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!

Second Week

The second week unfortunately happened to be more of an on-my-own-runs week.

I had to skip the buddy run on 15th as I had signed up for a 5K race a long time back. Here’s the 3.1 mile route that we ran for the race. I had to run up a hill on this route; and how tiring it was! It had been a long time since I had done any hill running, and it gave me a good preview of what I should prepare for, considering that the Nike marathon course is in San Francisco- a very hilly place.

I was also unable to make it to the long run that weekend. Instead, I ran a 6 mile route on Monday (19th) morning. It was almost the same route that the team had done on the Saturday that I missed. It was slightly boring to run alone, compared to the previous weekend, when I had some company. Also, it was quite hot when I ran, and I was quite tired for the rest of the day at work.

Overall, the second week was a slightly tiring week, but I completed it successfully!

Training Schedule

I will give a brief overview of the training schedule that I am following, as a Team In Training (TNT) participant, in preparation for the marathon. This is basically a five-days-a-week schedule, out of which three days are with the TNT folks.

We start with a track workout every Tuesday evening. This workout currently primarily consists of stretching exercises and core strength exercises, inter-leaved with running laps around the track. This hour and a half long workout usually is enough to make you feel half-dead, thanks to the squats and pushups and other deadly exercises, that I have never paid much attention to, until now. Once the core exercises become routine, we will concentrate more on tempo runs and such. Following the workouts, we usually have various information sessions such as the gear clinic, nutrition clinic, injury clinic, etc., which are really helpful.

Every Thursday we have what is called as the buddy run. This mid-week run is a short run, which starts at 2-4 miles, and builds up very slowly (a mile or two a month) until the event week. Various mentors in TNT lead runs at different location at different times of the day, and we can join any run that is convenient to us. Alternatively, we can run the distance at our own convenience.

And then comes the big one- the long run on Saturday mornings. This is the run where we build up the miles- approximately two miles every two weeks. We started with 2-6 miles (depending on prior running experience) the first weekend, and will gradually build up the miles upto the event month. The entire TNT group meets once in two weekends for the long run. The in-between weekends are supposed to be on-your-own runs, which usually cut-back a bit from the previous weekend’s mileage. The idea is to get some rest before the next long run.

In addition, we are required to throw in a couple of days of cross training and stretching during the remaining days of the week. This could be cycling, swimming, elliptical, stair-master, etc.- ideally something that does not strain the knees too much. Friday is a recommended off-day, to give the body some rest before the long run on Saturdays.

Overall, it’s a pretty tough schedule, in preparation for a pretty tough event. It’s a lot of fun though, and I am looking forward to every week of the schedule, for the next four months.

The First Step

It’s been a long time since my first post; well, I was busy running! On Saturday, 10th June, I completed my first “long run” for the marathon training. It was a lot of fun, with a lot of promising training sessions to follow.

I ran 5 miles the very first day! And it was a great 5 miles at that. I had started off with the intention of doing 4 miles (we were given a choice of 2, 4, or 6 miles). Here’s the originally planned 4 mile route that we were supposed to run. However, our group took a left when joining the Steven’s Creek trail from Whisman Park, instead of a right, and eventually ended up running 1 mile extra.

Surprisingly, none of us felt the burden of the additional mile. The beauty of running with such a huge group is that you are bound to find someone who runs at exactly the same pace as you, no matter how fast or slow you are. Sure enough, I found a couple of ladies who ran with me for all the 5 miles of the trail. We were chatting all the way, and before we realized it, we were done with the loop!

Honestly speaking, one of the ladies- a mentor in TNT, and who must be in her 50s, and who has run one marathon and three half marathons- was doing most of the talking. I was amazed at her fitness level. Here I was, trying to catch my breath between the running and the little talking that I was doing, and she seemed so much more at ease. I really wish that when I am her age, I can be as fit as her.

The next long run will be a 6 mile run. I will write in more detail about the training schedule that we are supposed to follow until the marathon, in future posts.

The Journey Begins…

For ages, people have been trying to get me to start blogging. Although I read and keep up with quite a few blogs, I never found enough motivation to actually start writing a blog. Add to this the fact that my writing style isn’t that great, and I had a recipe for disaster.

Last week, I finally found the one compelling reason I had been looking for, in order to start a blog. I attended a meeting organized by Team In Training (TNT), which is a program for training athletes for endurance sports. I went there with the thought that maybe it was time I considered registering with some marathon training group- something I have been wanting to do for a long time, but never gathered enough courage to get into.

The meeting changed everything. In exchange for the training, TNT asks all participants to raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The society’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma. During the meeting, they introduced a number of “honorees” who have been battling some form of blood cancer, who have faced innumerable sessions of drugs, chemo etc., and in whose honor we will be running the marathon.

One honoree very aptly put it (paraphrase): “The darkest statement most of you would have been told in life is- You need to train for marathon or a triathlon; or You have lost your job; or something similar. The darkest statement I have been told (at age 19) is- You are going to die soon.”

That statement hit home. I am determined to run the Nike Women’s Marathon for this young girl and for many more like her.

The target is 26.2 miles and $2500. Although, in reality, the target is much beyond those two simple numbers. This blog will track my journey down this challenging path.