Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's time to Commit - The Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon San Francisco

This weekend, "Team Remo," our Fall All-Bay TNT Walk team held our Honoree Brunch in Novato. Remo Patri (pronounce RAY-mo, we were reminded of that constantly) was a long time teammate who passed away earlier this year after complications from leukemia.  He was a fixture at the Maui half marathon for the past few years. He lived life with attitude and said that in the end, he was hoping to just wake up dead one morning. He was joking at the time, of course, but in January, he did just that.

Our agenda included a quick core exercise demo followed by 6 - 7 miles. We pushed through the training even as temperatures climbed into the triple digits. I spent  lot of time with first-timer, Lally, who has been following the calendar faithfully including our Tuesday night core workout at Sports Basement in Walnut Creek. She is in the group that John Bingham would describe as 'maximizing her marathon dollar'. Despite the heat, she really wanted to get to the turnaround point to get her full mileage in. Not only did she win the Spirit award this week, she is also a Fundraising Wizard! This past week, she confirmed a company match that will get her to her fundraising minimum. No reason to stop there. Fundraising doesn't stop until we have a cure for all blood cancers! We see great things for Lally's season ahead.

Two hours later, we were stretched and cooled down. Our sincere thanks go to the Novato Fire Department for letting us use their air-conditioned facility for the post-training brunch. Thanks also to Honoree Captain Cathy and Coach Susan for organizing an amazing spread. Elaine brought lumpia and potstickers (not shown, but definitely devoured).

Yes, this is what happens when my wife is on TNT staff. She even brought the tablecloth.

After refueling, our 5 attending honorees took turns telling their stories. Jessie (below, top left) wasn't able to speak through the tears last year, but held up great this time. She has been racing in 5K's, 10K's and a few half marathons with Mentor Roz. Lior (left middle) has become a ball of energy and is training for her next half marathon. Her condition is much improved from a few short years ago. Lior urged LLS not only to move forward with cures but also to fund preventative measures like vaccines if possible.  We were afraid that Gail (left bottom) wasn't well enough to make the brunch while still in treatment. I'm glad she did. Gail told the story about crossing the finish line for her first Nike half at age 70. Sue (middle bottom), has been with the team for 8 years and is going for another full marathon this fall. Her speech was eloquent and full of gratitude for people raising money.  Years ago, Sue was outed as a closet Honoree and has become a full-fledged team member and constant reminder that there is hope for all honorees. Finally, Remo's daughter Andrea spoke about how both she and her father got involved with TNT. Her husband, Gardner, son, and four-week old daughter came out to support as well.  I can't ever remember having that many honorees present at a brunch and it reminded me of why I stay involved with TNT. Spirit Lion will soon be donned with adornments each week as he rotates around the team for more bling!

Team Remo is now 60 members strong. We hope to add more members now that the results of the Nike lottery have been announced.  If you didn't get an entry through the lottery, the only way to get a bib now is through fundraising. That's where Team in Training can help. The fundraising isn't as hard as most people think. There's plenty of support with an online website and even an app for iPhone and Android that lets you take donations on your phone. All you need to do then is put in the training time and we'll make sure your race day experience is as fulfilling and empowering as it's been for over 500,000 former participants over the last 25 years.

Susan and I left the Honoree Brunch to catch the last half of a birthday party for our sister-in-law Alisa. It was 106° F by mid afternoon in Pleasanton. About 4 pm, Alisa noticed an older woman having all the signs of heat stroke and rushed to attend to her. Years of nursing certification classes and prompt action may have saved a life that. The lady had a compromised immune system and other issues resulting from complications from lymphoma.  It's like Remo was watching us the whole day and put us in that park for a reason.

Daniel calling out bingo numbers and Alisa saving the world, one life at a time.
We have three and a half months to Nike and a lot of races in between. If you were lucky enough to win the lottery entry or are awesome enough to be raising funds for TNT, I hope to see you there.  Look for me at the base of the Crissy Field hill, wearing a bright green TNT Coach's jersey and ringing a cowbell for all I'm worth.

A view from 'my office' at mile 6.

The 10th Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon San Francisco will be held on October 20, 2013. It's the same weekend every year, but Nike doesn't announce a final date until March or April when the lottery opens. This year with Nike DC, the lottery for Nike SF was delayed until early June. Lottery results were announced on Friday June 28th.

Nike is the biggest event for Team in Training, drawing up to 5,000 fundraising participants for a single event and raising $128 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since the first Nike in 2004. In 2012, the full marathon had 4,452 finishers (median time 5:05). The half marathon results page is currently down for maintenance, but I'd put the number at 15,000 (20K total for the event).  For those of you who have to ask, the Female/Male ratio is about 10:1 (maybe higher).

This year for the first time, there will not be an early start for marathoners at 5:30AM. Instead, the race will start at 6:30AM for all participants (a half hour earlier than usual). There's a 1:30 PM cut off time, so full marathoners will need to maintain about a 15 minute/mile pace including the wave start delay (7 hour GUN time cut off).

The marathon and half marathon start in Union Square, then travel east towards the Bay down Post, Montgomery and Washington, turning left on the Embarcadero all the way to Crissy Field and up Lincoln Boulevard. At the top of the hill is the Mission Mile where Team in Training Chapters place their Honoree banners. It's one of my favorite places in any race. There's a quick downhill section on Camino Del Mar before turning on 32nd, Clement and Point Lobos to the Great Highway.  At mile 11.8, the half and full courses split in Golden Gate Park and the full marathoners travel an additional 3 miles before rejoining the half course on Martin Luther King Drive.  At the end of Lincoln Avenue the half marathon turns right to the finish line about 100 yards away. The full marathoners, however, take a left turn to finish an additional 10 miles down the Great Highway, around Lake Merced and back. There are a few big hills on the half marathon. The back 10 miles of the full are relatively flat.

Weather: Ranges from high 40's to mid 50's at the start warming about 15 degrees by finish time.  Due to the characteristic  San Francisco micro-climates, prepare for wind, fog, sun and more wind if you're doing the full marathon once you get to the Great Highway at mile 15. We've had sun and rain at the finish line. Team in Training has a shelter set up based on the forecast.

Things to do: Definitely find your name on the Wall at Niketown in Union Square when you pick up your bib. If you're thinking of booking an Alcatraz tour, DO IT EARLY as they sell out well in advance, especially if you want to get into a night-time tour. Cable Cars take you over the hills to Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park and Fort Mason. Muni (light rail) can get you most places and Uber has a good presence. Renting a car gives you access to Sausalito and Muir Woods if you have time. Napa wine country is about 60 miles away. Plan for traffic to make that a 90 - 120 minute drive at peak commute. Here's a Hidden Gem for those looking for good Vietnamese cuisine (Thanks, Al!).

Course setting:  The first half of the course showcases most of the classic San Francisco attractions including Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz, Fort Mason and the Presidio. Don't be so focused on the Lincoln hill that you forget to take a look at the Golden Gate Bridge on your right. Look back after you pass it also, there are great views you won't see on the postcards. There are audible gasps of awe when most people come down the hill towards the Cliff House and see the Pacific Ocean, though that could be relief because its the back side of the second big hill. Both courses turn into Golden Gate Park for a few milder hills. The Great Highway can be attractive, but as the last 8 miles of a full marathon, the winds can be a challenge. The finish area is on Ocean Beach. Don't hesitate to use the free cold-bath just steps away from where you get your Tiffany Necklace. 

Support: Good/Very Good. Aid stations and cheer stations are set up every 2 miles or more. There's a bra-swap at the top of the first hill at mile 6 (ohhh kaaaayyyy) and "Chocolate Miles" at mile 11 on the half and 23 on the full where volunteers hand out Ghirardelli chocolate squares. Of course, the main attraction is the firemen at the finish line handing out the medals - Tiffany Necklaces in the traditional blue box. This is a great event to wear TNT purple. There were close to 500 staff and coaches supporting last year's event. The full marathon aid station support is a bit lighter, but look for bright green jerseys if you're in need of help.

Although Susan and I have been at all but the first Nike SF, we've only raced in two of them. Year 2 (2005) was our first half marathon and obviously our PR's. In 2010, we had the honor to be early-start pacers for the 6:30 and 7:00 finish times in the full marathon.  That was Susan's 9th full marathon. Ron wanted his 10th to be special and there was no better place to do it than our home town. Though we've earned 4 Tiffany medals, we only own one. Ron gave his 2005 medal to his mentor, Nancy, who came down with a bug just before the race and was unable to participate. Both of us gave our 2010 medals to friends who had strong connections to the Cause.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Born Again - Rock n Roll Seattle 2013

Every marathoner can point to a few races where their journey took a turn, where they made a decision to change the way they look at races. Rock n Roll Seattle 2010 was one of those races for me.

In March of 2010, I had my fourth knee surgery - full reconstruction of my left ACL with a cadaver graft. I started telling people I 'felt a little dead inside'. I was coming off my full marathon PR at the Inaugural RNR Mardi Gras in February 2010 when I found out I'd been walking on the torn ligament for over 5 years. RNR Seattle 2010 was my first race after surgery, and, with doctor's clearance, I decided to give the new knee a decent road test. I just cracked my half marathon PR that year, walking under a 13 minute/mile pace for the first time. At that point, I had already slid in a couple couple of incidental full marathons, so Susan decided to do a full to try to catch up. I ran into Marathon Maniac Kamika Smith who was doing his 100th full marathon at the time. If you ever find yourself in Kauai, be sure to look up his family luauHe's one of a long list of friends that I credit (or blame) for sucking us into this lifestyle.

Looking at our race schedule now, I don't know how I was able to stay sane taking 16 weeks between races. RNR Seattle was where I started pushing for faster times. Here now in 2013. I'm back with a new course, a lighter body and coming off 5 Halves and 3 PR's in 5 weeks.

First, a quick plug for some of our friends. After a while, you get used to the layout of the Expo and know where everything is so in theory, you can grab what you need and be out of there quickly. The problem with that idea is that we've made friends with so many of the vendors that we want to chat and check out anything new.
Left: Wendy at the Power Crunch booth. We live off these protein supplements. The new Chocolate Mint Power Crunch bar is coming out soon. Chokolat is a gluten free alternative. Center: Amy and Dave at Gypsy Runner. When my friend Laura commits to RNR Dallas, I'm taking her on a shopping spree here. Right: The Biggest Loser Run/Walk series has a Seattle race in mid-September. The series features a range of 5K, 15K, half marathon road races, off-road challenges and Spartan races. We highly recommend their series for any experience level.
Race Day: Seattle has a huge contingent of the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs clubs. The pre-race picture was a reunion of sorts, though these days, it's less a 'reunion' and more like a weekly happy hour. 

I should mention that I broke the cardinal rule of marathoning: "Nothing new on race day." Instead of the usual sesame or whole wheat bagel, I made what I thought was a reasonable switch to a multi-grain roll. By mile 7, I had some serious lower GI pressure that may have aggravated a hernia to the point where I had to pull over. It went away by mile 9. Lesson (painfully) learned and I'm going to have things checked out this week.

Along the shore of Lake Washington was the Team Blue mile. This stretch was lined with pictures of servicemen and women who were killed in action. There were dozens of pictures, followed by dozens of American flags, with the supporters cheering for Team Blue and the rest of the participants on the course. Al generously decided to stick with me through my 'issues', so I was able to take this picture. He held the salute as he ran through the entire stretch. It was a powerful moment.

The course for RNR Seattle was a bit challenging. There were a few long hills in downtown and on the highway, the second tunnel had a bit of a right-to-left slope, the concrete surface on the viaduct was punishing in the last few miles. The inconveniently placed underpass drop-and-rise at mile 12-point-freaking-8 dashed a lot of hopes for strong finishes. Al described the course as 'designed to zap your legs', so if you were coming off a strong time at San Diego you might want to look at this as a recreational race.  Clear skies gave us some stunning views of Mount Rainier on a fabulous day. Our weather luck continues.

Caryn and I saw this fellow making great progress on the Viaduct near mile 11. Steve Martin lost both of his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan and his goal was to finish the half marathon in under 3 hours.  His finish time was 2:59:59. A better picture of Steve is on the Rock n Roll site here.

Susan and I finished a few minutes apart. Al ran ahead to bring Susan in with another solid walk time of just under 2:42. I recovered enough to catch up with Caryn on the last few hard miles to finish just under 2:44. It was not what I came in planning to do, but technically a PR in the state of Washington. I'll take it. 

Caryn and I gave our shoes to Give Your Sole, a local organization collecting donations for the needy. They collected 617 pairs after the race.

It was great to give something back through the sport that's given so much to us.

After you reach the Rock Star level for 5 RNR races in a year, you get to pick up the bonus "Heavy Medal" at the race instead of having to wait for it to come in the mail. Seattle is also the second leg of the Pacific Peaks challenge (RNR Portland in May was the first). Kevin pointed out this was one of the only times where you can get three medals in one race. We always wear our medals on the flight home. It's tradition. But with this kind of hardware, it may be easier on our necks if we checked them.

Four more months to our 50th Half Marathons. For the record, I no longer feel 'dead inside'.


Rock n Roll Seattle celebrated its 5th running in 2013. There were 2,345 finishers in the full marathon (median finish time 4:35) and 12,367 in the half marathon (median finish time 2:22).  

The course was a point to point course in 2010, but was modified in 2013 to eliminate a hill or two and shorten the stretch on the Viaduct. The 2013 courses for both the half and full marathon start at the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle, traveling south on 5th Avenue, east on South Dearborn and south on Rainier Avenue before turning north on 43rd. The Full splits at Lake Washington Blvd at mile 6 and rejoins the half at mile 12.5 (mile 6 on the half). A second split sends the full marathon out and back on the Lacey Murrow Memorial Bridge for miles 14 - 21. Both courses run the last 5 miles along Highway 90 west, through surface streets to the Viaduct (Highway 99), back onto surface streets finishing back at the Space Needle. An interesting artifact of the tunnels is that satellite-based GPS watches measure the distance OVER the mountain, making the total distance closer to 13.5 miles unless you have an accelerometer based device like the Garmin Foot Pod. Al's blog has a good overview of the device.

Course Setting: City streets, highway (with some canted road in the second tunnel), lakeshore drives. The full crosses a bridge; that experience draws mixed reviews.

Support: Very good. Gu stations in the late miles, water and Gatorade every 2 miles like most Rock n Roll events. Entertainment in the tunnels and on the bridge were boom box 
Weather (2013): Low of 60, high of 72. The days before and after had rain - its the Northwest, this should not surprise you. Seasonal temperatures range from a low of 53 to a high of 70.

Race weekend activities: Pikes Marketthe original Starbucks, Space Needle tours, the Great WheelA's/Mariner's game, Boeing factory tour (car or bus package required).

This was our second time racing in Seattle. In 2010, Ron did the half (race #21,  Half #12 - PR) and Susan completed her 8th full marathon (race #20). 2013 was Susan's 47th half and Ron's 46th. Both of us are at 58 races with 7 more to go this year. 

We've already signed up for RNR Seattle on June 21, 2014. The Pacific Peaks medal is way too cool to pass up. Rumors of another Rock n Roll race in Vancouver for 2015 are circulating and if they're true, we'll jump on that as soon as its announced.

Quite possibly the busiest race day yet.
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

100 Marathons x2 - Wipro SF 1st Half Marathon

"Run in Feet. Dream in Miles"(tm)

I don't see very many new sayings on race shirts or spectator signs these days. I saw this one on the back of a Los Angeles Running Club shirt and really liked the way it sounded.

The Wipro San Francisco 1st Half Marathon was a "rest race" for us. After three consecutive Half Marathon PR's for both Susan and me, it was time to be a tourist in our home town. 
2013 was the first time Susan and I did the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon. Susan has done the 5K to finish the Progressive Marathon and I've gone out to cheer people into the finish. The race is usually in late July, and conflicts with our Team in Training schedule but with the America's Cup in San Francisco this year, the race was moved to June. 

Our amazing string of weather luck continued. The fog rolled out early and we had crystal blue skies from the starting gun for the 1st Half at 5:30 AM. They made a huge deal about extra security this year in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. The volunteers were very efficient though and we got to our corrals for the early start without incident. Word was that the shuttles to the 2nd Half start line in Golden Gate Park had some issues with drop off locations, but nothing that ruined a race. The 1st Half start held to a 5 minute delay between waves to allow a lot of room on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was worth the wait.

A totally gratuitous bend in the road at Crissy Field that I'm certain was there for the photo op.
After living in the Bay Area for 35 years, I've only walked on the Golden Gate Bridge twice. Both times were in 2013, and both times during races. Talk about opening your eyes, especially on a day like this.  The wind died down going up the hills out of Crissy Field, but picked up just enough at the Bridge to cool us down after the climb.

Seriously, what's there NOT to like about racing on the Bridge?

The race was full of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. Just about all of them will be at Rock n Roll Seattle next week. I don't know why I even bother asking the question. That's Asylum country up there.

Coming off the bridge, we got a taste of why they call this "The Race that Other Marathoners Fear". Having done the Nike Marathon course 8 of the last 9 years, we were dealing with the hills pretty well, but having them at mile 9 was a bit annoying.  Everything, it seems, is relative.

By this point, I was checking my SF Marathon app to see how Endorphin Dude and Nadia Ruiz were doing on their 100th Marathons and posting screen shots of their split times on Tony's Facebook wall and the Marathon Maniacs pages. Nadia was running with her father and taking it easy. Tony was going for broke at a pace that would crush his PR.

I barely even remember finishing the 1st Half other than they were running dangerously low on Irish Coffee. We finished comfortably within the 3 hour cutoff and waited in line for the shuttle back to the Embarcadero trying to catch Tony's finish. We didn't make it, but someone else posted a finish video. Tony beat his PR by 4 minutes on the site of his first full marathon 3 years ago. His next goal is to break the 4 hour mark in St. George in October.

Post-race, post-burger, post-gelato, post-emotional breakdown photo op with our caped hero.
Nadia finished in just under 5 hours. It was a easy pace for her as she was running with her father, Jorge, who started her on this path. With this race, Nadia will enter into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest woman to have completed 100 full marathons.  She has her sights set on a sub-3 marathon and doesn't think she's reached her potential yet. 

Two completely different starting points - coming off the couch and starting as a near-elite. 

Two 100th Marathons. 

Two inspirational marathoners.

Crossing the finish line for them really was a matter of Running in Feet...and Dreaming in Miles.

It makes me humble to have the privilege to share the course with them.


The Wipro San Francisco Marathon started in 1977 and is typically late July to August. In 2013, there were 5,762 finishers in the Full Marathon (with a median time of 4:30), 5,952 in the 1st Half (2:19 Median time) and 3,096 in the 2nd Half (2:10 Median time). 

The Marathon starts on the Ferry Building at Market Street and runs along the water on the Embarcadero past Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, Fort Mason, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point and back before turning down Baker Beach and into Golden Gate Park where the 1st Half Marathon finishes. The 2nd Half starts by winding through Golden Gate Park, and runs east through the city streets to AT&T Park, turning north to finish back at the Ferry Building.  The 1st half has a 3 hour chip-time cut off. The 2nd half has a 3:30 cut off. (Course Map for 2013)

Weather: Temps range from high 50's to mid 60's for the 5:30 AM start warming about 10 degrees by finish time for the full. Fog is pretty much a given this time of year for the 1st Half but we lucked out this year as the fog burned off early. Hold on to your hats as you cross the bridge.

Things to do (or at least what WE did): The World Champion San Francisco Giants were on the road this weekend, but between the Museum District, North Beach, Alcatraz and all the tourist attractions, there is plenty to do, see, and eat. We spent the weekend with Caryn and our favorite food critic Al, so we were properly fueled, before and after, and carried the momentum into a weight loss challenge that started two days after the race.

Course setting: City streets with awesome views of SF for the most part. There may be some slight hills.

Support: Eh to Very Good. The Marathon and 1st Half Marathon start at 5:30 AM and have water and electrolyte every 2.5 miles. GU is available at the Vista Point on the far side of the bridge for the 1st half. The "Eh" part was that the 1st Half was necessarily quiet due to the route. Some DJ's and some early risers with boom boxes were up, but the 2nd Half had more of the official entertainment locations. 

We've signed up for the SF 2nd Half Marathon in 2014 to complete the "Half it All Challenge" and are keeping the option for doing the Full Marathon in 2015 for the 52 Club medal and sweatshirt.  For the truly hard core, there is a "Worth the Hurt 52.4" double marathon that starts at midnight before the race. Participants travel the course in reverse and must make the 5:30 AM start time in order to be eligible for the regular marathon and complete the double.  Wipro also sponsors the Los Angeles Marathon and offers bonus swag for completing both in the LA/SF Challenge. We haven't made up our mind on LA, but signed up for the Oakland Running Festival Relay and the Berkeley Half Marathon on November 24th to hit the Half Fanatic Mars level.

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Clockwise: Endorphin Dude's epic congratulation card. Joanna in the starting corral. Sara in front of Cupids Arrow. Caryn and Al's two designs of the Half it All medals.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Spirit of the Marathon II - The Rome Marathon: a Jumbo Photoblog (2008 Repost)

Wednesday night we went to see a special one-night only screening of Spirit of the Marathon II in Emeryville.  It was showing in over 500 locations in the US and it was cool seeing the rolling wave of Facebook reviews by timezone. SOTM2 featured two first time marathoners, a pair of cousins (one of them a 19 year legacy runner), two elite runners and a veteran (Julie "Marathon Goddess" Weiss, Facebook Pagestarting a quest to do 52 full marathons in 52 weeks in memory of her father who died of pancreatic cancer. The movie was created during the training season for the 2012 Rome Marathon.

One of the reviews included the phrase "In SOTM, they conquered the course. In SOTM2, the course fights back".  I recommend the movie for marathoners and the marathon-curious as it's a great look at the race from the rookie to the elite perspective. I also liked reliving our first international race. My MySpace blog is reposted below. 


(Originally posted on MySpace on 4/12/2008. Thank you, MySpace for deleting all content without any warning. I'm glad I saved this one.)

When you swim... in the creek...
and and eel... bites your cheek...
that's... a Mo-rayyyy....

Sorry, couldn't help it. 

Monday is an a significant day for the SF Bayside Marathon team for Team in Training so I wanted to post this before then. This was the last event of the Winter 2008 season Maratona della città di Roma.

For Susan and me, this was our first international marathon after seven full and seven half marathons.  I love new races.  This was no different.  I'll skip the coverage of the pre-race sightseeing days for now since I'd be here all day and it'll probably cause my weak-memory computer to crash.

Saturday night was the traditional Pasta Party.  Fifty-ish runners and walkers from the Silicon Valley, San Francisco/Marin, SF Bayside and SF Diablo Valley met at the Empire Palace Hotel's restaurant.  The pasta, as you might imagine, was pretty darn good.
The highlight of the evening is always the speech by our honored patient, this time it was Mark.  He'd been an avid runner, but at one point he lost an unexplainable amount of weight quickly while training.  The diagnosis was a rare variety of chronic myelogenous leukemia.  Fifteen years ago, that form of cancer had a low survival rate and a prognosis of 18 months.  He started on chemo immediately and within seven days, he was in full remission. It was so fast, he didn't even lose his hair.  The treatment was made possible in part by funds raised by Team in Training.
Mark Zafra - the pre-race Honoree speaker

This race had a relatively late start for a marathon - 9 AM as opposed to the usual 6:30 or even 5 AM.  But while we got to sleep in, most roads were blocked off so we ended walking a few miles to the starting line. We had a lot of first timers who were soaking it all in...

... and a few veterans who were thinking of why they were here.

Rome is the MOST scenic race we've done so far.  Seriously, pictures like this are just there for the taking. This is our amazing Staff who took care of all the arrangements - Lindsay, Debbie (staff/participant this time) and our Silicon Valley manager (whose name escapes me... grrr...).

Veterans of the marathon know the first thing you do after hydrating all week is to hit the lines at the porta-potties.  Maybe we were just there early, but there were no lines to speak of.  Kinda creepy actually.  This guy was either a walking advertisement for his energy gel, or was going to crap out from the sugar imbalances sometime by mile 18.  (or maybe just crap out... *snicker*)

Coach Al delivered the pre-race pep talk and led us through the round of GO TEAM!!  NO WIMPS!! TNT ROCKS!! cheers.  NOTHING sets a rookie's mind at ease faster - and no one does it better than Coach Al.  I think we shocked the rather sedate European crowd awake after that.

Coach Al with some of the honorees who were racing that day.

Starting line - right in front of the Colosseum. This was right before some guy came through the starting corrals selling cigarettes (no, really!).

Meghan and Sarae. A few or our first-timers from Diablo Valley.

They made a big deal about the cobblestone surface of the course.  If you're thinking of trying it, it DID seem to leave a few more people hobbling with knee and hip injuries than usual.  You shouldn't have problems if you train well though.

Now we know why the lines at the porta-potties were so short. (Personally, I'm glad they didn't show this during SOTM2)

We saw this guy right after the starting line. Apparently he does this every year. I guess he wanted to re-create the original run by Pheidippides  where he ran 26.2 miles to deliver the news that Athens pulled off an amazing upset over the Persians with a desperation shot at the buzzer. 

Course-side entertainment for US races is usually a rock or jazz band.  Not in Rome.  They had maybe 4 full bands playing some upbeat classical and what sounded like great school fight music.

There were about two dozen people in a group who specialize in running marathons backwards. (No, I can't explain it either).

Castel Sant Angelo (the headquarters for the Illuminati in Angels and Demons). In SOTM2, this is where Mimmo started running with Sylvia.

This race got full marks for course support. Even for the late-arriving walkers, there was plenty of Gatorade, water and blood oranges (*drools*...)

My favorite shirts from the race . "Marathoning: The triumph of desire over reason".

Photo op at Piazza Navona, where the party never stops (even if you have marathoners running you over because you're oblivious enough to try to cross the course without looking both ways).

Susan and Sandi (Silicon Valley) in front of the always crowded Spanish Steps.

Passing by the Trevi Fountain.  I had to snap quickly because by this time the course barriers were almost all gone. We were dodging pedestrians and tourists for the next few miles.

I only shot this angle once, coming down the finish chute. Did I mention this race was scenic?  This was the first full marathon we actually raced the entire way together.  Our warm up curves just don't match well, but we still finished with a walker-respectable 6:23.

I can't remember this fellow's name, but he's from the TNT National Capital chapter.  He's done upwards of 30 races and (get this) at least one on every continent, finishing the Antarctica Marathon earlier this year.  Susan's looking at my 'life goals' list and cringing.

The lady fourth from the left is Laura, one of our honorees.  She's been a part of TNT for 10 years and has beaten cancer twice.  Midway through this season, she found out she found another lump - one of the now-known side effects of her original radiation therapy.  Coach Al made the trip to support her, but at mile 18, Laura noticed a few other first-time participants struggling.  She told Coach to help them out instead. She said later that what she'll remember the most from the race was that every one of her Bayside teammates waited at the finish line - some for hours - until she finished. Laura had surgery the other week and is home now, just waiting for the clearance to start another season.

TNT East Bay Run Team. They ALL waited for the last team member to finish. Yvette Sandoval, Yvonne Gallegos, Lindsay Gage Ring, Laura Warren, Ken Reicher. Is that Rebecca and Kat also?
Meghan had been battling cramps since mile 8 and Sarae had to fight through a migraine around mile 12.  At mile 18, Coach Al dropped back to see them and asked Meghan what it was going to take for her to finish the race.


"What flavor?"  Coach ran into a shop, everyone in line let him cut in front, and in about five minutes Meghan had her Cream gelato.  She and Sarae both finished.  It was the first marathon for both of them.

I'm thinking this is what Coach Al looks like to participants around mile 18.

I missed getting a shot of this, but Coach Joe had some pictures.  A TNT participant was one of the last to finish the race.  She had an escort of about 10 police cars, a paramedic, her staff support and two coaches.  Just about everyone was crying by the time she finished.  After she got her medal, everyone of the race support staff got one too (below).

The numbers:
- about 50 participants.  As far as I know, San Francisco was the only chapter to have this an an official TNT event. We had our friend from National Capital and one from North Texas who did it on her own.
- The top fundraiser was Gilda from our SF/Marin walk team raising $15,625.
- The team collectively raised over $320,000 for blood cancer research.  Not bad for our first winter team in two years.

Monday is the one-year anniversary of the day beloved TNT participant and honoree Brenda Donato lost her battle to blood cancer.  I only knew her other through MySpace but I remember her as a fighter who was a positive inspiration to the end.

Sunday morning, one of our local team captains and friend of Brenda's will be organizing the first Brenda Donato Rainbow 5K Fun Run and Walk in Walnut Creek.  The event is closed, but if you're so inclined, I'd love it if you could make even a small donation.

Ever wonder what it feels like to save a life?

Take a step (or ten or fifty thousand).

Anyone can make a difference.


The Maratona di Roma celebrates its 20th running in 2014. It is held in mid- to late- March and has a characteristically late start (9:30 AM) like many European races. There is a 5K event offered. The course is a loop starting at the Colosseum and going north along the Tiber River. There are about 7 miles of hard cobblestones and while the walkers seemed to pass those without issue, a lot of my runner friends were quite put out with me for not warning them.

Weather: ranges from high 40's to mid 50's (7 - 10 C) at the start warming about 15 degrees by finish time (up to 15 C). 2008 was perfect weather.

Things to do (or at least what WE did): We weren't able to follow the standard "stay off your feet before the marathon" advice, visiting Vatican City and several churches and museums. We did stayed for a week afterwards visiting Florence and Venice. There may have been enormous amounts of drinking chocolate and gelato involved.

Course setting:  The Ancient City of Rome. The course passes through many of the world-renowned landmarks, starting at the base of the Colosseum, passing the Roman Forum, Castel Sant'Angelo, Piazza Navona, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica, Piazza del Popolo and many others. (Course Map)

Support: Excellent. Water and full bottles of Gatorade every few miles, blood oranges at several stations on the course. At the finish line, they gave out full bags of cookies and had a running tap of hot cider. The City goes about its business as the race progresses. Early on this is not an issue as citizens stop to cheer participants on as they shop and eat. The more leisurely marathoners should expect to find crowds on the course after the 30km mark and especially at Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. Local officials escorted the last participant to the finish line in about 8 hours. Each of the firefighters and policemen received medals as well.

Rome was Ron's 8th full marathon, Susan's 6th and our first international race. It was the first race we actually stayed together the entire time. While there were no records on completion time, we DID set a PR by taking 137 pictures on the course. Stephanie would be proud.

Marathon Goddess Julie finished her quest for 52 marathons in 52 weeks by completing the Los Angeles Marathon on March 17, 2013. She raised over $180,000 for pancreatic cancer research.

Laura Warren beat the last round of cancer and continues to train with TNT today. She is a living miracle.