Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More photos

My dad just got around to sending me some photos from the sprint two weekends ago. Why not put them on a blog, then.

The before. Smiling. I didn't smile afterwards for a while.

Out of the start. I look confused because I am. They give you your map, and you have to run 100m or something like that before you get to the official start, the way is flagged so you have time to look at your map while you're running. Naturally, this is a confusing exercise.

After. Tira promising me she'll take care of my sprained ankle for me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend fun

What with a swollen ankle I was home for the weekend. No cross. For some reason, everyone I know seems to think it necessary to tell me to not do fun things until my ankle is healed. Why would they think I'd do something like run on it? Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks... like physical therapy exercises.

Anyway, rollerskiing appears to be just fine, so I got to coach at both CSU practices, which doesn't happen very often. Got reeled into a 45 minute discussion on the biomechanics of double poling with Frank, that is always entertaining, and also at least L3 for me to keep up with him. I try to get a handle on what he is explaining with vectors and percentages of force and other big words, because not everyone is a German engineer. Hopefully I can then explain how to double pole to an eighth-grade J2 using terms she'll understand, but I want to make sure we're at least saying the same thing. Sunday was a fun practice, and I discovered that my ankle is fine with slow distance skiing, but not so much with slalom obstacle courses in the rain.

Of course, the exciting part of the weekend was the Sangria Showdown. Ed entered a watermelon sangria, served out of a watermelon with a tap. We won (I had nothing to do with any of this, except as a taster, but we transported the watermelon in my car, therefore I claim some of the glory) the best presentation award, because really, you can't top the watermelon.

Other entries, there were (I think) 16 total.
I really liked this one, it had peach schnapps in it.

A close-up of the watermelon and its plumbing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Photos from the weekend

This sort of overshadowed the whole weekend.

I brought Tira to help me work at the finish (she is a good worker, clearly), and this little girl really wanted to take her home.

The F65+ class discussing routes after the ultralong.

Larry Berman, founder of CSU and wearer of goofy hats.

Presto, in my custody while Lori raced and wondering why he can't go out in the woods too.

Lori in the finish chute laughing because I'm telling her that Presto misses her.

backpedalbackpedalbackpedalbackpedal! Gotta love cooking it into the finish and then trying to hit the control...

Ross-monster! He won both the sprint and the middle distance on Saturday. Go CSU!

Kat won both the sprint and the middle for the women. CSU swept men and women, we rock.

Dragonfly porn.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Injured. Again.

I thought I'd be able to regale you with tales of my races leading to one or possibly two national titles. Instead I sprained my ankle on control 6 (of 17) in the sprint, first event of the weekend, and now I can't run. The swelling is more or less under control at this point, and I've got a lot of mobility back, so tomorrow I'll try riding a bike outside. Gotta be able to move by Gloucester!

Bunch of photos coming. Because I couldn't do anything else.

Huge thanks to basically the entire women's field (I had started near the front of the pack) who all asked if they could help me as they came by, Lori and Dasha I actually had to argue with them that they should continue their races. It wasn't that long a hop to the finish.

Friday, September 18, 2009

CSU Specific Strength

The man with the plan.

Ed is designing rollerskis, and had a bunch of wheels to test out. I think he really needs to go with the sparkly ones.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some press coverage

I'm skipping Sucker Brook (and that awesome Waterville Valley race, with the SNOW PIT!) this weekend in favor of the sprint orienteering championships and the ultra-long champs in Rochester. It also means I get to go home and see my parents and my dog, who continues to have up days and down days but is definitely hanging in there. The decision wasn't a hard one to make. Anyway, the Rochester Orienteering Club (ROC) has been putting out a lot of press about this event, and I actually get mentioned as a contender in one of the articles in the Democrat and Chronicle, our local paper. Go me! I guess its a good thing I decided to show up. ROC has been doing a lot to promote orienteering lately, they made a youtube video, which granted is only pictures and music, but trying to get people aware of the sport. Because this sport is pretty sweet, especially in the top echelon of runners in the US.
Kat, preparing to go off on the middle distance at the CSU A-meet last April.

Speaking of orienteering, CSU holds training races every week through the fall. Starting around now, its all night-orienteering, since we don't start 'til 7pm and the sun is down by then. I held the last event, it was three individual sprint courses (~10-20min, 1.5-2km) up at Prospect Hill in Waltham. At each control, instead of having a flag, we hang a dowel wrapped in reflective tape, so that your light can pick it up. I also used e-punching, so that we could download the times afterwards like a real race and have splits and all that. Ed got the gold star of patience award, as he stood out there in the dark, in a swarm of mosquitos, for almost 2 hours while people ran the sprints, downloading the data from the finger sticks onto his computer. There were no casualties, although Lori ran into a tree and bruised her knee pretty badly. Night orienteering is interesting, you have to really change your strategy, since you just can't see all the details that are available to you during the daylight. I suppose, just like riding a mountain bike at night, that it is great for improving your technical skills.

Anyway, those technical skills will come in useful during the sprint champs this saturday. They're at Mendon Ponds, which is practically where I grew up, so at least I have the home court advantage!

Me finishing the middle race final at the CSU A-meet. It was hot that day, I hope its cooler this weekend...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quad Cycles CX

As I had mentioned, I was signed up for the Quad cycles race on Sunday. I spent the night in NH, camping with the orienteers (actually I had to bribe people with leftover pizza from the AR to stay in someone's tent), and I woke up a little stiff. I figured what I needed was a short run to shake out the legs and loosen up, so I signed up to run the green course (sort of medium-long advanced), once registration opened up at 9. Once I got going I felt pretty good, physically, but I kept making errors in the control circle, and plenty of errors on my route as well, which is what happens when you refuse to believe your compass. It was rather appalling how long it took me to run a 4km straight-line course, but last I checked I was still in first. I think the AR probably just fried my concentration.

Anyway, warmup over, I drove down to Bedford, assisted by a pile of oreos and a giant cup of coffee. Got there with plenty of time, managed to get in three laps of the course before my race. It was pretty fun, there were a couple power sections but plenty of fun bits, and although my legs felt a little on the flat side I was pumped to race. The one problem was that it was 80 degrees and sunny, and there are no feeds in cross. The masters who had just finished looked pretty parched, and some of them had been racing with a bottle in their back pocket. I considered that approach, but peer pressure won me over when I saw that none of the women were going to carry water.

Lined up second row, behind a little powerhouse in the pink skinsuit who didn't know how to clip in, so I got a pretty bad start. I was on her wheel as she passed some people on the straightaway after the first turn, passed a couple more people (when you start in last, there are plenty of people to pass!), and then we started down the bumpy grass downhill and I realized I had to get around this girl. Into the chicane and she was having major issues turning her bike, we were in a tight line, but there were gaps opening, you can't let that happen! "Turrrrn the bike. Just turn the wheel sweetie" and then I realized I sounded like an asshole, so I shut up. Couldn't get around her on the long power section, but she closed the gaps at least. Across the barriers, into the run-up/ride-up, and I knew she wasn't going to make it, so made sure to take an alternate line - yup, she bobbled and dropped a foot and I got through and everyone else was stuck behind her.

Now it was down to seeing how much time I could put on the people behind me, see if I could catch up to Michelle and the girl in the gearworks kit. On the first off-camber turn, I discovered that it was way easier to carry my speed if I went further down, rather than trying to cut it tight on the steeper part, and I was sort of close to Michelle by the end of that lap. The other part I did really well was the single barrier at the end of the lap - you came down a hill, had to go around a 180, back up with a single barrier halfway up. Everyone was trying to ride that corner, but it was way faster if you got off first and ran around it swinging your bike... just like Gloucester.

Going into the second lap, Rebecca Blatt passed me, and I was able to hang on as she dragged me up to Michelle. I hung on to Rebecca across the pavement, which gave me some distance from Michelle, and passed the Gearworks girl on the turn into the single barrier. I was barely able to hold Rebecca's wheel across the pavement, but it gave me some distance on gearworks.

Lap 3 I was mostly on my own, but I could see Perri Mertens ahead of me - Rebecca had passed her, too. By the end of the lap, I realized I was closer than I had been, so I started trash talking in my head, which helped, and by the end of lap 4, I was probably only 10s down (which looks like forever in a 'cross race - like you'll never close that gap). I could see someone closing on me, it wasn't Michelle, someone else in red, and I sort of hoped it was the leader so I could do one less lap. She caught me just past the finish line going into lap 5, I gasped out "are you winning?" and she just laughed. "God no! I wish!" and then started to ride her brakes, so I went around. The girl couldn't handle a bike, but boy could she put out watts... anyway, I tried to hang on her wheel on the grassy gradual uphill before the barriers, but just couldn't do it. I came close to her on the ride-up, because she was running it, but that was the closest I got.

Perri was close, but she was able to do what I couldn't do, and hold Clara's wheel across the pavement. That was the end of that chase... I came through the lap and noticed that Perri was as far ahead of me as she had been on lap 3, and that was sort of the end for me. My lower back had started cramping up a little on the last lap, and coming through the lap it spasmed once or twice, just a warning that I was going at an unsustainable pace, and I was suddenly noticing how much my legs hurt. That last lap was ugly, but I focused on riding the technical parts cleanly, and didn't get caught. Of course, I didn't catch anyone either. Who knows how the race would have been different if Clara hadn't come through like that on the fifth lap, but apparently a 12-hour AR isn't great pre-race prep, either.

In the end, I'm quite pleased with that race - both with the effort and the result. Despite being my third race in two days, I felt better than I felt all last year, which is certainly a good thing. I don't think I've ever beaten Perri, so to even be within striking distance is also a good thing.

I stuck around for Cary's race, and I like to think that my cheering got him from 8th to 6th. He would have been 5th if he hadn't been stupid about the sprint, but I got a sweet picture of him losing the sprint for 5th:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Racing Ahead's Adventure Weekend

A few weeks ago, Ken Walker (one of the guys involved with masters' ski-o) invited me to be on a team with him and his son Greg (who is on the US ski-o team with me) for Racing Ahead's 12-hour adventure race in Pawtuckaway State Park. Ken and Tracey Olafson had won some sort of masters adventure racing thing on team Phast Generation (they had been past generation, but were told they were too fast for that, so just added an H). I waffled for a bit, but it just sounded like too much stupid fun to turn down. Plus, I'm still in the volume period for training, so more is better, right? Problem was, I'd already pre-reg'ed for the Quad Cycles cross race sunday. Whatever, I'll do a 12 hour adventure race the day before a cx race, no biggie. What did I just say about stupid?

I drove up to Pawtuckaway Friday night, we went over some of the rules in our packets, and then pitched a tent and went to sleep, only to wake up five hours later, at 4:30AM. Some breakfast, and then we had to go set up the transition area. We started out with one teammate running across the parking lot to pick up the maps (me), and then we were off. We took our time making sure we had the right maps and copying some of the controls onto our supplemental pawtuckaway maps, because that isn't something you want to be fiddling with in the woods in the rain.
Ken rummaging through our transition vehicle.

The first leg was the bike leg, and Ken told me straight up that he hadn't been riding all summer, so was going to be the weak leg. Greg has been riding, but not so much on technical stuff, so they gave me the task of navigating while on the bike. I had my map holder from ski-o on, that let me look at the map without having to hold it or pull it out of my pocket or whatever. We had everything in large ziplock bags, since it was raining, and that was a smart move. By the first control we'd caught up to two teams, and then going up some of the hills to the second checkpoint we caught another two teams. I guess Ken thought he'd be one of the weaker riders out there, but its amazing just how BAD some of the adventure racers are when there is some navigation.

Things were going pretty smoothly until the ATV trail we were on crossed a beaver pond - I made Greg go first (he's 6'7", so I figured we'd get to see how deep it was), and the water only came up to his knees, which was my waist, so that was alright. I carried my bike over my head, having just had the bottom bracket replaced and the front hub rebuilt... no need to trash them so soon! Anyway, a couple more fairly easy checkpoints, and then we got onto some of the really fun trails. Of course, this also meant a slower pace, because especially with slimy rocks and roots Ken wasn't riding much of this trail. We nailed the checkpoint on that trail, and then started a half mile bikewhack, which was not nearly as much fun as it sounds. To make matters even more interesting, having the map holder sticking out in front of me meant that I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. This is fine when you're on the bike, I mean, you're doing it wrong if you're looking at your feet, but trudging through the woods it helps to see where you're stepping. Anyway, shortly after that we missed a shortcut that was also flooded by beavers, this routed us around the swamp on a fun singletrack trail, which also meant it was slow. Probably lost 20 minutes or so on that loop around the swamp.
Me feeling good after the bike leg.

We came back into the transition zone after about five hours. This is a long time to only go 24 miles, but there was no point in making Ken go anaerobic on every uphill. We were now onto the paddle section, and Ken and Greg had brought kayak paddles for this purpose. There were three competitors in every boat, which meant it was riding pretty low in the water. I also had a canoe paddle, rather than a kayak paddle, so every time I'd paddle it would throw off the direction of the boat. Thus I became prime navigator, which maybe wasn't a great plan since I've never navigated with a boat before, but despite being hesitant, we were clean. I think our paddle was as good as anyone else's, mostly because we had Greg in the front providing some serious power.

Unfortunately, it was still raining, and the fact that I wasn't doing any of the paddling meant that I was getting really cold. Every time I'd get out of the boat to get a control I'd get even wetter, so by the time we hit control 9, on a long passage through a swamp that was barely floatable, I could barely hold onto the map because my hands were shaking so badly. We finally pulled out of the swamp and had a kilometer-long portage, for which we conveniently had Greg's shoulders, and trotting along trying to keep up (the guy can run with a canoe on his shoulders. I'm in awe), I warmed up enough to be absolutely furious when they told us at control 10 that we'd missed the cutoff. By my watch, we had an extra 20 minutes, but apparently they had changed the cutoff times, because they wanted the canoes back in time for the 3-hour teams. This meant that we were automatically behind every time that had finished the entire paddling section, which really sucked, because our strongest section was going to be the trek. Grrr!
Greg gettin' after some peanut butter.

Anyway, we started on the trek, and immediately passed two teams before control 1. Pawtuckaway is an amazingly accurate map, but it is very detailed and very technical, so the fact that we had so much orienteering experience among us really just put everyone else at a serious disadvantage. The winning team had a navigator who is also a very serious orienteer, otherwise I think we were probably the best team out there. We were doing pretty well, and had passed yet another two teams by control four, looking like we'd have plenty of time before the control 6 cutoff at 4:30pm. Control 5 was at the top of a mountain, and adventure racers, instead of using something solid and unaffected by weather, drew a numbered code on a tree trunk somewhere on this mountain top. The clue was "50m +- northwest of fire tower, south side of a ledge, broken pine tree". Useful. We wasted 45 minutes up there searching for the clue, and three teams caught back up to us. Eventually we asked the guy with the radio if he could give us a clue, and he radioed back that there were four teams searching for the clue. We could hear the guy on the other end of the radio saying that the clue might have washed off in all this rain. Great. At this point, we were all pretty hypothermic, and our 45 minute delay meant that we'd missed the control 6 cut-off. I was too cold to be furious, but it was certainly frustrating.

We slogged it out to control 10, where we were supposed to go if we missed the cutoff, and picked up a map for the finishing score-o - we had thirty minutes left to get as many controls as possible for additional points. We did pretty well with this one, and finished with two seconds to spare. Overall, it was a frustrating experience to have the rules changed on us (the canoe cutoff) and have the checkpoint on the mountain be so ephemeral, but it was really fun nonetheless. I loved working with Ken and Greg, our personalities worked together just right that we weren't biting each other's heads off after 12 hours of alternately moving and freezing. The results aren't up yet, but I heard a rumor that we were fourth. Not too shabby, since there were a whole bunch of teams there.


*superwoman is flying*




Saturday I did a 12-hour adventure race with Greg Walker (US ski-o team) and his dad Ken. Stayed the night in Pawtuckaway in order to run an orienteering race sunday morning, and then drove down to Bedford for the Quad cycles race. Raced hard, felt good, got dehydrated, got home and suddenly I was tired, why is that?

Race reports are coming. I have lots I want to talk about!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wood rollerski review

While I was at the SR/U23 camp, I noticed Martin had wooden rollerskis. I remembered hearing about some guy's dad who was making them, so I said "hey are those the wooden skis that some guy's dad was making? how do you like them?", and it turns out that some guy's dad was Martin's dad, Peter Breu. Martin really liked the skis, and we talked for a while about the possibility of getting CSU on some wooden skis, since they are cheap (their major selling point is that they cost about half of what most rollerskis cost), and they have a brake. The CSU adults seem to be fixated on this safety stuff, I haven't quite figured it out yet. I guess not having any kids makes you more callous with other kids' safety. Anyway, I guess Martin talked to his dad, because Peter emailed me asking if I'd like to demo a pair of skis. I jumped at this opportunity, because it really would be great to have some cheap skate skis that have some sort of safety device.

I won't go too much into how much V2 skate skis suck, but lets just leave it at them being unreliable and high maintenance. And very expensive. CSU has some sort of deal with V2, which means most of the kids buy V2 skis, plus V2 skis have brakes and speed reducers, which the parents (and more intelligent coaches) really like. Look good, have fun, safety third. I was hoping that these could be a cheaper alternative to the unreliable, high maintenance, and high cost V2 skate skis.

Look at those sexy red boots! Oh wait, review skis here, not boots...

The skis came in the mail, and they had a wooden version of the V2 brake (but not close enough to violate any patents, Peter had checked that) attached to the back of the ski. I brought them along to a skate interval workout, with the brake attached, and basically it just confirmed my belief that rollerskis are not meant to have a brake, at least one of that design. They were super clunky and the weight in the back of the ski with the brake was seriously messing with my technique. I was pissed, and had to verbally restrain myself from throwing the skis forcibly into the woods.

So, I took off the brake. This is done by taking out one screw, so its not a big deal.

The next time I skied on them was for a skate OD with some pickups interspersed. This went much better, without the brake the skis are great, they handle just like my Elpex skate skis, which are a generic aluminum skate rollerski. Peter talks about the weight of the Hickory dampening some of the road vibration, and I could sort of feel a difference, but on the recently tarred-and-graveled section of the Littleton loop, they were no better than my aluminum skis. While skiing easy, I did not notice the extra weight (I think he says they're 5 ounces heavier than Marwes, so thats 10 ounces per pair of skis, which is ~.6lb), but during the pickups I could definitely feel the extra weight under my feet. Granted, the average eastern Mass highschooler will not be doing pickups or other speeds on rollerskis, so this is probably not an issue.

The shafts also have a lifetime guarantee - Peter says he has been making these for four years, and gave a pair to a 300lb friend who is a ski coach for testing purposes, and this coach hasn't broken the skis yet. So based on four years of data, the skis are strong. Who knows what happens over the years with repeated wear and tear, but the shafts are guaranteed, so you can continually replace them if they break. I imagine this might be a selling point for some people. Myself, I tend to not be heavy enough to break skis or rollerskis...

The wheels are the same as the pursuitski wheels, generic 100mm wheels that come in three speeds, fast, medium or slow. Really, there are only two things that set this ski apart from all the others - its wood, and it has a brake. I don't think the wood either helps or hurts the ski, and the brake is superior to the V2 brake, simply because the V2 one brakes at pivot points too often. So, if you're looking for a ski with a brake, these ones fit the bill. But I feel rather strongly that one should never skate ski with a brake - rely on your own agility and your body's resilience to take care of yourself. Walk down the hills you're uncomfortable skiing, and get off the road if the traffic situation is dicey.

My final impression is that these are GREAT skis for the price - the price ($130)just can't be beat for highschool skiers, especially in MA where they only race skate. I probably wouldn't recommend the skis to the JO kids or other elite skiers, just because they felt a little too heavy, and at that point you may as well plunge into the deep end and pay for the lower center of gravity of the Marwe's. None of those kids want a brake or speed reducers. But for the vast majority of skiers, these skis are perfectly adequate, and half the price.

Thanks to Peter for letting me demo his wooden rollerskis. Hopefully he'll design a brake that doesn't affect your technique soon! Then this ski will have two advantages.

Mile time trial

The orienteering section of CSU was running a mile time trial last Friday night, and since I figured nothing I do on Fridays could be as much fun as running circles, I headed over to Harvard to join them. I haven't run a mile since highschool track, where I think my PR was 6:21, so I wanted to see if I could beat that, using my residual ski fitness, since I haven't been running at all this summer.

I drove over to Lori's house (Tangent: my car has been in the shop all week getting a new bumper after I got rear ended the other day, and I had to pick it up Friday afternoon, which meant a 14-mile bike ride before this time trial. Grumble.), and we jogged over to the track with her whippet, Presto. He had a ton of energy since Lori hasn't been running due to an injured hip, so we figured we'd make one of the fast people take Presto for a couple laps. We got there a little late, and Ross and Brendan had already started. This worked out, because Ross agreed to be my rabbit, running a 6 minute pace for me, and Brendan and Lori would be the cheering squad. Ian showed up around then too, so it was a right party.

I'd forgotten how springy and bouncy a track feels underfoot, I really felt like I had wings on my ankles as I did some strides to warm up. Being a forefoot striker really does help when you're on a track. If only my achilles would agree. Its amazing how quickly the adrenaline kicks in when you're standing on the startline, even if its just to run circles alone in the dark. The first 200m felt effortless, they flew by in 41 seconds, which is fast, but I like to think of the first 200 as free speed, since you can't feel anything yet and maybe you're not building lactic acid. Or something like that. I slowed down in the next 200 and came through the lap in 86, but unfortunately I kept slowing down going into the second lap. It was starting to feel hard, and I didn't feel like I could run fast enough. I knew I was in trouble when I came through the 800 in three minutes flat, running the next two laps faster than the first two was going to be quite painful. I can tell I'm hurting when my strides lengthen and the tempo slows down, my chin lifts and my arms feel like they're in slow motion under water. My breathing was starting to get pretty noisy, although it was still rhythmic, and I tried to pick up the pace near the end of this third lap. I hit the 1200 at 4:34, and even in my lactic-acid-soaked state, I knew that I'd need to run faster than 90 to break 6. Its amazing how hard it is to speed up when your legs feel that heavy. My breathing was pretty ragged at this point, sucking wind and trying to cheat reality. I really felt like someone had hit the slow motion button on the video camera, as I came around the corner I tried to kick even more but it was barely worth mentioning.

I crossed the line in 6:04, and I was simultaneously pleased and disappointed. Yes, I'd wanted to break 6, but I also proved to myself that I am faster now than I was when I was running track. Those four seconds can probably be attributed to poor pacing and a lack of running fitness, but I feel like my overall fitness is fine. I was able to absolutely push to the limit, and I'm pleased about that. Of course, cyclocross season will help with exploring my pain cave...

My knee held up fine throughout the speed, so I am declare myself healed from this stupid knee injury. The next TT is probably going to be a 3k, and that is one that actually matters to me. Hopefully it'll be fast.

Presto got some exercise chasing a ball on the infield when we were done running. I think he was probably pushing 40mph, if not faster, when he really got going. That dog can MOVE. Nothing runs quite like a long-legged sight hound... I wish I could fly like that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Commuting again

One of the great things about my funemployment was that I didn't have to commute. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy riding my bike, but there are places I would rather ride than Boston. Anyway, one of the joys of my commute around this time of year is the section that passes BU, when all the freshmen are moving in. I don't know whats worse, the hordes of freshmen standing in the middle of the road, their parents triple parked in their SUVs, the traffic clusterf***s that result from said triple parking, or the sudden influx of hipsters on brakeless bikes. Anyway, I came up with a solution: The freshman catcher! Sort of like a cow catcher, only, possibly electrified. Maybe I'll just start carrying a cow prod.