Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Eastern Cup racing

The last two Eastern Cups were back-to-back, both a hefty drive from Boston, AND both Supertour races, which means bigger names and more stress for the organizers. First up was Lake Placid - I looove racing the ladies' 5k course, but they didn't have enough natural snow, so the races were at the jumps complex. I'd signed up for both the skate sprint and the 10k classic, for no reason other than that I just wanted to race. My ski fitness (well, my everything fitness) is pretty poor right now, and given how few ski intervals I've done, I didn't expect that either race would be particularly good, by the standards I use to measure that. That said, I was sort of hoping I'd be able to qualify for the heats in the sprint - top 30. I'm pretty good at skate sprints, so that wasn't a totally unreasonable goal, and had the course been more of a skiers' course with transitions and finesse required, maybe it would have happened.

Lake Placid Eastern Cup
With my new status as an M1, I had no points to carry into the race, so I started about 5th from last again. This meant a much more chopped-up course, and many slower skiers to pass. The sprint course at the jumps is pretty brutal - up a big hill, three seconds of flat, then up more of a hill, and then you come back down. I didn't do enough warmup, partly my fault and partly because of some issues in the start pen, when two of my girls' skis went missing, and I was the only coach around to solve things. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, because there are a ton of people racing on carbonlites, but looking for your skis when you should be preparing for a race is not a good thing. We came up with a backup plan but thankfully we found both pair of [really expensive!] skis next to the timing hut. Apparently the would-be-klepto realized that he had the wrong skis, and just left them by the building. Crisis averted, but warmup also averted.

So anyway, I'm on the start line, and I KNOW how much this big hill is going to hurt, because my body is just not where it should be. Time to get my suffer on! I tried to stay light up the first big hill, throw myself into a V2 before hitting the little wall, and then accelerate as I crested the final hill, but boy oh boy was I ever wheezing by the high point of that course. Kathy and Maddy were not racing, and they were cheering their brains out at the top, pretty sure they gave me 1-2 free seconds of oomph, but I could barely stand on my feet coming down the hill. Seconds count, and I was searching for every one, but by the end of the lap I'd passed four skiers, each one taking precious time and energy to get past. As the results came out, it turned out I'd just failed to make the heats - 33rd place, and 0.23 seconds too slow. In some ways, that was quite a relief.

Sunday rolled around, and after a morning of testing and waxing and watching most of the women's field start, it was my turn. Unfortunately, I went a little too light on my klister, and thus not much kick. I could force it on gradual climbs, but there weren't really any of those, just four laps up a big ol' hill and then back down. My arms were tired, my legs were tired, my back was tired, my head was tired. I shouldn't have started the race, but I did, and I just sort of waddled around wheezing heavily until the race was over. The high point of my day might have been the high point of the course on the fourth lap.

UVM Eastern Cup
It's a long way back from Lake Placid, and with back-to-back weekends that's not much time for us to unload, unwind, and then pack up and do it all over again. I couldn't muster the oomph to do the Tuesday night race, which is saying something, and it felt like the Friday evening departure (in a snowstorm!) was here all too soon. I only signed up for the skate race, since tension is always kind of high at the last Eastern Cup of the season, and I wanted to be more available to the anxious kids and parents, waxing and coaching. 

Because of the warm rain on Wednesday, we couldn't race at Trapps. I'd been excited about racing there, but hey, New England winter does its own thing. Thankfully, Craftsbury's manmade loop was holding up, and they did a fantastic job pulling off a supertour on extremely short notice. I do love racing at Craftsbury. 

The skate race was twice around a 2.5k loop, with lots of short hills and transitions. Super fun skiing, and it skied a lot like a sprint course. Unfortunately, it was a 5k sprint course, and I didn't magically find race fitness in the last week. I started out well, catching up to a Craftsbury junior whose name was also Alex, so I felt like everyone on course was cheering for me! The second lap, they stopped cheering, which was a bit unfortunate. My energy ran out on the far side of the course of lap 2, and I still had the final climbs to negotiate. I had to consciously slow down, legs totally flooding with lactic acid and unable to get in enough oxygen. It was maybe a 15-second period of going 80% instead of 100%, but it was enough to maintain my form to the finish. Hard racing, because without long uphills, there are no long downhills on which to recover. My result was as mediocre as the race, 165 points and 95th place, out of about 220 racers, but at least I hadn't had to start all the way in the back. It's good to know people in high places. 

Sunday was a long day - covered klister, with 49 skiers to wax for - left me feeling pretty whipped. But, we had good skis, and the kids skied pretty well. We've got a few weeks now before the championship races at JNs, EHS, and U16s, it'll be nice to have an actual training block. 

Rob, showing exactly how we feel at the end of the day after doing all those skis.

Driving home, it was still daylight as I hit the Notch. The sun had about an hour left in the sky, and the mountains just looked too beautiful, so I decided I'd probably be a happier person if I stopped driving and went for a short run. There was just a dusting of snow, and the color of the setting sun on fresh snow is one of the most beautiful things I can think of. My legs started like lead and slowly worked the kinks out as I kept trotting along, just loving that I can do silly things like go for a run in the mountains whenever I feel like it. Much better way to cap the weekend than standing in a puddle, waxing skis, with everything you own covered in klister.

Orocs were just the ticket. Reliable grip and a low profile. Thanks Inov-8!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Dream

Testing klister on Sunday morning for the 10k race, I skied past a fellow coach, who asked if I were racing today. I had answered in the affirmative, probably adding some sort of self-deprecating comment like "against better judgement!" But his response, again just joking, set me off thinking.

"Give up the dream, coach!"

My immediate reaction was to laugh. What dream? Of course I'm not chasing any sort of dream by jumping into a ski race, ill-prepared and unfocused, I had figured that was obvious. It was only then that it occurred to me that not everybody feels this same need to test themselves, to suffer a little or a lot in the name of sport. For some, perhaps like my coaching acquaintance, maybe chasing that dream is all there is to it when you put on a number and toe the start line. And if you can't fight for the dream, it's not worth the effort.

Lake Placid is very far away from Boston, leaving many hours with which to contemplate why I race. I had thought it was an easy question, but the more I thought about it, the more complex the question became.

At the crux of it, I race because I love pushing myself as hard as I can, seeing what happens when I reach my perceived limits. The answer is never the same.

Over the years my obsession with racing, aside from continuing to be a relatively healthy outlet for my overly-competitive nature, has definitely shifted. I used to be chasing some sort of dream, doing this for some goal that I had attached some meaning to. There is still some of that, but ultimately racing has become my way of testing myself. I have no idea what I'm measuring myself against, but in some ways, that really doesn't matter. I know I'm looking at the beginning of the end of being able to topple my own physical records, but that doesn't give me any reason to stop. I've never really been consciously trying to prove myself to the world, but I'm sure there is some of that, underlining good results and bad.

Maybe it all comes back to how much I just love winning. It doesn't happen very often, and I've never really chosen things that I'm inherently good at. I think I'd rather have that obsessive need to be first come out on the track than at the office. Does the masochistic need to suffer up those damn hills faster than my competitors really make me a better person Monday through Friday? If all I want is to be on the top step of the podium, why aren't I just entering local podunk races where nobody attends?  What the hell am I doing on the start list of a Supertour, lining up against the best?

It's more than winning, then, that keeps me coming back. I suppose all comes down to the suffering - there is nothing else, in my convenient modern life, that causes me to push beyond my preconceived limits. It doesn't matter what the results say, because when I'm striving against the clock, totally zoned-in and focused, I am more alive than any other time. It's not a dream I'm chasing, it's flow.

But maybe, racing is just some sad excuse for providing a reason to obsessively exercise, the dark side of some sort of controlling disorder, yet-to-be-diagnosed.

I claim that I can quit at any time, but I think we all know that's not true.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Quarry Road EC

I signed up for the Quarry Rd Eastern Cup, just the skate race, looking forward to the long climbs and twisting descents. Unfortunately, we're still struggling for snow everywhere in the northeast, so we were confined to the manmade loop, three times around a 1.5k loop. It still had a decent climb, a real puncher that essentially started at the low point of the course, but wasn't quite as much fun.

I missed two Eastern Cups last season, while I was in Norway, so apparently I only have two 2015 Eastern Cup results to my name. Because you need three races to get seeded, I was mixed into the random draw of unseeded people for the start list, and ended up starting 5th from last. Normally, this isn't a huge deal, but naturally, after a total drought all winter, it was snowing like mad. Testing skis before the race yielded a good hard-packed slick surface; as the snow piled up during the race it got slower and slower. Well, weather conditions are part of the game, but there was a definite advantage to starting in the first half of the race. I need my advantages!

The more I skied that morning, the more my desire to race waned. By the time I finally got around to testing my own skis, I found myself dealing with some last-minute equipment issues, and considered bagging the ordeal. But, I'd paid, and I was there, and sometimes, you just gotta get out and find the hurt, chase it down and make it work for you.

Into the race, and I could tell I had no spark. My legs were leaden, with no snap to my technique, just a slow, evenly-paced slog. I couldn't seem to summon any fire, but at least with such a poor starting position it was good for my ego to keep passing people. I tried to stay conscious of that ticking clock, and I slowly reeled in one of my J2 girls who'd started a minute ahead of me. I was proud of how well she was skiing, but I knew I probably should have passed her sooner. Each time I lumbered up the steep little hill at the end of the climb, I felt slower and less inspired, and completely unable to will myself to hurt. When I finally crossed the line, I was just disappointed in myself. What happened to my spirit?

I was definitely happy to not be racing the next day. I didn't feel overly tired, but skiing the course testing wax I was not enjoying the hills, and usually that feeling of striding up hills with the wax hooking up perfectly is what I live for. Maybe I just needed a rest.

Fast forward a week and I'm in Florida, for my cousin's wedding, wondering what the heck all this not-snow is on the ground. You'd think this is a restful vacation, except for the part where it's not, and I was back in Boston in time for a 4am wakeup to coach the Massachusetts State qualifier race - the race my juniors use to get selected to the Eastern Highschool Championships team. I'm head coach this spring, so really oughta be there, but there were so many places I would rather have been. Like curled up on my couch with a book!

Gunther assembling his bench. "It is very easy, very quick!" 20 minutes later... 

The single photo I took during the races. Prospect didn't have quite enough snow to set tracks, but all my kids skied admirably despite that. It was lumpy bumpy low-snow conditions, like what I grew up on at Harriet. Good to teaching you to ride a steady ski!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Craftsbury Eastern Cup

There isn't a huge amount of snow in New England right now. After last year's snowpocalypse, my colleagues at work all have a bit of PTSD, and my colleagues among skiers are just wistfully longing for it to happen again. So far, nothing doing, but at least we've been able to drive to our little Weston loop of the north, Craftsbury. For now, let's ignore the implications of needing to drive further and further to practice this sport. 

CSU has been up to Craftsbury pretty much every weekend since Thanksgiving, in varying groups, with the largest contingent showing up for the Eastern Cup, two weeks back. I figured, you gotta start somewhere, so I signed up for the 5k skate race, since the classic sprint would be too much chaos for a coach to take part in. Easier to stay in the trenches waxing skis. The poor manmade loop of snow at Craftsbury was getting thinner and thinner as nights stayed warm, and the race organizers ultimately had to change the classic sprint to a skate sprint, with heats of four skiers instead of six, in response to the thinning snowpack. 

During the sprint races on Saturday, the snow gods finally heeded our prayers and dribbled down the flakes, first hesitantly and then with gale force. By the end of the day, we'd put six skiers into the heats and we had enough snow that I managed to actually go for a ski on real snow, over lumps and bumps and hills and things; such a change from that manmade concrete that we race on! 

Sunday rolled around, and I woke up remembering how TIRED I get after coaching all day. But the Craftsbury breakfast delivers, and soon I was fueled up with coffee and bacon and ready to attack the day. Still a long day of coaching, but I made sure to put on that bib early, so that when a window opened up with an opportunity to race, I'd be ready! My plan was conservative - accept that my body was tired, that this was my fourth day on snow, and that I haven't been doing rollerski intervals. I knew that I wouldn't be feeling sharp, but if you don't race because you know you won't feel good, you'll never do another race. So, ski the transitions perfectly, maintain good technique, and try to ride those skis as smoothly as possible.

The course was harder than you'd think, for a flat-ish loop done five times. Smooth descent out of the start and around a corner, then up a short steep wall, around a sweeping turn to the right and back down to the bottom fields, then a smaller U-turn, to the left, finishing with a gradual hill that felt like it never ended. I started out right near the end of the good college skiers, so for a few laps I had people to chase. Each lap, I made it a game to see how efficiently I could hunt down my next rabbit, and I tucked past many skiers. It felt good. I stayed controlled on the short, steep, grunt of a climb, and tried to punch it around the wide right-hander. 

Somewhere in there, I lost track of how many laps I was doing. I hadn't been focusing on that, despite reading the riot act to the kids about how only YOU are responsible for the number of laps you've done! Crap, not only was this embarrassing, it may have a very bad outcome. I knew I was somewhere between the 3rd and 4th lap, and a check to my watch made it clear that it was more likely the 3rd. I hadn't caught my 30-second girl, yet, so I looked for her green suit as I came near the lap point, saw her head out for another lap, and figured that I had two to go. Luckily I was right, but that could have ended differently. Idiot! 

It's amazing how freaking hard ski racing can be. I felt like my arms were falling off, my legs were burning, and my hips were coming unglued from my body. You mean you're supposed to train for this sport? With one lap left, I tried to summon a little oomph, but still barely broke from my pedestrian pacing. Strange how a marginal increase in effort up the steep hill leads to so much more pain on the flats, but I managed not to completely trip over myself, and got to the finish eventually. It was good enough for 50th place, out of 205 women, and a better points race than any of mine last year. I suppose that's a good start, and considering there were 20 places inside of 10 seconds ahead of me, I'm not worried. There is still time to ski into this season, and it takes more than four days on snow to get the feeling back!

Muscling my way up the short steep grunt of a hill. Thanks to Regina Sohn, a CSU mom, for the photo.

Next stop, after a week in Rochester, was a week in Quebec. We were worried about the snow conditions, but shouldn't have, as it started to snow on the day we arrived and delivered some gosh-darn-beautiful skiing. I didn't want to leave. 

Skiing, for me, is so much about the people I get to ski with. This bunch of monkeys make it all worthwhile.

Quite the army up in Canada. We tried not to take over the entire trail, but pretty much failed.

I managed to take part in the annual time trial up there. It wasn't as cold as it could have been, but I lacked the willpower to strip down to a race suit, and as such, lacked the need to go much harder than a controlled wheeze. I couldn't hang with Rob and Kathy on the classic portion, so faded back into a pack of my U18 girls to recover, finally getting ahead near the end of the skate portion, after what felt like an insulting amount of work. Managed to maintain my placing among the kids from the Craftsbury weekend, but it would be nice to feel a little snappier. Thanks to Jamie for the photo of me looking like I'm dying during my nature walk. 

Then on to Vermont, where the ski-o community convened. Some good skiing at the Danby Rd, totally the proper way to ring in a new year. 

Next up, hopefully, is the Bogburn. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Blue Hills Traverse

The third race of the unofficial orienteering triple crown, the Blue Hills Traverse is traditionally the last Sunday before Thanksgiving. I was in a position to win the overall triple crown, given my victories in the Billygoat and the Highlander, if I could just hold it together for this final race. The Billygoat had been a hard win, barely eked out ahead of my US Teammate Hannah, but the Highlander was more of a survival game, with Kseniya setting the course (and thus not running it) and Hannah out with a broken wrist. Right now, we are the three US Team members in the northeast, and it's been great to challenge each other at races. For the Traverse, Hannah didn't make the trip, but for the first time I would be battling Kseniya in a long race.

The weather cooperated with my desires on Sunday morning, chilly but not truly cold, somewhere in the 40s, with no rain yet. I noticed during my warmup that I had a spring in my step, and adjusted my mantra into an aggressive one, out to win it or collapse trying, and take some scalps among the men. I'd had a good month of training, finally, and was feeling confident and ready.

First map: click for full map

We took off speedily, and I quickly found a comfortably hard pace, behind the speedier-starting boys. The first map consisted of a lot of trail running, but luckily that wasn't aggravating any niggling injuries that I've been trying to kick. I spent most of the first four controls chasing Bo Nielson, a very fit master runner who I've battled with before. Knowing that I probably had the advantage of trail speed over Kseniya, I was pushing this part of the race very hard, wanting to put as much distance as possible between the two of us on the non-technical controls. She is a master in the forest, so I knew she'd be closing that gap as soon as we had to actually navigate.

The race had been pretty flat for the first four controls, but leaving #4 things angled upwards. I continued to make a conscious effort to go faster, and finally passed Bo, and started to catch glimpses of a CSU jersey ahead - Ari! I caught him and 3-4 other guys that I didn't know at control #5, but then we had some more fast trail running, and they pulled ahead. I was starting to notice the pace, and the fact that I haven't done any hard straight running in a while. My shoulders were cramping from the effort of breathing, and my hamstrings were starting to protest the speedy strides. Uh oh.

Second map: click for full map

I finished the second map trailing behind a pack of 5-6 guys, that included Ari and Ian, from CSU. Naturally, I wanted to beat them all, but there's desire and then there's ability. I slowed down a bit on the two butterfly loops out of the drinks control, in part because I'd nearly choked to death on some gatorade - air in one tube, liquid in the other, dummy, you've been doing this your whole life! Luckily, my brain took back over, and in a good mind-over-matter moment, I wound back up to race pace, back into the aggressive mindset. I'd seen Jordan, the men's leader, just one butterfly loop ahead of me, so I realized that this pack of Ari and the other two guys were probably the chase pack. As I was finishing my second loop, I saw Kseniya starting what I hoped was her first loop, which spurred me on. I didn't have much buffer, but it was enough for now.
Meeting with Kseniya while choking on gatorade

Unfortunately, I lost two of those buffer minutes on the way to 17 - I'd pulled to the front of the chase pack, but momentarily lost focus and lost contact with the map, leading to much confusion and wandering about in a low-visibility area. I think this is where Neil Martin got ahead of us, as three others of us wandered. Mad at myself for that lapse, I pulled it back together, only to lose another 45 seconds at 19. What is this, it's almost like I'm tired and making mistakes! Even with that mistake, I'd managed to pull away from two of the guys in the pack, because of more woods-running (yay!), and I caught back up to Ari at 21. He was walking, having just twisted his ankle badly. It was a reminder to me to keep moving carefully - we were traversing the side of a mountain covered in loose pointy rocks under loose leaves - I did not want to injure myself now, so close to the finish. I finished traversing the slope, and popped out at the bottom of the ski slope, in the clear, as far as I could tell, from any other runners. Sweet. Two more controls, and I kept the gas on, worried about a late-race charge from one of the men behind me, and then I was at the finish, in third place!

Kseniya finished close behind, having matched or beaten nearly all my forest splits. It was a good thing I'd pushed the trails as much as I had, and I was lucky we'd had so much trail running. I was really pleased to have finished a long race feeling strong and aggressive the whole way through. And I won a giant gingerbread cookie!

This marks the second year I've swept the orienteering triple crown. These long races are a blast!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fruitlands Cup of CX

Photo credit: Geoff Martin

Saturday mornings, my juniors can be found rollerskiing around the back roads of some towns with plenty of hills and low traffic. One of our loops goes past the Fruitlands museum, which has a lovely view, even though they just repaved with that terrible tar and gravel stuff. Anyway, I was enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee on Saturday morning, getting ready to head out to Littleton, when I saw on social media a photo from a friend of mine of a frosty field with miles of yellow tape, and a caption saying something about a cyclocross race at Fruitlands. Wait, today? Maybe we can ski past and watch the race!

Fast-forward five minutes and I'm digging through piles of spandex trying to find some race kit. Of COURSE it's a good idea to do a race in a sport I haven't done for five years after doing a two-hour rollerski! I've never been that good at figuring out which are the dumb ideas and which are the awesome ideas.

Fast forward a few hours, and I'm staged in the back row of the cat. 4 women's field, having forked over enough cash for a late fee, a one-day license, and a number. I'm behind someone with flat pedals, next to someone on a hybrid, and everyone appears to have pinned their numbers through the holes. I love that this category exists, and that there are newbies coming out and trying these races just to see what it's like. I made a pact with myself to not be an asshole as I try to pass people. The last thing I want to do is ruin someone else's day, when they should be falling in love with a new sport.

One my single loop touring the course, I discovered that the skills came back intuitively, still second nature. I suppose that's good, considering it's not THAT hard to deal with the obstacles in a 'cross race. The pedaling power, on the other hand, was never my forte when I actually trained for this sport, and doesn't appear to have magically come back. It started to dawn on me how painful this race might be.

Definitely better off the bike than on. 

Off we go, about a minute behind the open race. Being in the last row means it's a passing game, and I do my best to do this nicely, until I find myself among some women who've clearly pedaled a bicycle before. I had some silly plan that I'd pace myself, considering my complete lack of any bike-fitness, but then I realized that was a dumb idea, because this is a 'cross race! You can't pace yourself! Much wheezing and leg-burning followed, and good god, who put that hill in my way? I started to pray that the elite women would lap me and shorten my misery by a lap, but that wasn't to be.

I was going back and forth with someone whose kids were cheering for her (go mama go!), and someone named Karen, and they were both much stronger than me on the false flat power sections. I was much stronger in the technical bits, so there was quite a bit of yo-yoing going on. Quite a bit of mental yo-yoing as well - on the uphills, oh god, so much pain, I can't keep pedaling. On the turns, downhills, and dismounts - whee, this is fun!! Then we'd hit a power section again and oh god, my legs! my legs! they're falling off! I finally mustered the strength to ride one of the punchy little climbs before the finish, and managed to keep the gap, landing in 6th place.

The dangerous thing is that we humans are terrible at remembering physical pain, so all that's left is a memory of how much fun it is to be breathing hard and struggling to beat your competitor, just guts and glory and mayhem. Must not get sucked back down into this cycling rabbit hole...

I've been busy - this also happened. One of those days where putting one foot in front of the other is so good for your soul. 

This happened on Sunday. Ed and I put on a local/regional meet at Lynn Woods, and had relatively happy competitors, except when they were lost. Note to self: don't make the courses so devilishly hard next time. 

These little girls went out on a course, and came sprinting in to try and win the last split. I was tickled to watch them animatedly comparing splits. Gotta start 'em young!

We went for a walk, and I treed an Ed-monster!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hudson Highlander

The Hudson Highlander is a fantastic race. 26.2km of orienteering, in a beautiful park with fantastic terrain that still feels like wilderness, on a beautiful day. Harriman state park is rugged, raw, physical, and utterly gorgeous. I love it. I think Harriman was where I first really got bitten with the competitive orienteering bug, back in 2009 when I was invited to join a US Team camp, and Thierry Gueorgieu and some of his French Team buddies were along for the vacation. I watched them float through the forest, and I wanted to be able to do that, too.

A kilometer in the forest has about the same metabolic costs as a mile on the trail, so for a 26km orienteering race, you're pretty much facing a trail marathon. Cool, that sounds like fun on completely inadequate training, let's do it! The race is a mass start, which means it will become immediately apparent how much you have or haven't been training, and there are some special segments - a trail run, where you just follow streamers, and a King of the Mountain leg, which, surprisingly, goes to the top of a mountain. These primes get special prizes, and even though the women's field wasn't super deep this year, with one of my competitors setting the course and another walking the Lowlander with a broken wrist, I wanted to win those primes as much as I wanted the overall! And of course, I wouldn't mind taking some scalps from the men's side. Too competitive for my own good, they say...

I knew I didn't have any extra matches to burn, so the name of the game today was energy efficiency. No thrashing about trying to brute force it, because I'm just not strong enough for that right now. But this sort of distance with this low control density meant I got lots of the part I love best in orienteering - running through the woods!

King of the Mountain turned out to be the first leg. Oof! This meant I only had to go fast enough to stay ahead of the other women, so I tried to keep the effort under wraps, and managed to get to the top first, but well behind a bunch of the men I'd like to beat. My legs were already exploding, not a good sign. This led to a very slow execution to #2, with lots and lots of walking. By then, I'd fallen into a group with two guys I've run with before, and we were loosely together until I dropped them by taking a better route to 5.

At #5, I picked up two West Point cadets, who were standing around looking a little lost. The Highlander is in the backyard for these guys, so there's always a good turnout, but they're definitely stronger physically than navigationally, so tend to do a bunch of following. That's ok, I was planning to take it easy for the remainder of this first loop of orienteering, and then dump all my energy on the trail run, which looked to be awesome technical singletrack along the Appalachian Trail. I led the cadets smoothly through controls 6-7-8-9, and then it was time for the trail run!

I like to hunt when I race, and it was a good day of hunting, as I swallowed up runner after runner, stretching out on the runnable parts and tumbling down the steep and rocky descents. Unfortunately I could tell that my already-sore butt and hamstrings were going to pay for this turn of speed, possibly dearly. What matches I'd had, I burned on the run. Worth it.

I finished up the trail run in good spirits, now in 16th place overall, but fully aware of how much energy I'd just used. Two guys I'd run past caught up to me after we left the water stop, and I was doing much more walking than on the previous map. Maybe I should call it slogging. Rockhouse Mountain has a lot of very high blueberry bushes, mid-thigh on me, and this stuff is quite physical to move through. Occasionally I'd get lucky and find a game trail that went roughly in the right direction, but mostly it was just pushing through the blueberry, hoping that my foot wouldn't catch on anything and cause a full-on hamstring cramp.

On the way to 16 there were a few kilometers on a trail, and I discovered I could still run pretty good if I didn't have to pick up my feet, so I dropped Kevin and the cadet. Then it started to snow, which was pretty cool, and upped my spirits enough that I could add some oopmh to my step coming into the final map exchange, where I caught a college kid who should be faster than that, and crammed some cookies in my mouth, hoping to hold off the hamstring cramps for the last 5-6km loop.

Lots of trail running on this map, though even that was getting pretty difficult. I really enjoyed the little loop at the southern end of that map, lovely forest and I was still navigating very nicely. I managed to pass two more cadets on this loop without them seeing me, and I managed to up the pace to hold my place to the finish. Not my fastest Highlander ever, but it was a really enjoyable race, and I was psyched to end up 11th overall. Turns out you can mostly replace training with toughness, who knew?

Super duper thanks to HVO for setting up such a nice race. The course was great, and I appreciated all the work that goes into setting up a long adventure-style race like this.

Maps from legs 1-2 and leg 3. Haven't uploaded leg 4 yet.

Award for KOM leg was a photo from that control. Fitting prize, considering I didn't spend as much time admiring the view as I may have liked.