Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The background work

I'm racing a lot less this summer than I have in past summers, and replacing the time with some solid training blocks. The hope, obviously, is to make myself faster for the races that count. The Laramie races did wipe me out pretty good, and it took a solid week of easy workouts before I felt ready to tackle the quality again. Remind me not to do three hard races at altitude in a row, next time I'm floating that idea. Anyway, it's been a good summer. I'm healthy, and starting to feel really fit. I've been working with my head as well as my body, getting more into mindfulness, meditation, and deliberate practice. If I believe in myself hard enough, that makes up for a lot. I think I can I think I can I think I can!

The numbers for May and June were pretty close between 2015 and 2016, but overall I think the quality is up this summer. I'm a little more settled at my job, figuring out how to balance that better with the rest of life. I've been building my running mileage carefully, and trying to really enter every quality session with the freshest legs I can muster. It's about time for another running race, but the last one (Corporate Challenge) had a Vdot equivalent to my PR, so I'm on track with flat speed (heh). My navigation feels strong right now, though obviously it can always use more work. Since May, I have lost 17:48 minutes in mistakes over 20 orienteering races covering 80km. 13.4 seconds per kilometer that I can pick up, just through navigating with more attention and focus. Sort of a wacky way to calculate navigational acumen, but sometimes you've gotta reach to find any metrics worth measuring with orienteering!

Good training camps mean proper recovery between sessions. 

I swung by the CSU summer camp for ice cream, mini golf, a long run, and more ice cream. Really great group of skiers this year, great cohesion.

I swear one of the most important things we teach them is that ice cream is the ideal recovery food after a long run.

Skiers warming up for their annual Winchendon time trial.

Barb, one of my local heroes, finishing on the podium at the Forest-X race that Ed and I put on. The race was a fun twist of trail running and orienteering, and people seemed to really enjoy it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rocky Mountain Orienteering Festival

I believe in race starts. I believe that collecting race starts is the only way to truly prepare yourself for the big show, whatever your big show may be. And the more specific the race start, the better. So, when I looked at the calendar and saw that the only races between Team Trials and the 2016 World Champs were in Laramie, up on the Medecine Bow National Forest plateau, I figured I finally had a good excuse to head to the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Festival. It just so happened that we'd have a good crowd of elite runners there - Ali, Hannah, Tori, Cristina, Sanna, Sarah Jane, and quite a few more. Wow, actually competition at a National Event beyond one or two runners! So despite this trip falling on the heels of a trip to California for Zan's wedding, I was pretty psyched. Not too burned from traveling yet!

But, let's back up. California was awesome, and Zan picked a spot that was so typically Zan - deep in the redwoods as you go north up the coast from San Francisco, with beautiful trails for running. We had a really great time playing on the other coast, but it was hardly a restful weekend. Sometimes fun is worth the energy price! 

Our view driving back south on Sunday. There were all these seals hanging out on the beach down there, and as the waves came in they'd flop their way toward the inland water, in the most ungainly fashion. 

Mendocino headlands. Gorgeous and misty and sunny at the same time. 

Zan may have left some details to the last minute. Like a bar tender. Who needs a bar tender at a wedding? She had plans for all sorts of delicious cocktails, so luckily Ed and Blaine were willing to sacrifice their afternoon to mixing up the cocktails, and their evening to serving the thirsty guests. Ed was in his element, but I don't think he'll be picking this up as an evening job. 

We went on some really nice runs from the camp. Sometimes just us, sometimes just me, sometimes with lots of friends. The redwoods were so awesome. And make such cool bridges!

The wedding venue, at high noon. The camp was in this valley with very steep sides, and light only filtered down during the middle of the day. It made for some dark mornings, but also incredibly peaceful and relaxing. 

If I'd planned things better, I would have stayed in California for the week, working from our Oakland office, and traveled home via Wyoming. But, I didn't think about that until it was too late. And, to make it worse, I bought myself a ticket to Denver for the first weekend in August instead of the first weekend of July. So, when I got to the airport with about an hour before my flight, I couldn't figure out why I couldn't check in yet. D'oh!

Luckily, this fell into the solvable category of problems. Friday was a late night, but I met up with Hannah and Kevin at the airport, and we made it up to Fort Collins, chez Anna and Sasha and Ada, by 12:30 in the morning. Six hours of sleep, and now it's time to race!

The Medicine Bow NF is at 8,000' elevation. I start to notice the effects of elevation around 5,000' when I'm racing, and let's just say that every additional thousand feet is like an additional 10 pounds of bricks on my shoulders and lungs. Thankfully the area is pretty flat, but every contour felt like 10. Just so much wheezing, for so little speed. Not my favorite experience.

The landscape out here is so majestic. With a sky threatening to totally overwhelm you, it's best to keep your focus on the immediate vicinity, just one foot after another, avoid tripping over the sage brush. The terrain is wide open, occasional ponderosa pine but mostly grassland and sage, dotted with cattle and giant granite rock piles. It sort of looked like a giant had pooped all over the low hills, and left the piles there to calcify. But with such a wide viewpoint, the navigation is much easier than in my familiar eastern forests. The race was about how fast could you get from point A to B.

The first race was at Twin Boulders. I did run past the eponymous rocks, and while they were impressive, I'm not sure I would have named an entire map after them. But it did seem fitting that there was a control nestled between the big boulders. My race was fine - nothing special, nothing terrible. I was working very, very, hard, and felt like I was trying to run through molasses, so much effort for so little speed. The navigation came easily to me, and I made very few mistakes, but I didn't have the legs to perform how I'd hoped. I ended up in third, well behind Ali and about two minutes behind Hannah, with two M-40s who'd snuck ahead of me.

The red course on day 1. Click for larger. The route choices were not terribly inspiring, leading to the "straight is great!" philosophy of orienteering. I did take the trail from 5-6, figuring it would be faster for me. 

Spectators at the go control.

Remarkable Flats
The second race was at Remarkable Flats, an area of wide open grassland with lots of those rock-poop-piles scattered around. There were also even more cattle, many of whom were hanging out in between the final control and the finish. Luckily, I never had to contend with any cows who'd been separated from their babies, but it did give me pause to see them eyeing me. Eep.

Like the first day, the navigation was relatively easy, and the course was straightforward without much trickery. I wheezed my way around, feeling so much like the asthmatic fat kid. About halfway through, Ali caught up to me, and she is both acclimated and faster than me at sea level, and there was just no hanging on, though god knows I tried. So much effort! This time I fell back a spot, to fourth place, as Tori jumped ahead of both Hannah and myself by about a minute. I was one second behind Hannah, so definitely kicking myself that I didn't have one more second's worth of oomph out there, but hey, that's racing.

Diamond Bay
The final day was adjacent to Remarkable Flats, but with considerably more ponderosa forest and less open grassland. I was hoping for more of a navigational challenge, but the course was again pretty straightforward, with similar-length legs making a general loop around the map. I woke up to discover that my body was just done with racing. I couldn't kick the altitude headache, and was feeling sick to my stomach for most of the run. I couldn't even push myself into wheeze-mode, body just wouldn't let my brain handle the override codes.

That was disappointing, but it was still a pretty awesome place to be orienteering. I lumbered along even slower than the first two days, trying to enjoy the day even though I would have loved the challenge that comes with higher speed. Lots of rock and nobbly little hills, and I have to admit that at least the downhill portions were enjoyable. I struggled mightily on the long gradual uphill to #12, slogging along in the sun and just wishing the course could be over. Eventually it was, and I had ended up in third place again, behind Ali and Hannah, but this time with many more men in front of me. Overall, this was good enough to hang onto third place, and I got a sweet refrigerator magnet.


Upon dropped a few thousand feet, I felt much better. Enough pep to go for a short hike with Hannah and Kevin and Will, and then, thanks to my new plane ticket configuration, I got to spend the evening and much of the next day with Anna and Sasha. By the time I arrived in Boston at 3am on Wednesday, though, I was pretty done. Can I please just sleep forever? 

The old X-Talons taking me for a spin. We swung by Arthur's Rock on our way back to Fort Collins, and it provided us with a very nice little leg stretcher.

Most of the plateau looks like this.

Anna and Ada came up for a walk at Happy Jack! Ada is dangerously mobile, but very cute.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mt. Greylock Trail Race

The other weekend was my first Grand Tree race of the year – the Greylock Trail race! This is a great course, testing all aspects of trail racing. Sustained uphills, technical downhills, fun singletrack, and some grinding false flats. Not to say I like any of this aside from the technical downhills, but I do think it’s good to push myself on terrain that isn’t naturally my favorite. And having the two past years of data to compare myself always satisfies my inner nerd.

I headed out with a small group of junior skiers, like last year, for a combined Massachusetts Team training weekend. Perry and the Berkshire Nordic crew led us on a really nice little ski in Savoy (oh, I’ll miss that trail race this year! Huge bummer that it’s done), on very nice pavement with wide shoulders. We don’t have that in eastern MA, and it made me miss NY state rollerskiing adventures. We followed this up with some cliff jumping, yoga, pizza, and s’mores, so all in all it was a pretty idyllic day.

Sunday dawned pretty hot, and I was cursing myself for not bringing my handheld waterbottle carrier. I debated running with a waist belt, or just carrying the bottle outright, but decided that it probably wouldn’t be THAT bad to just drink at the aid stations. Oops. Only one other of my juniors was doing the long race, and one dad, the rest signed up for the 5k. Ed did the long race, of course!
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We started out up the mountain, and I took it easy, falling into a comfortable pace. Too comfortable, really. I felt good, which is not actually a good sign on a 3-mile climb! My calves were behaving, and as we hit the AT in the sun I found that I had some more gears, so started to pick off some runners ahead of me. I could hear Debbie behind me, so I knew I was doing ok if she hadn’t passed me on the climb. I was starting to notice the heat, though, already getting dry mouth, so I told myself I had to get on top of this hydration issue as soon as I hit that aid station.

I drank 3 cups of water and 2 cups of Gatorade. You can imagine how long this took. I was there nearly a minute! Debbie passed me with a couple ladies in tow, and as I started out after them I realized the magnitude of my mistake. Not only did I not have any water for between the aid stations, I had to do all my descending on a very sloshy belly. You doofus!

Luckily the sloshing didn’t turn into a dreaded stomach cramp, and I caught back up to Debbie (who was definitely not pleased to be passed on a downhill! Sorry babe, I do that part pretty well) and a bunch more ladies on the descent. Apparently I just missed seeing a moose – I heard noise behind me but had assumed it was a runner, and was totally in race-mode, don’t look back!

A girl in pink caught back up at the second aid station, as I spent another minute drinking, and I let her go a bit, just trying to enjoy that next bit of singletrack at my own pace. I was consciously keeping myself in a very happy spot, just loving these trails and dancing my feet across the roots. I caught up easily along Jones’ Nose, but decided to hang out behind her for a bit, and try to recover. The heat was getting to me, and I could feel the fatigue creep.

At the third water stop, pink-girl didn’t stop, and I only drank 3 cups of water, thus only losing maybe 30 seconds, then shoved ice into any orifice I could find and set off to chase down pink-girl. I luckily caught her while still on the downhill, and we climbed together for a bit on the relentless loose-rock doubletrack. Eventually my slow jog started to outdistance hers, and I found myself picking off bonking men again. We finally started the downhill, and I could tell I was tired – both ankles were doing those danger-rolls – not quite a rolled ankle, but near misses. I backed off a little, not willing to risk injury, and just feeling kind of fragile. Couple times I had to remind myself out loud to have strong feet. Unfortunately I couldn’t hold off the ankle-roll demons forever, and went over on my right ankle just where it gets steep with ~1.5mi to go. So close to the end I knew I could walk this off, but I was not happy about that turn of events.

It was only a minute or two that I was walking and then gingerly running, but that was a much slower finish than I've had before. I was in no-man’s land, and thankfully didn't get passed by anyone in the last mile of the race. The relaxed finish put me just a minute ahead of last year (which had been super slow in the rain and wet), but 4 minutes behind the year before. I think I can attribute most of that to the water stops and then the ankle roll slow-down, so I’m actually feeling pretty good about this one. I was second, four minutes behind a little J2 skier from western MA who I coached last year at EHS, who goes up hills like it's her job. She probably got to the top of that thing in under 30 minutes…

Next up is the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Festival! Time to see if I remember how to race at altitude!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Boston Sprint Camp

Ed and I had so much fun hosting the Boston Sprint Camp last year that we decided to do it again this year. New year, new parks, so this meant a lot of mapping for Ed. I just sort of watched from the sidelines, not doing any advertising like I should have, and grumbling about having to stay up too late designing courses. Oops. Like last year, we had US Director of Sport Development Erin Schirm here to help with running the camp, and his input was invaluable. Over four days, camp participants were exposed to a wide range of techniques and tactics for how to do your best at orienteering sprints.

Chase Corporate Challenge
But then, I missed the first day of Sprint Camp, because I'm responsible like that. It was the same day as the Chase Corporate Challenge, and my company had a team, and I wanted to run. I guess if people are going to think of you as the runner at work, you occasionally have to do races they can understand. That was a really cool race. I've never done a race before where you are running with thousands of other people, of all shapes, sizes, and abilities (9,475 people!). Seeding the start would totally ruin it. I did push my way as far forwards as I could. It was unbelievable - thousands of people were staging on the Boston Common, trying to make it through the gates onto Charles Street. As I weaved my way forwards through the crowd, most people didn't seem to mind, since most slower runners don't necessarily want to start in front of a faster one. Or maybe they didn't think that somebody would have the gall to try and squeeze past 3000 people before the race even starts! Either way, I got just about even with the start clock before it was time to race.

Even being up by the line, it was six seconds after the gun before I started moving. Luckily it thinned out quickly, and by the time I had made the left turn onto Arlington St I was running as fast as I wanted to. I was still doing a lot of weaving back and forth to get around people, but at least the crush of runners made the wind disappear.

My goal for this race was only to finish in good health - I had no idea what to expect, having never run a race with this many people before and having never done a 3.5-mile race. Talk about a random distance. The last three flat running races I've tried to do this spring have not ended well for me - I got a side cramp in a time trial back in late April, and that stupid cramp has been shadowing me through every hard effort since then. The first time, I had to quit 1000m short, unable to finish the time trial. Two weeks after that, I had actually paid money to enter a race, so even though I had to come to a full stop 500m before the finish, I eventually hobbled across the line. In tears. Two weeks after that, in another 5k, the cramp attacked with 300m to go, and I managed to keep hobbling to the finish mostly upright, but really only because my mom was watching and I didn't want to scare her. So with each race effort, the cramp has held off longer, but it definitely had me worried. Since I've been running cramp-free lately, my hopes were high that maybe I finally kicked it.

I hit the first mile a little slow, 6:43 or something. But my watch was ticking off 4-minute kilometers, so I figured that was just 20 seconds that I'd wasted at the start. We hit the 2-mile mark somewhere after the turn-around at Kenmore, and the crowds were starting to thin out now. It was much nicer to run with other people my speed, though I was still passing 10 for every 1 that passed me. My watch beeped at the 4km mark, and I was nervous - now is about when the cramp starts to make itself known. But stride after stride, I was blissfully pain-free. I cruised past the 5k mark around 20:00, starting to contemplate a kick, but I was feeling a little too flat to make it actually happen. Still no cramp! The crowd was deafening along the final stretch, but I still managed to hear my colleague Terri cheering for me. Eventually I found the finish line, and I guess I finally outran the cramp monster! I ended up 23rd woman.

Sprint Camp
So, Corporate Challenge over and done with, it was time to join Ed back at Sprint Camp. Friday was based in Newton, with the morning a pile of exercises at Skyline Park and the afternoon a partner sprint relay at Nahanton Park. Friday morning was definitely an intense one - we did a micro-o, some hill sprints with map memory, a maze-o, and a regular sprint course. Pizza for lunch, and then a bit of a nap in the park before it was time for the afternoon. I tried to pair people up based on their results from the race they'd all done on Thursday night, but the back of the pack tends to string out a lot more than the front, so that wasn't totally fair. But since everyone's times were recorded individually as well, nobody seemed to mind too much. I was really enjoying the atmosphere at the camp, people seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

Saturday was based in Cambridge. It was another pretty intense day of sprint training. We started at Magazine Beach, with a dynamic warmup (above), then some exit direction practice. Erin was on hand to offer advice, and then we were off on a street-o, but with the directional information on the map. You basically had to run pretending you were a car, and couldn't go the wrong way down a one-way street. Pretty fun exercise, because you're solving a puzzle as you're running. (see left for map). The street-o ended at Dana park, a dinky little neighborhood park, where we did some sprint intervals. Super fun, but at this point my legs were starting to feel wrecked. Three hard days in a row! Then back to Magazine Beach, where we ate lunch (from Clover) and I gave a brief goal-setting workshop. 

The evening race was at North Point, and I had set it to have as many tricky traps as I could. Quite a few people got caught, ending up on the wrong side of an uncrossable fence because they hadn't checked their control descriptions, or running across the wrong bridge because they hadn't looked at the full leg. Great to push the comfort zones!
Click here for full-size map.

Sunday was the double-header National Meet, a qualifier and a final sprint, at Franklin Park. I thought the final in particular was a really nice sprint, and so I went and pre-ran the race just to feel it at speed. A lot of people made some big mistakes in this race, I think through a combination of tiredness and laziness - you have to approach each race with a sharp mindset, and if you let yourself get lazy on any of your sprinting habits you'll pay the price. But overall, seemed like every runner got a lot out of the camp, and we're already laying the plans for next year. 
Franklin Park Final. Click here for a bigger map

Results from most of the sprint camp races are here: Results

Monday, June 13, 2016

US Team Trials

Every year, the US Orienteering Team holds a set of trials races to determine who will represent at the World Championships (WOC). These races also determine which events you'll race at WOC, but ultimately you have to perform well at Trials, because there is very little flexibility when it comes to being named to the team. So the pressure can be a little high, at times.

This year, Ed and my friend Becky were organizing the entire Team Trials weekend. It's a bit much for two people to take on, between finding venues, getting permits, setting courses, and making a new map for the sprint race, but they did a stellar job. I knew that I'd be running on some awesome courses with Becky's course setting, and I knew all the details would be taken care of with Ed around. But it was painful watching the effect of the stress on these two, and not being able to do much about it, since I wanted to race at the Trials, so couldn't help out with any of the bits that would affect my knowledge of the courses.

Sprint Race
The first race of the weekend was at Mt. Holyoke College, in western MA. Orienteering sprints are generally 2-3km long, which doesn't exactly qualify them as "sprints" by track and field standards, but I guess compared to a 15km race that's short. I was a little anxious before the sprint, because I really haven't been on many urban maps lately - it's been a lot of forest and grassy parkland, which is fun, but doesn't provide the same potential for "traps" - those complicated route choice options that tempt you to go one way, only to find that you can't get through a building or a passageway. Making the right choices is hard when your legs are stealing all the oxygen from your brain!

I started ok to the first control, but then I totally blew it on the 2nd. (map). I was taking too long reading the map, and ran past the building I was supposed to use as my attackpoint without seeing it, and popped out into a large circular road. I saw this, and completely panicked. I could see that road on the map, but could not for the life of me figure out where I was relative to it. I ran like a headless chicken back to the little pond, then back to the road, completely unable to figure out what was going on. What a lesson about what panic will do to my ability to function logically! Luckily, I found the control, but that was a 20-second mistake, which is pretty bad in a 13-minute race.

I was still flustered from 2, and made a poor route decision to 3, unable to see the left-hand shorter route. Luckily, I pulled myself back together after that, and started hunting down the girls ahead of me. In the words of one of my teammates, "you were MOTORING!" Of course, the faster you run, the harder it is to think, and I outran my thinking ability by control 15. I lost 10 seconds on the 16th control, and then a whopping 30 seconds on the 17th control. All things considered, this was a nearly disastrous sprint, only salvaged by the result - I managed to sneak into 3rd place among the Team Trialers. Yikes, I have some work to do in that discipline.

Long Distance
I spent the night in a lovely old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (I think all of western CT might be the middle of nowhere), with a pile of other orienteering friends, and we woke to a hot and muggy day at Pond Mountain. I really want to run the long distance at WOC, so I was probably putting unnecessary pressure on myself for this race. Running like I had something to prove, but it turned out that pace wasn't sustainable in this weather.

(Click map fragment for full map)

My plan for the race was to nail the navigation. I knew Becky would set a tricky course, so my mental cues were "control, attackpoint, route." Expand the control circle in my visualization, have a solid attackpoint that I can run confidently to, and choose a good route to get there. Foolproof!

I had the advantage of being the last starter, of the eight women trying out for the Team. This meant that if I saw anyone in the forest, it meant that I had caught up to them, and that's always a relief. With a 3-minute start interval, it was unlikely I'd see too many runners, but you never know what is going to happen in a long distance race. At the start, I saw that the first control would be hard - a diagonally downhill approach to the bottom of a cliff. Hindsight tells me that I should have chosen a different route, to give me a better attackpoint, but at the time I thought I was doing it right. Unfortunately, I lost contact with the map, and spent two minutes wandering on the rocky hillside trying to put two and two together. Eventually I figured it out, running into Hilary, who had started 6 minutes before me. Well, I guess she had even more trouble than me. Time to put that behind me, and focus on the next leg!

Hilary and I were loosely together for the next four controls; usually taking slightly different routes but arriving at the same time. Hilary is a much stronger runner than me (she is an Olympic-caliber rower!), but my navigation is a little better. I knew that we were both going faster because we were together, with Hilary pushing the pace and me nailing the navigation when she'd slow down. It's the luck of the draw, I suppose, that I had caught a faster runner who had made an early mistake.

We ran into and past Alison around control 3, and then it wasn't until control 7 that I saw another runner. I was alone at this point, having lost some time at 5 being a doofus, but I could still catch glimpses of Hilary's back, and could tell I was closing back down. I crushed the downhill to 8, making contact with Hilary again and catching up to Cristina, from 12 minutes up. I knew I was having a good run at this point, so knew I had to keep the focus for the final push. At this point, I knew I was in either 2nd or 3rd place, depending on how Kseniya was running.

We had some serious climbing in the final parts of the course, and I could feel the humidity lying on my lungs like a sponge. I splashed through a stream climbing to 11, throwing the water over my head and down my back, trying desperately to cool myself. It wasn't really working, so I had to back off the pace a little on the long slog up to 12, but I was pleased that Hilary wasn't pulling away; despite clearly being a better climber she was moving more hesitantly. The final loop of technical controls was hard, but my approach was to be careful and deliberate, and with the exception of 16 I was spiking them.

At the finish, I was pleased to see I had landed in 2nd place for the day. I had dropped nearly 7 minutes in mistakes (yikes), but it was enough, and I felt strong despite the heat and humidity, with no cramping. It was definitely a relief to be in a very good position to make the team heading into the final race.

Middle Distance
I took my recovery very seriously on Saturday. First stop: ice cream. Next stop: swimming hole. Next stop: dinner with a bunch of friends! In all seriousness, though, being in a good spot mentally is very important for this sport. I spent a while going over my Long Distance race with my coach, and we agreed that a large part of why I lost so much time was that I wasn't being nearly as deliberate as I thought I had been on my approach to each control - I didn't have a good picture in my head of the circle, and that led to extra hesitation and the occasional wander. So, the goal for today's Middle Distance was to keep the pace low enough that I could really visualize the controls before I arrived. Middle Distances are tricky beasts, technical and detailed, so I needed to be 100% clean!

(Click for full-sized map)

Things started out a little shakier than I'd hoped, with a small bobble on both of the first two controls. But I kept my head in it, and things started to click. I could see some girls ahead of me on the climb to 5; Cristina, Evalin, and Hilary were all within reach! Unfortunately, I made a totally idiotic choice to go to 6, through the green blob of mountain laurel, and this cost me nearly 2 minutes. I was on my hands and knees crawling through that shit, berating myself out loud for being a dummy and yelling "EXECUTE!" every few moments, to keep it focused and together. Argh.

I kept it together, though, visualizing the circle, picking good attackpoints, and pushing the pace juuuuust enough, and I caught back up to Cristina at 9, Evalin at 10, and Alison and Hilary on my way to 11. I could feel the effects of the last two days of hard racing; my legs were toast as I slogged up the hill to #13, and my oxygen-deprived brain made a stupid 35s error in the circle. But I managed to spike the final controls, and finished the race feeling good about it. All told, I was in the bronze medal position, with ~3min of error, and I was only 4 minutes behind Sam, 40s behind Kseniya, who is somewhat of a middle specialist.

The Team Trials scoring list is based on the points garnered from each race, which are based on the time behind the winner. I had a 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd placing, and this was consistent enough to name me a clear 2nd place behind Sam. The top two spots on the list got an automatic berth to the World Champs, and I've been selected to run all the races that I wanted to - Long Distance, Relay, and Sprint! The final women's WOC Team:

Sprint: Alex, Hilary, Hannah
Sprint relay: Hilary, Sam
Middle: Sam, Kseniya
Long: Sam, Alex
Relay: Sam, Alex, Hannah
Final scoring list, with the men's team shown too: here
WOC 2016 website

This will be my sixth time representing the US at the World Championships (plus five times for ski orienteering!), and the excitement feels as fresh as the first time. I have a lot of work to do before August, but I have confidence in my abilities, and I am hoping to meet my high expectations for myself. Here goes!

Running up stairs is great. Trying to run down stairs is beyond awkward.

Coach Boris and his beagle Barney pre-ran some courses. Barney is more of a short-distance critter, but appeared to survive the courses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The 38th Annual Billygoat

The Billygoat is one of my favorite orienteering races. Mass start, goofy rules, low-key event that people all take way too seriously - it's awesome. This was one of the first events I did as I came back to orienteering after a hiatus to race only on skis, and the camaraderie, goofiness, and fundamentally hard-core-ness hooked me. But after years of running in the event (and winning it the last three years!), Ed and I decided it was time to host it. Wearing our NEOC hats, we set the course in Townsend State Park, recently mapped for a national meet. I enjoyed setting these courses - parts of Townsend are utterly glorious, mature oak forest with long sightlines and knobbly contour features, just enough rock to interest you without being so overwhelming as to slow you down. But then there is the dark side of Townsend - the parts of the forest infested with mountain laurel. This is a very pretty plant to look at, but it's the bane of anyone trying to run through the woods, as its gnarled woody stems don't provide any way to pass through. At least it is easily mapped and thus easily avoided.
With only one course to worry about, I had the chance to design a kick-ass goat skull logo. It was only fitting that the skull rest on a wreath of laurels... 

The day dawned with a 90% chance of rain, but thanks to statistics, we ended up with barely a drizzle, and even a little sunshine for awards! I couldn't have asked for anything better. I had designed the courses such that we had a very long walk to the start, but I figured it was better to have people march out to the good terrain off the clock. Only a little bit of grumbling ensued. Isabel Bryant, speedy CSU junior, had volunteered to help carry all the clothing back from the start, and it was quite a load, as everyone had brought rain jackets and things. Turns out, 100 rain jackets actually take up a lot of space. 

I decided to run the Pygmy Goat, the short version of the Billygoat, after I got everyone started. I wanted to see some of the race from on-course, and this was an excellent way to do it. I got a chance to cheer on some of the folks who are normally further back than my group of runners, and I got a chance to cheer for the lead pack of runners on the Billygoat, as they looped through the Pygmy Goat course. Ed was manning the results, and did his usual superb job. 

2nd place, Will Enger, flew out here from Seattle just for the race!

Teammate Ian Smith, appeared to have found some mud...

Women's winner Hilary Saeger. It was a close race between the first two ladies, with Hilary just catching Kseniya on the long trail run portion to the finish.

Kseniya, second place for the women

Pizza was a good idea. When we ran out, I ordered more for the later finishers, and that was also a good idea. Ari came back from the dead to run the race, and he apparently survived, with no ill effects that we can tell.

I was so psyched that the sun could come out long enough to dry things out, and give folks a chance to do what orienteers do best - analyze the course to death. It was agreed that the leg from 15-16 had the sexiest terrain out there. It warms a race director's heart when people truly appreciate the course you've set. Makes the whole thing worth it. This race had all my favorite parts of directing orienteering events, and none of the parts I don't like.

More map analysis.

World Famous Sharon Crawford coming in hot, and earning yet another Billygoat teeshirt. Sharon has got to be the most competitive septuagenarian I know. I can only hope that I am running and skiing as strongly  as Sharon when I'm that age!

This was a fantastic race to direct, and I couldn't have done it without Ed. As usual, he takes my outlined ideas, barely cogent, and transforms them into something functional and beautiful. I suppose that's the role of an engineer. Will I host another Billygoat? Hopefully other people will take on the task for the next few years, but considering that this event embodies everything I love about this sport, I won't rule it out.