Monday, October 6, 2014

US Orienteering Nationals

Last weekend, the Rochester Orienteering Club hosted nationals for orienteering, with a sprint at Genessee Valley Park, and a long and a middle distance race down at Letchworth.  This was great, because it not only let me compete on my old stomping grounds, but also let me see my parents and let them come spectate the races.  Even with all the technological advances, the spectating is pretty poor at orienteering races, but hey, we're trying.  
Sprint Race
The first race was the sprint, on Friday.  I had just started getting used to the feeling of a body all full of energy from a proper taper, but that morning something didn't quite feel right, with a high heart rate and sluggish feelings in my legs.  I decided to try and ignore the physical side of the race, and just run clean, spiking all the controls and keeping my head up and scanning the terrain.  This worked well, so even when I didn't have the top gear I was hoping for, I navigated very well in the easy parkland terrain, and I was fast enough to take the win. My first ever national title in orienteering!  (ski-o notwithstanding).  This was cool. I was psyched.  Unfortunately, by that evening the weird feelings I'd noticed had developed into a full-blown head cold, sapping all that extra energy that I should have had available from my taper. Not fair!

Hehe, psyched.  I'm pretty sure this photo is just after Alison finished, and I knew I was the champ.

I was anxious, trying to fall asleep on Friday night.  I know you're not supposed to race with a cold, because your body is already trying really hard to fight off the virus, it's not very nice to pile on more stress from a hard race in potentially cold and rainy conditions.  I decided that if I woke up and my morning heart rate was below 60, I would race, and this gave me the peace of mind to finally fall asleep.  Morning heart rates tend to be decent indicators of overall exhaustion, so I didn't just pull that decision rule from you-know-where.  

Long Distance
I woke up with my resting heart rate down at 50 bpm, but a super sore throat.  Yuck.  This changed my approach to the race, since I knew that no matter what, I'd be setting myself back in terms of recovery, but I had decided that I was "allowed" to race, so may as well make the best of it.  By the time I'd finished my coffee and Kseniya and her mom had driven us down to Letchworth, I was thinking I'd probably survive the course.  My git-up-and-go definitely got-up-and-went last night without me, but again, I decided to ignore the physical side, and just try to navigate cleanly.  I wasn't quite as successful as I'd been in the sprint, leaving four minutes or more out on the course in errors, but it was good enough, again.  I caught up to Alison, one of my US Team teammates, at control 5 from three minutes back, and despite two ill-fated attempts to drop her, we were together for nearly the rest of the course. I was a little distracted by this, but it was still a lovely day to be running through the woods, and I really enjoyed myself.  In the end I was fastest again, by seven minutes! Body was definitely a bit worse for the wear, but I had managed to keep myself reined in enough to not do *too* much damage.

Middle Distance
One more race to go, the middle distance, and this race has been my Achilles heel the past few years. It's tough, it's technical, it's short, so there's no time to make up for your big errors.  I wanted to do two things going in to the champs - run a clean race by focusing on the process, and bring a little more rawr to the party and race with some aggression.  I really felt like poo when I woke up, stuffed up like a cannoli and coughing, but the resting heart rate was just below 60 (59) so that meant go time.  I did a slow warm up to try and convince my body that it wanted to race today, this is going to be fun!  oof.

I started well, spiking the first two controls, but then I made a rookie error and lost 4 minutes on the way to number 3. Came up for air, found #4, and then I was drowning again searching for 5 with no idea where I was or where I should be or what the heck I was doing. When I finally came back up and found that control, I was pretty pissed at myself.  I knew I'd probably just lost the race, and both of those errors were unacceptable in how they happened.  Well, errors are part of the fine-scale navigation in orienteering, time to put them behind me and get on with the rest of the race, so I did that, and pretty well too, winning most of the final 12 splits.  I had clawed my way back up to third place, fueled by anger and frustration and thankfully channeling it the right way, but naturally I was disappointed with those two controls in the beginning.  That said, it felt really good to run with such aggression, and despite the huge blowup, I feel best about this race.  Next weekend, I'll be more disciplined in my methods, while maintaining the feistiness, and that'll be a good combo!

Ed on his way out to the final loop in the Middle.

Leaving the spectator control in the Middle.

In to the finish, wishing I had a bit more lung capacity at my disposal!

After the Middle Distance finish, with US Champ Kseniya!

CSU medal winners from the Long Distance (missing Peter and Gail, who both won some gold medals in their age classes as well).  Go CSU! 

In the end, it was a great weekend. I've never won a national title in summer orienteering before, so I'm really pumped to have just won two of the races and taken bronze in the third!  It was a lot of fun to have some competition in the women's field, even though we were missing Ali, and the Rochester Orienteering Club put on a really nice weekend of racing.  Best of all, I was able to take two national titles on home turf, with my parents there to cheer me on.  That was pretty cool.  

Now, I'm gonna kick this cold and bring my A-game to Canada for the North American Champs!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Last weekend I attended the almost-famous Pawtuckaway Camping weekend, hosted by the UpNorth Orienteers.  My relationship with this place has changed, over the years, mostly toward the good end of the dreading it --> drooling for it spectrum.  This probably has to do with the fact that my orienteering skill has improved to the point where I find all those boulders an enjoyable challenge rather than a recipe for hours of confused and abused lostness, but I wouldn't have gotten there without paying my due share of blood to the flies and tears to the house-sized boulders and prayers to the gods of orienteering.  

This is a fantastic weekend, because it is such an awesome laid-back atmosphere, with some pretty serious competition hidden in the corners. I started out with the red course, since I'd heard that the largest number of people were running it.  The intention was to take it at a race effort, and see what my knee would do in response to running as hard as I could through the woods on an uneven surface.  The good news is that there doesn't appear to be any lasting damage from this, so regardless of what the MRI results say, I think I should be ok for the October race weekends.  The bad news was that I completely and utterly wilted in the heat.  I was basically stumbling through the final controls, and all I could think of was watermelon.  Specifically, cold watermelon sitting on ice for even more coldness, like they had at Wapack last weekend.  I was going back and forth with Ernst Linder for most of the race, but in the end he had more stamina in the heat, and put 45 seconds into me on one control, that I just couldn't reel back in.  He ended up beating me by 15 seconds. So close!

The next activity of the afternoon was the canoe-o, which entailed my teammate Kseniya and I splashing around in the lake and occasionally actually finding a control.  A friend had painstakingly explained to us how to maximize our speed and direction in windy conditions, but we completely ignored his advice, more through lack of skill than lack of desire.  Luckily, we stayed upright.  

After a delicious and copious potluck dinner, it was time for the Wicked Haahd Night-O (WHNO).  The trouble with this event is that I'm always way too full from dinner to want to go out into the scary dark woods, but somehow I get persuaded to go out there every time.  Given the super hot conditions during the day, I knew I was pretty depleted even before I started, but thankfully I made it through without cramping or otherwise dying.  The pack was spreading out already by control 2, and I was near the back of it, resigning myself to just being slow tonight. Not much energy, and lots of sloshing noises coming from my belly, sapped my desire to run hard.  But, by control 3 I saw some people running in a variety of directions (none of them to the control), and I sensed my chance to get away.  It's tough to make a break in a night-o, because you can see the lights from so far away, but sometimes 45 seconds is enough to get out of sight, so I put a little oomph into my waddling and hit 4-5-6 alone.  

Christiane, a visiting German runner, made contact at 6, but she went way left to go around the lake to 8, and I was once again on my own.  Once you get over your fear of the dark, night orienteering is actually pretty awesome.  You know there are others out there, but you can't see them, and it's definitely fun to nail controls at night.  Cresting the hill to 8, I saw Gheorghe, a visiting Moldovan, bent over his leg nursing a cramp.  It had been a hot day, and tough to hydrate enough between the day's races and the night-o, so I wasn't surprised by this.  He was able to recover enough to trot around the rest of the course with me, but I could tell he was sort of out of it, not doing much navigating on his own anymore.  I overshot on 9, not having a clear attackpoint from the trail, but corrected with only 2 minutes lost, and still no lights, so this was good.  The humidity of the night and efforts from the day started to catch up with me near the end, unfortunately, and I made two stupid mistakes, 2min on 12, and another 2 min trying to find the finish.  D'oh!  You can't be slow AND make mistakes, you're only allowed to do one or the other.  Luckily, it was enough (barely) to hold off the other ladies, and I was 5th overall.  Results - scroll to the bottom for the night-o.

Sunday morning, the focus for me was on training.  First exercise was to blast through the shortest advanced course at full speed, and then do it again, to gain more confidence the second time 'round.  This accomplished, I set out on a longer course, with my compass in my pocket, to work on reading the map and doing a long terrain run.  It was a lovely cool morning, and I had a lot of fun trotting through the woods and enjoying the sights and sounds at a comfortable pace.  This meant the time wasn't very good, but since I wasn't racing, I was ok with that.  Some days, that's not what it's about.

All in all, a totally successful weekend. Super thanks to Up North Orienteers for putting it together, as always it was super valuable to my training and racing experience. I can't wait to tackle the October race weekends now!

Until next time, Pawtuckaway.  Thanks for having some crazy awesome boulders!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wapack trail race

Wapack is a great little trail, accessible and yet remote-feeling, with views and rocks and blueberries and hills and things, and though in a race it's hard to appreciate any of those things, that doesn't diminish the awesomeness of the trail. Maybe there are some trails that aren't made for racing on.  Doesn't stop us from trying.

After last year's slog, I was nervous going into this race with the forecast temperature and humidity - supposed to start out at 66F (dewpoint at 64F) and climb to 80ish, and this sounded like it could make for another unpleasant slog. Between the humidity and a potential knee problem, I didn't particularly want to pin on a number and stand on a start line, but the power of early registration got me to the start line; I'd already paid, so may as well show up. Besides, Ed wanted to test himself against this course, despite my warnings about how it'll eat you alive and shit you out the other end.  Maybe that made him even keener to try it.  I set my goal for the day to just be faster than last year. Stay humble, and finish without further injuring my knee.

Kehr Davis was on the start line, and I couldn't keep up on the hills, so let her go, finding my own rhythm.  The conditions felt marginally faster than last year, since the rocks weren't so slippery, and my legs didn't feel quite so leaden as last year, though they certainly weren't fresh. I slogged up Barrett Mt at my own pace, and Erica Labella (past race winner) was on my heels at the top. She took off running fast as it flattens out, and I discover that my calves needed some slower running to recover, first, so I let her go, too, but thankfully make contact on a downhill. Maybe we can run together the whole way and I'll have a female running buddy! Not today, I dropped her for good on the descent to Binney Pond. Traversing the ridge, with its lumps and bumps and momentum-killing dips and bends and drops, I caught back a few guys who had blasted by me on the first climb, and eventually made my way up to Ted Cowles partway down to Binney. I've spent the past few races running with Ted, so this was good.  We ended up running much of the race together.

I came through the first aid station well ahead of 2013 me, with a 5min buffer. Whee! Filled my bottle and had a gu, then set to chasing Ted up the flattish climb to Watatic.  It's a long grind, but I forced myself to run, and the hill felt shorter than last year.  I hit Watatic again ahead of schedule, which was exciting, and didn't see the leaders coming back up the hill until partway down. I was still feeling sluggish and tired, but also like I was running within my capabilities for the day, so this was encouraging.  Thanks to my bum knee, I took it sort of easy on the downhills; the descent from Watatic is a real screamer when you do it right, but I wanted to escape today unscathed.  Saw Kehr near the turn-around, with a 5-10min lead, so I continued with the approach of running my own race.

Ted and I left the aid station together, and I was able to barely hang on back up Watatic. I high-fived Ed near some of the bare rock, and was pleased to see that he looked totally comfortable.  From Watatic it's a long three miles to the last aid station, and then the real suffering begins, as you go back over the ridge.  I kept the gas on down Watatic, since that's the most runnable part of the whole trail, and there were some more guys coming into view as I hit the final aid station.  I say "final" like the race is almost done - ha!  But, I was 15 minutes ahead of 2013 me, and this was an excellent place to be.  Naturally, I got greedy, and started looking at 3:10 instead of 3:15.  Just push a little harder, a little further, take that extra risk on the downhill...

But then you're hit smack in the face with the climb out of Binney, and I let myself walk the whole way, passing two guys with a steady power hike.  Once up on the ridge, it's a series of false summits, though the map only looks like three peaks.  I was in full suffer mode now, with the sun out and nearly out of water, legs tired and joints feeling the rocky descents with no flow.  I tried to remember to use my momentum, but the mental energy wasn't always there in time.  Finally, I hit the top of Barret Mt, and I had just passed two more guys, so it was a frantic tumble down the hill.  I knew it'd be close to break 3:10, and in the end I didn't quite have the legs for it, finishing in 3:11.  Damn, I know I could have found two minutes somewhere on that course!

I'm totally satisfied with my race, especially given the weather conditions. Those were not PR conditions, but I set a 20min PR, through a combination of good luck, better fitness, and a terrible day last year (sometimes, a terrible day the first time is all it takes to improve the next time!). Kehr ran 3:07, but she also got lost right near the end, so should have been faster. I was 11th overall, with the winner taking 2:33. Ed had a good run for the first 14-15 miles, and then ran out of water and discovered first-hand that the bonk is real...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Corn maze orienteering

The corn maze orienteering shenanigans began as a training event for the gang of five, which was what we called ourselves when Ali and I lived in the valley and got up to all sorts of trouble with Phil and Gail and Peter. Peter figured we may as well do some orienteering at Mike's Maze, and Mike was down with the idea, and it turns out racing around in a corn maze is not only amazingly fun, it's also really good technical orienteering training.  That established the tradition, and every year the event has grown; this year we had some 50 odd people lost in the maze attempting to find controls, and the event is as fun as ever!

There were three events (well, four if you count dinner at Bub's bbq) on tap: A "classic" distance, a sprint, and a night-o.  The classic had a predicted winning time of 11 minutes or so, sprint should be won in 5 minutes, and the night-o was a get-as-many-as-you-can affair with a 1-hr time limit.

My parents came to join in the fun, and while I think they may have been egregiously lost at times, they appeared to have fun while being lost, and at this event, that's what counts.  I did a proper warmup, remember that this fun event is actually a lot like a series of suicide sprints, since when you do know where you are, it pays to just run as fast as you can, and then come sliding to a stop to figure out which junction you want to turn down next.  I started out well, catching up about a minute to Brendan, but then proceeded to get utterly and completely lost, and was incapable of relocating.  All this corn looks exactly the same!!  By the time I'd figured that out, I was in 17th.  I clawed my way back up to 7th, but not without two more pretty terrible mistakes.  Oof!  This corn maze orienteering stuff is HARD!

After a short break, it was time for the sprint event.  I determined to give more respect to the maze this time, and took it slow - too slow.  This time Brendan started behind me, and had made up a minute by control 2, and I hadn't even made any mistakes!  I rallied a bit, but it wasn't enough, and I ended up 5th.  Thankfully at that point it's time for the barbecue dinner, so we all headed off to Bub's, because what is better than trying to run on a belly full of barbecue at night in a corn maze? Yeah I couldn't think of anything better than that, either =).

She may not know where she's going, but gosh darn is she going to have fun while going there.

Searching for runners in the maze. Binoculars didn't help.

Good thing there's a viewing platform.

Corn maze festivities over, the next day the Jospe family headed out for a walk along the 7 Sisters ridge.  That is one beautiful piece of land, and it turns out the ridge is no easier to hike than it is to race. Oof! But it was a lovely day to be walking outside, and I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.

Looking toward Mt. Tom across the river.

Coming up the first hill's rock scramble.

Midway there's a nice pile of rock that really doesn't look like much of a trail, but a trail it is. I raced on this? What was I thinking?!?

Ed decided to run to the summit house, and just wait for us there. I found him napping in the sun, totally sunburned.

Rocks and roots!

Ed leaving signs for me pointing which way to go at junctions.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Savoy Mt Trail Race

Ed had so much fun at People's forest race he wanted to do another one, and he figured he could handle 14 miles at Savoy, so to Savoy we went, at early-o-clock with Ari. Wheee trail racing! 

 The goal for today was to break 2:30, considering that last year I did 2:48 with a cold, so really couldn't breathe too well and had been trying to take it easy. The weather was good this year, 60-ish and cloudy with a low dew point. Kelsey and Kehr were both there, and I hoped to start with them and see what would happen, but Kehr started fast, as she does, and Kelsey chased, and I wasn't ready to go into the hurt box that early in a 14mi race, so let them go to race my own race. Redlining in the first 10 minutes and then being unable to run well due to lactic buildup for the remaining 115 minutes is both stupid and not-fun. Still worth racing even if you can't necessarily win. I fell into stride with Tony Bonanno early on, he's a self-proclaimed downhill runner, so we were roughly close in speed. Past the first aid ~6min faster than last year (that's what running the uphills instead of walking will do, eh?), through the two powerline cuts, and Ted Cowles caught up on a climb. I tried to keep up with him to the next aid station, gapping Tony slightly. Dropped my bottle on a rock there, and climbed up to Spruce Knob and the awesomesauce ridge. The views south along the Hoosac range are fantastic from Spruce Knob, and just like last year, I was filled with that feeling of accomplishment you get when you've arrived somewhere via your two feet (and especially when those feet are clad in X-Talons).  Wahooo!

Apparently, I actually stopped to whoop, and Ben Kimball of NortheastRacePhoto was right there to capture the moment.  I don't remember stopping, but I do remember giggling my way down the rest of that ridge, just absolutely loving it and living in the moment.  I am so thankful that I can run the way I do in the places I go to!  I caught two guys along the ridge, then passed Ted as we started the downhill to the turn-around, passing one other kid along the way. Woo!

That downhill is uber fun, winding around, super runnable, not that steep, not that rocky, just super fun. Unfortunately that means no benefit over anyone else, since they can all run it fast too, but that's ok. I saw Kelsey and Ari and Kehr coming back up and estimated a ~6-7min deficit, and while I wasn't super happy being that far back, that was the situation, and if I could keep the pressure on there was a chance one of them might fade or bonk. I ran every step of the return uphill and the ridge, and Ted didn't catch up, which meant I was running well, since I hadn't gapped him by that much on the downhill.

I high-fived Ed near the top of the climb, which gave me some energy, but I started to get tired near the end of the ridge, and sort of picked my way down to the aid station more slowly than I'd like.  Anyway, I tried to keep pushing the downhills from there, and I was actually glad that they were runnable and grassy and squishy. The bit between the two powerline cuts was still muddy (isn't it funny how you sort of hope that the crappy parts of the course won't be so crappy when you get there again?), and that was tough, but when I hit the final aid station it was only a mile left, phew. I'd been running alone since 8 miles, and that made it tough to stay motivated and pushing. In the end I was well under 2:30, but Kelsey won in 2:13, so I lost equal amounts out and back; partly the fact that I was alone for the entire return trip worked against me, but partly I'm just not fast enough, especially at the end of a heavy volume week. Whatever. I had oodles of fun, and gave it what I had on the day. Whee!  (Results)

Some of the final bits of trail - totally runnable double track.

As Ari drove us there, we had this sky and this light. My favorite combination. I suppose it explains why at times the woods were pretty dark, but the storm never broke.

I had a chance for a quick cooldown and swim/wash in the lake before Ed came through, still running, though sort of grimacing too...

He assumed this position for a while.  I can relate.

"That kicked my ass. When can we do this again?"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Running up hills!

Just small hills, but I've been enjoying letting my feet take me up and down hills with the occasional rock thrown in, lately.  Two weekends ago, Ed and I headed down to Connecticut for the People's Forest trail race, which I did last year and very much enjoyed.  It's a short race, in the trail racing world, just 7 miles with a modest 350m of elevation gain, and Ed figured it would be a good one to try out; I was psyched he wanted to come.  Last year I won, but so much is dependent on who shows up, and this year someone showed up who is faster.  I think I may have been closing the gap on the downhill, but then I took a wrong turn right near the end, stupidly, and lost about 3-4 minutes, as well as 4 places to guys I had worked darn hard to pass.  That was a bummer, but you gotta pay attention to the course in trail races, and when I revisited the location of the tricky junction in my cooldown, it was really quite obvious that I should have gone the other way.  What in the world tempted me to go left? Darnit!  At least that was just a 3-4min error; Ed and a group of maybe 6 other people made a wrong turn that gave them an extra 100m of climb and a solid 15 minutes of extra running! oops.  I believe that turn caused problems last year, too, so it's a bummer the race director didn't sign it slightly better this year.  Oh well, no harm done, and it was a lovely day for a run over rocks and hills with friendly people.  

Here's a photo from a run (over hills) with Ed down in the Blue Hills.  We're so lucky to have a park like that pretty much right in Boston!

Back to the Blue Hills for a long run with some juniors and some orienteers and some washed up old coaches, this time on a humid day. Hey Alex, do you want to go up the ski hill too? One guess as to what I said...

So last weekend I had been instructed not to sign up for any races, because it was family reunion time for Ed's family in Vermont.  That's a great place to hang out in the summer, and it's been so dry that the bugs aren't even a problem.  We had lots of fun, including a hike with some of the family that quickly turned into a 10 mile run over 700m of climb on the AT, no complaints here!  We are so lucky to have the Green Mountains and a 2000-mile trail right out the door there.

And then driving home, I *may* have gotten side tracked and stopped to run up Mt. Monadnock, having never climbed that one before.  It's a lovely little peak, with great views and lots of rock scrambling. So much fun! I was feeling so grateful for being me as I scrambled up that hill, that I can just pull the car over and do stuff like this, spontaneous joyous bounding up and down beautiful trails.  Love it.

We're racing Savoy Mountain trail race this weekend; I did that one last year and it certainly has its share of hills and rocks! Can't wait!

The cleaned-up selfie

The sweaty selfie. I like this one better.

Descent to Griffith Lake, lovely and runnable.

Looking east from the ascent back to Mad Tom Notch.  What a day for running!

Ed and his dad rebuilding an ancient jeep in the cabin in Vermont. Someday, it may even resemble a jeep again.