, which is a difficult run on a lot of trails with occasional very steep, rocky hills. I signed up at the start for 20 miles--I always shoot for the maximum, assuming I might poop out at 17.5, as I did last year, but hoping for the best. I was completely dismayed to find that I ran out of steam at about 12! By that time I was walking a lot more than running, hoping to get my strength back as the course turned relatively flat in miles 15-20. But when I reached a water stop at about 14.5, the guys there insisted that I looked so messed up that they wanted to drive me back to the start. I did another half mile, but they followed me and insisted again, so I relented. I had some sort of tight glute, side pain problem that caused me to walk visibly crooked, just like I did near the end of the Napa Marathon. I'm very, very disappointed. I will have to do a much more diligent set of stretches and foam-rolling for the next month!

Tue, September 1: Intervals again at track. Wave One did 4x 600/200 and 4x 300/100.

Sun, August 30: Saturday was really HOT so I delayed my OYO run to Sunday. I did 7 easy miles on Alameda and down Woodside Rd.

Tue, August 25: Intervals at track tonight. We all did 1600 m (a mile) at an easy pace and then Wave One did 4 800s (2 laps each) with 400 m active recoveries, then 4x 400/200 and 4x 200/100. I was happy to see I was able to boost my speed in each set, running at 5 mph, 6 mph, and 7.5 mph!

Sat, August 22: As we do each season, we run the two halves of the Nike Women's Marathon course on each of two weekends. Today we did 18 miles on the back end of the course, although not in the same sequence as the race. We did a loop around Lake Merritt, ran up the Great Highway, all the way through Golden Gate Park, then back down the Great Highway. The park is very deceptive because you think of it as flat, but it actually uphill for a least 2 miles! At least you get the advantage of the downhill on the way back. I think I ran pretty well and did not "hit the wall," which is pretty encouraging. (I am doing a better job on my eating power bars at appropriate times during the run.)

Mon, August 17: Tonight our normal track workout was Monday instead of Tuesday and we had the seasonal Cause for Celebration event at Foothill College. We had some snacks, heard a speech from an oncology nurse, and then tried something new. Usually these events are in a hotel, but this time we had our workout clothes on, so we went to the track. There, coaches from all of the different sports teams (running, hiking, walking, triathlon) had us rotate through different stations where we did a variety of exercises—lunges, butt kicks, high knees, bleacher repeats, static core drills, and some balancing exercises. The hardest ones for me were maneuvering around on giant rubber balls. I just could not stay balanced on them. Everyone seemed have a good time, so I presume this will be the new format for the future.

Sun, August 16: On your own (OYO) weekend. Since I was in Sacramento Saturday for the the Lincoln exhibit, I ran by myself on Sunday. I did 7 miles on Cañada Road, which has some good hills.

Tue, August 11: Track workout was hill repeats at the Stanford Dish again. This time Wave One got to do the steep hill that the Wave Three people did last week, although we did eight repetitions this time. I tell you, that hill is steep enough that the average person would be winded just walking up it. So finishing one of these sessions is very satisfying.

Sat, August 8: The group run was at the Los Gatos Creek Trail, starting at Campbell Park. I ran 6 miles out and back and then another 2 in the opposite direction, out and back, for a total of 16 miles. I was pleased to complete it without much difficulty, although I have noticed an annoying slow down of my performance this season. This is a great running course, which I had not run before—rather scenic and reasonably flat with a few rolling hills. Afterward some in the group went out for brunch at the Sonoma Chicken Coop in Campbell.

Tue, August 4: Track workout was at the Stanford Dish off of Alpine Road tonight, doing hill repeats. Those of us slackers in Wave One got to do six repeats of about a 1/3 mile climb, with Wave Two doing eight and Wave Three doing a steeper hill 10 times. Whoa!

Sat, August 1: This was an OYO weekend, targeting 7 miles. Since I missed the 14 last weekend, and since next week will be 16, I did 12 miles, running out Alameda to downtown Menlo Park and back, hitting two significant hills on the loop.

Tue, July 28: (I missed a track and the group run because of vacation travel; see my travelogue. The group run was the infamous Stanford Dish, 14 miles with the first six marked by very significant hills.) Track was all intervals: six repetitions of 800 with 400 recovery.

Sat, July 18: We had a great fund raising activity today. Two of the women on the team arranged for a 10K race at Shoreline Park. It was a very elaborate affair with a website, announcer, light breakfast, fully marked course, professional timing, and T-shirts. Very impressive -- I hope they made a lot of money toward their fundraising goals. There were easily 100 people there. I decided to park a bit away from the start line and it turns out that it was about 2 miles! So in addition to the 10K, I walked 4 miles. The weather was nice and the course flat, but I seem to run rather slowly. Sigh. I hope my speed improves through the season.

Tue, July 14: Another track day of dynamic drills. We did 105 walking lunges today! Plus all of our other "favorites."

Sat, July 11: A great group run at Sawyer Camp, which is a walking/biking trail on the east side of Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo. I have run there many times, and it's completely flat until my usual turnaround at the 3.5 or 4 mile mark. Today's run was a 12 mile round trip, so I got to experience the final section the first time. At mile 4 gentle rolling hills begin for about a mile and then mile 5 is dramatically uphill almost all the way to the turnaround. There is a picturesque dam that flattens you out for about a fifth of a mile, but that's it. At least going downhill on the way back is satisfying.

Here is where my fibula is fractured; the part shown in red is completely disconnected (although my injury is on the left ankle)

Tue, July 7: Track today was dynamic drills—walking lunges, low skipping, high skipping, high knees, ankle and toe walking, sideways, and grapevines. I find these quite tiring. We also did some striding—running quickly on the straightaways, recovering on the curves. The big news for the week was my visit to Dr. Amol Saxena, the podiatrist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation who Coach Terry recommended to look at my ankle problems. (The doctor is a big marathon runner and his office is decorated with lots of Boston memorabilia. Quite intimidating.) in my first visit a couple of months ago, he gave me a cursory examination and sent me to physical therapy. That resulted in no improvement, so I returned for a follow-up. This time he decided to x-ray the left ankle and found that it has a fractured fibula, which I assume must have happened in conjunction with my ankle sprain last August. His description of the problem: "There is an unfused transverse fracture of the distal lateral malleolus. A small fragment of bone resides in the space between the fracture fragments and the lateral talus. The ankle mortise remains symmetric. No other abnormal extraosseous calcifications."

He gave me information about surgery to fix the problem, which will keep me from running for at least 12 weeks. However, we agreed that since I have been running on it without difficulty for the last 11 months, including two marathons, that there was not an urgent need to do immediately and I am planning to continue with my training for Victoria. My general practitioner is counseling me not to have the surgery if I am able to run on it, but I will have to talk with Dr. Saxena again and examine some of the long-term consequences of doing nothing about it.

Sat, July 4: Today was an OYO run of 6 miles, which I did on Alameda de las Pulgas, a course that has a few significant hills. I was quite disappointed to find that I had difficulty going more than about 5 miles. Ever since this dental problems started, I have had to skip going to the gym and some of the buddy runs, so my strength is deteriorating. Sigh.

Tue, June 30: I had the second part of my root canal procedure and I was in quite a lot of discomfort, once again popping antibiotics and Vicodin, so I had to skip track tonight. It was scheduled to be the start of dynamic drills.

Sat, June 27: We had a group run at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. My dental problem had quieted down and I was pretty comfortable running the 10 miles out and back on the flat course. (The 5 mile turn around was just before the really rough ground that sprained my ankle last year at this time.) It was pretty foggy to start, but soon turned into a beautiful day on the coast.

Tue, June 23: Following the first part of the root canal procedure on Monday, track tonight was the final night of static drills (planks, crunches, push-ups, lunges, etc.).

Sat, June 20: I was scheduled for an on-your-own (OYO) run of 6 miles, but I got hit with a dental problem—an accessed tooth that was really torublesome. A dentist gave me antibiotics and Vicodin to tide me over for the weekend, but I was simply not in the mood to run in this condition.

Tue, June 16: Alas, I missed the track workout because of a business dinner. Presumably, more core training was on the menu at Stanford. (Cioppino was on the menu at La Pastaio in San Jose. Excellent Italian restaurant.)

Sat, June 13: Our group run was at the Seal Point Park in San Mateo. Beautiful weather on the Bay, although a little windy and unseasonably cool. We must've had 200 people out there today. It will be interesting to see the size of the team at the end of the season. The distances ranged from 2 to 8 miles and I did 8 in a reasonably good time for me.

Tue, June 9: Today was our first track workout at Stanford's running track. As usual for TNT, we spent most of the time on core strength training—planks, lunges, etc. Unlike last season, we had a time trial of three laps that will be used to divide us into waves or future training. After the running, there was a nutrition clinic.

Sat, June 6: First group run in the Palo Alto Baylands. Beautiful weather, although a little warm. This is a nice course because it is completely flat and has views of the wetlands along San Francisco Bay. I had not been able to do any exercise of significance for two weeks because of travel and just starting a new job, so the 6 miles I did today were relatively difficult and slow. A disappointing performance. Since my last marathon, I have been recovering from the ankle problem I mentioned in previous reports, getting no real relief after a couple of doctor visits and a number of physical therapy sessions. I also experimented with changing the intervals in my run-walk strategy. For the last two years, I have done four minutes of running and one minute of walking. I recently tried five and one and found that it slowed me down, unintuitively. Today I tried 3:50 and 1:10, and I was also slow. I guess I will need to do more experimenting!

Sat, May 30: Kickoff Meeting, the gala event in which everyone is hyped up and given lots of paperwork to fill out. I was not able to attend this year because of travel, but my new mentor, Patricia, graciously agreed to gather up my T-shirt and all of the materials for me.

Royal Victoria Marathon

After my PR!

After a long and productive training season, I have completed the race! Here's a report on my trip to Victoria. (I will probably add more photos over time, so watch this space. If any of my TNT friends have some photos they'd like to share, I'd love to have them.)

Summary: This was my best marathon! The weather was good, the course outstanding—scenic and flat—and I ran strongly almost to the end. My time of 5:20:19 was a PR (personal record), 10 minutes faster than Portland in October 2007, my previous best, and 41 minutes faster than my slowest, Disney World in January 2008. UPDATE: To my amazement after the fact, I realized a week later that my Yasso 800 times on September 15 (see above) predicted my finish time exactly.

Nancy and I flew up on Friday, October 9. The team flight was Saturday, but we wanted to spend an extra day, so we booked our own and got a rental car.We took a prop plane from Seattle and were treated to some gorgeous scenary on the 40 minute flight. Victoria Airport is really dinky, about 40 minutes from the hotel, the Marriott Inner Harbour. We didn't do much Friday afternoon, but had an outstanding dinner at Cafe Brio on "Antiques Row." On Saturday we drove around most of the race course. They picked a really convoluted course with 37 turns (meaning street corners) on the way out. It's primarily beautiful ocean roads and a number of upscale residential areas. We also took a self-guided walking tour downtown to see historic buildings where the five gold rushes shaped the city, and toured through Craigdarroch Castle, a large Scottish mansion built in the 1880s for coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir.

Saturday night was the TNT Pasta Party, although they now call it the Inspiration Party. The food in the Marriott was quite good for a buffet and we had a nice time with the 70 or so TNT runners, all of whom seemed to be from the Bay Area, and some spouses. Honoree Todd told some inspirational stories about his remission from cancer and how he's hoping further research sponsored by our TNT fundraising will find a cure for the reoccurrence he has been told is almost inevitable.

mapI met the team at 5:45am in the lobby. This was only the group of TNTers who registered for the Early Start, those dozen or so folks who needed from 5 to 7 hours to complete the race. At 6:30 we started from next to the BC Legislature with about 300 others. (It's nice to cross the start line only a few seconds after the gun.) The full marathon and half attracted about 12,000 runners, but they started at 8:30 and 7:30, respectively. This was an arrangement I had not encountered before, but it worked well. We slow runners had to start in the dark and not all the city streets were closed that early—which meant we had to do some sidewalk running and wait for red lights—but we got to see the sunrise and had the course wide open for over two hours. The elite runners caught up with us after 3 and half hours and then we got to see a lot of fast runners going out on the course as we came back on the other side of the street. So I got to say "Good Job" to lots of guys and gals who can beat my pants off, who I normally never get to see during a race after the first minute. The first fast TNT runner I saw was Todd, the honoree from the party. It was pretty cold that early—mid-30s—and I had an extra shirt and some gloves I wore for over 25 km. (Yes, it being Canada they had metric measurements, except for some token mile signs here and there. So I ran 42.2 km rather than 26.2 miles, which was nice because the km signs come more frequently!)

early morning
Early in the morning,
still cold enough to mask
my regular purple TNT shirt

The course was simply beautiful in many spots, and flat as a pancake. I took some snapshots along the way, shown below. There were lots of people out cheering and the Canadians are really friendly, so it was a great experience. It started downtown for a couple of miles, then in an odd figure-eight pattern through Beacon Hill Park. We hit the coast for the sunrise. Then we ran inland, zigging and zagging though neighborhoods. I speculated that certain groups of residents didn't want the hassle of closed roads and we had to detour around them. Then it was back to the coast for a long run around Oak Bay and up the eastern side of the Sannich Peninsula to the Uplands, where we did a U-turn and headed back. We didn't repeat the Park, however, and went around the western end of Victoria, past the cruise ship terminal, and to the finish right near the start. I ran-walked a very steady 5 mph (12:00/mile) for the first 4.5 hours, but started to slow a bit in the final 3 miles. I was happy to avoid experiencing "the wall" until mile 24! (Readers of my Napa Marathon travails will remember I hit the wall at 14 miles in that cold and rainy race, running like a zombie for 12 miles.) Those last two miles were pretty tough, but I perservered and was delighted with my finish time. According to the race results, I came in 95th of the 291 early runners, and 29th of the 84 men in that group. I wasn't delighted by the immobility posed by the rapidly tightening muscles after I stopped. It was quite an ordeal to get back to the hotel, only about four blocks away. I stretched and iced and got over it, mostly. We walked down the harbor and took a fun boat ride in a little water taxi and I was able to get around OK.

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Sunday night we decided to foresake the TNT Victory Party because it goes pretty late and there's a big push to dance out our tired muscles, which just doesn't fit with my elderly lifestyle. So we went for oysters and fresh fish at Pescatores downtown—pretty decent—and got back to the hotel for an early bedtime. We flew back pretty early on Monday, which we found out was Canadian Thanksgiving Day, so it was quiet on the highway to the airport. My recovery is going well and the only anomaly (so far) is a sore muscle at the back of my right knee. All in all we had a really great time in Victoria and I'm grateful to my mentor, Patricia, and all the TNT coaches and captains who got me to this point. I have signed up for the Winter Season to run the Atlanta Marathon on March 21, so watch my that page for updates.

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.