Some adventures in road and trail running.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hagg Lake 50k Recap: The Sun Run

I am honored to be a guest community blogger at the Run Oregon blog for my recount of the Hagg Lake 50km run I raced on Saturday.

The short version: I ended up having a good run after a relatively tough start on a beautiful day out in the sun.

To read the full story please see my recap of the 50km here

Kelly Johnson wrote up a report for the 25km here.

Trail Factor has also posted a fun Hagg Lake 25k and 50k video at My spotlight is at around the four minute mark in the video...the guys who doesn't know his finishing time :-).

Great start to the trail season and all the great races.
Please consider adding our 5k and 10k "urban" trail races to your calendar:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Getting Ready to Race and Getting the Race Ready

This coming weekend I will be racing in the Hagg Lake 50km. My mind is ready. I am not sure that my body is. When I signed up to do the Surf City marathon on Feb 1st and then run Hagg Lake on Feb 21st, those dates sounded a long way apart. Well, the short of it is that my body is still feeling the marathon effort.
I am making peace with this and just planning to take Saturday's race as it unfolds, run my own race as Dane would say (I am reading See Dane Run at the moment). Start a little conservative and see how things go. The course will be in great shape. We have had dry weather for the last week and it does not even look like we will get much rain on race day.

On Saturday, I had the privilege of training both with the Black Saturday crew and Trail Factor group.
Black Saturday means hill repeats, and this time was slated for 3x30 minutes on Saltzman.
The details on this hill repeat can be found on this other post. These are good tough but not impossible repeats: about 30 minutes of running for 3.6 miles with 1200 ft of climb.

On Saturday, I posted a decent time for my first repeat but was having nothing but trouble with my gut. I was paying for the over indulgence of going out for dinner with Trisha for Valentines...and I would do it again :-) My second repeat was about 1 minute slower but again it was more my gut and mind then my legs that slowed me down. I called it quits after the two. I felt bad breaking a cardinal rule of Black Saturday (Thou Shalt Always Do the FULL workout) and also not really getting to run as much as I would have liked with the others including the Trail Factor crew. Next time! It was really nice to not run in the rain.

And then Sunday we had an amazing Spring day. So after church, I headed to Cook Park for more course measuring with the wheel for our Reason To Run Spring Rush 10k route. The pictures throughout this post are from around the course. NICE!
Makes me want to run it...we hope the same goes for you.

See you at Hagg this weekend!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Working and Measuring the Trails

It was a weekend of preparation. Friday night was preparing taxes...wahoo I smell a rebate! I just love TurboTax. I even get to claim it as a write-off.

Saturday was a trail work day out at Hagg Lake for the 25 and 50km on February 21st (note the races are sold out!). I hitched a ride out to the lake with Ronda and Micheal and we enjoyed talking about the pending race season and all the great adventures that are about to unfold including Hardrock!

We were blessed with an amazing sunny and warm spring day. Ronda, Larry and I covered the section from the last mile out from the finish/start and then to the dam.
Thanks to those who had gone before and done all the real heavy lifting and cutting...I only had some minor sawing to do and mostly just cutting back some blackberries. It is cool to see how this trail has matured under the careful attention of the Hagg Lake Ultra the volunteers and especially Ronda and Stacey. Make sure to say a big THANK YOU. In my opinion the trail is in great shape partially from all the work but also from the dry spring we have had. But we all know that can change really quickly. And don't worry there is still plenty of mud if you want it!

Since I am still enjoying relaxing after the Surf City marathon, I did not feel the need for a long run this weekend. So on Sunday after church, the kids and I went down to Cook Park and wheeled the 5 km course for the Spring Burst of our Reason to Run events. The kids rode their bikes and I walked/ran the sections to get the accurate distances. I must say it will be a great course! I used a Rolatape measuring wheel I borrowed from my friend Scott. The kids loved knowing exactly how far we had gone and I know the runners and walkers will appreciate it on race day.

Amazing weather for the inaugural Pier Park runs...I know everyone must have had a great time!
Also post race hats off to the guys who pounded the Jed Smith Ultra...1st to Todd Braje who gave me great advice for Surf City and then to my buddy Sean for his second place finish. These guys run two marathons at the speed I can run one...NICE and totally inspiring! Full results can be found here.
Also to our friend Steve running the Death Valley marathon...can't wait to here those stories....

Monday, February 2, 2009

Surf City Marathon 2009: Sub 3 hour!

In April 2005 I ran the Boston Marathon and removed 7 minutes off of my PR and posted a 3:02:33. Shortly after finishing this race I set the goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon.

On Sunday February 1, 2009 I achieved this goal.
This was after running 6 other marathon between 2005 and 2009 where I failed to achieve my goal. Sunday was my fourteenth marathon and was my best time, my strongest showing and the race I enjoyed the most and had the most fun running.

On Dec 7th, 2008 I ran the California International marathon in 3:13. I had GI issues and really disliked running the race from pretty much mile 11 in. This really bugged me. Racing was supposed to be really hard but fun.

So I dug in and worked to train harder and with focus to ensure a great race day. I wrote most of this up in my previous post on bootcamp.

For the marathon we stayed with my brother and sister-in-law who live about 45 minutes from the start line of the race. Lets just state the obvious that it was amazing weather and really nice to visit in January.

Trisha and I got up at 4:15 (OUCH) on race day and were on the road by 5am.
I had my pre-race breakfast of 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 3 oz of blueberries, a teaspoon of peanut button, multivitamin and then a protein powder drink. Max strength Tums to top things off.
We got to where we planned to park at 5:50 to find the lot "full" and closed. ERG!! The marathon has ~2000 runners but apparently lots of the 1/2 marathoners (12000 total) decided to come early and take many parking spots.
Now I get grumpy and more nervous. With the traffic jam we finally park at 6:15ish. The race starts at 6:50. Out of the car and I head out for a 2 mile warmup. This race is really well set up with restrooms. Lots of porta-potties and beach restrooms. I was able to get in 3 pit stops before the start of the race. Some Margarita Clif Bloks, some berry Sharkies and Immodium with about 4 oz of water to top off the tank.

I easily moved right up to the start line with ~2000 runners. Nice wide road to start on and really made the race feel like a nice small event.
I think starting the race in 2 waves spaced by 2 minutes, 4hrs and under and 4hrs and over, really went a long way to easing any congestion. Trisha found me in my final thoughts near the start and we got in a final kiss.

The national anthem was sung and we were off. It is usually a good sign fr me if things feel off for the first 3-4 miles. This race I immediately had a tight right calf...OK gonna have to watch that.

Of course I ran the first mile too fast: 6:43. But not terrible.
Backed off for mile 2 to post 6:59. These first miles you are running on a small gradually downhill on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Nice stretch to find your initial groove and pace.
You then turn off the PCH into some side road and then trails within parks. There was even a really short "off road" section that made me smile. In these sections was the first time we hit mile markers that were grossly misplaced. One mile 6:17 the next 6:55 with all of us in our group agreeing we had ran the same pace. This type of problem would only get worse through the race.

At around mile 8 you are back out on the roads and then heading down a nice hill back towards the beach. This is when I remember saying a prayer of thanks and starting to smile like a fool: today was going to be the day I would break 3 hours!
This was also the time I started running with Dane Rauschenberg. This is the man who ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 2006. More importantly he was fun to run with, set a great pace and appears to be a genuinely nice guy.

We headed out north again on the PCH into a headwind. Noticeable but not terrible. We reached the turnaround on the out and back and turned for the tail wind...NICE. As well, as we turned the morning fog was just start to break.
Looking back on the PCH with around 15000 running through the thinning fog back lit by the rising sun...simply magical and inspiring.
Dane and I chatted and held a nice pace and went past the women running in first place (turns out she was a local and did end up winning the race).
Continued on the PCH feeling strong. You then turn back north off the PCH and on the beach bike path. The sun had broken through by this time and the temp started to rise.
I really had mentally prepped to stay hydrated this race and keep my carb/water ratio close to 7% (per Ronda and Sean). I was planning 5 gels so this meant at least 60 oz of water (each gel is 1 oz). The first 20 was from my hand held and in by mile 8. The rest came via a cup of water at most aid stations.

The aid stations were very frequent and well stocked with water and Vitalyte (sorry this stuff just does NOT work for me or Dane) but they really need to work on fuel. ClifBars are nice pre and post race, but I am not sure who can choke one of these down while racing. Gels or bloks people!!

In the section of bike trails the mile markers got to be a joke and just could not be counted on. I can only hope this was malicious mischief and not incompetence. Lots of outhouses along the way but I only briefly considered a pit stop. With some focused breathing and relaxation, the stomach and GI stopped grumbling just plain worked. I was pretty worried here as for the 3 days previous to the race I was having the same symptoms I had before CIM for a month and which shot down CIM. I think this was just nerves causing me grief as I had made no change in diet.
During the race, I was alternating GU Plain with ClifShot Double Espresso.
My right calf started to indicate it could cramp so I took 2 hammer caps at mile 18ish.

At mile 20 my brother and sister-in-law were waiting with Cole and Leah. Awesome!. And then Dave jumped in and ran with me for about 3 miles. This really helped me to focus and pick up the pace. Dane had dropped me after he had taken a short bathroom break. Running with Dave I worked to make him work. It also helped get me through completely missing or misplaced mile markers.
Mile 20 to mile 25 we are back running with the wind and heading to the Huntington beach pier. We could see this 5 mile off and was my queue to pick it up. I am not sure I really got any faster but I did not get slower and started to pass people again.

I was on my own again once Dave dropped off, fired up the tunes (FireFlight: Unbreakable "No one can touch me. Nothing can stop me") and worked to try to reel in Dane. Passed 2 more guys (after the race I see this moved me from 5th to 3rd in my age group...note to self never stop trying to latch on and suck in that next person).

Now the last 1.5 miles is evil. You go down a hill and right past the turn to the last 1/3 of mile of the race. I tried to push down the hill and NOT do the math on how slow I could run the last mile
and still make sub-3. I switched to running to catch people.
I think I passed one or two more people at this time and was gaining on Dane. Mile 26 and I could see the finish line. Pushed it through and crossed the line.

Crossing the finish line I think I was almost holding my breath: 14th marathon in PR time: 2:58:35 (6:48 per mile average). 3rd 35-39 male. 20 out of 1953 racers.
Full results are available here.

I stopped, closed my eyes, goofy grin on my face and said a prayer of thanks. I am sure the finish chute volunteers must have thought I was going to pass out. Standing there, eyes closed, grinning from ear to ear. Awesome feeling! I also fished out my Aleve to immediately fight the inflammation in my legs and feet. My right big toe again took a nasty beating (I think the racing flats are on their last legs) but had no impact on the actually running of the race.

Met up with Dane (he finished right in front of me) and shared a "man" hug. I have not read his book, but plan to buy it and help him towards his next goal of RUNNING ACROSS AMERICA in 60 days...woof!! Check it out and consider buying the book.

Now my focus switched to waiting, hoping and praying for Trisha. I had seen her several times out on the course. Up to the half she looked strong and happy. Not so much in the second half. Trisha had been lured into the siren song of the marathon: bankable time.
The plan had been to run with the 4 hour group and then pick it up if she was feeling strong at mile 16. For the first half, she ran at least 30 seconds per mile faster than 4 hour pace. A note to ALL the runners out there: there is absolutely no mechanism to bank time when running a marathon.

I am fully convinced that negative spilt (second half faster than first half) or equal split is the best and only way to run a fun and fast marathon. Dragging yourself through the last 6 miles watching your dream/goal time slip away is something I have done at least 10 times.
This race my first half time: 1:29:20. This is my second half: 1:29:15. This is why I was able to really enjoy the race.

Trisha dug in, pushed hard and ran an amazing 4:11:16. I even got to run about a mile with her around the evil mile 25. Next time I would love to run the whole thing with her and take her to a nice 3:58ish time. 4:11:16 is ~26 minutes faster than her previous best!! She still has such huge potential and we believe a possible shot at a Boston time (3:45 or 3:50 at age 40).

Surf City is a well organized race but does have some issues that need to be addressed: missing or misplaced mile markers, poor availability of fuel at aid stations. Having shirts in the right sizes and a shirt that actually will fit a toned female athlete should be looked at as well.

The organizers/volunteers did a great job of keeping the half marathoners from impacting the marathon race at all.
Post race food was good, drop bag pickup was efficient and volunteers where cheery and helpful. Maybe it is just me but a loud band playing right in the expo areas just makes it hard for people to talk and find each other and enjoy chatting during the post race glow.
The finish medal is a cool surfboard as is the age group award though I was a little underwhelmed at the size of the age group award :-(.
The web page and course descriptions are really good. Lots of restrooms before and during the race. Lots of aid stations.
We would arrive at the race for parking no later than 5:30am next time.
I would do this race again and feel I can run it faster...I now have to find the new "red" line and try to ride it. 2:55 is up next.

I am looking forward to running a bunch of shorter races and setting PRs in fun, short, hard, oxygen debt runs :-)
I am signed up for Hagg Lake in 2 weeks but I am undecided whether I will race the 25k or the 50k. Legs feel good but will have to see how the foot heals.

I am also enjoying planning and looking forward to hosting our own races, Reason to Run: Spring Rush 10k and Burst 5k.
Trisha and I are using all we have learned in the events we have raced to make our events memorable for all the right reasons. Make sure you come join us.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

PRs all around at Surf City Marathon

2472 • Darin Swanson • M 35-39
Marathon Start:   Gun 6:51:02     Chip 6:51:04
Splits:3 Mile6 Mile12.2 Mile20 MileFinishO'AllSexDiv
I totally stoked for my result (above) and for Trisha's. She worked hard and learned some more lessons from the marathon and still removed another 25+ minutes from her PR!!

2473 • Trisha Swanson • F 35-39
Marathon Start:   Gun 6:51:02     Chip 6:51:42
Splits:3 Mile6 Mile12.2 Mile20 MileFinishO'AllSexDiv

More to come later in a full post/review but now it is time to hit the pool!