Team in Training is Awesome

Every week, our Team in Training (TNT) coaches put up a “coaches’ message” on the website. Today’s message was simply too good. It was so apt, that I was wondering whether these guys had the ability to read my mind.

The first couple of sentences were something to the effect (paraphrased): While celebrating your successfully completed run on Saturday, many of you might be wondering about your goal to run a marathon. You must be thinking, “Although I managed to complete this challenging run, it was really hard. My aches and pains are really painful, and I feel tired. And this is just 14 miles. How am I going to complete the entire 26.2 miles?”

They then went on to empasize that from here on, mental strength is very important to complete the long runs, in addition to the physical strength. They talked about planning your strategy, including the walking breaks, fluid and calorie intake, etc. And to finish up the message, they put the whole training program in perspective by noting that this is a one day event that we are choosing to participate in. The honored patients, for whom we are all doing this, do not have a choice and their painful battles with leukemia or lymphoma last much longer than any of our training runs or seasons. How true!

The message was very well put. The TNT coaches are really experienced, and have been amazingly encouraging and supportive, while pushing us further and further to our limits. They have a great team of captains and mentors to help them. Each mentor has about 7-8 mentees. Although the mentors are the first point of contact, the captains and coaches pay close attention to your fitness level and muscle aches and injuries. The level of personal attention came as a big surprise to me. They make it a point to cheer in every single participant at the finish line on the long runs. The training schedule is very well planned in great detail. Just follow the schedule and the coaches’ advice, and you will be fine.

I would very highly recommend anyone planning to train for a marathon to train with TNT. They know their job very well. They are the best!

Week Ten: Done with a 14-miler

On Saturday, August 12th, I successfully completed a 14-mile run. This was a simple, flat route along the Bay Trail. It was not too windy that morning. We started from Redwood Shores and ran north toward San Francisco along the bay. We passed under San Mateo bridge, and turned around about a mile before Coyote Point Recreational Area in San Mateo. This is the first time I ran more than the half marathon distance, and I am quite happy about it.

Although I completed the run in just 5 minutes more than my predicted regular time, it wasn’t one of my best runs. I think I did not time my calorie intake well during the run, and felt really tired between miles 11 and 13. I walked more than normal on that stretch. But once I regained my energy, I managed to finish the last mile with a good pace and a smiling face.

However, the strain on the body is slowly surfacing with a few aches and pains. My left hamstrings are a bit tight, and I will need to follow a regular stretching routine to get them back to normal. I also have a slight pain in the right ankle, which I have been icing all weekend. Hopefully that will be back to normal as well. I am already feeling much better today (Monday), compared to Saturday. These muscle aches are scary. I can definitely feel that I am pushing myself more and more. Hopefully I will manage to get till the 26.2 mile mark. I am quite determined to do that.

Week Nine

This was a week of solo runs. Due to some misunderstanding on my part, I landed up for the buddy run at the wrong time. After waiting for 10 mins for the others to show up, I ran 4 miles on Stevens Creek , starting at Whisman park. We had done this trail on the first long run, and on the previous week’s buddy run as well.

For the weekend on-your-own run, I wanted to do the Sawyer camp trail once again, hence decided to not go for the planned runs on Saturday. Instead, I headed out to that trail on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, due to some biking race, the trail was closed until noon. I therefore headed back to the Palo Alto baylands trail near my house.

I had decided to do 6 miles this time. By the time I started running, it was already late morning. The wind on the bay was quite strong by then and it offered me a good resistance. This was the first time I was running in such windy conditions. Initially I was trying to maintain my usual pace, but that started draining my energy more than usual. I realized that I needed to do something about it. I started slowing down my pace a bit until I was running more comfortably. That helped me conserve energy, and on the way back, assisted by the windy conditions, I managed to maintain my regular average pace for the entire run.

The 14 mile run tomorrow promises to pose similar challenges. This run is along the bay on a flat, but windy trail. I better get used to the winds, as I am sure San Francisco will be quite windy. I am getting slightly anxious about tomorrow’s run, as this is the first time I will run more than the half marathon distance. Let’s see how that goes.

In action at the Stanford Dish run

CIMG2456, originally uploaded by Maui Runner.

Believe it or not, this photograph was clicked on my run between miles 10 and 11. This was on the Alpine Road part of the trail, way after the Stanford Dish. I am amazed to see that I am still smiling. It’s definitely thanks to the beautiful downhill towards the end of the run.

PS: This is the first time I am posting from flickr.

Week Eight: The Hill Conquest

Consider a 12-mile run. Consider a major part of the run on a hill. And consider the hill to be the Stanford Dish. You will need all the energy you can muster to complete the run. And that’s what I did this Saturday, 29th July. I conquered the Stanford Dish trail!

The Stanford Dish trail is a beautiful trail, offering nice views of the Stanford and Palo Alto area. We started from the back side of the trail (from Alpine Road) and went all the way up to the dish. If you remember to look back while running up the hill, it offers a nice view of Portola valley. After we hit the dish, we took a right turn at the fork and ran along some rolling hills, before running downhill all the way to the front entrance at Junipero Serra Blvd. We saw some nice views of the Stanford campus on this trail. We then took the even more steeper trail up to the dish. If I thought the first uphill was bad, this one was much worse. I had to walk up a couple of steep slopes. After we hit the dish, we once again ran along the trail that overlooks Portola valley- this time downhill, back to the Alpine Road entrance that we started from.

By this time, we must have done about 7 miles. After this, we ran west along Alpine road. I was quite tired on this stretch, and was not quite sure why. I had tried my best to not “attack” the hills, but “massage” them, as our coach had put it. That should have left me with enough energy to finish off with a decent pace on the flat road. After running about a mile or so, I realized that all this while, Alpine road has had a steady upslope. No wonder! After I hit the turn-around point, I was quite charged up because I realized that the rest of the trail was a steady downhill, and I managed to finish up with a big smile on my face. I now have the Stanford Dish trail under my belt.

My timing for this run degraded a bit, but that was to be expected, considering the hilly course. More importantly, I managed to finish the run.

Week Seven

I was crazy busy at work this week. Effectively, I did not manage to catch any of the scheduled buddy runs. Instead, I ran 5 miles on a treadmill at the office gym from 8:30 to 9:30 in the night, after a long day’s work. I was dead tired by the end of it!

The weekend run was an on-your-own run. Since I was at Niket’s place over the weekend, and since it was an extremely short trip, I did not manage to run while over there. Instead I ran 6 miles on a treadmill in the office gym on the following Monday, in the evening, after work.

Week Six: The First Double Digit Run

This weekend (16th July) was my first ever double-digit (in miles) run.

This 10 mile run was on the Coastside Trail at the beautiful Half Moon Bay. We started from Pillar Point Harbor, and ran 5 miles south along the beach, and back. Rather than trying to map this trail, here’s a link to a brochure containing a map of the trail. The Bay Area hiker has a wonderful description of a part of the trail, along with some nice pictures.

All along the trail, we were running with the ocean on one side. Anyone who has been to Highway 1 in California, can attest to the beauty of the coastal route. We passed by quite a few beaches along the trail, as well as a number of campgrounds. It was breakfast time for most people in the campsites, which was enough to encourage us to finish the run quickly. After the run, the entire group headed to a restaurant at Pillar Point Harbor for a well-earned brunch.

I was once again pleased that I managed to maintain my 10K pace. I will have to see how long that will continue though. I did feel much more tired this time around, compared to the 8 mile run. As my mentor had organized carpools, I was glad I did not have to drive back after the run.

Our next long run, two weeks from now, will be a 12-mile run, on a relatively hilly terrain. This promises to be a challenging run, on account of the distance, as well as the terrain. I will need to focus more on pacing myself on this run. I’ll keep everyone posted on the status of the run.

Week Five

This week, I did a 3-mile buddy run with Niket on the Stevens Creek trail. On Sunday, I did a 5-mile on-your-own run on the treadmill. There was no track workout this week on account of the July 4th weekend, for which Niket and I headed out to Crater Lake. Overall, it was a relatively relaxed week.

Week Four: A Barrier is Broken

This was the best training week so far, for a couple of reasons.

First- I broke a long-standing barrier in terms of the longest distance I had ever run at a stretch- which was 6 miles until now. On July 1st, I ran 8 miles for the first time in my life. I was so excited and so happy to reach that milestone. Two years ago, on 4th July 2004, I had reached the 6 mile distance while running at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. After that, I had run 6 miles quite a few times, but did not ever manage to cross that barrier. I crossed the barrier this time, with Niket and the folks from TNT cheering me at the finish line.

This run was on the Sawyer Camp trail, an extremely beautiful trail along the Crystal Springs Lake. Here’s the approximate 8-mile route that I ran; I cannot plot it exactly due to the tree cover. This trail has markers every half mile, and is therfore an excellent trail to pace yourself. I was quite pleased to see that my pace for this 8 mile run was exactly the same as my 5K or 10K pace. This was the perfect start to the long weekend.

The other good part about this week’s training was the dynamic drills on Tuesday (27th June). We did all kinds of drills such as heel and toe walking, skip running, side-ways running, lunges, butt kicks, high knees and so on. Each one of these exercised a different muscle in the body, gearing it up for the longer distances. However, this also resulted in my walking around slowly the entire next day, as well as putting in a huge amount of effort while getting up from and sitting down on a chair. The good thing is, I survived 🙂

Overall, a great training week.

Week Three

The third week was a great one.

For the first time in my life, I found myself getting up at 5:15 in the morning on a weekday (Thursday), and heading out of the house at 6:00AM. This was for the weekly buddy run. We were supposed to run anywhere between 3 and 5 miles that day, and most of us chose to do about 4 miles. Here’s the 4.4 mile route that I ran that day.

The weekend run (on 24th) was supposed a 4-6 miles on-your-own run. But my mentor organized a group run, and I ended up running with 4 others. The course was the same as the buddy run, and by now I had become quite familiar with it. It’s a very nice course to run on, especially early in the morning at 7:30 on a Saturday! My mentor kept me company for the first half of the run, after which I ran alone. The 4.4 miles were up quickly, and then I had the entire weekend to enjoy myself.

We were told to take things a bit light this weekend as we were gearing up for the long run the next weekend. I am looking forward to the 8 mile run!