Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Car!

Yup, I found another honda. This one isn't white, though. Hopefully it will have better luck than the white hondas in my life. Here's to no more rolled cars.

I rollerskied this morning. This is the earliest I've ever rollerskied, I think. And definitely this is the earliest I've ever done specific strength. What am I thinking?? I guess I'm not, I just listen to the guy with more capital letters behind his name and do what he says and hope it works.

More shots from my dad two weekends ago:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Winding Trails MTB

So, since I didn't start official ski training until today, and its a day off anyway, I raced my mountain bike yesterday. I see the logic in that, don't you? It was a race down in Farmington, CT, where they hold the Chainbiter 'cross race, and I think the 'cross course might be more technical than the mountain bike course. There was some singletrack, maybe 40%, probably less, and it was pretty flat, there weren't any rocks, and there was only one scary part. It would have been boring if it hadn't been a race.

I got a ride down south with Thom, Colin, and Linnea, which was good, because they all know how to fix bikes better than me. Which, when I'm around, is a good skill to have. Of course, I was the only one in that car that isn't fast enough to win money, but I try not to let that get to me. I didn't really see much of the course beforehand, just a somewhat sketchy downhill, that had a big drop thing at the bottom. The sketchy part came in that it was super loose sandy stuff, and if you had any speed whatsoever, the corner shot you someplace the trail wasn't. Luckily for me, I never had any speed thanks to copious riding of my brakes. I only lost one brakepad on my ride south, and luckily we (I should say they) found one from Colin's cross bike somewhere. Am I a mess? noooo. Was I completely wired on sugar from too many cupcakes? Maybe.

The race starts, and I happened to be in the right gear (luck), so I shoot off the front, go through the sandpit using my mad 'cross skills, and then the race happened and everyone passed me. I sort of expected that, but I was glad to be one of the first to go over the sketchy downhill thing, because I don't trust girls on bikes unless its Linnea. So for a while I was riding third wheel, and then we hit a flat part under the powerlines and Cathy blew past me like I was standing still, with a girl in her draft. Bleepin' roadies. So I rode along in fifth for a while, HR pegged and legs dying on anything remotely angled upwards, which felt like most of the course. But that is just because I don't ride bikes and I'm weak. I found I was making up time on the girl in blue on the singletrack, and I'd almost latch on, but then we'd hit another wide-open trail and she'd put thirty feet on me in about four seconds. I was starting to think I couldn't go any harder when I saw the IBC posse, and they were cheering so I went as fast as I could up the hill, and I almost caught up to the girl in green, but I got too close and stopped paying attention to what I was riding over, and we came up on a short steep little hill, and I tipped over fully clipped in. Bleepin' rookie.

I sort of squirmed for a bit to get out from under my bike, while three more girls passed me. Grr. I chased for the next lap, making up some time on the singletrack if it was going downhill, and losing massive percentages of minutes on the uphill stuff. And no, this was not a hilly course, it was flat, for all intents and purposes. Anyway, second lap passed by and I was working just as hard, just as far behind these girls. I think for a little section of one part of the single track I caught up to the girl in blue, but naturally she dumped me again. Third lap I could see someone in orange catching up to me, and I was chasing the girl in orange-and-black who was chasing the girl in blue. I finally caught up to the girl in orange-and-black on the last uphill, the only one, really, but I was stuck behind her going back down it and she wasn't very fast on the parts where I wanted to go faster. I didn't think it was smart (or nice) to pass on the singletrack, so I just rode behind her almost all the way to the finish. So, the girl in orange caught up to us, and then we came into a three-up sprint to the finish, which I barely won, thinking it was just between me and black-and-orange, although both me and orange passed black-and-orange. Woo, 7th place. That was good enough for 3rd in my category, though I didn't know it and missed the awards.

Then I watched Linnea and Colin and Thom ride really fast. Thom was third in the semi-pro, I thought that was pretty cool. Linnea was second, I think, and Colin was fifth, although he was whining about riding his bike too much the day before. Overall, I'd say it was fun, although I would have liked a little more variety in the terrain than what was offered. And I really should ride a bike if I expect to race one, but we all know how well I avoid doing that.

A possible reason I was so hyper all day... CAR BOMB CUPCAKES!!! (chocolate guinness cake with bailey's frosting. heaven in my mouth)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I was amused by the Google Earth image that my Garmin put out from last night's park-o. Either Google Earth is off or my Garmin is, because I know for sure that I did not swim through the middle of that pond, as tempting as it was. There were a few too many floating things to make it truly appealing...

I also discovered that the little stabilizer muscles in my ankles and legs do not recover as quickly as the big muscles. I thought I was done being sore from last weekend, but I was tripping all over myself when running in the woods last night.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rochester Orienteering Relay Champs

The Rochester Orienteering Club, my home club, hosted the national relay championships this past weekend, at Letchworth State Park for the individual race and at Mendon Ponds Park for the relay race. These were really well-run races; the volunteers were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, and it all went off without a hitch, as far as I could tell. A large part of the CSU team stayed at my house, which is conveniently about a mile from Mendon Ponds, and it was fun to have a team to hang out with again.

Saturday was a middle-distance event at Letchworth. It was a beautiful day, but it was HOT. I think by 2pm it was 86 degrees, a temperature I haven't seen since last summer for sure. There was one water stop on the course, but it wasn't at a control, since there hadn't been plans for water when the temperature was supposed to be a high of 50F. I started near the end, around noon. I warmed up jogging down the road and back for a bit, but I started to overheat, and that was no good, so I just drank some more water and went to the start. I punched the start box, flipped my map, and ran off into the woods. The Letworth woods are pretty open, although there were a fair number of dead trees down, and there are lots of steep hills. The first couple controls were fine; I had a brief bobble when I came out on a road that I hadn't expected, but it just looked like the map hadn't been updated to reflect the large size of this road.

There was a stream that I had to cross twice, and both times, my feet got wet. I saw no better way to do it, but I hate running with wet feet. I was noticing that my running pace was getting slower and slower, and I was walking up more and more of the hills, and soon I got to a point where all I could think about was water. Crossing through the stream again, I was sorely tempted to take a drink. Luckily I resisted, knowing that there were some plastic gallon-jugs of water sitting somewhere out in the woods. I managed to orienteer cleanly, despite my water-cravings, and by the time I got to the water I wanted to just sit there and guzzle water all day. I limited myself to two glasses, and then tried to run fast the rest of the way in to make up for the slight detour to the water I'd taken. I ended up 10th, of about 20, which isn't bad for me in my age class at a national-level meet. I was pretty close to some fast ladies, which is good, but being ahead of them would have been better!

That afternoon was the sprint. I was tired, and hot, and I had been chugging water and gatorade since I finished the first course. I got into the woods and immediately started walking. An army guy passed me. Ashamed to be walking, I started to run again, and then made a minute-long mistake going to the third control, by starting off running down a hill instead of up it. No more mistakes after that, but I couldn't run fast, and there was a ton of water sloshing around in my belly.

Me and Audrun, our Norwegian import star =)

The "grand canyon of the east". Impressive, no?

Wolf creek, the fastest way to get down to the river...

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, but breezy enough to cut some of the heat. I was on the CSU "A" team, with Brendan Shields, Peter Gagarin, and Ross Smith. They have crazy point ranking schemes for the relay champs, with each person assigned a certain number of points based on their age and gender. Guys under 45 or something are zero points, girls are two points, and I don't know how the rest of the points work. There are three categories: 4-point teams, 8-point teams, and 12-point teams. This allows each club to put forward its best team possible, instead of some people dominating because they have all the fast college runner guys or something. Anyway, Ross and Brendan are zero pointers, I was two points, and I think Peter was two points, being a master. Each leg of the relay runs a different course, too, so I ended up on the orange course, sort of an intermediate-hard.

We got to Mendon Ponds and noticed that the big field had sprouted controls all over it--apparently there was a complaint last year that there weren't enough spectator controls, so they went to the extreme this time. This meant you had to triple check the control codes, to make sure you went to the right one. Brendan led off for our team, and he had a pretty good run, coming in as the fourth four-point team. He tagged off to me, and off I went. My first three controls were running around in that goddamned field, which is really hilly, and it was hot, and I was kind of tired from yesterday, but everyone could see me and I could still hear Ross with the megaphone. I ran sorta fast (running really fast isn't possible on zero speedwork) and eventually got into the woods and slowed to a hike up a steep hill so I could plan my route to the next couple controls.

I know Mendon Ponds really well, so I was able to make good time in the woods. I passed one of the Canadian teams, and an Army team. I was spiking each control, and it felt really good to be able to run this confidently. I came shooting back into the field and gallumphed down to the low point, before starting a long-ass finishing loop, where the spectators can see you and heckle you the whole time. I finally hauled my butt around that loop and tagged off to Peter, in second place. It turns out I had the second-fastest split for my leg, 10 seconds ahead of a really fast girl, about a minute behind some guy from Army who clearly was a runner (not so good in the woods, though...). Peter didn't have the oomph that the younger guy he was chasing had, and got passed by the Army team before he tagged off to Ross. Ross ran an awesome race, getting us back into 2nd! Go CSU!

Silver medalists! Ross, Brendan, me, and Peter

Up that gol-durned hill.

Turning the corner, almost there.

Ed trying to get sense out of me just after finishing. He should know better than to do that!

Beagle-shaped hippos. It's a new breed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My extraordinarily [un]lucky streak at the Fells continues...

Last summer, I didn't get through one ride at the Fells without something bad happening. I got lost in the dark, I got hypothermic, I was riding with Missy when she cut her leg open and needed a couple stitches, I was riding with Rachel when Colin put his derailleur into his spokes by bunnyhopping, I was riding with Colin when he cut his knee open, I was riding with Roz when one other girl with us mangled three tubes fixing a flat... and today I managed to flat my rear wheel twice, the second one on a fast-ish downhill being stupid. "huh, lots of loose stuff. I'll go right and avoid it. Oh, more loose rocks, the better line is to the right. Uh oh, sharp loose rocks, I'll go right to avoid them. Oh, I'm off the trail. Shit, branches. I'm going pretty fast, maybe I can plow through them. Doh!"

The branches stopped my bike pretty quickly, luckily I'm good at rolling but I definitely have some bruises and my shoulder is all scraped up. I guess its good that I didn't break my collarbone, although I like to think that I'm made of tougher stuff than those skinny road cyclists with their reduced bone density. So, the bad luck at the Fells continues... maybe I just need to stop being dumb, but I'll call it bad luck.

This weekend is the orienteering relay champs in Rochester. Saturday at Letchworth and Sunday at Mendon Ponds. Ross said I'll probably be on the A team... no pressure, really. Just don't be a slow fat kid with asthma.

And some gratuitous flower pictures, since it is spring, after all, and the flowers are blooming.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Exciting pastimes of Alex

This morning I painted my toenails purple. Shiny purple! They were looking far too naked to be wearing sandals to work, and I was in a shiny purple mood.

Last night I was at one of the CSU-orienteering training races, we call them park-o's since they're often held in parks and aren't very long. Except that Alexei made this one about twice as long as normal. And it was at the Fells, which has really thick, thorny underbrush, meaning I spent a lot more time running around patches of woods on trails that I would have liked to. Then I saw Rachel, one of my IBC teammates, out riding her bike, and she seemed very surprised that I was running, and exclaimed that I was running very fast. I guess it's good she didn't see me at one of the points where I was standing still staring at my map trying to figure out what trail I was on. That may have happened once or twice.

And I figured out how to make pizza dough! I've never had much success with homemade pizza, because I like thin-crust pizza that is pretty crunchy. I know I could just use a pita, but that always feels like cheating. Well, the trick is to just cook your pizza in a really hot oven on the lowest rack in the oven! That way the crust gets crunchy but the toppings don't get burned. And oh boy was it delicious. Except make sure that the cornmeal is only under the pizza dough, not on the pan around the dough, because it will burn and smoke will come out of your oven. Usually smoke is a sign of bad things happening.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Billygoat 2008

Last year, I'd had surgery on my shin just before this race. This year, I'd taken two weeks mostly off before the race. Always great preparation! The Billygoat is a long distance orienteering event with some interesting rules-- you can skip one control of your choice, and you can follow other runners (in fact, following is encouraged). Each year, a Jockstuffer of the Year award is given to someone who does minimal navigating and maximal following. Some of the stories can be found here, and some are quite amusing. Anyway, the Billygoat is supposed to be tough, designed to break both souls and bodies. Last year was pretty easy, and I worried that they would overreact. Luckily, the course setter didn't overreact, although in one guy's words, this Billygoat was "a real Billygoat run. With rocks and hills and stuff!" I guess that is a good thing...

So, I didn't really have a plan, except to follow people to #1 while I looked at my map and tried to figure out which one to skip. I wasn't having much luck deciding on a control to skip, as there weren't too many obvious choices. I toyed with the idea of #13, which would save a jaunt into the woods off a trail, or with #18, just because it looked like it was in somewhat nasty terrain, but I didn't immediately see any trails around it. I was following Jeff Saeger (the father of the two girls who are like the best orienteers in the US)into #3, and when he headed towards 5 instead of 4, I figured, what the heck. May as well skip 4 and stick with a good orienteer. Heading towards 5 the fact that I am not in shape caught up to me, and I quickly fell into the "run where I can, walk everywhere else" mode. This meant that I was losing Jeff, and I'd have to actually navigate lest I lose myself.

Five and six were uneventful, I was trailing about 20 feet behind Jeff and Tracy Olafson had caught up to me. I ran with her to 7, but then convinced myself I'd come too far down the hillside, since I ran right by 7 on my way to 3. Luckily I was being passed by a stream of orienteers, who all seemed intent to keep heading downhill, so I raced downhill at breakneck speed to catch back up to Tracy and not lose her. We circumnavigated the swamp to get to 8, but I managed to get my foot stuck in mud anyway. Tracy and I started to pull away from people between 9 and 12, and then I mentioned that I would just hoof it along the ridge trail from 12 to 13. She agreed, and a kid came with us, his name was Calvin. He started making noises about how he was tired and getting hungry, but not in a whiny way, so it was ok. Coming off the trail near #9, we crossed the set of three stone walls and hit the big trail, which we followed all the way to the little pond next to 13. Tracy needs some reading glasses, as she couldn't see the map as well as she'd like, but us young folks helped her out and we nailed 14.

I was kind of dumb going to 15, heading down by the swamp instead of over the top, but Tracy and Calvin went over the top and we got there at the same time. Somehow I was deemed the good navigator, no pressure, don't fuck up your compass bearing in the relatively featureless woods to 16 and 17... we got there, and headed up a long-ass hill to 18. Maybe I was just tired, but I started walking and it felt like I was walking forever. Came to the top of the hill too far to my right, and then trudging to the north we hit the control. At this point we were all getting nervous that people would catch up to us, as we were doing quite well, so I picked up the pace going to 19. A group of guys caught up to us at 19, I think they had skipped 18, so I could ease off the navigation for a bit and just follow them to 20, planning my route from 21 to 22, which is essentially the finish, since I didn't feel like sprinting, even though I was pretty sure I could take Tracy in a head-on sprint. We nailed 20 and 21, and then I headed down to the trail to get to 22, with Tracy hot on my heels, but I was faster on the trail, and got there first, beating her to the line by 17 seconds or something.

Not a bad run, and it was definitely nice to have someone to run with and navigate with. We were ahead of some fast girls, so I think 4 was a good one to skip, although it would have been nice to skip 18, and miss out on all that climb. But I heard that there was some thick underbrush on the way to 4, so maybe I got lucky. Hopefully I can keep up this good streak and run a little faster next weekend at the US relay champs in Rochester!

The maps were scanned by Peter Gagarin, a fast orienteer, and his route is in pink, mine is in purple.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Not dead yet!

Given that the focus of my life and my blog is sports, I don't really have much to say when I'm not playing sports. This will change this weekend! I'm going out to the Billygoat, in East bumberfloot NY at some state park, and this event is always a fun one. I am guessing it will border on impossible, since last year it was too easy and too many people finished in under the time cut-off. They'll overreact and make a viciously long, soul-crushing slog. I'm sure of it. Well, no better way to go into this than out of shape!

Aside from dreaming about brambly, muddy orienteering courses, I've been catching up with my sedentary side, reading some books I'd put aside, playing scrabble, sleeping late (for me, 8am is late), half-heartedly searching for a new car, and baking lots of muffins. Busy life, I know.

Soon enough though, it'll be back to the hectic Alex-world that I prefer to live in. Enjoy the cold rain this weekend!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I felt the need for some quality beagle-time, and flew to Rochester for the weekend. Playing cards, walking the dogs, riding bikes with old guys who could kick my butt if they so chose, what more could I want from a visit home =)

The most reliable dishwasher you'll ever find

Some sweet finds as you head south on a bike...

regrouping at a stop sign. What, tired?? Beautiful day for riding bikes

Although I had planned on not doing any sports, Jess convinced me to come out and shadow her through an old orienteering course at Mendon Ponds, which was probably good training for the US relay champs that are coming up in a couple weeks here, to get reacquainted with the terrain. And then one of my dad's riding buddies scrounged up a bike for me, so at that point I couldn't back out of a bike ride. I'm not good at not training...

Thursday, April 3, 2008


It's here. Which means its time to take some time off of training. I suddenly have a lot more time during my day. I now have time to read, and bake, and paint, and nap... and I'll probably spend the whole time doing something useless instead. such is life...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A snapshot of a typical day in Alex-world

I borrowed Ed's truck yesterday to run some errands. Come out of the store, sit in the truck, try to turn it on, it's dead. Huh. I didn't leave the lights on or anything, why is it dead? Sit there for a little bit thinking about how much I don't feel like walking home in the dark and the rain, and how I wish I'd brought my cell phone. Wander down to a Mexican restaurant where they let me use their phone.

"Hey Ed, its me. Your truck won't start"
"oh, negative battery terminal"
"The negative battery terminal is oxidized, you just have to jiggle it around a bit"
"Uh, ok. Thanks?"

I go back to the truck. Hmm, I've never opened the hood on this vehicle before. Ah, there is the hood lever. I pull on the lever, and the part that you pull on comes off of the part that does the actual unlatching of the hood. Shit. Back to the Mexican restaurant.

"Hey its me again. I broke the thingy that opens the hood"
"You did what?"
"Well, the thing that connects to the thing that does the actual opening, it came off in my hand. So I can't open the hood"
"I guess you're walking home then"

So, Ed goes to fix his truck this morning. I get a call.

"You're officially the world's biggest idiot"
"well, pulling on my parking brake release isn't going to open the hood. But you did break my parking brake release"
"Oh. oops."