Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blue Hills Traverse

I won the Blue Hills Traverse last Sunday.  I won it last year, too, but this year was considerably more fun. Probably some combination of warmer weather, better course setting, and I was more rested coming into the race, but either way, it was a great day to be running through the woods! Not only was I the first woman, I was also third overall, which kind of just speaks to the lack of depth in the field, but, you gotta show up to win =).  

This year, Jeff Sager, the course setter, designed to "butterfly loops", which is a technique to spread out runners so that there is less blatant following.  Everyone runs the same distance, but does certain loops at different times, from a common control.  It was a neat way to spread the race, and I still saw a ton of people out there, without feeling like I was leading a train of followers from one control to the next.  

We started out on the eastern side of the park, ready to traverse our way over to the west and Judy's hot chicken soup.  It was a bit of a long trail run to begin, and some of the boys took off ahead of me.  I wasn't feeling super up to chasing them down this early, so just let them go, and settled into a loose pack with Giovanni, Katia, Ernst, and Will.  We were together until 2, which was where the first butterfly loops started, and it seemed that everybody went off in a different direction than me, so I figured I'd be on my own loop.  Off the trail towards 3, but then Will appeared as I punched, so evidently I wasn't totally alone. We took different routes to 4, and I got there a little ahead of him, but I was slow and sucking wind on the climb back up to 2, and he got ahead again. There were many more people in the vicinity of 2 when I got there this time, so I just focused on my own race, not wanting to get confused.

Ari appeared as I headed towards control 6, as Will disappeared in my rearview mirror, clearly faster on the trails than in terrain.  Ari was faster than me on the uphills, but I would close the gap on the downhills and when we went through the woods on anything *not* up, so we were together for most of that loop.  I was really enjoying the forest in that area, nice and open and not too rocky underfoot, it was really fun to run through!

Then back up to the common control, and it was uphill, so Ari dropped me.  I saw one of two stragglers just coming in, but nobody that I recognized from earlier in the race, so just put my head down and tried to coax some speed into my legs as I trundled off to 10, and the second map.  Approaching 10, I saw Ari again, evidently he'd made a bit of a mistake, and we were together down to the road for a long waddle towards the western part of the map.  When I got to the water stop, Jeff and Hillary were manning it, and they told me that I was in 4th. This was exciting, and I started to get visions of grandeur and of podiuming in the overall race; all I had to do was beat Ari!  Who was now well out of sight after the road run.

The western portion of this park has a much more up-to-date map, which is nice because you can rely on it a little better.  I kept seeing Ari as we'd take different routes to controls and arrive at the same time; his default seemed to be "climb ALL the hills!" while I tried to go as straight as possible while avoiding hills.  I didn't have much pop in my legs, but it felt good to carry on with a fast aerobic pace, and I was happy at that speed.  Unfortunately, leaving the common control for the butterfly on this map, I made a stupid rookie mistake, and Ernst and Giovanni and some guy I didn't know caught up.  Shoot! There goes 4th, 5th, and 6th places!  I pushed hard through the rest of that loop, closing down the distance to Ernst, who'd created a bit of a gap, but we never saw the other guy.  I ran down the hill with Ernst and Giovanni, and then up the other side was a bit of a climb on a trail, and it was definitely a mental game trying to keep myself running.  Would have been so much easier to just walk!  Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running...

Eventually we reached the top of the hill, and I was still with these guys. We hit some thicker underbrush, and I had to walk, but I wasn't losing too much time.  We'd just run into Tim and Katia, who were on their first butterfly loop, and the group of Tim, Katia, Giovanni, and Ernst were all drifting uphill from the little cairn, which was a nice solid point feature showing me exactly where I was. The map didn't look like I had to go uphill from there to spike 19, so I let them drift, pushing on along the contour, and though I bounced off the trail before punching the control, I had created a gap.  Quick! Escape before visual contact can be made!

I careened down the hill to 20, totally spiking the control, and I knew that now, with no more major climbs in my near future, I had this game in the bag, if I could just hold it together for the navigation.  At 21, I saw Ari again, and I suspected that this was still his first butterfly loop, but I wasn't entirely positive. He took off when we hit the road and the climb back to the common control, but I didn't have the legs to keep up. Well... there goes a place if I was wrong about the loop order.  I tried to keep the gas on through to the finish, but my oomph-o-meter was definitely keeping me from pushing to true race pace, so I suspect it looked like I was just sort of cruising in to the finish. But! This was good enough for third place!  Ethan and Ian had taken first and second miles ahead of me, but I had managed to outsmart or outrun everyone else!  I was pretty pumped about this fact, and I won a giant gingerbread man.  Score! Results.

Third place: me. First place: Ethan Childs. Second place: Ian Smith.

Ed finished strong for 12th place, and felt pretty good about his race. Yay!

Some other photos from past fun things that didn't make it to the blog - 

We had a reporter show up to the Troll Cup for the NYT; we'll see what he comes up with for a story on the local orienteering scene!

I rollerskied up a mountain with my juniors (Mt. Kearsarge, in NH).  It was a pretty chilly day, but we saw some great performances.  I can attest that if you don't rollerski all fall, and your first hard workout is a 35 minute continuous uphill race, you will be SORE the next few days.  

View from mt. Kearsarge. Love November in the NE... 

Friday, November 14, 2014

NEOC Troll cup

Last week was the New England Orienteering Club's resurrection of the Troll Cup, a meet with a name steeped in some sort of mostly-forgotten history unless you're among the right crowd.  We did a two-day chasing start race, meaning that the start times on the second day were dependent upon the results of the first day, and the first person across the line on Sunday was the overall winner.  I didn't race; sometimes you have to give back a little to your sports, so I was one of the course vetters, meaning I'd been out in the woods all summer and fall making sure that the courses were reasonable and fun.  Sometimes, in thick and gnarled terrain like this, the fun can be a reach, but the forest was thinner in November than in August, so people seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part.  Ed was in charge of his usual awesome Ed-tech, bringing the race out of the forest and into the arena, and infusing as much coolness as the sport is willing to allow.  We were lucky with the weather - it was chilly, but dry and sunny, which was great for the runners.  The organizers, well, we bundled up in a lot of layers.

I was happy to see the event go off well, and we had a new meet director apprenticing with the experienced meet director, so I'm hoping that she gained all the confidence and experience necessary to host one of these on her own in the future - the idea was to make the meet something sustainable and relatively easy to host, and I think we succeeded in that.  Yay for the troll cup!
CSU teammates Gail and Izzy conquering the finish chute of doom, below:

I found Becky, prancing down the trail. I may have told her to prance, to which she responded, do I have to? 

The high-stakes competitions over, it's time for some fun low-key events as we kick off winter.  This weekend there's a rollerski race up Kearsarge mountain, provided we don't get snowed out, and next weekend is the Blue Hills Traverse!  I never have fun at this race, but I keep coming back... stupid me.  Maybe this year it'll go better.

And when your morning bike commute looks like this, you know winter is nearly here!