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.


Jamie said...

Hey, nice photos of Letchworth. Its been a long time since I've been there, like maybe Evan was about 4 years old.

Alex said...

I hadn't been there for a while, so it was nice to be there with someone who had never been, we did all the tourist-y stuff, as you can tell. At least there weren't any controls down in the bottom of that gorge...