Monday, April 27, 2009

CSU A-meet

An A-meet is a national-level meet. B meets are sort of regional (I think), and C meets are just local, in case anyone was wondering about the terminology. CSU is more than just a skiing club, we also have a running section and an orienteering section, so I'm a member of both the skiing and orienteering parts. We happen to be one of the smallest orienteering clubs in the US, but I think we have much of the talent, because for some reason people stay members of CSU after moving away from the Boston area. What can I say, we're loyal to the Bermans. Anyway, we decided to hold an A-meet, and its been a bit of a scramble to get everything working. Some people did a TON of work to bring this together, I just volunteered on the meet days, but it went off without a hitch, which is always nice. The format was two middle-distance races on Saturday (a semi-final and a final), and a long race on Sunday. The heat was a killer, but luckily nobody actually died.

Saturday Ed and I got there around 7:30 to help set up the start, finish, results, childcare, grills for food, and other things. Ed was working results because he's smart, I'd be working starts after pre-running the F-21 course. The pre-runners started at 9, and it was tough to get my head out of setup mode and into race mode. My brain didn't really wake up until about control 7, which is a problem when there are only 10 controls. Being at the Fells, there are a lot of trails, so much of the running was done on trails rather than in the woods. However, thanks to my multiple mistakes and hesitations, I still ran slower than 10 minutes per km. Ugh. My map with my route is below.

The start, a mix of recreational and competitive runners pick up their maps with one minute to go.

After cooling down (hard to do when its so hot), I stood in the sun at the start making sure the right people were starting at the right time for a couple hours. The finals weren't going to start until 3, but we had many more recreational runners than we expected, so the starts went for a long time. The clock in the shade at the start tent claimed it was 94 degrees by 2pm, so it was getting pretty toasty. I had finished the semi-final in 9th, 53 seconds out of the A-final (top 8). This sort of sucked, because it meant that I could either do worse or the same, not better, in terms of place. Luckily, the idea of two separate races didn't quite catch on and the results were listed as though it were one race...

I was more focused at the start of the final, and felt that I had a point to prove - I can run fast without making mistakes! I was actually looking around, which is a considerable help when you are looking for something. Of couse, I headed off on the wrong trail going to 1, and slowed way down when I was in the woods, but it was a mostly-clean run. There was a guy with a radio at control 7 and 9 (a butterfly leg, so we hit the same control twice), and he was radioing splits back to the start so that the announcer could announce things. It was actually quite exciting to listen to the play-by-play of the guys' race when I got back. Anyway, the radio was also the only water stop, and although it was a relatively short race I was starting to get shivers as I headed to control 13. I was starting to trip over rocks, being unable to pick up my feet, and I'm not sure if I was hallucinating when I saw the naked guy sitting in the woods. Nobody else saw him, but I was also the first one through.

They'd started us pursuit-style, and I was the second finisher (the first finisher was Kat, who is on the US team but had mispunched in the semi-final so had started first), and it was cool to get cheered to the finish. I had posted the fastest time of the B-final, but I was basically weaving my way to the refreshments I was so dehydrated. Stupid weather, who said you could go from a happy 65 degrees to 94??
Ed getting his results on.

When the A-final had finished, I was in 6th place (unofficially, I suppose, given that I was a B finalist), 13.6% behind the winner. My bobbles had added up and the heat didn't help, but I felt that I had a very good run. Here are the splits from the final. Here are the splits from the semi-final. Below is my route from the final - a much better run!

Sunday dawned hot and muggy, but since there were earlier starts, the pre-runners started before the true hotness hit. Ken Walker, the father of one of the guys on the ski-o team, started two minutes behind me, so we were battling it out for most of the race. Experience versus youth... experience won, but only by a minute and a half or so. What was funny is that we were both making huge mistakes (possibly because we were racing each other), and every time I would make a mistake, I would think, ok, Ken is gone, now I'm on my own. But then a couple controls later I'd see him again, after he made a mistake! The map was very green, which meant it was very slow running or sometimes just walking while trying to not get totally scratched up by brambles whenever I went off-trail. On an orienteering map, white means open forest, and the darker the green, the thicker the vegetation.

For a more complete write-up of my mistakes, check out my attackpoint log, the mistakes were large and plentiful, but I was feeling pretty beat down physically by the end. I just seemed to be unable to avoid thrashing through the thickest brambles, and I'd whacked my big toe on a rock early on, which made trail running painful. To top it off, I twisted my knee last weekend at West Point and although I'd thought it was healed, it certainly is not. Oh the excuses. I still finished in 6th place, but I think everyone else had to deal with more heat than I did, so I guess I had an advantage.

A fun weekend, overall, but not my favorite maps to run on. I need to give my knee (and my scratches) some time to heal, so I guess you won't be hearing about any more orienteering for a bit. I wouldn't say I'm known for my self-restraint around athletic activities, though, so this could be difficult!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Try out some local orienteering

This weekend, CSU is hosting an A-meet at Pine Hill, in the Fells. Along with the usual elite courses, which are going to be SWEET, we have white, yellow, and orange recreational courses. So, if you'd like to give this sport a try, come on over, because we have beginner courses and the weather is going to be superb. Here is the website with information like, who (CSU and you), what (orienteering), where (North end of the Fells on Saturday and south end on Sunday), when (11-2 saturday starts, 9-12 sunday), why (because it is wicked fun).

So if you've ever wanted to get lost, here's your chance. See you this weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I went to the track to do intervals again the other day. This fills me with something akin to guilt, I mean, I know I'm not supposed to be running track intervals. I'm not supposed to be doing any intervals, not to mention fast ones. Any skier can tell you that April is for partying, backcountry skiing, bouldering, catching up on schoolwork, or going to the beach some place where the water is warm in April. Not running. Not running fast. I know that my body needs rest, not more hard work.

And yet, I'm drawn to it. I love spring when its still cold, when the air still has that harsh bite to it, because it makes me want to run, as fast as I can. I want to feel my body working, all the parts in unison, breath sucking in the sharp air, with all thoughts in my head overwhelmed by the joy of moving. I want to move my feet under a chill gray sky and drink the wind.

Its over, now. Now we have green grass and spring flowers and birds chirping and eighty degrees this weekend. Next week starts structured training, and from having danced free for a bit, I'm ready for it. To the next ski season, I say, BRING IT! But I'm not going to lose the joy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

West Point A-meet

April is perfect orienteering time - the woods haven't leafed out yet, there aren't any bugs, and its not too hot. Add in a couple days of the first beautiful weather of the spring and I'm pretty happy! The West Point A-meet (national-level meet) is a big meet, probably one of the biggest orienteering races I've ever been to, given that I tend to avoid the national meets to avoid embarassing myself. It was also incredibly well-run, which I suppose is easier when you have a zillion cadets running around doing everything efficiently. Can we hire some of those guys for our CSU A-meet next weekend? The terrain was typical Eastern NY terrain - hilly, with lots of rocks. Better than swampy with a lot of underbrush, I suppose...
The start/finish area of the sprint, after they've taken down the start and are in the process of taking down the finish... beautiful day!

Saturday started with a sprint, on the West Point campus, and the afternoon featured a "downhill" middle-distance event, at the Victor Constant ski slope. It may have been net downhill, but there was plenty of climb during the race! Even the sprint featured plenty of climb, sending us up and down the bank toward the river a couple times. I am not that experienced at orienteering sprints, and my shaky navigation skills at top speeds showed as I made multiple hesitations and a couple actual mistakes. I felt much more comfortable on the woodsy section of the course, sprinting through buildings and parking lots on the second section meant faster running, but I couldn't keep up mentally and keep track of uncrossable walls and things like that. I ended up alright, though, as the 7th elite female (out of probably not more than 15, results aren't up yet). See the map with my garmin route (green for fast, red for slow) below. If you're a nerd, here are splits, I'm in 43rd (that includes the men). After lying about in the sun for a while (proper post-race cooldown technique when the sun comes out, naturally), it was time to head over to the ski area for the middle distance.

The start was at the top of the mountain. I suppose I'd rather have the 120m climb to the start be off the clock, but it was a heck of a climb. I have heard horror stories of orienteering in this area, how there is nothing to relocate from and none of the rock features you'd think should be mapped are mapped, since there are just too many rock features. I decided that I would just take it slow and focus on not making any mistakes, rather than dash off in the wrong direction as I tend to do. We got the maps, and off I went, slowly. I don't think I ever really got moving faster than an enthusiastic waddle, but at least I didn't make any massive mistakes. My route from 8-9 was decidedly less than ideal, all that green stuff meant I was crawling on my hands and knees at times, whereas had I gone further to the right I could have avoided most of it. I lost about three minutes on that leg. Then I made a couple smaller errors coming in to the end, but they were slow errors, so I caught myself quickly. It didn't feel like very runnable forest, very rocky and green, and I was frustrated with how slow it had felt. Nothing like seeing Time: 1:01:54. Distance: 2.92mi on your garmin to feel discouraged... I beat three, maybe four people, but I think there were only ten starters in the women's elite field. Below is my map with my garmin route.

Hiking to the start.

I spent the night in Camp Buckner, with some local CSU orienteers, and that was nice because the start of the long distance on Sunday was at Camp Buckner, so we didn't have to drive anywhere. It was supposed to be raining but instead it was sunny, so I was happy. I realized that I had to be a little speedier than yesterday if I wanted to do well, so "be speedy" was my mantra for the day. I still planned on starting carefully and not making mistakes, but I was going to do that in a speedy manner. I was pretty clean and relatively speedy through 6, and then I made a sort-of mistake going to 7, I decided to try and contour around through the boulder field rather than drop down into the boulder field and climb back up the other side to go on a straight line. I went a little too far uphill, but luckily saw the big cliffs that 7 was hiding behind and was able to fix my mistake before it became a bad mistake. Then going to 9 I sort of zigged and zagged a lot, which was decidedly less than ideal, especially when most of my competitors ran up the road and around that way. It looks farther, but you can go way faster on a road than through a boulder field, its really hard to be speedy in a boulder field.
(typical woods)

As I headed to 10, a girl caught up to me, and I caught up to a guy who I had been seeing glimpses of. I realized they were both running red (the elite women's course and the M35+ course), so I'd have some company. My pace picked up significantly after running into them, as I tried (unsuccessfully) to drop them to 11, and then again to 12. There was a game trail (or possibly a cadet pre-runner trail, given how straight it followed my compass bearing) going from 11 to 12, and I was trying to drop my competitors, but I think they were just enjoying the ride. I ended up a little too high on the cliffs to 13, and both of them got there first. The guy pulled away on the hill up to 14, and I was starting to admit to myself that if she'd caught me, she was probably faster, so I was (speedily) trudging up the boulder field behind her. All three of us sort of messed up 15, that short little leg, because there was just too much rock in the area and we kept looking at the wrong ones.

Then to 16, I discovered that I could careen down hills faster than my female competitor (but slower than the guy), and I put a 20-30s gap on her! This was it! I needed to get out of sight. I hammered up the trail to get to 17, and glancing behind me I saw her starting to go straight through the woods. It was on, now I just had to run fast, which is a lot easier on a trail with good footing than through leaves over pointy rocks. I had to sort of loop around to get to the bottom of the cliffs where 17 was perched, but she wasn't in sight, and I took off to 18 actually feeling speedy and successful. I was moving alright through the woods except for those areas with the green slash marks - those were brambles, which liked to lose their thorns into your knees. I tried to just ignore the stinging and run faster, but spandex wasn't doing anything for the thorns, and I was glad to hit the field and the finish. The girl I had been racing came in a couple minutes later, and although she ended up beating me by almost four minutes, I still felt (deep inside) that I was the victor here. It turns out she is Russian or something, which makes it even cooler. I was psyched to have actually been somewhat fast in the woods, and to not have made too many mistakes. I ended up about 8% back, which is darn good in an orienteering race. Last I checked I was 5th, but those were the unofficial results. Maybe I should only do the long distance courses...

I then spent most of the car-ride home attempting to extract thorns from my legs. Some of these suckers aren't going to come out until they work their way out in a couple months...

Tools of the trade. Compass (a fast one, that settles quickly enough to run with it), e-punch, clue-sheet-holder-thingy, gels, spikes. O-shoes are awesome, they're narrow enough that they don't get caught on rocks and things when you're trying to put your foot between rocks and things, and the spikes on the heels as well as the toes make them reliably grippy when running over wet logs and cliffs and things like that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Setting an orienteering course

While I've run plenty of orienteering courses, I'd never set one before, so when it was my turn to host a park-o meet (every CSU member puts one on at some point), I had to figure out how to do this. I didn't think it would be difficult, and setting the actual course wasn't difficult, but putting the controls out there was mildly stressful, as I realized that my usual technique of "go to the right area and look for the orange flag" wasn't going to fly when I was the person holding all the flags. It worked out, though, and nobody got lost, and I didn't see anyone crying, either. One of the beginners did take a nasty spill and cut her knee open, but she didn't let it faze her and she finished the course.

The CSU skiing tent, being put to a different sport's use.

Ross and Ian talking about the course

One of the girls running beginner figured out quick that to be good at this, you gotta be hardcore!

The advanced map. I tried it make it interesting, but there just isn't that much terrain to work with at Hammond Pond. Luckily, there are plenty of fun bits to keep it interesting.

So to set up an orienteering course, as far as I understand, you have a bunch of steps. First you need the map, ideally in ocad format so that you can draw the course on there digitally. If you have neither the map in .ocd format nor ocad on your computer, you can just scan the map and use purple pen to draw the course(s) onto the map. I don't really know how to explain designing a course, I guess you just make it as interesting as possible. I wanted mine to be pretty route-choice-y (thats totally a word), but I don't know if I succeeded in that regard.

Once you've drawn the map, you have to print it, ideally with the control clues (oops), and then you have to set the course. If the park is really big, or you don't think you can carefully scope out the control locations fast enough before the meet, you go out there with surveyor's tape first, and do the hard thinking ahead of time. Then, closer to the event, you hang the flags. It can be problematic on beginner courses at popular parks when the controls get moved or stolen, since they're often on or near trails, but we didn't have a problem with that this time. Yay!

Then when everyone has finished running, you go and collect the controls (and any streamers that are still out there). Success! And of course, you need results (which aren't up yet), because races don't count if you don't have a result, right? So I'll probably hold another one of these at some point in the future, but hopefully not this year. Its a lot more fun to just do the race than to have to set it up...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I like to be active, moving around, doing stuff outside. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me. But I find this a separate quality than that of being an athlete. To be an athlete, in my mind, you need to have a purpose to your playing outdoors. You need to have a plan, with goals, competitions, results. Otherwise, you're just a very fit individual. I think there are a lot of fit individuals out there, but not so many true athletes. Its not an elitist thing, I'm not sure its even a good thing, its more of a mindset. There is something extremely obsessive-compulsive about the focus with which athletes pursue their goals. Sacrifices are made. Maybe thats the biggest difference between athletes and regular fit people, the sacrifices. Honestly, I think I'd rather just be a fit person, but I'm not wired like that.

Still, its nice, once a year, to back off from being that obsessive "athlete", and just to go exercising. For the sheer love of endorphins. It won't last, though. I'm already itching for a training plan, for structure, for racing.

I ran hills last night. It was pretty painful, but I had friends. They ran faster, but thats alright, I wasn't far back and I'll catch up once I get the hang of this running stuff again. It was fun, to feel my legs flooded with lactic acid and my lungs burning. Unstructured, unplanned, unnecessary intervals, maybe I am a lunatic...

Monday, April 6, 2009


This weekend, NEOC hosted two meets, a double sprint on Saturday and a regular course in Concord on Sunday. I figured, with nothing else to do, I may as well race, despite feeling horrendously out of shape. Granted, my "out of shape" and other people's "out of shape" are vastly different conditions. As a friend told me this weekend, "I wish I could be as out of shape as you!" Regardless, I knew I'd be huffing and puffing, and unable to rely on leg-speed to get me through these races.

I laced up the o-shoes (like track spikes, only more rigid in regards to torsional stability and with spikes in the heels too) Saturday for the first sprint, which was billed as more technical in terms of navigation, while the second sprint was faster and easier (they say). I managed to make approximately 10 minutes of mistakes on the first two controls, which really throws off your balance for the rest of the race. Although I was trying to run hard, I was also wary of making another massive mistake, so had to back it off a notch. I did the second sprint immediately afterwards, and it was almost boring compared to the first one. It was so much trail running that my feet couldn't keep up with my brain, and although I didn't make any mistakes, I just wasn't fast enough to do well.

The map below is a product of quickroute, which takes your GPS track and puts it over a jpg of the map. You can choose a bunch of points to drag around to make sure that the route fits your map, and once you're done with that, it shows your pace (in min/km) for each section of the route. Green is fast, red is slow. I only just downloaded this program and I pretty much think its the best thing since ice cream (because I don't really care about sliced bread). The Needham Forest map (below) is sort of boring, since its sprint 2 and all on trails and there is some doubling back and stuff, but the Estabrook woods map, from Sunday, is pretty sweet.

Estabrook Woods, in Concord.

Sunday it was sunnier and warmer, but all of my little stabilizer muscles in my lower legs were screaming in protest when I tried to walk. Apparently, running hard in the woods makes those muscles work or something, but I figured that once I was running, they'd have no choice but to cooperate. This was a real course, 6km straight-line distance, no more of this sprint shenanigans. You can see my route on the map above, but the first couple controls were pretty fast, and clean. Bob Burnham, one of the CSU parents, had started 2min ahead of me, and although he used to orienteer he hadn't done it in 10 years or something, so I wanted to catch him. Unfortunately, he was running much faster than me, since I was stumbling more than running, given the condition of my lower legs and their inability to respond to things like uneven terrain or having to run fast.

I thought I'd probably lost Bob for good when I got near 4, because the fact that I hadn't used the port-a-potties before the race was catching up to me, and before anything could turn into a disaster I stopped to poop. However, when I picked up my map again, I was holding it upside down and I didn't realize this. I got very confused, and although I eventually realized how idiotic I'd been and reoriented myself, I'd lost something close to 7 minutes.

I caught back up to Bob at 6, he said he'd made a mistake, and I was cackling evilly in my head, as I stumbled off to 7 feeling very proud of myself. Of couse, then I made close to a 13 minute mistake, so it goes to show was feeling smug will do to you. I crossed the green stuff on a stone wall that was one wall too far south, and it was only when I caught myself thinking "will this bloody wall ever end??" that I realized I was probably on the wrong wall, since the wall I wanted to use was really short, but by that point I was across the swamp, so I ran north along the other stone wall, but realized I didn't know how long I'd been running or where I was, really, I saw a big rock that I decided to assume was the rock marked on the map, so I took a bearing to get back to the stone wall to the east by 7, and then ran south until I hit the intersections of walls where I'd meant to be originally, realized where I was, and ran north again until I got to the control. If that sentence was confusing, its because my brain was confused too. I should have been able to relocate a helluva lot faster than I did. Its like when you fall in a ski race, you don't just sit there, you get up fast and try to pretend it never happened. Well, here, I just sat there on the snow. For many minutes.

By the time I got to 7, I was kind of angry at myself. I was also tired, and I'd fallen face-first into a marsh on my bumbling way around the area. I tried to make good time to 8, but kept tripping over myself as my calves got more and more useless. I was clean through 10, and then I made another mistake going to 11. Another large mistake, I should say. I was merrily trotting along and then I hit that big trail and thought I'd be clever and cut through the woods to the other trail that sort of went directly towards 11, and somehow I missed that trail (??) and ended up back on the same trail I had been on, and when I checked my compass, it wasn't right, but I was thinking, eh, I'm on a trail, I should just run faster. So I ran faster, in the wrong direction. Luckily, I realized it before I made it all the way back to the start, but, it was another 13 minute leg, which should have been maybe 5 minutes. Yargh! The rest of the race was clean, if slow because of my legs, but lets just say its a good thing these results didn't count for anything... Probably 20 minutes of mistakes, that hurts!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Season review

The ski season is really over, now, there is no way I'm driving 3+ hours for bad snow in April. Its orienteering season now! What with the season being over, I figured I should review it, which is actually a somewhat depressing activity. Although my season was way more consistent than last year, I never had any great races, just a couple good ones. I'd say my 5km skate races were pretty darn consistent! At least consistency was enough to bring my USSA points down by about 40pts, but it still would have been nice to feel good about any one race. Well, I felt good about the Birkie, but that was just because it was fun.

Its possible that sitting around waiting to race in Anchorage killed any good races I was going to have, supposedly thats pretty stressful. We still managed to have a good time, but barely, and thats tough when you combine me and Jess.

The coldest I skied in up there was -28F, which was pretty miserable. Of course, now they have a volcano erupting on them, not a great winter for the residents of Anchorage, I'm glad I don't live there!

Spent a lot of time looking at this:

But sometimes its worth it for this:

Some good results.

Some fun sprints.

Some poop for weather, but at least I got to test the new hairies.

I got to experience doping control. I'd rather not do that again, its no fun chugging 1.5L of water to produce 90mL urine, and then spend the next four hours peeing.

World champs for ski-o were pretty disappointing, but the bright side is that my mistakes were equipment-related, and I navigated well, which is a huge improvement.

As for the nitty-gritty, I made a bunch of process goals (things like not getting sick and always remembering a change of clothes and staying focused in intervals), and I did make my goal of two Eastern Cup races at less than 7% back from the leaders. In terms of results, I managed one top 10 at the ECs and a top 30 in the Supertour, and although it seemed like ever EC I went to was stacked, I'd rather be on top of that stacking than in it or behind it. And the one race at nationals was the exact same %back and place as last year. At least the points were better this time, but that doesn't make it an improvement.

Despite all that, I'd have to call this season a success. Because it was fun. I didn't burn out (too badly), I didn't overtrain, and I got to hang out with friends and travel all over the world. Life is pretty good, actually...