Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Family time

I went home to Rochester last weekend, to see Christophe, the parental units, Michaela, and Tira. Flying made it super easy, except for the minor delay on Monday morning when the plane was discovered to be missing its static wick, and the Rochester International Airport, not having any static wicks in house, had to fly one in from Philadelphia. Anyway, it was a great weekend, great to just hang out and be happy with my family and my dog.

It just so happened that the Rochester Orienteering Club was hosting a meet on Sunday, so I headed up to Webster park, dragging along my parents to make them finally try some orienteering. Christophe and Michaela got out of it because I didn't want to force my brother's girlfriend to run in the rain if she didn't want to - she must already think this family is weird enough. Luckily, Linda Kohn was there to teach beginners how to orienteer, because I tend to leave out the important bits when I'm teaching, sometimes. I went off on my red course and they went off on their yellow course, and we finished in about the same time.

I was hoping to have a clean run, I've been orienteering a bunch recently, so you'd think this would translate to fast, clean, orienteering, but apparently not. I started out with a 6-minute mistake, making a parallel error on a trail and getting totally turned around. It didn't get much better after that, but I certainly ran hard. The quickroute tells the story. The other really bad spot was #6, when I was just being stupid. My run was good enough to win the open women's race, but only good enough for 7th among the men running Red. All the same, it was a good course on a good map, and the P-units claimed to have fun too. I really just wanted to subject them to it, so that they could better relate to what the heck I'm talking about when they ask "so, how was your weekend?"


Friday, April 23, 2010

A normal person

I flew to Rochester today. It was so easy. Flights usually mean skis, or bikes, or some other over-sized and over-priced object that I'm attempting to sneak into the cargo hold, and lots of stress, and connections, and carrying all competition clothing I might need on board, and being overly protective of my waxing iron and almost losing it because its a "power tool", and hassles over bringing waterbottles onto a plane.

But Christophe was coming home from Egypt this weekend, he and Michaela would be arriving Friday night on a bus, so I felt that I should try to make it home, too. I wasn't too psyched to drive to Rochester. Its twelve hours of driving, round trip, for a weekend trip.

I breezed through security with a backpack containing a book, a toothbrush, and my running shoes, and an hour later, I was in Rochester. So unencumbered by the usual piles of sports equipment, so free. Is this how normal people feel?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Harriman training camp, day 3

Since Massachusetts got Monday off for Patriot's day (marathon Monday, in actuality), we had planned one last training exercise for the camp - a rerun of the long distance race from some US champs a couple years ago. This was also supposed to be quite hilly, so I figured I'd be doing well if I could keep my time to twice what the men's winner had done whenever they were running this race. Mikkel Platt had won in 71 minutes, so I was hoping for 2:10. Ha.

Map, with route.

We started in reverse order from the middle, and since Lori, SGB, and Ian (the three people I beat) had gone home, I went first. I started out alright, but then I started having compass problems. It turns out that my compass settles pretty slowly, and you don't notice it if your map has been up where you can see it and are looking at it a lot, but you do notice it if you're slogging up a hill slowly with your hands on your knees and your compass upside down. Weird. Maybe someday I'll invest in a better compass, but this one seems to work for the most part.

Um, this might get long, and boring if you're not into orienteering, because its basically a course analysis of why that run was such a disaster. Just warnin' ya.

I think the compass issues explain the fact that I was 15 degrees off on my way to 2, after a while I knew I was in the wrong spot but it took me forever to figure out where to go. Eventually I was able to deduce that the marsh down the hill from me was very much open, cattails etc, so I ran north, although I still had no idea what I would relocate from, but then I stopped, looked, and listened, and first I heard Brendan and then I saw him, so I went that way and found the control.

3 was hesitant, I was pretty shaken and wondering if I should cut the course short since I was already going on 30min, but then I saw Boris so followed his line to 4, which was lower than I would have gone but worked out well, I think, and forced me to start running again and pick up my pace.

I had compass issues again on the way to 5 - my plan was to go right over the top of the mountain (in retrospect, I'd like to go to the left of the hill), and my compass kept saying I should go more to my right, even though I could see the top of the hill. I ended up skirting the right side of it, and tried to go straight to the control but the compass said I should go more to might right, which I did, and then saw the marsh way to my left, and was like, "compass, WTF?" I'll admit, I was pretty frustrated, my compass was working fine for me the other three days of orienteering, why not now?

Luckily, 6 was mostly a slog along a road and up a huge ass hill, so I had some time to sort out my thoughts, which ended up being that I should finish the course if I hit #9 (halfway point) by 1:30:00. Looking at the route I took, I think I was scared of the hill - I was trying to avoid excess climb, which is stupid because I'll climb that much anyway, should have gone straighter over the saddle. 7 - 8 were fine, just slow, but I was starting to think I'd gotten my feet back under me, even if I wasn't moving fast.

Then I blew 9, I was sloppy and not paying attention to my compass crossing the marsh and saw the little hill after the marsh and made a parallel error, and luckily I saw the trail and corrected. I was there well before 1:30, so I carried on. I was pretty clean through 13, and even running again, this was good!

And then, on the way to 14, I was near the flag and saw a pink streamer on a tree next to a boulder to my right across a wide reentrant. I thought that seemed a bit too far to my right, but still, its a streamer, there aren't that many of those out here. So I ran to it, and carried on to 15, but something was niggling in my brain, saying, that hill to your right is way too big for you to be as high up on it as 14 is. And after a very long while I hit the trail that goes up the hill, right where the cliffs are, and I realized where I was, and that I had not actually visited the real 14, but I just didn't feel like going to the real one at this point. So, I decided to go to 15 instead. But then I got all confused when I came to the point where there is a hill across the saddle to my left, thinking it was the saddle where 15 was, but, I wasn't sure about that, because I hadn't actually been to 14. After some deliberation, I decided to do the prudent thing, and go to the top of the big hill to reattack. I got to the big boulder next to the little boulder, and then went to 15, and that was the end of that disaster of a leg. Phew.

To 16 I was mostly bouncing over the tops of the hills except where I felt like going under the cliffs, and although I wasn't running fast, I was running, and it felt good to actually spike a control. 17 was also fine, and I finished in 2:32. Only 20 minutes slower than I wanted to be. Yargh.

So, not a great way to end the weekend, but I think it shows that my running fitness is not where I need it to be, because when I get tired, I make mistakes, and merely mortal endeavors are making me tired. It's been hard for me to break out of the "orienteering is just a long slow run" mindset, and speeding up in the woods is not easy for me. I'll keep working on it, because while I've definitely seen some improvement over the last three years, my expectations have been rising as well. Damn those expectations!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Harriman training camp, day 2

The morning exercise was a middle distance race simulation - basically a time trial. Boris started us at 1-minute intervals, ordering the start list so as to have the most pressure as possible on you while running. He was alternating men and women, and I started 2 minutes ahead of Erin, and four minutes ahead of Marie. I was hoping to hold them off, but just wasn't fast enough. There are a lot of hills in that park, and my legs were aching on the uphills, I couldn't run so much, it was more of a dispirited powerwalk. Luckily, when Marie passed me, she was also slogging along with her hands on her knees up the hill, so at least I wasn't the only one hurting out there.
This is the map - you can see all the contours, 190m of climb. By control 9, I'd been caught by Joe, Marie, and Erin, and I tried my darnedest to stay with them. My navigation was good, and occasionally I'd execute better route choices than Marie, but she was clearly the fastest of this group, and would break away when she was going the right direction. I had a mostly clean run, with a couple bobbles. I couldn't find the correct dot knoll at #3, and combined with my ass-dragging up the hill, I lost ~1min compared to my closer competitors. I also lost about 40 seconds on #15 when I overshot it going too high up the hill, and #18 and 19 were pretty slow, but I felt good otherwise, and it was fun to be in a race situation. Can't wait for the A-meets coming up!

That afternoon we did a two-person relay, where there were three different maps and each person ended up running each map once, in differing orders. I think I was more tired than I had expected, because I made some massive mistakes (on the order of ~7 minutes of mistakes over a 30min course) on the first loop, and that put my head really out of it. By the time I started my second course, my legs had informed my head that they were done working for the day, and I called it quits. Luckily, Tracy, my relay partner (and Erin's mom), also decided to be done, so there were no hard feelings. It was fun watching the other teams battle it out, but I don't have the running fitness yet to do two intensity sessions in one day.
This is my route from the first relay loop. Total disaster, just sloppy all around and I wasn't going fast enough to cover for the mistakes. If you look at the route, you can see how I started out going 180 degrees the wrong direction... that's what we call starting on the wrong foot!

The forest is so wide open up there - beautiful running! The Appalachian Trail followed the ridgeline we were starting on, that would be a really cool section of the AT to hike.

Joe B.

Sometimes, there are a couple rocks at Harriman. And hills. But the visibility is fantastic!

View from the top of the ridge where we started the relay.

Brendan finishing his last loop.

Nikolay, hiding from the wind.

Ross and Becky, so far in front they were jogging it in victoriously.

Brendan and Presto - you can't really tell from the photo, but everyone's legs were bright yellow from all the pollen from the blueberries.

Harriman training camp

CSU held its second training camp of the spring in Harriman state park, just north of NYC. I was here back in October, at the US Orienteering team's camp, nursing a still-sprained ankle and unable to comprehend the terrain or move through it quickly. I'm not sure I can move through it quickly now, but a winter of orienteering training some some simplification exercises have done wonders when it comes to actually reading the map.

I arrived around 10pm Friday night, with Samantha, Ross, Ian, and Brendan, and we met up with Boris in a parking lot to run the night-o. I was pretty pleased that I could actually run while reading the map here, but we were in one of the nicer, least-rocky sections of the park. The controls were super reflective, which certainly helped, since I could see them from a couple hundred meters away. Above is the course - lots of butterfly loops. From there, we continued on to Bernie Bretton's house, where everyone was crashing for the weekend. Thanks Bernie and Lisa!

Above is Saturday morning's map - enough controls? The faint orange line is the line-o that we jogged on the way to the start of the first control-picking course. The idea behind a line-o is to follow the line as closely as possible, making sure you're always in contact with the map and sort of checking off features.

The first control-picking exercise went really well for me, I felt like I was always in contact with the map, and moving pretty well. The second course was not so good for me, I was starting to get pretty thirsty and hungry, and starting to make some sloppy navigational moves. About 10 feet from the finish, I hopped over a log, and landed on some loose rocks that turned my ankle, the one that had been sprained last time I was here and that I've been rehabbing all winter. It went crunch, and I fell down, with a couple choice words. Damn, and here I was thinking I was all healed. Luckily, I was at the finish, near the parking lot, and I could bear weight after a few minutes, so I limped on back for lunch. Below is the garmin track from the second control picking:

Lori and SGB - it was colder than we thought it would be. Lori also looks like a 10yo kid, which I find fairly amusing.

Saturday afternoon was the first speed session of the camp - intervals in groups of people about the same orienteering speed as each other. I put on my super hefty ankle brace, and with some vitamin I everything was dandy. We started in 15-second intervals, and the idea was to run down the person in front, or run away from the person behind. I was in a group with Lori (and Presto), SGB, Marie, and Becky, and it was super fun to move at that sort of speed with the race pressure of being caught. Below is the map of the six intervals, each of which took 5-7 minutes. The faint orange line is where I drew my route after running, and the green-ish line is the garmin overlay.

The most amusing part of this exercise was the point where Presto decided that he was too tired to run anymore. Lori was going first, and she dashed off, with her whippet in tow, until she got to a low-lying branch, hopped over it, and Presto didn't want to. He stopped, and watched her take another couple strides. Lori turned and called to him, but he didn't budge, he just looked guilty. Then he trotted back to where the rest of us were standing, and got in line, with his tail between his legs, as Lori had to come back and put on his leash to drag him around the rest of the course. Poor guy was whipped!
Brendan and Ian trying to look tough, which is kind of hard when you're hugging a whippet who is wearing a fuzzy jacket.

After the O-tervals (ha. ha.), we all traipsed back to Lisa and Bernie's, all 23 of us, I should mention, and Ross led the dinner show. Delicious.

Sunday had two intensity sessions planned, so after some fast-paced boggle action, we all turned in. Funny how spending all day in the woods will tire you out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fresh Pond Park-O

CSU puts on eight park orienteering races each spring, in the parks around Boston. These are fun little weeknight training events, and the first one was last night at Fresh Pond, which certainly doesn't have much terrain to speak of, but worked just fine for a 3km course. It was definitely a runner's night, since the navigation was pretty trivial, but Audun Botterud, the course setter, did a great job making the course as interesting as possible.

I recruited Tony and Kevin, the Harvard skiers we went to Tuck's with, to show up, and then roped them into coming to the next two park-o's as well, since they forgot their money so I spotted them entry fees, with the condition that next week, Kevin pays my entry, and the week after, Tony pays it. Muahahaha. Ye'll be orienteering whether you want to or not!

I did a nominal warmup, just because I knew the race would be fast and flat, so not warming up would make things more painful than they had to be, and then I started out, about a minute behind Mika Latva-Kokko. Slight hesitation to #1, where I saw Mika already, and then we took different routes to 2, where we met up again. We were together to 3, and then he went up around the road to 4 and I stayed low through the woods. We got to 4 around the same time again, and disturbed some guy who was peeing on the side of the building. I think he was pretty embarrassed to be caught urinating in public, but we didn't care, we just wanted him to get out of the way so we could punch the control. I mean, there is a bathroom not 500m away from you at the water treatment plant, dude, couldn't you just go inside to pee? sheesh.

5-7 were just straight running, and I was a little annoyed at how slowly I was moving for the amount of effort I was putting out, but I was pulling away from Mika slowly. Then I made a mistake going to 8, and went all the way down to the main trail, so that I had to climb back up the hill to get to the control, and Mika was there first. I closed the gap going to 9, and passed him on the way to 10 to punch first. 11-13 was more straight running, this running stuff is HARD! 14 I hesitated a little bit, not knowing which tree I was looking for, but then it was clean to the finish, although my legs were filled with lactic acid, which slowed me down even more. You know that feeling like you're running in water? That's the I-started-too-fast-and-now-I'm-paying-for-it feeling, and it was rocking me pretty hard.

I was feeling pretty good about my run until Ross came blasting through five minutes faster than me. Ouch. Time to start hitting the track if I actually mean to get faster. Results

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Erin Dubinski and I decided that we should ski Tuckerman's ravine this winter, and Ed thought it was a great idea, so Saturday night we headed up to Erin's place at Sunday River to crash before eating lots of grapefruits for breakfast and driving off. Completing our posse were Kevin Sprague and Tony Ryerson, skiers on the Harvard team, so with five in the car we strapped all the skis to the roof. It's been a while since I've had to do that.

We got to Pinkham notch and the clouds were scurrying across the sky, but the sun would occasionally peek out, so we headed upwards. The trail is pretty mellow, and we were at the base of the ravine after 1.5 hours. The weather had sort of taken a turn for the worse... we couldn't really see anything. And the wind was going 40mph, but luckily, the bowl was pretty sheltered.

We tried left gully first, and it was pretty sketchy. We were kicking steps into the ice to ascend, you know the skiing will be good when you're climbing on ice... oh. We stopped under a large rock to get our skis on, which is trickier than you might think when you're on a wicked steep hill.

We tried right gully next, and actually found some really decent snow just under the gully. The gully itself was still sketchy ice, but the bowl was windblown powder, and we found it just as the clouds were lifting, which put us all in great spirits. That run was good enough for three more before we determined it was time to head out.

Clearing up.

The famed headwall.

Once the weather did this, we figured we couldn't hang around any longer.

Kids these days.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Some of the CSU moms decided a while ago that the kids needed to be exposed to some more flexibility training, and I agree with them. We train train train to be good at distance and eventually, our movements get shortened to the smallest possible motion - efficient, mostly, but how can you expect to apply power through the full range of motion if you can't move through the full range of motion? So Cathy Schen set up her favorite yoga instructor to come do a class with the skiers. He noticed that we all had great strength, good balance, and crap flexibility... go figure. He also has no clue what nordic skiing is, which is fairly amusing. I should probably send him some youtube videos.

But it feels so nice to be all stretched out now. After an hour of breathing and reaching and stretching and relaxing I feel like I'm two inches taller, and I can't seem to find my usual slouch. Where did it go? The best part about yoga, though, isn't about the stretching - its the focus. An hour of concentrating solely on me. It feels so selfish, to not be making lists and planning things out thinking about whatever problems there are that need thinking - the only thing in my brain is my breath, in and out, and the sensations of my body. I can see how people get into this... what a luxury.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Contour training

I was running at Hammond Pond this morning, and I realized that if I wanted to get to work on time, I'd have to cut my run short. Right there I decided that my priorities were totally screwy, and I'd much rather be running in the woods than sitting at a desk, so I kept running. I was orienteering on the Hammond Pond semi-permanent course that Ross had set, and he had emailed out three versions of the map - one with all features, one without trails, and one with only contours. I was using the one with contours-only, which is the first time I've done an exercise like this.

There is a lot of talk, in the orienteering world, about simplifying the map. The theory is that when you are running in the woods, if you try to read every single little feature, it will just slow you down. Sure, on some maps, 1:15k maps for example, or featureless-blueberry-filled-NH maps, there aren't many features, so you won't get as bogged down, but the trend has been towards more and more detailed maps. So, we spend a lot of time working on simplifying the map in our heads, learning to pick out the obvious details and not get hung up on the rest. I'm not very good at this, I think its a subconscious thing where I know I'll get to slow down if I have to read every blip and knoll, so I collect every feature along my route. But it was so nice to run on a map that was already simplified for me - all it showed were contours and a couple marshes. I zipped around that course much faster than I normally would, relying solely on compass and contours. There was a sense of freedom about it, and it put me in a really great mood.

And I wasn't that late to work.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pawtuckaway training camp

The orienteering section of CSU occasionally holds training camps, that are organized by us, for us. We generally all volunteer to host as many training events as we feel like through the year, and Brendan and Clem volunteered to hold the Easter weekend training camp this year, and totally outdid themselves. The camp had a super professional feel to it, with all the details organized (this is a big deal, really). The only thing that wasn't so cool was that the park entrance was closed, so we basically hung out in a parking lot instead of in the nice camping area, and had a long jog to the start of each exercise.

The weather was gorgeous, which helps with the overall feel of the camp, and we spent the night with the Andersons, an orienteering family who live in Durham and very generously stuffed us with feasts - Peter was very excited to cook a full Scottish breakfast, although none of us were all that disappointed when he apologized for not having any blood pudding or haggis.

I drove up Lori, Presto, Ian, and Stephen, who calls himself SGB, an English dude who is living in Boston and runs really fast (like a 9:09 3k). We met up with the rest of the group, about 20 all in all, started the first exercise around 9:30, and it was already too warm. It got to be 75F by the afternoon, so the theme of the weekend was dehydration.
We were the first car into the parking lot, and Ian was tired, so he took a nap. Weird.

Jellybeans seemed appropriate for an Easter training camp.

SGB took Presto for Saturday morning's training, which meant that Presto had to run much faster than he normally does with Lori, and much farther, since SGB's style of orienteering involves going way out of the way to take safe routes. Presto was pretty pooped by the time they got back to the cars, and crawled right in to take a nap.

We literally just sprawled out on the parking lot to have a picnic. Classy. But, it was close to the cars, which had the food and water.

At least some of us found some shade and dirt to sit in on the second day.

We actually managed to exhaust Presto by the end of the weekend, despite feeding him many hotdogs between workouts.

This is the map with my route (in green and red) on top - the purple is the line I was planning to follow.

Analyzing my workout after the 35-control course. 5.5k course in 1:18 - with an average heart rate of 163 - that hurts.
This is the map from that course - complex, confusing, and super technical orienteering. The focus of this camp was on map skills and technical orienteering, not the super-high-speed running that we'll be doing later in the spring. Pawtuckaway is a great place to do technical training, given its highly complex terrain and accurate map.

The map and my route from the time estimation course on Sunday - we were in groups of three, and the idea was that we each took a different route and estimated how long it would take. Interesting, and nice to be able to stop at each control and refocus, especially in that heat.

Five sessions later, and I'm done. My calves' stabilizer muscles are quite sore to the touch, maybe eight hours in the woods all at once was a bit much, but it was certainly fun!