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!

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.