Some adventures in road and trail running.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Camp Day Seven: The Big One

The final challenge for Christmas Camp 2008 was to run the longest mileage on the last day after accumulating 70 miles of fatigue in the body over the previous 6 days. Oh yeah...sign me up! :-)

6 Christmas campers opted to run loops at the Glendoveer Fitness trail loop: 2 miles of nice chip trails passing around a golf course with large Douglas fir trees. The trail was in great shape...really only mushy in one or two sections. The other campers did an out and back on the Wildwood trail to handle the remaining snow.

For the "loopers" to get 30 miles we needed to do 15 loops. Youch!
But it went by surprising fast especially with almost no rain. It was great having the car as an aid station every 2 miles with food, water, change of clothes, porta-potties and the every present squirrels. Note that it appears the water fountains are turned off for winter but this would be a great place to do tempo runs in the spring or summer. As well, watch those squirrels: close to the biggest, most aggressive Sciuridae I ever care to meet. Carried off all our empty GU packets and I think were trying with the hand-helds! They could easily beat up our dog Hagen!

After warm-up for the first 6-8 miles making good use of the portable toilets (Imodium to the rescue :-) ), I was able to pick up the pace and hit 20 miles in 2:57.

I then caught up to Trisha and with a strange guy giving her pause I did the next two loops with her. Once the weirdo hit the road, I picked up the pace again and hit the marathon in 3:57 (a little cheating as these are running time with limited aid station time included).
2 loops to go. I started working again and finished out in 4:32 pushing down the nice downhill to the 30 mile finish.

Then I did some "extra" with Ronda and also back out to take some pictures of Trisha finishing strong. This was Trisha's first 100 mile week and only THIRTY miles further than her previous long week...awesome! She is going to rock the Surf City Marathon in a month!

For fueling, outside of 4 gels, I went with about 1-2 oz of yams or sweet potatoes and a turkey slider (turkey breast slices wrapped around either avocado or olives) per loop. Seemed to really keep my stomach good and provided the needed power. Thanks Mark!

We all spent some time running with friends (thanks to Mary, James and Sarah for coming out...future Christmas Campers I think!), with fellow campers and by ourselves either in quite reflection or rockin' out with the tunes. Great way to end the year.

Christmas Camp 2008
Thursday Dec 25 - 7.1 miles (11.4 km)
Friday Dec 26 - 13.2 miles (11.4 km)
Saturday Dec 27 - 15 miles (24.2 km)
Sunday Dec 28- 22 miles (35.4 km)
Monday Dec 29 - 5.1 miles (24.2 km)
Tuesday Dec 30 - 8 miles (12 km)
Wednesday Dec 31 - 32 miles (51.5 km)
Total of 18 hours for 102 miles (164 km)

Great way to spend vacation :-)

Happy New Year all and see you on the road and trails in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Camp Day Six: Getting Ready

Day six is the 8 little miles of calm before the "storm".

It is the Christmas camp day that when you are out running your mind drifts back to the hard work you have done already: the miles, the sit ups, the push ups.

Then you allow yourself to take a brief glimpse at Day Seven: 30 miles to round out the challenge.
Little doubts float into your brain:
It will be tough.
It will be long.
It will be cold.
You will feel the accumulated fatigue within your body.

But Christmas camp is not about taking it easy.
It is about having a great time with a bunch of friends who share a similar passion.
It is about laying the groundwork for the upcoming running season.
It is about enjoying life.

Tomorrow, on the last day of the year, we are challenging ourselves to run 30 miles.
Some are doing the traditional Purge and Splurge. For all the relevant information on this event check out here.

Another group of us is doing our own version...30 miles on a 2 mile loop trail at Glendoveer Fitness trail. The park location is here.
If you want to log any miles tomorrow, please come on out and join us.
We will be there for a while :-) starting at 7:30am

Make sure you do something outside of your comfort zone tomorrow.
It is a great way to kick start 2009.

Photo credit to David Webb

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Camp: Day Four and Five

After finishing Day 3 of Christmas Camp I was truly wondering if I would be able to finish this beast: I was tired, sore and not enthused. Turns out it was most likely I was just plain done with all the snow running. It is amazing how much the slipping and sliding adds weird aches and pains to the body.

Sunday we planned to run 21 miles.
In the morning before church we were going to do the loop around the waterfront as in Day 3 and then do neighborhood loops to make the other 9 miles.

We started out from the Old Spaghetti Factory at 7:30 with a smaller group than Day 3 but just as enthusiastic. It was surprisingly warm and not too windy or rainy. And the best part: all the snow was GONE! Wahoo! It was amazing how much faster and easier the same loop was from the day before. I even had the urge to pick it up and drop some marathon pace miles as we went through Oaks Bottom on the Springwater corridor. I could hardly believe it when we reached the Selwood Bridge. And then the crowning glory was all the water was gone from Willamette Park. Now if only they would open the outhouses in the off season! With a little time to spare after the loop Trisha and I did a little out and back to end with 12 miles in the bank. The rest of the group finished up with a reverse loop.

After a great church service with awesome Christmas music from the worship team (thanks guys!), and some quiet time with visiting brother, sister-in-law and Grandma it was time to hit the road again.

Trisha and I did 2 loops of the neighborhood at a nice pace. Both of us were again surprised at how good we were feeling. Trisha then peeled off to do a walk loop with Grandma. I figured I had nothing to lose so I dropped the hammer for the last ~5km loop...around 21 minutes. Felt great to finally do some faster running after all the sloggin' in the snow.

After taking the family to Five Guys (were I resisted the temptation and only had some peanuts to stay on the fueling plan for bootcamp) we headed to the zoo. I seriously considered logging the miles we did walking around the Zoo Lights...I think they need to work on their traffic flow :-) Saw the new baby elephant, the light display and rode the train. I was getting tired, cold and hungry but we still had lots of fun and it is always great to see things through the eyes of the kids.

Today was pretty much a rest day. I did bootcamp in the morning (no rest there for the arms...ouch!) and then burned up some of my "extra" miles to only log 5.1 miles. Trisha was trying to wimp out and do 7 treadmill miles since it was raining hard this morning. But she stepped up and headed out into the elements when all the treadmills were full at 24 hr Fitness.

The great part is it appears that winter is over for Portland...none too soon for my liking! We even got mail today (after about a week) and I heard garbage trucks in the neighborhood (after no pickup for almost 2 weeks).

Christmas Camp total for the 5 days: 62 miles (100 km).
Hope every is enjoying there own end of year challenge?!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Camp Day 3

Today was set for a 15 miler and the first full group run. The group formed at the Spaghetti Factory around 7:30 to head out for what we hoped was the most snow/ice free miles in the area.

And what a group!! 13 Christmas Campers and 1 Slipper Camper (Scott joining in for the fun today).

We started out going with the wind which was a real blessing to warm up and get used to what was generally slightly slippery but runnable footing.

We moved along pretty much the complete waterfront of Portland using the East Esplanade, Springwater corridor and Willamette Greenway.
The route was nice today even in the strong wind with rain and is definitely something all runners in the area should try. The bridges, the parks (Tom McCall, Vera Katz esplanade, Oaks Bottom and Willamette) and the constant views of the city and river on paved trail make for a great outing whether running or biking.

I mapped the waterfront loop here (about 10.6 miles).

The Willamette park "river" was the low point for most today I believe. The flooding from the rapid snow melt made for cold wet feet that just is not that much fun on a December day.

After the waterfront loop we added an out and back to make the 15 miles. It was really great to have my friends car with the seat warmers :-)

We are planning to use the same route tomorrow for our 21 miles. I think the footing tomorrow will be much improved and we can hope that the wind and rain is slightly less. Trisha and I both plan to fuel better tomorrow as I think we both ran a little low on sugar.

Today definitely stretched me and tomorrow will be more of the same. I am pushing my body to its limit...but then that is the whole point of Christmas Camp :-)

As Cheri would say...ensure you get out and get moving now that the snow is all disappearing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Camp: Day One and Two

Christmas Camp 2008 has begun!! Last years posts are here.

Christmas camp is a series of training adventures that is "...meant to be a challenge where like minds come together to run and celebrate". About 20 brave souls have signed up for the challenge.

Running Schedule:
Thursday 12/25 – 12 miles! Ouch that’s on Christmas day…get up early, sneak out for a run, maybe break it into 2 runs. Don’t get behind……

Friday 12/26 – 7 miles! Group Run

Saturday 12/27 – 15 miles! Group Run

Sunday 12/28 – 21 miles! Group Run

Monday 12/29 – 7 miles!

Tuesday 12/30 – 8 miles!

Wednesday 12/31! – 30 miles! Last day of camp! Group Run


1. 150 pushups! You can break them out however you wish so you total 150! These on one your toes baby!!!! Make it happen, learn to do real push-ups not the sissy kind….there are no sissy’s here, right????

2. 25 sit-ups a day. These are full sit-ups not crunches. See the video below on how to do them and do them properly.

So as you can see the bar is set pretty high: 100 miles of running and the "other" is no piece of cake either :-)

The inches of snow on the ground in Portland this year provided Trisha and I with a less than stellar start.

Day One: Trisha got in 6 miles on the crazy Bull Mountain roads.
I got in about 7 miles but I believe I should get extra credit for helping 3 cars get unstuck and make it to their Christmas destination :-)

Day Two: Starting out we were 6 miles behind :-(. Trisha and I met up with Lisa,
Micheal, Ronda, Lynn and Dave at the start of the Leif Erikson trail. Driving there was almost half the fun as Thurman gets pretty interesting near the top. We trudged out to mile 2.5 on the trail and decided we likely going faster if we started to walk. So Trisha and I headed back to the start. The others made it out to about mile 3. We did some out and backs to total the 7 miles for today.

Treadmill time was spent to erase the deficit from day one...another 6 miles that seem to fly by after the snow/ice running.

So what are you going to challenge yourself with as we head into 2009?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Church Service 2008

With the history setting winter weather we have had in Portland this past week most, if not all, Christmas Eve church services were canceled.

Not to be deterred, Cole planned a Swanson family service complete with home made program.

He designated himself as the "priest" and piano player with Leah as the special music and assistant. Trisha and Grandma provided the catering. Apparently I was the silent benefactor :-)

We opened with Christmas carols with Cole and Leah doing the piano accompaniment.

Cole then read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.

This was followed by candle lighting and prayer time to remember those in need and to thank God for all the wonderful things in our lives.

The service wrapped up with chocolates and cookies provided for all the parishioners and service participants.

Merry Christmas to all from the Swansons!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UltraRunning magazine: subscribe already

Hanging out with my buddy Sean last weekend before the California International marathon, I was reading some issues of UltraRunning magazine.

Half way through the second issue, I thought, "Hey, this is a great magazine, I should subscribe". Then I dredged up the memory that I actually had subscribed back in July and totally forgotten about it!

So I went to the magazines website and placed a call to its office.
I left a message pretty much expecting nothing to happen and to have to follow up numerous times to get to a satisfactory resolution. Boy, was I wrong.

We received a call at home saying the mistake was entirely theirs and that they would start my subscription, give me the full 2 years and include some back issues. When I arrived home today, the two back issues had been mailed out with a personal note.

UltraRunning may have made a mistake, but who doesn't. The more important point is that they were more than willing to admit it, fix it and go the extra mile (get it...extra mile --> ultra running :-) ) to resolve the problem.

UltraRunning has retained a subscriber for as long as they are in business.

You should check them out as well. I am willing to lend out some old issues :-)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gymnastics 2008

Leah took part in a four event gymnastics exhibition today: uneven bars, trampoline, floor and balance beam. She did a great job and her hard work really showed in her focus and execution.

Monday, December 8, 2008

California International Marathon 2008

I posted the short and sweet story right after the race: I missed my goal of sub 3 hours.
This is the long version telling all about the race and lessons I learned as well as some new questions to solve in future races. The picture is of Mount Shasta on the drive back home.

The place we stayed at, the Holiday Inn at Capital Plaza, was good. Nice price, close to the packet picket up and finish line and the staff were all very helpful. Next time we will not stay on the 15th floor as there was some very early noise from the party wrapping up on the 16th floor which has all the gathering rooms.

The bus ride from the Holiday Inn worked out well: leaving around 5:25 with about 45 minutes to the start to arrive around 6:10.
I would not want to get to the start any later. We arrived before the main crowds but when we got back from our warm-up things were pretty crazy. Even with 1 porty potty for every 24 people (250 total) there were some good lineups. Everyone is over-hydrated :-)

It was really hard to move up to the correct place in the start as well. I had to keep pushing forward during the playing of the national anthem...something I usually try to avoid. Sean Meissner had real trouble and likely cost him about 2 minutes. Possibly need a staggered start with the skinny road we start on? Or maybe corrals like Boston? If I did do this race again I would head to the line at least 10 minutes earlier around 6:45.

The crowd support was good with music and cheering squads along the course. The relay exchanges (every 6miles) always had very large crowds with loud cheering.

The aid stations were frequent and seemed well stocked. Gels were available out on the course in good supply. And not just some nasty flavors no one likes. I even remembered to grab one but I don't remember where.
But why, oh why, did they use hard plastic cups for water!!
No way to squeeze the cup in to a funnel to shoot the water in and after discard you have sharp, slippery plastic bits all over the road.
Please, all race directors, do not use hard plastic cups. Really made me appreciate packing my water in my Ultimate Direction hand held. I could steer clear of the crowds and the mass of plastic on the road.
Talking with the other (faster) runners I still need to drink more. I got through about 20 ounces and should probably have done 40.

One weird kinda note to all race directors out there...if you have porta potties en route it would be great to help runners who are really trying to get in and get out fast to "prime" the toilet paper. I was lucky enough to get an outhouse that no one had used on the course but had to fumble around for what seemed like forever try to rip off the roll's wrapping...erg!

I ran with the 3 hour pace group for the first 16 miles. It was good but after my first bathroom break I think I should have taken a few more miles to catch back up...3 miles at 6:40 was too fast. Easy to look back now. I really was hoping that the one pit stop was all it was going to take to "rotate the tires". Nope...not today.
I think I would also run the first 4 miles slower next time and catch up to the pace group around mile 7 or 8. The first miles just felt too fast. Others in the group seemed to share the same sentiments. Also more conducive to the holy grail of running: the negative split (which Sean achieved...stud!). But again the 3 hour pace group crossed the line right before 3 hours...awesome job by the leader, Kevin Sawchuk.

After the first 4 miles I settled into a nice pace with the group and was feeling awesome. Fueling with my gels (alternating GU Strawberry Banana with Clif Shot Double Expresso) about every 30 mins. Sipping from my hand held. 10 km in 43 minutes. As shown below, made it to the half in 1:29.

This was about when I knew my stomach was going to have more impact on the race. With the minute in the bank, I dialed back the pace to around 7 minutes. Still no love. Dialed back to 7:30. More pit stops. At this point I lost a bit of mental focus.
I knew I was not going to make sub 3 nor a PR. 3:15:59 was my next real line as it is the Boston qualifier for my age group.
I also thought I could likely break 3:10. Nope, not in the cards. Not entirely sure when the 3:10 pace group passed me but I just could not pick it back up as they went by. Erg.
I did like the last 2 miles more than I thought I would. You are running along a straight stretch on L street for the last 3 or 4 miles. I think from like 56th street down to 8th street. I actually liked ticking off the blocks. Not sure this would always be the case but it did work on this day. Slight increase in pace at the end to make it into the 3:13s

No real damage to the body as the legs did not get the chance to work hard enough, long enough. This is a good thing. Might lose my right big toenail. Not sure what the story is there. I did run in my marathon racing flats (Saucony Fast Twitch) but I have never had anything like this before in any race. Maybe it was all the pit stop squatting...ewww :-(

The CIM course is fast but not flat. Rather rolling in a general down hill....which I liked. There are uphills. But all of the hills you can see the top from the bottom and with a little bit of a change in stride and a push you are at the top. And each hill you are immediately rewarded with a nice downhill usually both before and after. Last miles are the flattest. The course most closely reminds me of Boston.

Now to plan for the next marathon: Surf City near L.A.
I may dive into the boot camp world that has done such great things for Trisha and Ronda.
I would like to be about 5 pounds lighter for the February race. And stronger.
I may run with Trisha at Surf City and pick another race to go for the gold.

Either way I really don't know what to do with this stomach. Maybe the strict fueling plans of boot camp will fix me? Wish I could just fuel intravenously :-) So much more direct and would skip the weak link in my system Possibly being stronger will allow my backup pace to be faster so when the stomach does go sour it will not have as much effect on the end result. Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

Much respect and congratulations go out to Jeff Caba (2:36), Sean (2:39) and Ryan Altman (3:04)...the Bend boys who all set awesome PRs. I want to grow up to be like you guys :-) Glenn Miller ran a great race after some time away from the marathon. It was great hanging with all of you. Also great was hitting Johnny Rockets for hamburgers, cheese fries and malts after the race. My stomach seemed fine after crossing the finish line.


Mile 1 : 6:47 Mile 7: 6:48 Mile 14: 7:00 Mile 21: 7:51
Mile 2: 6:37 Mile 8: 7:28 Mile 15: 7:06 Mile 22: 813
Mile 3: 6:45 Mile 9: 6:38 Mile 16: 6:59 Mile 23: 8:47
Mile 4: 6:34 Mile 10: 6:40 Mile 17: 7:11 Mile 24: 8:45
Mile 5: 6:55 Mile 11: 6:39 Mile 18: 7:32 Mile 25: 8:58
Mile 6: 6:53 Mile 12: 6:54 Mile 19: 7:37 Mile 26: 8:47

Mile 13: 6:54 Mile 20: 8:47 1:42 3:13:56

(half in 1:29) (2:21 total time) 3:13:56

Sunday, December 7, 2008

3:13 for my 13th Marathon

Almost two hours ago I finished my 13th marathon, the California International, in an unofficial time of 3:13:56.

The bad things:
  • CIM was a PR course
  • My stomach had its issues to prevent me from running the last 9 miles fast enough
  • I fertilized some bushes on the course so they will grow really well next spring...ewww :-(
  • I get to try again for sub-3 hours
The good things:
  • CIM is a PR course
  • Till about mile 17 I was on pace for 3 hours
  • My fueling worked well even with an off stomach
  • My legs feel really good after running the race and I am ready for next race.
  • Some bushes on the course will grow really well next spring.
  • I achieved a Boston qualifying time for my age.
  • I have the largest finishing medal to add to my must weigh a full pound!
  • I get to try again for sub-3 hours
I will write up a full report with all the gory details on the drive home tonight (back to Bend).

Already thinking of the work to do for lucky 14: the Surf City marathon in February.
Beaten again on this one but the war is not over yet!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Final Preparation for CIM

I am in taper week for the California International Marathon running Dec 7th in Sacramento.

I do not particularly like tapering. Body complains about the inactivity, every little creak and groan of the muscles seems amplified, and my mind reels that I should being doing more to get ready.

I think tapering is like flossing your teeth: everyone knows it is a necessary evil but how many of us really do it correctly and for the right amount of time? And what is the definition of correct or right amount?

I have real trouble not overeating and keeping a good attitude during the taper.
Once I finish my last peak week I really have to fight the "nothing more I can do, so do nothing" attitude. Then the very next second, BOOM, I flip to "ARGH..WE MUST DO MORE TRAINING it is our only hope for success!" :-)

I had planned to do more miles in the last week but my stomach has been giving me issues...hard to do any distance without hitting the bathroom :-(

I also had great plans to stretch and do yoga every day this week...yah right :-) I did get a sports massage last night to dig out those pesky balls of tightness in my quads and calf muscles.

I am happy with the final 5 weeks of training I did leading up to marathon week (this week). I would have liked to do the final big push peak week one week further back and had higher mileage in the weeks leading up to the 70 mile week. I find the best success with consistent 60 mile weeks peaking in the 70s. Higher mileage than that and I tend to break.

Oct 27 - Nov 2 : 55 miles
Nov 3 - Nov 9: 57 miles
Nov 10- Nov 16: 55 miles with a 5 km race thrown in
Nov 17 - Nov 23: 70 miles
Nov 24 - Nov 30: 40 miles with a 5km race thrown in
Dec 1 - 6 - now planning about 15 - 20 miles

When I taper I try to maintain the intensity but reduce the mileage. I really find this hard to do. Any indication of minor discomfort and I back off the pace. In normal training I would push through and it would work itself out. I need to work on this.

I am really looking forward to this race...excited and nervous at the same time. Only bummer is that Trisha and the kids will not be there.

How I plan to have a great race:
  • I have the mental edge of knowing I will be in an experienced pace group. The leader is an accomplished ultra-marathoner who brought his group across the line last year at 2:59:43. Sounds good to me!
  • I have lots of friends and family wishing me well and holding me accountable. For me it really does help during a race.
  • For the first time I will be running a race with someone who is shooting for the same goal time. This works great in training to get past the low points so I think it will be awesome in a race situation.
  • The weather is looking good: little wind, low of 39, high of 61. Might feel a bit warm near the end but Ronda correctly warned me about that.
  • It is supposed to be a fast course..duh!

Thank you to all the friends who have provided advice and wished me well!
Off to pack my racing flats...Wahoo!