Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sucker Brook CX

I signed up for this race early, despite it mostly being a grass crit in the past, I like the atmosphere at this one. Chris Smith, a master racer for NEBC, offered me a ride up north, and it turns out he's mostly a runner, does cx races for purely for entertainment. We got along well. It was super dusty, I could barely see the riders who weren't in the front group of the early races, that much dust was being kicked up. Its been dry, and as the day wore on, the grass got completely torn up, especially in the corners, which just turned to sand. Advantage: Alex. Pre-riding the course, I noticed that they'd added more stuff to give me an advantage (love it when that happens) - Just after the sharp left-hand corner, they'd added a horseshoe that went over a log and then through the woods over some roots, and more corners on the field section of the course. Still a ton of power sections, but I knew that going in to it, I was mentally prepared to hurt.

We had a pretty big field, as far as the elite women's field goes - 16 starters. I lined up 2nd row, not in any mood to have to fight for the hole shot, but in retrospect, it might have been smart to start harder. I was pretty caught in traffic for the first half of the lap on the corners in the field, losing time on each corner to the accordion effect, but unable to make any passes, just not in the mood to be sketchy. I guess I just didn't have my competitive hat on at the beginning. By the sand pit things had strung out a little bit, and I'd managed to get in front of a small group of 3-4 girls I'd been stuck behind. Due to my ninja sand skillz, I moved up some more, and had a nice wheel to follow up the pavement. Lap two involved chasing down the next pack - I was guessing we'd do six laps, and was metering out my effort with that in mind. It was so dusty out there, and I was breathing so heavily, I was a little worried I'd have some sort of respiratory problem at some point - I was already choking on my own phlegm.

By the end of lap 2 I'd passed that second little group, and I could see Karen Tripp up ahead of me. The lap cards confirmed my guess at six total laps, and I told myself I could rest a bit when I caught up to Karen. It took two laps of absolutely railing every corner I could find to close the gap, though, and I was in full-on fat-kid-with-asthma breathing mode by the time I finally made contact. I could also see Allison Snooks fading ahead of us, but I didn't think I could accelerate much more. I didn't want to leave it to a sprint, and kept pushing the pace trying to drop Karen, it took a couple tries by eventually I got the gap to stick, by railing the downhill with the minefield of pointy rocks and then riding the log more smoothly than her. I held her off to the line, but barely, I don't think I've worked that hard on a bike in a loooooonnnnnng time. Turns out I was only 17 seconds behind Allison, so I'm thinking that with a smarter/faster start, I might have been in it, but then of course, I might also have blown my top. In any event, it was a really well-run race, and I was pumped to be part of it.

Ended up 6th, just in the money. Results.

Photo credit Dave Holbrook: www.flicker.com/photos/ejcphotography

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hammond Pond NEOC meet

I was biking down the street the other day, watching this slightly overweight, very clearly non-athletic girl jogging. My first thought wasn't "good for her" or something else charitable, it was a purely selfish "How come she can jog down the road and everything is fine, but I, an athlete, can't run without hurting myself? I didn't even do anything out of the ordinary to get hurt!" And that was when it struck me - my ordinary is not ordinary. And it's not working for me. Injuries don't have to be a fact of life, and this is totally news to me. My other big lightbulb of the week was when I decided that I shouldn't start running until I can press on my kneecap in the hurty spot without having it hurt. Normal people probably think that's obvious. For me, its like discovering a whole parallel universe.

Since the Pawtuckaway camping weekend, which definitely set back my recovery, I'd say I've been pretty intelligent about things. I've been religiously icing twice a day, not doing things that hurt (that's a HUGE step in the right direction for me), and doing the physical therapy the doctor prescribed. So good at following the rules! I decided it was time for a test. The month of October is full of national-level orienteering races, and I want to be able to race - maybe not as fit as I've ever been, but at least rested and healthy. Who is this person who has taken over my brain and replaced it with a rational one?

There was a local NEOC meet on Saturday at Hammond Pond, which is literally right down the street from us, so we headed over, Ed with plans of racing, me with plans to aggressively hike it and see what happened. The vegetation was pretty thick, and folks who had already run were warning us that it was a very physical course, even though it was short (3.0km straight-line), due in no small part to the sunny day and temperatures in the 80s. I started out hiking, luckily the first control was up a hill or I would have been super tempted to run. It was easy to read the map very clearly at a hike, and for the most part I was moving really fast - around a 15-20min mile - that's fast for a walk. I decided that since I wasn't moving fast compared to the runners, I would try to take the straightest line I could between the controls, and succeeded pretty well with that. There were three sections of trail where I did break into a limping jog - its a limp because I was trying to not bend my knee, and as long as there is nothing to trip you, that's a viable way to run.

I lost maybe 45 seconds over the whole course - very clean, which is to be expected if you're moving slow enough that reading the map in detail is no problem. There is also the consideration that I have run at Hammond Pond a LOT, so I definitely know the park well. The clean run put me in 7th overall, out of close to 40 competitors. Results. Ross won the course by 8 minutes over the next competitor, which goes to show that this wasn't a national-calibre field, but after Ross the times were pretty close. I'm not sure how much faster I would have been if I could have run - sure, I would have been moving faster at times, but I also probably would have made more mistakes. And the thick, physical forest was easier to move through knowing that I couldn't go any faster than I currently was, rather than trying to bust through it at race pace. I still managed to work really hard! And most importantly, my knee was perfectly fine at a hiking pace over rough terrain. This bodes well for the Hudson Lowlander that I'm doing next weekend. The plan is to hike everything except trails and places with exceptionally good footing, and I think if I can keep up a 10min/km pace, I will do quite well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NENSA's nordic symposium

Last weekend was NENSA's nordic symposium, I think the first ever, and I was pretty psyched to see that it was in Boston, so signed up early on. The CSU coaches were in attendance, Rob and Jamie, and Jim and John from BKL, as well as a couple interested parents. Other people were there as well, but they're clearly less important than the CSU folks. We had a stacked list of speakers, and my only complaint from the weekend would be that there was just so. much. information. that my brain was reeling by the time I walked out on Sunday. All good stuff, though, and I always leave these coaching things full of crazy new ideas, mostly related to coaching.

I was thinking of summarizing some of the talks, but Rob already did that for SkiTrax, so I'll just link to the articles. I do have very detailed notes on all the presentations, so if you're interested in those, send me an email and I can get them to you. I highly recommend this symposium, and if NENSA holds another one next year, I'll be back for sure!

Friday evening

The only part that wasn't cool was that we spent all day inside, and there wasn't really time for training. But with a gimpy knee, that is probably for the best. You could tell most of the participants wanted to go do something outside, though - skiers, through and through!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chilly morning on the Connecticut

I'm currently borrowing Phil Bricker's kayak until it gets too cold to paddle or my knee fixes itself, since he says he isn't using it much these days. I picked it up from him yesterday, made sure I could get it on my roof alone (not as easy as it sounds when you're a short person), and this morning took it for a splash. It was 36F this morning, which made for some chilly mists on the river, but it was absolutely beautiful. I took along Ed's old iphone, which, while it does take photos, hardly does justice to the mix of sharp details and soft mist and different depths of light that I was observing. It was a beautiful morning, but I forgot how much the paddle drips on your head, and I also forgot how much shoulder strength it takes to hold that paddle out in front of me. Oof.

You mean I gotta sit in that hard plastic thing and possibly get wet??
Like an impressionist painting.

Great visibility.

Personally, I wouldn't swim in this river this far downstream... but I guess with many of the upstream mills closed, its not so bad.
Mist burning off.

Can you find the Merganser ducks on the tree? Also saw a Great blue heron, but couldn't get the camera out in time for him.
Its a big river.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Broken again

A while back, shortly after running that 5k, I noticed that my knee was sore. It felt like I had a bruise on my kneecap, the pain was pretty isolated and only sharp if I pushed on that spot. But it would ache a bit after running. So, I ran less, but apparently that wasn't quite enough, because after some training with Ali at Mt. Tom, my knee started to hurt more, whenever it was bent. I can recognize an overuse injury when I see one, so I stopped running. But I'm also wicked competitive, fairly driven, and extremely obsessive about doing the training I've planned for myself, so I basically upped my bike miles from about 10% of my overall training load to >55% of my training load. Yeah, yeah, I know I should have rested, but biking didn't hurt, so I figured I was fine.

I was fine, too, until I did a 60mi ride, followed by Saturday at the Pawtuckaway Camping Weekend, and then a 'cross race, at which point, my knee hurt going through the pedaling motion as well as when running. Dammit. Luckily, I'd already scheduled a doctor's appointment when this stupid joint first started hurting for real, so that was on Tuesday. I already knew he'd say to rest. I just wanted to know what was wrong.

He poked and prodded for a bit, ruled out patellofemoral pain, and declared I had a partial tear of the VMO. He didn't come right out and say I had to stop all activities, just that I shouldn't do anything that hurt at all. Gave me some PT exercises to do, instructed me to ice twice a day, and sent me on my way.

I realize that the sorts of injuries I see are generally of the non-acute, non-serious type, but for an athlete who relies on doing a repetitive motion over and over and over in order to increase fitness and work on technique, overuse injuries are what happen, and they're damn frustrating, more so when there is not a definite cause to the injury. I can rollerski, since that doesn't hurt, but I've got myself on a very conservative buildup of pole-use, due to the elbow tendonitis, so I haven't rollerskied for more than an hour yet this fall. I guess I'm looking at losing some fitness until I can pedal without any hint of weirdness in that knee, and then hopefully I can bring running back in carefully (and soon enough for the US champs in orienteering... eek!). I like to think I'm being way more mature about this injury than I have been in the past, but if I'd taken a friend's advice and taken a week off training completely after it first started hurting, well, hindsight is always 20/20, huh?

The bright side is that if I can run by mid October, I'll be plenty rested for the champs! I was doing so well with staying un-broken this summer, too. grumble.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quad Cross

I did this race last year, and I liked the course enough that I signed up for it again this year. I ended up signing up for the B race, after much internal debate, mostly because I was convinced my bike fitness was pretty abysmal, and also because if I had done the later race I probably would also have done some orienteering that morning, and my knee hurt. Because I wasn't quite as good about time management as I would have liked, I ended up in Bedford with 45 minutes until race time, and the registration line was out the door. I decided that since I'd pre-registered, I could probably bust through the line and get through it pretty quick just before the race, and I wanted to pre-ride the course, that was more important than getting my number pinned. I was glad I prerode, because there were a couple changes from last year, all for the better, but all worth seeing beforehand. Ended up getting my number with minutes to spare, and given that I'd gotten two laps in, I was almost warmed up!

I lined up 3rd row, and then they pulled out the 45+ women to start a minute ahead, so I squeezed into the second row. I probably could have begged my way into the front but it didn't seem necessary. It would be preposterous to assume I am a bike racer these days, so I decided to start comfortably and see what happened. Off we went and it was a bit of a cluster, but I quickly found myself in the top 5-6 girls as we headed down the hill after the finish. Made a couple passes, and then almost ran over one of the 45+ women, who we were passing as we approached the giant bush you have to ride around. It appeared that she rode into a post, bounced off and onto her back right in front of the field. Luckily she quickly pulled into a fetal position and nobody hit her, but that was close, and probably terrifying for her. I love that they have a masters category, but I don't think they should have started first.

I ran up the run-up after the barriers in the first lap, anticipating the traffic, and going through the chicane by the pit I saw I was in 5th. This was comfortable, and first wasn't moving away too fast, so I hung out there for most of the rest of the lap. Coming into the sand, I dismounted early and ran past two girls who were bogging down, and then into the second lap Libby came by just after the chicane at the bottom of the field. I let her pull me up to the girl in front, Emily Curley, and Libby went right on by her, so I followed. Just after the ride-up though, Libby bobbled and managed to get her bike sideways, so we both dismounted and Emily got by. Her dad (I assume) was cheering for her, telling her now she had a real race on her hands, but it wasn't that hard to pass her in the sand.

Now I was just trying to stay out front without having her catch me - I stuck it in the big ring and spun those cranks as hard as I could on the pavement, a couple times I thought she was right on my wheel, but it turns out that wheezing was coming from me, not a competitor. Coming through the finish I saw 2 to go, and I thought I could hold her off, but she closed the gap on the straightaways before the barriers. I just made sure to get in front before the turns, but we were playing cat and mouse through the rest of the course. At this point I realized that the race was mine to lose, with no challenge coming from behind, so I backed off just enough that my heavy breathing wouldn't scare anyone. I had a decent gap after the ride-up, but then on the second set of tight turns I took one too aggressively and went down on my hip. By the time I was up, Emily was close, and she closed the gap on the pavement. I pulled ahead around the sandy corner, but she quickly came by on the pavement, so I hopped on her wheel. I was feeling good, so I just made sure I was tight on her wheel coming up the hill to the finish, and when she stood up to sprint without changing gears, I just changed from pedaling squares to pedaling circles, and went on by.

That was a fun race, and I was pleasantly surprised with my bike fitness. I was definitely feeling a bit trashed afterward, though, probably mostly as a byproduct of Saturday's adventures and the throbbing in my knee. But they had good prizes, and I was super psyched to see so many women racing in the B field! Time for most of us to move up and create a midpack in the elites...


Monday, September 13, 2010

Wicked Hard Night-O

One of the traditions of camping weekend is the Wicked Hard Night-O (WHNO). Apparently it used to be the world's hardest night-o, but that title got taken by a different race. I've never done the night-o at Pawtuckaway before, because Pawtuckaway scares me, but I did do a night-o here back in April, so I wanted to tackle Pawtuckaway at night in a more race-like situation, i.e. occasionally alone and sometimes lost.

This might have been dumber than I originally thought, based on how the knee felt afterwards, but it was fun, and although I'm definitely not over my deep-seated fear of orienteering at night in Pawtuckaway, this helped. I started out with the group, and I didn't really like being in a pack, so decided to do my own thing to 2, but started drifting left - not horribly, but enough that the stream of lights was heading to my right and I was losing contact with them. After a few minutes of this I was completely freaked out, not in contact, not sure where I was, not sure if I'd overshot the control, and I made a mad dash for the lights, arriving breathless and terrified and SO glad to see people! Minor meltdown. Turns out I was just moving a lot slower than I'd expected, even though it felt like I was moving pretty aggressively.

Arrived at 2 ok, and decided to do my own thing to 3, and headed a bit right of where I knew Phil and Peter were going. Crossed the trail, ran along it for a couple steps, then headed for hopefully the marsh, to bounce off of it. Never hit the marsh, and when I started heading steadily uphill, I decided I'd gone too far. Not in great contact, I'd mostly just been relying on my compass, but clearly not doing that all that well, and after stopping to listen to where the frogs were, I saw a light. Called out for them to ask what number they were going to, it was Ross heading to 5 - he was able to point out more or less where I was, which helped because then I ended up back with the Phil/Peter/Ali train on the way to 3. Yikes, another near meltdown. Definitely a situation where a brighter light would help, because my light just wasn't bright enough to pick out features. I should figure out how to mount my bike lights on my head sans helmet.

After that, the little control pick was much better, I was in contact with my map and there were enough people to make me confident enough that I wasn't going to get eaten by the cackling monster of Pawtuckaway perched on a spectator rock in the middle of the star. (That would be JJ, the course setter, just trying to scare people). I was walking about 3/4 of this, hobbling a little faster the other quarter of the time. By 7 I felt comfortable enough to get 12-13-14 instead of just bailing back (at least I recognized that doing the whole thing was a really bad idea), so I did the long trail hobble to 12, which took forever. Definitely moving slower for the last three controls, my knee was hurting a lot more than before the night-o. Overall, that was a lot of fun - I hope that next year I am healthy enough to run the whole thing! And a brighter light would help a lot, too...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crazy weekend 2010

Last weekend was the annual Pawtuckaway Camping weekend, hosted by UNO, but I also wanted to fit in the Quad Cycles cross race and coach a practice for the CSU juniors. I signed up for the B women's race, since it was earlier in the day, and that wouldn't give me time to orienteer in the morning, which I figured would be bad for my knee. Who else signs up for a race in order to keep themselves from doing a different type of race on the same day? That makes sense to me. I might have a problem.

The Pawtuckaway day was super fun, I got to spend all day outside playing! Ali and I arrive around 11am, and I started with a normal orienteering course. Because I banged up my knee, I chose to do one of the shorter courses, the green course, at 5.5km straight-line distance. It was a fun little course with a butterfly loop, but Pawtuckaway being Pawtuckaway meant that the navigation was tricky and required a lot of concentration. By the time I was nearly done, I was feeling like I knew what I was doing, but by then the course was basically over. I ended up third overall, behind Tim Parsons and Steve Olafson, both fast guys who know what they're doing, so that's fine by me. Below is the map from the course, we had to copy our own maps, which is why its a bit sloppy... whoops.

When I got back, I availed myself of some of the watermelon on the snack table, and then scavenged for a canoe and a partner for the canoe-o. Neil Dobbs, an Irish orienteer who I met a couple winters ago in Sweden, was willing and ready to take on the canoe-o challenge, and I borrowed Adrian Owen's canoe, and we were off. It turns out I'm not very good at steering, and Neil wasn't much good at paddling, but we got all but one of the controls, and came in under the hour time limit. We got spanked by Ken and Ali, who had A) kayak paddles, and B) an ex-olympic-level rower in the boat... we also got beaten by Kestrel (Adrian's son, can't be older than 10) and Allison (his mom). Well, maybe canoe-o isn't our thing. Below is the map - we got all except #10 (order: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 13, 12, 11, 9, 5, 4, 3, 14).

After the canoe-o I had some much-needed lunch, and attempted to drink away my dehydration headache - it was hot and dry, and I'd been sweating in the sun all morning and not drinking enough water. But water is for pussies! I had a mountain bike orienteering race to do! Steve and Tracy Olafson, of racingahead.com, had set up a mountain bike orienteering course, for adventure racers. If you were on a team, you could also do an orienteering course and the canoe-o course, and they'd tally up the scores. I didn't have a partner, so just went out to do the bike-o solo. The winning time right now was 1:42, by the EMS team, so I knew who I wanted to beat. I did have the advantage of having a fair bit of local knowledge of the park, and also Steve had mentioned a couple changes to the map that really helped out with the navigation. Below is the map, and as you can see, either my GPS track is way off, or the map really is just a suggestion of reality:

I was operating on local knowledge to #1, no issues there. Then the trail got super technical for a while, that was fun, but it was hard to ride smoothly. By the time I got to 2, I was thinking that it was taking me too long, but it was mostly downhill from there. I spiked 3-5, and then it was all downhill to 6, on trails I knew, and I was loving it. Lost about 5 minutes searching the various knolls for the control, but once I had it I knew I'd won the race, since I was at 1:24 or something. The EMS adventure racing team was none to pleased to be beaten, they took it quite personally that Steve had mentioned to me about the map changes near #2. hehe.

So, I made it back in time for the potluck dinner, and managed to drink about a gallon of water - those dehydration headaches are not fun. Apparently biking is just within the range of motion that makes my knee hurt, because it was starting to throb a bit, but I couldn't let that deter me from the wicked hard night-o. But that is another post, I think. What a fun day!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ode to a new computer

I just bought a new mac, that'll be fast enough to run ArcMap without choking. Its pretty sexy. This computer has brought out a previously-unknown machine-lust within me. I can't stop touching it, I find myself telling it what a sexy beast it is, as it purrs away crunching numbers. Installing new programs brings more excitement than I thought possible, stroking the trackpad to make it do my bidding. Terrifying. I think I'm in love.

Classes have started. Demoted to student again. In a somewhat rude awakening, one of the professors announced that while he doesn't grade on attendance, he does give a quiz at the beginning of every class, the sum of which counts for 40% of the overall grade. I found that insulting to my sense of freedom as a grad student. In another strike against the department, the noob orientation meeting went from 5:30-7:15pm, and there was no free food. This does not bode well for future meetings.

I've banged up my knee somehow, which means I can't run. Riding bikes doesn't seem to bring the same satisfaction, every trail I ride, every corner I turn, I think how I'd rather be running. I hate feeling tethered to the earth. Its such a crime to be injured when you're fit. Considering racing my bike this weekend anyway.

Ed is in Boston. I am in Amherst. The hardest part is cooking for one, making it so damn clear what's missing.

Things are just dandy.

A happy birthday visit

My mom's birthday was last Sunday, so Christophe and I decided to come home as a surprise visit for her. I think she had sort of figured out what was going on well ahead of time, and then my dad really blew it when he went to Wegmans and got things like Cheerios, gummy bears, a couple types of ice cream, and a whole bunch of cheeses... Anyway, despite the surprise not being quite as surprise-y as planned, it was still a wonderful weekend, and I definitely enjoyed being home and all together for a couple days.

The photos are from Chimney Bluffs and then some very serious dessert-eating and card-playing.

The birthday girl didn't want this one, she wanted to try that one.

This might be a good time to mention that we had four different types of desserts, and each was cut into four pieces, so we each ate a piece, then passed it on. Apparently, I eat dessert too slowly, so I was in danger of losing the dessert my brother had just passed to me, despite not being done with my first piece... rough life.

The chocolate mousse was that good.