Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Over the weekend, Ed and I flew to Yosemite for Boris and Kat's wedding. We did some cool hiking as well as wedding-stuff, and in the process I believe I lost my camera, but luckily I stole some of Greg's photos to give you an idea of how cool this place was.
Yosemite falls - what Ed says is the largest waterfall in the US, and one of the top 10 in the world. It does drop 2500ft. We went to the top of that (we being me, Ed, Greg, and Greg's parents Ken and Ruth), where we met up with the group of Sam, Ross, Amy, Matt, Sandra, and Zan, who were sunbathing/eating lunch at the top of the falls.
Zan, Sam, and Sandra had to go back down (rehearsal dinner stuff was calling), but the rest of us continued up to Yosemite point.

We had been planning on climbing this, but couldn't get the permits.

The morning (well, perhaps afternoon) after the wedding, we headed out along the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to Wapoma Falls (I think?), which were very violent and spat out a lot of mist. Luckily it was hot enough that felt awesome.

The last day we headed up towards Nevada falls, on the trail to Half Dome. It was purrty.

I'm not sure what to do without my camera. If it doesn't turn up when I unpack, seppuku may be the only option. There were some true gems on there from the wedding, which was beautiful.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Pawtuckaway

The CSU orienteers had decided at some point that we wanted to hold more training camps, but a general lack of time makes setting aside a whole weekend pretty difficult to do, so we experimented with a micro-training camp. Basically a training day. It worked well, pretty low-key, just two training sessions, but a pretty high ratio of social and training time to travel time. Of course, Pawtuckaway in the summer means deerflies, and they were just as annoying as in the past, driving each of us to the point of insanity by the time we got out of the woods. I'm not sure you can really understand the severity of deerfly season until you've experienced it, but just try imagining a constant buzzing sound around your head, with flies occasionally landing on you and taking bites, occasionally flying into your mouth, nose, or eyes, and constantly buzzing. Its the buzzing that leads to the insanity. Of course, there were a couple mosquitoes thrown in for good measure, too. Honestly, this park is not all that much fun in the summer. But living in Boston makes you forget that deerflies are out there, just waiting for a hot-blooded mammal to wander into their territory.

Presto before running - all excited to go out. Every club needs an o-dog.

The first course was a route planning activity - we sat down with a partner before running to talk about each leg and come up with the best route. Then the idea was to go into the woods and run your route perfectly. In theory, this will minimize the amount of time you spend standing staring at your map, and therefore minimize the amount of time the slow deerflies can eat you. The fast ones will keep up with you no matter how fast you run. I had trouble getting my head into planning the routes, and then I headed into the woods, and I had trouble getting my head into orienteering, and it took me 18 minutes to get to #1 (for reference, other people took 4 minutes). I'll take the easy out and blame the going-away party I'd had last night.

After #1, things got better and I was able to run away from most of the mosquitoes. I even had fun at times, despite the constant deerfly activity over my head - I had tried wearing a baseball cap, and it was working to keep the buggers out of my hair, although it didn't do much to prevent sweat from pouring into my eyes. I'm not really making this sound fun, am I? Anyway, I did pretty well following my routes and got back to the parking lot with a cloud of deerflies in tow, luckily they didn't like the water when I jumped in the lake, and mostly left us alone during lunch.

The second training session was a partner memory-o. I teamed up with Ali, and the way it works is that for one leg, she would lead, without looking at the map, while I memorized the route to the next control. Then I would lead, without looking at the map, while she memorized the next leg. Its a great way to get better at reading on the run and synthesizing information quickly, and picking out the important features to get you there. We didn't hang any streamers this time, because we didn't want to pick them up, or spend any extra time with the deerflies than we had to, but at least with two people you could verify if you were at the right feature or not.

Leading the memory legs was great - when you don't have a map, all you have is the memorized map in your head, so you can ignore all those pesky little extra features, and move a lot quicker than you would normally. Of course, this sort of sucks for the person following, but that's part of it. I definitely found myself wanted to take a look at the map as I approached the control circle though, just to verify things.

We worked as a team until the 8th control, and then Ali decided that she wanted to redo a control, and there was no way I was running extra - it was hot, I was dehydrated, and the deerflies were driving me mad. I sort of walked to the next control, hoping Ali would catch up, but she didn't, so I jogged the rest of the course on my own. Quite a useful training session, and despite the deerflies, super fun.

Then we got back to the cars (and the lake) and taught Presto how to swim. He isn't what I'd call a natural, and definitely did not enjoy the water as much as the humans. He also did not enjoy the watermelon, but he was quite interested in the ice cream we got later on.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Adro Mile

Last week, one of my junior skiers emailed the team to tell us about the Adro mile, a scholarship fund race for Concord Carlisle highschool, in honor of Adrian Martinez, a talented young runner who died unexpectedly during a pickup soccer game. I decided to sign up for the race, because at the very least the money was going to a good cause, and hopefully I'd run fast, too. Ross and Ian from the orienteering section decided to come along; Ross had run with Adrian at Williams. I was originally signed up for the "Adro" mile, which is the elite race, but luckily the track coach/race promoter warned me that the other women signed up were sub-5min milers before I toed the line with them - I would have gotten slaughtered.
Yeah, I do not fit in with this crowd.

Steve, the track coach, broke up the open heat (coed, age 19-39, with only three women) into three heats - sub-5, sub-5:40, and everyone else, since it was pretty big. Given that my last (and only) mile was 6:04, and this was a full mile, rather than a 1600, 5:40 would be a stretch, but I was sort of hoping I could do it, given all the running on a track I've been doing, and figured I'd rather tailgun it and run my own race than have to worry about highschool boys who can't pace - the ones who can pace would definitely be faster than me.

Tim Parsons was there to run the masters' mile, and was kind enough to take some photos of me while I ran.

We took it out in 40s for the 209m, which is considerably faster than I meant to go. (the 9m extra are the extra bit you run in the beginning to make it 1609m instead of 1600). I had hoped to see 41, +2s for the 9m, so it wasn't all that smart to do 38+2, but its hard to not start fast when you're in a group. Alas, it was too quick, and although I hit the 400m mark in 84s, which is about where I'd hoped to be, I'd accumulated more lactic acid than my legs knew what to do with.

The second lap I slowed down too much, I thought the third lap was supposed to be the hard one, but I was having trouble running smoothly on this second one, and my upper body was starting to feel fatigued as well. I came through the 800 at 3min flat, which was a big slowdown, and so I tried to push hard through the third lap. My legs felt heavy, and my arms felt heavy too now, but there was no lung-burning agony like I'd expected. Either I'm not in shape, or I just had accumulated too much lactic acid in that first 400 so couldn't get up to speed, but there wasn't much I could do to speed up at this point. I was off the back now, just trying to keep running.

The last lap was painful, as expected, and the other half of my brain (the half not occupied with trying to figure out splits and remembering how to run) really wanted me to stop running. "This is decidedly uncomfortable! Can we stop this torture now? Its gone on long enough!" I had hit the point where it takes serious effort to go through the motions that should be so natural - one foot, then the other, with a hop in between, I mean, everyone can run, but my body seemed to have forgotten what to do - almost like my brain had to explain step by step how to do it. As I came into the finish straight, I could hear the guy on the announcer telling the crowd to cheer me on so I'd break 6min, and I did my best to kick - it was pretty pathetic, but it did the trick, and I crossed the line at 5:58. New PR!

Although not as fast as I'd hoped, I'm pleased with this run, and thinking that I might actually do some more running training and bring my track spikes out of retirement at some point to see how my calves handle them...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I was instructed to come visit London before I started this grad-school silliness, so I hopped over the Atlantic puddle last weekend to visit the England-based part of my family. Because no non-orienteering travel would be fun without incorporating some orienteering, SGB supplied me with a couple maps of local parks. Addicted? Perhaps. But when something like this is out the door, how can I resist?

The cool part was that I got to fly in the upstairs of a jumbo jet. Never done that before, it was quite exciting, in a this-is-exactly-like-the-downstairs-(but I'm upstairs!) sort of way.

It was great to see Roger, and Edward and the little monsters, and I was subjected to all sorts of culture. Ack! Thank god for some orienteering to maintain my dumb jock status. Roger took Billy for a walk while I explored the Wimbledon woods, it turns out that the woods in England have many more pointy things trying to scratch me than I expected, between the thick patches of briars, the stinging nettles, and the holly trees, but for the most part it was very nice running. Gotta get that endorphin kick!

Now back to reality... but not for too long, thankfully.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Corridor training

Now that the park-os are over, we CSU orienteers are left to our own devices to do some orienteering training each week. I signed up for this week, since I knew I'd be here, and decided to use my local park, Hammond Pond. I wanted to do some compass work, so I set a corridor course. The idea is that you follow the corridor of map shown using your compass to travel in a straight line, and you can check off features along the way to figure out an attackpoint.

I went out Wednesday morning to hang the streamers, following the corridor map (although, I did have a full map with me for if I couldn't find the right feature to hang the streamer on - nothing is worse than a misplaced control). Things went pretty well, except for 13, where I just wasn't really paying close enough attention. I was also sort of moving slowly, but sometimes its just hard to move fast in the morning.

The track is a little off, because I started out from the parking lot slightly to the north of the line to 3, and then picked up my backpack where I'd left it in the pit next to 11 (morning = get to work afterward, hence the backpack). And of course I went from 17 to 2 and then to 1 and then back to 17 to pick up my backpack, but I was trying to go straight for all of those.

A fun exercise! Definitely one I'd like to do again, and this time running for more of it. It was raining too hard when everyone else ran it in the evening, I decided that I didn't have to re-run this thing in the rain... went straight to Ross and Sam's house for dinner instead!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The track

I've been hitting up the track recently, more for something to do than for any specific workout - it helps that the CSU-running section does track workouts every Tuesday. Don't have to think, just show up and do what they do, and its fun to have people to run with. I don't really have an athletic purpose right now, other than a vague "get faster at running" overarching goal, so doing other people's workouts doesn't bother me like it would if I were actually training for skiing.

I didn't used to like track, I didn't like running in circles, I didn't like the monotony, the lack of hills, or mud, or rocks to jump over and branches to dive under. Mostly, I think I didn't like the pain. There is no hiding on a track. The race is between me and my watch, whether its a race to finish a lap fast enough or trying to pace myself intelligently. Although I didn't like that exposure to pure running back when I was a runner, I'm loving it now. Its running, pure and simple, with nothing in the way but my own feet.

There are friendly people around me, but I stop thinking of them as people and more as tools - this tool is moving too slowly, it is in my way, I'll go around. This tool is going the right speed, I'll use it so I don't start too fast. It becomes such a focused, mathematical, precise workout, there is something extremely satisfying about that. I can calculate exactly how fast I want to run each lap, each 200m, each straightaway, and then the game becomes hitting those paces. Because there is nothing to distract me, I focus on running, from split to split, rolling through the laps exactly as planned. The people get me to the track, but once there, I don't need them.

Each workout just serves to make me want to get faster. The desire is back.

(If that's not a masterpiece, I don't know what is...)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NEOC local meets

There were two local meets last weekend, one at Estabrook woods in Concord, and one in Nobscott reservation in Sudbury. The Estabrook woods map is just about ready to be either retired or completely redone - even the contours are wrong. Lining up a GPS track afterward was quite difficult, since the trails don't even line up on the map. However, if you treated the map as a rogaine-quality map, i.e. bad, the event wasn't too bad. There was the section of stone wall that was completely submerged, damn beavers, but if you read the course notes you could avoid that part.

I started out with a fair bit of zip, but it was super hot and humid, and I just felt worn down after about 5 minutes of running. Of course, the slower I went, the more mosquitoes and deer flies could latch on to me, so that was obnoxious. It was frustrating to feel so tired and sluggish when the navigation was so easy - I just had to move faster to get to the points faster, but I couldn't. Even on the downhill bits, I was barely stumbling along. Ugh.

That was unpleasant, so I showed up to the meet Sunday hoping for a happier experience. Luckily Nobscott's map is in much better condition than the Estabrook map, so it made for much more interesting running. It is also considerably more hilly at Nobscott, which I wasn't too happy about, because my oomph didn't seem to have returned overnight. I was less whiny about the temperature Sunday, because it had rained overnight, which meant that the woods were still pretty wet, and that was doing a good job keeping my core temperature in a happier place. I still wasn't moving very fast, but there were some good bits where I was running well. And then I'd slow down again. No real mistakes, though, other than some weaving around on the way to 8, and getting off my line and almost getting lost on the way to 10 - luckily I caught that one. I'd crossed the big trail, thinking it was the little trail, and for whatever reason I didn't want to believe my compass when it said to go more to my right. Whoops.

Unfortunately, going that slow on a technically not-too-challenging course meant I got my butt whooped. Both days. Saturday's result put me in the top half, if barely, but Sunday I was way off the pace. Sunday had also been a very ankle-rolly day; I managed to roll my good ankle once, and the bad ankle twice, and the first time I did it it was sudden enough to make me fall down, into a patch of poison ivy. I wasn't too happy about that. I think I was just so tired and sluggish that I couldn't control my feet, hence the tripping and ankle abusing.

I think it might be time for a day off or two... but there is a track workout tonight! I'm sort of addicted to these track workouts, they fit with my OCD personality so well... its all so controlled, and I do love running fast sometimes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Orienteering up a storm

Ha. Ha.

Except you won't even get the bad pun if you weren't outside in Boston at 6:09pm on Thursday night, when the sky exploded and all the water fell down at once. Forget raindrops, we're talking waterfalls. This was in the midst of the most intense thunder and lightning I've ever seen. I know that being outside in a thunderstorm is dangerous, and to be totally honest I was a little freaked out, but I didn't stop running. Its something about being competitive, you don't want to lose those precious seconds. And the sheets of rain and terrifying thunder made things way more interesting.

This was the last park-o of the season, so we followed it up with a grand meeting of CSU version 3.0 (the Bermans were version 1.0, Boris, Ken and Misha were version 2.0, and the current crop of runners is version 3.0) to plan some training for the summer over a feast of random Chinese food from the Taiwan Cafe. I don't recommend the stinky tofu. It smells like manure. And its supposed to smell that way.

Back to the race... I started about a minute behind Jessica Rykken, and as I slowly closed the gap, I ran by this couple sheltering under a tree (did I mention the torrential rain), and I overheard the guy saying "Look! There goes another one!" Ah, yes, we are indeed whackos...

I ran a clean race, as fast as I could, but unfortunately it was not fast enough to beat Brendan. Or Ian, or Ross, or SGB, or Boris, or Giovanni. Results. But I did scalp Ali and Ed =).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial day vacation

I'm relatively incapable of just relaxing on vacation, so I headed to Vermont after the Wachusett race, to try out this "vacation" thing. I think I blew it by doing an 11mi run/hike with Ken Walker on Saturday, but it was a gorgeous day for a run, and he was just as sore as I was from too much running the day before, so we made for good gimpy partners.

We shuttled one car to the Danby road end of things and took the other car to Mad Tom Notch to start the run, and it was a beautiful, very runnable, dry and well-maintained stretch of the AT. The first hour felt good, loosening up my stiff legs and enjoying the scenery, the second hour was alright too. The third hour, well, my legs were about ready to be done with this whole running game.

View west from Baker Peak.

Wildlife! I think toads are cute.

Griffith lake.

More wildlife. Why does Ken look so smug?

Awesome sketchy bridge that was closed and being repaired. There was a sign at Mad Tom Notch warning us that the bridge was closed, please take the detour through Old Job, and trying to ford would be ill advised. Well, when you put it like that, how can we NOT try and ford? Luckily, water level is pretty low right now, we had no issues, and I even kept my feet dry.

Ed with the motorbike... I'm a little worried he thinks it would be a good idea to buy one of these.

In a strange reversal of roles, Ed went out rollerskiing on Monday, while I stayed home, finished my book, and took a nap.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wachusett Mt running race

I did this race last year, and they were sponsored by Hostess, so I filled my pockets and my backpack with twinkies and hohos and devil dogs, and the pain of the race faded quickly into a disgusting greasy sugar high tinged with whatever it is they put in twinkies to survive the next nuclear winter. I was hoping they'd have Hohos again this year, but apparently enough to the runners eschewed those disgusting not-food substances that they found a different sponsor, so the post-race party was much less interesting to me.

I realized I might easily fall into the "I started too easy last year, I should start out harder this year" (and then you blow up) trap, so I decided to line up with Donna Smyth, since I beat her last year, but didn't catch her until the bottom of the first singletrack, therefore if I ran with her up the hill this year, I'd be that much further ahead after the downhill. I see no flaws in that plan.

They said to wait for the siren and then start, and someone blew a whistle so we all started running. That is not a siren. A couple seconds later, the siren goes off, false start for the entire race? I quickly noticed that Donna runs fast uphill, and that the stupid first uphill goes on for what feels like forever. I guess when you're running up something called "Mile Hill Road", its going to go uphill for a mile. By the top I was pretty well redlined, and facing the harsh reality that running offers no rest on the downhills. I passed a couple groups of runners, but that downhill singletrack just wasn't long enough, and not nearly restful enough, and when I hit the gradual uphill on a work road, I was just as pegged as I had been at the top of Mile Hill.

So then the streams of people started passing me back, it felt like the entire race passed me by before we started the second real uphill, in reality it was probably 10 people, but I was really looking forward to that second uphill, because it was steep enough that people were hiking it, therefore, I could stop running. The flaw in this thinking is that we're hiking it because its too steep to run, therefore, hiking is just as hard as running. I was wheezing, humping my way up the hill with my hands on my knees, but at least people weren't passing me quite as easily. I did lose the entire group of girls I'd passed on the first downhill, but just couldn't move any faster without blowing up - I was close to the edge, and didn't need a heart rate monitor to tell me I was hovering at the point of no return.

The worst part was when the portly, elderly man hiked by, explaining to me that if I stood up straight I'd be able to breathe easier. Arrr! I held on to him the rest of the climb, but he was pretty good on the downhills (gravity?), and I couldn't get him back. The last two miles are basically downhill, with one small uphill blip just to insult your wobbly noodle legs after all the downhill, and I did what I could to fall down the hill as fast as possible. This netted me exactly one place in the women's race, although I passed many men, and she caught back up to me on that insulting little uphill bit. I dug deep, and held her stride as we crested the hill, then gave it what I had left down the remaining hill and into the finish, terrified that she was right there. I held her off, and ended up 5th in my age class, 11th woman overall. And most importantly, 40 seconds faster than last year. Although the finish loop was shorter... I'm going to ignore that fact.

I must have been overstriding on the downhills, because my outer quadriceps were cramping pretty badly post race (at least the cramps held off until I finished), and stairs were quite painful for the next two days, but I can deal with soft tissue injuries. Downhill running races are hard. Without the promise of twinkies at the end, who knows if I'll do this race again next year...

This is the "oh god is it over yet?" face.